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The Currency of the 21st Century

Womenlines takes pleasure to welcome Friska Wirya, Change Management Expert, Leadership and Management Consultant at Fresh by Friska, from Melbourne, as a guest contributor at Womenlines. Check out her article unlocking the real currency of the 21st century-

What do you think it is? Newsflash: it’s not bitcoin!

Recall the bygone eras of yesteryear, when the exchange of goods and services hinged on the bartering system. Gold then came into the fore circa 3000 BC, with Egyptian pharaohs and priests prizing it so highly it adorned the capstones of the Pyramids of Giza.

My 2c (pardon the pun!) is that the currency of tomorrow will be trust. Drawing on the premise of the barter system, how did a farmer know his half dozen oxen would be repaid with the agreed amounts of vegetables, pulses and grains? It’s not about faith. It’s not about hope.

It’s trust.

I covered Brene’s Anatomy of Trust in an earlier article. Maiser’s The Trust Equation is another popular approach to quantify trust. Why should you care about trust in the workplace? Because it has the power to expedite or erode performance, profitability and productivity. The absence of trust results in toxic behaviour such as sabotage, backstabbing and micromanagement.

“Trusting you is my decision. Proving me right is your choice”

Are you ready to level up? Some practical ways to build trust….

1. Tell the truth

Well, d’uh I hear you say. Yes, bleedingly obvious, but we often lapse. Your colleague asks if you sent that follow up email (which you completely forgot about) to all meeting attendees. You could utter a little white lie, do it that very moment. Or, you could admit you forgot but will do it ASAP. You’re in a meeting where someone influential presents an initiative, seeking investment and support. You observe the eye rolling, hear the mutter of side conversations, yet when a round robin of opinions are sought, everyone in the room attests what a brilliant idea it is.

2. Go first

Want people to trust you with their honest insights? Share with them first. Set the scene, lead by example. Don’t know the answer or remember the solution? Say so. Not only will this allow you to learn and grow, you’ll be known for your authenticity and humility. A values-based leader with true confidence isn’t afraid to admit when they don’t know something.

3. Own your flaws and flops

Someone who’s always right is a pain in the you-know-what. How can I trust someone if they possess such minimal self-awareness they won’t even consider that they may be wrong, or feel they have to hide it? If they’re hiding minor things, what other major things are they covering up? We’re all human and make mistakes – own up to yours.

When something goes wrong, we often place blame on others and try to disassociate ourselves. Not only will this diminish trust between you and the people you’re blaming, but it reduces your ability to establish trust with the people who hear the blame game being played.

Conversely, if you take responsibility for failures, people see your integrity. You’re honest, transparent, and won’t throw people under the bus.

4. Your word is paramount

If you cancel at the last minute, fail to show up, miss a deadline or don’t call when you say you will, people come to the conclusion you’ll probably do it again. You’ve planted that seed and history has a tendency to repeat itself. If you make a habit of it, this will be viewed as your normal behaviour, and people will instinctively not trust you to follow through on commitments.

5. Buck passing is for babies

If you’re meant to do something as part of your role, do it. Don’t try to put it onto someone else’s plate, delegate it down the line or fly under the radar hoping you can get away with not doing it. Not only does this frustrate people, it suggests you’re lazy, not committed nor a team player.

6. Explain your thought process

Being introverted and analytical by nature, this is an area of development for me. I can be misinterpreted as aloof, judgmental or bored – lol! It’s none of the above, I’m often deep in thought, trying to bond seemingly disparate concepts and data points into a cohesive logical conclusion. By transparently communicating your intentions, reasons for doing something or current state (e.g. “I’m just thinking through what you just said”), you’re allowing people to get to know who you are and how you operate. You’re giving them a foundation for trusting what you do because they can understand why you’re doing it.

7. Automate inclusiveness

People love to be included, they love to share… but often feel they need to be asked. They don’t want to impose themselves and hijack your meeting, but if they’re invited (to a brainstorming session, a review, or personal conversation) they’ll likely be keen to participate and add value. You’ll get people to share more (and trust you more) if you only ask. Don’t ask, don’t get, my friends.

8. Responding over reacting

Some people have a knee jerk reaction to scoff, dismiss, or laugh at someone else’s idea or contribution. It’s tough to come back and build trust from such a jarring reaction. Take your time to respond in a considered respectful way. If people don’t feel safe sharing around you, they’ll clam up. Open honest communication, a cornerstone of high performance in anyone’s book, then becomes a pipe dream.

9. Equal air time

By dominating conversations or never asking questions, people will think you don’t value what others have to say. Asking questions, of both a personal or professional nature, have the opposite effect. Questions allow two-way relationships to commence and flourish, providing opportunities to learn about each other by sharing information and stories.

The importance of trust cannot be underestimated. Trust is the foundation for every healthy relationship, in or out of the office. So slow to build, so incredibly easy to lose. Tech disrupters such as AirBnB, Uber and Ebay triggered a new way to do business, a business based not only on brand reputation, but personal reputation.

Trust related to consumer brands is a not a new concept, but now your own trustworthiness is equally relevant. We need to trust individuals, not just institutions.

The value derived from building a trustworthy reputation is being increasingly recognized.

So…. how does your stack up?

“I don’t trust words, I trust actions”

I’m keen to hear of your strategies for building trust.


Friska Wirya is a Change Management Expert, Leadership and Management Consultant at Fresh by Friska. She has led change programs impacting up to +23,000 people across the seven continents for the biggest names in mining, engineering and technology. A lifelong learner, her effectiveness at managing the people-side of change has proven to be a compelling productivity-boosting strategy. 

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