How to build trust at your plant through transparency

By Brock Culpepper, Motion Industries

There was a time in my younger days when I really burned up the highways. I was working in Birmingham, AL, leading music on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings at a small church just outside of Tuscaloosa and about 80 miles from home. I was also traveling around the Southeast with a vocal group out of West Point, MS, about 2½ hours from home, practically every weekend. There were times where we had a late-night Sunday concert somewhere in Mississippi, and I had to be at work early Monday morning. I would get sleepy on some of the long drives. There were times where I could make it as far as Tuscaloosa but just needed to crash and get a little sleep so I could function well the next day. It would not have been safe to try to make it all the way home. On some of those occasions, I would sleep on the couch at the church in the dark hours of Sunday night/Monday morning and drive to Birmingham from Tuscaloosa when I woke up to start the workweek. Thank goodness I had a key to the front door of the church!

If you have ever been alone in a dark, empty building such as a church or a school late at night, you know that it can be rather creepy. Buildings make unexpected sounds! On one given night, as I walked in the dark through this small church, I walked into the hallway and opened the door to one of the rooms. At that moment, I thought I saw a human figure standing right inside the door. My heart dropped to my toes, and I’m sure I turned some shade of pale in that moment. When I flipped on the light switch, I saw that the figure beside me was simply a white dress hanging on a clothes rack where the church was storing clothes in preparation for a rummage sale.

Some find haunted houses entertaining and enjoy being scared. With a haunted house, at least you can, as best as possible, prepare yourself for being scared. I would venture to say that most people, however, do not like “out-of-the-blue” surprise scares that offer no warning. I’m certain that is the case for the leaders in your business.

Transparency (I’m not talking about see-through ghosts) is critical. Does your leader need to know all of the intricate details of a project on which you are working? It is highly unlikely. You have been entrusted with the keys to run your part of the business. If something goes wrong or you become aware of a situation of concern, however, YOU need to be the person to “turn the light on” for your supervisor. The last thing you want to do is allow your manager to be caught off-guard by something and not be able to prepare to address a situation or person appropriately.

Transparency builds trust. In an article for Harvard Business Review, “The Neuroscience of Trust,” Paul J. Zak reported on a survey about worker trust, writing that “compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and 40% less burnout.” Trust had a major impact on loyalty, as well. “Compared with employees at low-trust companies, 50% more of those working at high-trust organizations planned to stay with their employer over the next year, and 88% more said they would recommend their company to family and friends as a place to work,” Zak wrote. The cost of turnover is high. Beyond that, the intangible, immeasurable costs of a low-trust company operation is a scary phenomenon to fathom.

Your response may be that this is a leadership issue. Let me introduce you to the rule of reciprocity: Reciprocity is a social norm that has a powerful influence on human behavior. In short, if you do something for someone, it is very normal for that person to be strongly compelled to do something in kind for you. What goes around comes around. You reap what you sow.

No matter your position, you can have this type of influence in your organization and be a trust leader. Be the person who promotes your company and protects the company from the goblins of surprise that seek to harm your business. Going back to the rule of reciprocity, your managers are focusing on opening doors that lead to your success and the success of the department/company.

On a final note, when you bring a situation to your management’s attention, show up with solutions to the problem in hand. You will contribute to your leader’s success with this approach and will shorten the amount of time that the leader has to deal with the issue at hand. If you present the problem with no solution, consider doing so wearing a white dress and standing in the dark. You may or may not spark fear, but the problem you broach won’t be the only thing to startle the room.