May 11, 2017 in Events (live blogging), CIPD L&D Show 2017

#cipdLDshow – Building Trust in Leadership

Professor Veronica Hope Hailey (university of Bath):


If you have high levels of trust in an organisation, then you are much more likely to have people engaged in change and happy to operate in conditions of uncertainty. Examples: VW and Philip Green – an incident can erode trust in an institution or an individual. These erosions of trust have led to a huge increase in scrutiny of leaders. Trust has been a large focus of academic research for many years; the research around trust is much better developed than it is around areas such as engagement.


“Trust comes on foot but leaves on horseback” (Old Dutch proverb) and even though it can be lost in an instant, it takes time to earn it. In times of change or crisis when you need trust the most, you can’t manufacture it in an instant.


Some definitions of trust:

  • A psychological state comprising the intention to access vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behaviour of another. (Rousseau)
  • An individual’s expectation that some organised system will act with predictability and goodwill (Maguire and Philips)


The four drives or trustworthiness in leaders are:

  • Ability (or competence); you need to be recognised as being able to do your job
  • Benevolence: do you care about others or just yourself?
  • Integrity: Do I trust this person because of the set of values by which thy make their decisions?
  • Predictability: Is there a consistency of behaviour over time?


Previous research started with an expectation that difficult times would cause a major erosion of trust and that it would taker some time to rebuild (and earn) that trust. However, there were some outliers (e.g. John Lewis going through their first redundancy programme in their history, GKN whilst losing 20% of the workforce) where trust actually increased during difficult times.

In both these organisations (and four others including Unilever), trust levels actually increased during periods of difficulty. There are several things that organisations can do to build trust, and that will see them through difficulties:

  1. Create a trust fund – organisations will find change easier if they have already built up ‘reserves’ of trust
  2. Leadership as visible service – it is important for leaders to be seen by the workforce
  3. Kill spin – and focus on telling the truth (even when it is uncomfortable) and listen.
  4. Reengage the middle and the local level
  5. Avoid excessive monitoring
  6. Certain organisational models fare better than others


There are a number of things you can do to create high trust during times of change:

  1. Create a higher and shared sense of purpose (e.g. Unilever going back to their founding principles, mission, and values)
  2. Use the organisations history to demonstrate the organisations contuniyt with the past (e.g. how Lloyds TSB are using the black horse)
  3. Emphasise the need for leaders to create a legacy for future generations


HR often get un the way (with too many processes and procedures, and excessive monitoring) but there is much that HR can do to build trust.



This was live-blogged during a session at the CIPD Learning & Development Show 2017 – I’ve tried to capture a faithful summary of the highlights for me but my own bias, views – and the odd typo – might well creep in. I’ve also curated the story of the session as told through the tweets of the attendees (you might need to tap ‘load more tweets’ to see the full story):


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