Large scale transitions are easier when there’s a reservoir of trust available. This was confirmed for me last week, after a powerful 2-day training event with a major American corporation.

I was invited to deliver a full-day training workshop on the topic of change to the top 200 leaders from a multinational company with more than 70,000 employees and roughly $10 billion in sales. It was an eye-opening experience for many of them, primarily because the conversation focused on an issue that few feel comfortable talking openly about, and that is trust, or the lack thereof.

For a company in the midst of a major turnaround, there is little room for miscalculation. The CEO faces enormous pressure from investors to deliver on the promise of change. Individuals on the executive team are asked to exceed past performance with teams many of them inherited, including their dysfunction. Mid-level and lower level staff are asked to let go of the past and to embrace the future, often allowing them little time to mourn the loss of long-time co-workers and enduring ways of work.

All of this requires collaboration. It requires employees to work together in new ways, often in a new direction and with new performance goals. But collaboration is less likely to occur without trust. Change, and the transitions it brings, are fueled by trust. Trust is an ingredient that can shape our experience with change and transition.

At the end of the workshop, I asked the participants to identify some of their key take-aways. I found the list to be quite insightful, and I think you may too.

  • Trust requires us to over-communicate.
  • Trust is better when we can balance data with emotion.
  • Transparent and inclusive communication inspires trust.
  • Don’t blame people for being human. If they aren’t acting human, don’t trust them.
  • Build trust by seeking why and by helping others understand why.
  • Trust the process. Slow down so you can speed up.
  • Don’t try to lead change alone. Trust your peers.
  • Trust your customers to show you what’s important.
  • Stress erodes trust, so help people recognize and manage it.

It was evident to the 200 or so leaders in that room that their future depends on their collective ability to define trust, to repair trust, and to preserve trust. Trust is one of the keys to shaping our experience with massive change and transition. Trust precedes collaboration, so don’t neglect it.

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