Updated: Oct 1, 2019
How communicators can help to build trust
“Our world is suffering from a bad case of ‘trust deficit disorder’. People are feeling troubled and insecure. Trust is at a breaking point,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres during his second address last September, distilling the lack of trust pervading the industrialised world. His was a sentiment confirmed by the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, which earlier this year revealed lower levels of trust than ever before.
As communicators building trust needs to be at the top of our agenda. Now more than ever people are looking for leadership that unites and helps people to stay safe. As communicators, we must take a proactive role in guiding our leaders to regain and build trust. The modern communicator must be intuitive as well as rational and be able to steer leaders in the right direction. Here is a summary of the top trust building behaviours that Paul Richards and I presented earlier this year.
Paul Richards: “Trust can only be rebuilt if communicators are honest and fearless, show integrity, and most importantly display high levels of emotional intelligence.”
Showing authenticity in the face of adversity Great leaders, whether you believe they are born or made, are authentic. In this era of political lies and Brexit bias, Jacinda Ardern’s authentic response to the New Zealand terror attack has been praised for her compassion, eloquence and strength. Leaders, such as politicians and corporate CEOs, need not shy away from showing emotion or vulnerability; rather they should show their real selves, and be encouraged to communicate with a level of empathy which helps them connect with their followers, whether that be the public or employees.
Inspiring people to commit to something bigger than themselves Research has shown that consumers today believe companies need to do more to contribute to the greater good. On top of that, employees are happier and more motivated to work for a company when they feel they have a purpose in the workplace and are contributing to the greater good. Leaders should be encouraged to look beyond the bottom line and consider the social and ethical issues that are bigger than themselves, just like Iceland’s MD Richard Walker who led from the front and made the bold decision to stop manufacturing products containing palm oil and was brave enough to shine a light on the devastation caused by the industry through it’s Christmas advert. Watch Iceland’s Rang-tan advert here.
Honest communication There is a huge opportunity for communicators, leaders and managers who interact with the public and employees every day in an open and honest way. I have experienced first-hand the impact of negative press on staff morale and engagement in the NHS. A prime example of the benefits of transparent communication comes from BBC’s Hospital. The series shed light on some of the challenges faced by the hospital trust’s featured and has and as a result as public understanding improved the proportion of complaints about clinical issues dropped.
Resilience One of the most important qualities of a leader is resilience. Today’s leaders are getting barraged with roadblocks, let-downs and failed attempts at success. The true grit of a leader is not how they perform during the good times but rather how they display strength, courage and professionalism during the most difficult times. Despite the politics of it all, the speakers and audience agreed that Theresa May’s resilience and determination as the former leader of Brexit negotiations was to be admired.
Consistency Consistency is one of the most important strengths in trusted leaders – especially when it comes to establishing a consistent culture and value system in your company or organisation. In his time at Manchester United Manager, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has understood the importance of establishing a track record of performance. In business, as in sport, consistency, or lack thereof, can be the defining factor between failure or success.
The power of storytelling By now, it should be no surprise that the most effective way to engage your audience is with storytelling. And leaders need to use storytelling as a tool to persuade, inspire, teach and motivate change in human behaviour. Some of the leading companies in the world use storytelling very intentionally as a leadership tool. Organisations like TransferWise, which uses the story of its founders to explain and define who they are, where they came from and their culture and values.
Building trust across diversity The 2019 Edelman Trust barometer focused on trust at work. This year it found a shift to local trust with ‘My employer’ emerging as the most trusted entity. As employers become more trusted, what does this mean for their leadership? It puts them in a powerful position. But as communicators, we also need to understand that there is still a trust divide along gender lines. To help tackle this we must encourage our leaders to focus on creating a diverse and fully inclusive culture.
Emotional intelligence Though often overlooked, emotional intelligence is one of the most crucial traits for leaders wanting to regain and build trust. Leaders with emotional intelligence not only embrace their own emotions but also understand others’ responses to their words and actions and refine their messages accordingly. Emotional intelligence is vital in building a powerful emotional connection and creating an environment where workers feel safe to talk about new ideas and embrace the risk of failure.
The original blog from the Sequel Presents event is here: