Stanton Chase Athens organized and hosted a webinar on July 13 titled “Trust at the Heart of Organizations: Why It Matters and How to Foster It.” A diverse audience tuned in to learn more about the relevance of the topic in contemporary society, the neurophysiology of trust, and some practical suggestions that leaders can utilize in their organizations.
The webinar featured two speakers—Alexandra Lekkou, Director and head of the leadership and organizational culture services at Stanton Chase Athens, and Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D., Chief Research Officer of Envisia Learning. The speakers’ presentations, discussions, and the Q&A session at the end lasted approximately 75 minutes in total.
Our objective was to discuss the importance of trust in organizations against a backdrop of continuous changes over the last few years. Workplace turbulence brought on by COVID-19 (remote and hybrid work arrangements, changes in business models, etc.) coupled with observed worker trends in the Western world (e.g., the Great Resignation) appear to have exacerbated existing issues of trust. This means the topic is even more relevant today than it was in years past.
In a recent study, 34% of workers reported that their supervisor has expressed a lack of confidence in their skills. Additionally, 76% of workers who use a computer reported being concerned about their employer monitoring their communications—a finding linked to increased anxiety and reduced (perceived) feelings of trust.
A lesser-known fact is that trust is not a standalone psychological concept—it encompasses neurophysiological aspects including the peripheral and central nervous systems. Neuroscientists have demonstrated the effects of oxytocin (OT), a neurochemical released in the brain, after positive interactions. It signals to your brain that the other person is trustworthy (whether they are familiar to you or not).
In the organizational context, there is sufficient evidence indicating that high-trust cultures stimulate OT production among colleagues. This is associated with favorable organizational outcomes (e.g., motivation and productivity). In 2018, Paul Zak identified 8 Leadership behaviors that affect organizational trust, expressed via the acronym OXYTOCIN, as shown below:
Evidence-based models such as Zak’s may be seen as the theoretical ‘backbone’ for practitioners, ensuring their advice and methods enable leaders and organizations to foster trust and enhance engagement and performance.
Stanton Chase Athens now offers neuroscience-based solutions (Envisia Learning’s NeuroView and NeuroTeamView) to explore leadership and team effectiveness. Our team uses these assessments in combination with other data sources to understand the behavior and performance of leaders, their teams, and organizations. This data can be used to design feedback sessions for leaders and workshops for their teams to build trust and enhance their impact and outcomes. Workshops of this nature are especially valuable in today’s challenging, complex, and often ambiguous working environment.
During our webinar, we shared scientific facts and practitioner insights affecting what can only be considered currency in today’s economy—trust.
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