Taking Your Organization’s Trust Temperature

Assessing worker perceptions of the trust environment in an organization, and responding to the assessment, pushes the organization into a higher trust culture.

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In previous articles I have been discussing the key leadership trait of Trust. In this post, I present a tool to assess the current perception of the level of trust in your organization. This questionnaire is designed to give a “360 degree” picture of perceptions of trust, asking the respondents to evaluate themselves, their colleagues, their direct reports, and their boss. It is divided into six sections with twelve questions each. The six areas are: Character, Mutual Support and Caring, Addressing Problems, Competency, Communication, and General Trust. An organization can adapt and modify the survey as it sees fit, such as by focusing on one or more of the areas. Like reading the gauges in an aircraft, this survey gives you feedback on how your organization is running. Needles pointing to deficient areas-those in the red-identify issues that may need attention. You may discover adjustments that can be made in your leadership style or processes that will fine tune your organization and make it fly more smoothly.


The KC-135R gauges identify areas that may need attention and adjustment.

Source: http://www.pacom.mil. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard

Why Use This Tool?

Would you like to build trust and cooperation within your organization? Would you like to reduce non-productive activities associated with distrust among individuals or teams, such as wasted energy on covering one’s back from untrusted colleagues, or communication with hidden agendas?  Before making the first step in any journey toward a goal, you need to first understand where you are–and this survey is a way to do that. Organizational surveys are valuable in several ways. First, they can take a snapshot of worker attitudes in a more scientific and neutral way than relying on anecdotal evidence or someone venting steam in the coffee room. The scale of the responses ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” may be subject to interpretation, but taking a current picture provides a starting point. Surveys become even more valuable when administered at regular intervals of time—then, you can see if the “needle is moving” as you implement measures to improve mutual trust in the organizational culture. Second, when the results are published, discussed, and used to improve the culture, that act of listening and responding is in itself trust-building. Thus, it is important to skillfully use the tool to get the best results.

How to Use This Tool

Properly administering and then following up with the results of a survey are extremely important in determining whether it will be effective. Survey participants should be given suitable time, with no work pressures, not taking away from their personal time, and completely guaranteed of their anonymous responses. You can load a survey into an online system, such as https://www.surveymonkey.com or http://www.zoomerang.com, or you can use paper copies. Online surveys take a little technical know-how and time to set up, but after the initial time investment, they can be efficient in gathering and analyzing data. However, they require that respondents have computer and internet access and familiarity. Paper surveys are easy to copy and distribute among respondents; in fact, respondents in a work unit could be administered the survey at one scheduled time, helping guarantee response rate and highlighting the importance being given to the survey. On the other hand, paper surveys will take more time for calculating responses and putting the data into some electronic form for analysis, such as an Excel spreadsheet. One way to reassure the survey-takers of anonymity and of the value of the survey responses is to engage a third party to administer it, assist in analyzing, and facilitate solution sessions. Especially if the environment is initially a low-trust one, the use of a neutral third party will accelerate the process of establishing a high trust culture.

In order to reap the benefits of taking your organization’s Trust Temperature, you must follow up with the results, even if they seem to deliver bad news. The results should be published and discussed when and where appropriate. If there are clearly areas where trust, mutual caring, communication or other areas are identified as lacking, engage your teams to analyze why and what can be done. Constructively tackling the hard problems will move the Trust needle up for workers as they see leadership responding. The following is my sample Trust Temperature Survey. You are welcome to leave comments on the usefulness of this tool. My next article will break down the Character and Competency components of Trust and discuss trust-building leadership behaviors. Stay Tuned!

The Trust Temperature Survey

Purpose: This survey measures various aspects of trust in the workplace, for yourself, your co-workers, your direct reports, your direct boss, and the company executive leadership. The results will help us understand how everyone in the organization perceives the current level of trust and identify areas for improvement.

Definitions: By co-workers, we mean those in the same or different departments who are not either your direct reports or boss and upper management. Direct reports refer to those for whom you have responsibility to supervise.

Please mark an “X” in the appropriate column.


Copyright © 2017 by Robert Cummings All rights reserved.

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