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Breaking Down "The Neuroscience of Trust"

We found "The Neuroscience of Trust" by Paul J Zak, Harvard Business Review a particularly valuable read for organizations considering bringing in an outside company to facilitate team or leadership development programs. Many if not all of these principles are integrated into the Move Mountains Approach and every program we develop.

Some key points that spoke to us as a staff are outlined below.  Many confirmed what we suspected or knew and some shed new light on typical workplace challenges.

Move Mountains Takeaways

  1.  There is a mathematical relationship between trust and economic performance.
  2.  Having a sense of higher purpose stimulates oxytocin production, as does trust. Trust and purpose then mutually reinforce each other, providing a mechanism for extended oxytocin release, which produces happiness.
  3.  Oxytocin increases a person's empathy.
  4.  Respondents whose companies were in the top quartile indicated they had 106% more energy and were 76% more engaged at work in respondents whose firms were in the bottom quartile they also reported being 50% more productive – which is consistent with our objective measure productivity from studies we've done with employees at work.
  5. Employees earn an additional 17% at companies in the highest quartile of trust, compared with those in the lowest quartile. The only way this can occur in a competitive labor market is if employees in high trust companies are more productive and innovative.

The 8 management behaviors that foster trust

As the author notes, there are "eight management behaviors that foster trust."  We have added our thoughts on the integration of this data into Move Mountains programs.

1. Recognize excellence

  • Immediately, from peers, tangibly, unexpectedly, personally, and publicly
  • Through integrated communication exercises provided by Move Mountains, participants get to practice giving and receiving feedback in a way that is meaningful and timely.

2. Induce "challenge stress"

  • "The moderate stress [of a difficult but achievable job] releases neurochemicals that intensify people's focus and strengthen social connections."
  •  Another way of looking at stress and is found with Kelly McGonigal in, "The Upside of Stress", where the author explains that the challenge response to stress increases resilience and determination and nets a positive impact on our lives.  It's the fear response to stress that is harmful.  Move mountains teaches participants strategies and tools for transforming their perception of stress and ability to work through challenges as a team.

3. Give people discretion in how they do their work

  • "A 2014 Citigroup and LinkedIn survey found that nearly half of employees would give up 20% raise for greater control over how they work."
  • "Autonomy promotes innovation, because different people tried different approaches."

4. Enable job crafting

  •  "Companies trust employees to choose which projects the work on, people focus their energies on what they care about most."

5. Share information broadly

  • "Only 40% of employees report that they are well-informed about their company's goals, strategies, and tactics.  This uncertainty about the company's direction leads to chronic stress (a fear-based response), wish and exhibits the release of oxytocin and undermines teamwork."
  • With Mindful Communication one of three primary outcomes of Move Mountains programs, much of our work brings awareness and tools to sharing information more effectively.

6. Intentionally build relationships

  • " Neuroscience experiments show that when people intentionally build social ties of work, their performance improves."
  •  "Managers who "express interest in and concern for team members' success and personal well-being" outperform others in the quality and quantity of their work."
  •  "Adding a moderate challenge to the mix will speed up the social bonding process."
  • Intention, coupled with attention and action, make the trifecta of skills promoted at the core of every Move Mountains program.  Intentionality in our programs is most notable in the expert design and implementation process which largely takes place behind the scenes.

7. Facilitate whole-person growth

  • "Numerous studies show that acquiring new work skills isn't enough; if you're not growing as a human being, your performance will suffer.
  • "Assessing personal growth includes discussions about work-life integration, family, and time for recreation and reflection."
  • "Investing in the whole person has a powerful effect on engagement and retention."
  • With Personal/ Leadership Growth as a second primary outcome of Move Mountains programs, we provide tools for individuals and teams to empower and inspire a growth mindset and a personal best approach to life.

8. Show vulnerability

  •  "Leaders in high trust workplaces asked for help from colleagues instead of just telling them to do things."
  • "Asking for help is a sign of the secure leader – one who engages everyone to reach goals."
  • Move Mountains specializes in creating learning experiences that have participants just beyond their comfort zone, in the prime learning zone.  Here, we create a safe place for each team member to explore and benefit from collective and individual vulnerability that occurs authentically within the experience.

Checkout the complete article here: Harvard Business Review: The Neuroscience of Trust