skip to main content
Create a Culture That Inspires: Trust and Transparency

Create a Culture That Inspires: Trust and Transparency

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 8, Episode 53
  • Learn how to create a culture of trust and transparency, including the way C-suite leadership and managers can foster this kind of culture in an organization.
  • Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.

Paul Walters, Workplace Consultant at Gallup, was our guest on a recent Called to Coach. In Part 7 of a webcast series focusing on Creating a Culture That Inspires, Paul tackled the topic of organizational trust and transparency, including:

  • the low view of their organizations' ethics and integrity that many employees have
  • how organizational leadership sets the tone for employee trust
  • the key role of engaged managers in building trusting workplace relationships

Access Create a Culture That Inspires -- Part 1, and Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10 and Part 11 of the Create a Culture That Inspires series.

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.

So overall, 39% of employees strongly agree that if they raised a concern about ethics or integrity, their employer would do the right thing.

Paul Walters, 2:49

Great leaders, to build trust, have to be honest themselves; have to be a little bit vulnerable themselves.

Paul Walters, 7:20

And that's oftentimes what happens: You get to a leadership role level and you forget that you need to develop your managers, that you need to try to intentionally engage your managers, recognize your managers and continue to foster that trusting relationship with them so that it all cascades downward.

Paul Walters, 10:18

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on June 19, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:21

Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you're listening live, join us in our chat room, actually right above me there on the live page is a link to the YouTube page. Sign into the chat room there, and we'd love to take your questions live during the program. If you have questions after the fact -- and many more of you will listen to the recorded version of this -- you can send us an email: And don't forget to subscribe, if you're on YouTube, there's a little Subscribe link down there in the corner that'll get you there. Hit the notification bell. It'll get notified every time we go live or we create something new. And of course, you want to listen to us in a podcast form, all the cool kids are podcasting these days, and so you could do that as well: search "Gallup Webcasts" on any podcast player. Paul Walters is our host today. Paul's a Workplace Consultant with Gallup. And Paul, always great to be with you. Welcome back to Called to Coach!

Paul Walters 1:15

Thanks for having me, Jim. Happy to be back here with you. Thanks for the invitation.

Jim Collison 1:19

We have been going through this "Culture That Inspires" series, and we've talked about collaboration and communication. We've looked at, you know, the Name it, Claim it, Aim it -- those pieces. Today, we are going to talk about trust and transparency, I think a very good topic to talk about on a day like today. And so we're excited to dig in. When we think about that, Paul, why is it important and why are we talking about it?

Paul Walters 1:44

Yeah, it's a good question, Jim. I think, when I think of trust and transparency, it's such a buzzword. I think of Hey, we want to be a strategic organization. That's a buzzword, buzzword, right? But what does that actually mean? And I think organizations are really good at talking about, Hey, how do we create a culture of trust and transparency? And how do we, how do we foster that? But they really sometimes struggle at putting that in implementation, or putting it in place in a way that people feel true every single day that this is an organization where things are fully transparent. They trust their manager; they trust the leadership. So I think, again, it's something, in theory, we talk about a lot, but it always doesn't translate into application. And so that's one of the things we'll be diving into today.

Jim Collison 2:29

We've got some numbers. We're not just saying that, but I think we've got some that numbers -- roll behind this from, from maybe some of the work that we've done. Talk a little bit about that.

Paul Walters 2:38

Yeah, so, so a couple things. We know that trusted leaders positively influence employees' perceptions, and some of the data around that is pretty compelling. So overall, 39% of employees strongly agree that if they raised a, raised a concern about ethics or integrity, their employee -- employer would do the right thing. That figure actually jumps to 61% among those who are extremely satisfied with their immediate manager, which goes to what Gallup has said multiple times about the impact that the manager has on, on all of this, right? So if you got a good manager, you see that trust and integrity actually raise, or the feeling of that. We'll see engagement increases sixfold when employees trust their organization's leadership. And employees who trust their leaders are twice as likely to say they will be with their company one year from now. So those are, those are some, I think, pretty staggering statistics or ones that people in organizations should be paying attention to.

Jim Collison 3:37

We've got some levels we kind of want to walk through, because I think in leadership, it -- we see different things, or similar things, at these different layers of leadership. So let's talk about that first level.

Paul Walters 3:48

Sure. So the first level I think about with an organization and creating trust is that leadership level. And we think of, just to give you some context, because sometimes people ask, When you say "leaders," are you talking about individual contributors? Because they can be leaders too, and managers can be leaders too. We're actually talking about the executive level. So your C-suite is what we're talking about when we're talking about leaders in this context. So that's Level 1, where companies really need to start to create that trust. They're the ones who leave the organizations. They're the ones that are going to influence and inspire that culture throughout.

Paul Walters 4:20

So I'm actually going to tie this to our 4 Needs of Followers research. And I won't, I won't spend too much time talking about this, just because there are other podcasts we have out there around the 4 Needs of Followers. But essentially what we did, and this comes from our Strengths Based Leadership book, is we, we studied 10,000 people, we asked them, What leader has the most positive influence on your daily life? And write down 3 words that best describe what that person has contributed to in their life. And from that came 4 things: It was Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope. And trust is the first one. Trust, in fact, I would say is the most important one.

Paul Walters 5:01

So when I think about trust, it is absolutely foundational to what people in an organization need. If you don't have trust, it's difficult to hit those other buckets of hope, stability and compassion. So trust in any organization has to absolutely be there. And when we think about trust, what does that actually look like, from a leadership perspective? What people typically say in the leaders that they trust is they exhibit three things: It's honesty, integrity and respect; honesty, integrity and respect. I think about great teams, teams that are excellent, Jim, they don't talk about trust. When there's a high level of trust, teams aren't talking about honesty, integrity or respect. They're not talking about a trusting environment or creating a trusting environment, because it's implicit. It's already built into the culture.

Paul Walters 6:01

It's when you have an absence of trust that we start to see people actually talk about that and start to have conversations about that -- facilitating and fostering trust on teams. And truthfully, again, it starts with the leaders. And when I think of -- leaders need to lead by example around this. It's not going to do any good, Jim, if I tell you, this is -- Here, here's my point of view here. I, I have high degrees of integrity. You can trust me, I'm honest. And then my behavior actually demonstrates otherwise.

Paul Walters 6:35

I remember a CEO of a company I worked for years ago, that, that was, would talk a lot about trust and values and integrity. And then I watched that leader do something that completely compromised that and was the exact opposite of what someone with high degrees of integrity would do. So as an, as an employee, that obviously made me feel like I'm not working for an organization that has a lot of integrity; I don't trust the leadership. And so that makes a big difference. Leaders actually can't just say, Do it this way; they have to do it in their behaviors so that people can observe that as well. I have to see that my leaders are leading by example.

Paul Walters 7:18

I also think of great leaders, to build trust, have to be honest themselves; have to be a little bit vulnerable themselves. They have to, they have to talk about the things that they're not good at; they have to be very clear when they fail. And if they don't do that, it's hard to, to foster that trust. Because if I'm sharing with you, Jim, that I struggle with this or I failed here, then it's like, OK, this is a safe environment where we can share our failures, where we can -- we share things that are going wrong, because there's not gonna be, I'm not gonna be in trouble for doing it. Right. If the leader does that, then I can do that too.

Paul Walters 7:55
And just one more piece, when I think about leaders, and it's interesting. I was just leading an ASC this past week, our Accelerated Strengths Coaching course, Jim, and we, we actually came up with the conversation around trust. And we got in the conversation about micromanaging. And, and so one of the things that we talked about, and this is what I shared with the group, is micromanaging oftentimes is about trust. And what happens with leaders is sometimes when they get to leadership levels, or even managers, they lead to the level below them, or they manage to the level below them. That's not going to foster trust. So we recommend leaders need to lead at their, lead at their level.

Paul Walters 8:36

Because what happens is I get promoted, but I was actually more comfortable in the space where I was before, below me. So I'm going to do those things. I'm going to micromanage that because I know it so well, versus actually leading at the level I need to. So lead at your level is the first piece of it, and then trust your people. So have focused, frequent and transparent conversations with your people and trust them to do the work that they were hired to do. So that's the first level I'd say, when I'm thinking about leaders, Jim, and what their influence on this trust conversation.

Jim Collison 9:10

We've had conversations, we spend some time on the 5 Coaching Conversations that managers can have. I think sometimes, we're going to talk about managers next, but sometimes we expect those from our managers, whether it's frontline or mid-level managers. We don't expect that same, that same rigor in managers who manage managers, in having some of those like, Oh, no, that's OK for everybody else, but we don't have to do that as well. And I think that's even more important in those, in those relationships of managers who manage managers of having those same conversations, right, of having those same interactions, of doing the same things. And -- would you add anything to that?

Paul Walters 9:49

Yeah, no, I think that that's right on, and I think part of the reason is, is because when someone gets to a manager level, the leaders are like, well, the manager got here for a reason. They obviously have it covered. We should be go -- good to go. I remember being a director, and I had 16 managers reporting to me, and I literally had an executive who I reported to say, "Paul, stop recognizing your your managers, because once they get to that level, they shouldn't need recognition to be motivated to do their job." And that's, that oftentimes what happens: You get to a leadership role level and you forget that you need to develop your managers, that you need to try to intentionally engage your managers, recognize your managers and continue to foster that trusting relationship with them so that it all cascades downward.

Jim Collison 10:34

Yeah, let's talk about those managers. They're the least engaged in our numbers. They're the least engaged, usually group inside an organization and they're, they're really hammered from both sides. Right. And so if there's a group that needs some encouragement, to your point here just a second ago, it's that group. Let's talk a little bit about those managers.

Paul Walters 10:53

Yeah, and I think of -- so at the Summit, for those who attended, I did a presentation on 5 things that managers should do right away, from from Day 1. And but my, before talking about that, what I shared is that managers who aren't great managers or who are not engaged, it's not their -- necessarily their fault all the time. They don't want to be in that position; it's just that they haven't been developed or intentionally focused on.

Paul Walters 11:21

But let's talk more about how do managers then start to create a culture that inspires trust and transparency? The first thing managers really need to do is to develop trusting relationships with their people through open dialogue and full transparency, where they understand that their No. 1 job as a manager is to build a relationship with intentionality with their people. That is the first step in trying to develop a trusting relationship and a culture of trust with a manager and their employees is that relationship is critical. And not just at a professional level, but getting to know them on that personal level as well, being really intentional in trying to create a culture where people can collaborate with with each other, create strong relationships, all of that. But it is, again, the No. 1 thing a manager needs to do.

Paul Walters 12:16

And I will, just -- because sometimes people are like Well, how do I, how do I start to develop a trusting relationship with my people? I get -- at an intellectual level -- that I should be doing that, but how do I how do I translate that, if I'm not somebody who's naturally inclined to develop relationships? And one of the ways is what we call our our 5 Conversations, which we've talked about before, so I'm not going to say anything about that because there's lots of podcasts around it. But we do have 5 Conversations that help you create relationships with your people, and managers should follow along those ways.

Paul Walters 12:47

Another thing to be thinking about is to create trust as managers, want to -- should be meeting and advocating for the needs of their employees. So I think about they should be spending time meeting the emotional needs other people, recognizing them, elevating them, shining light on their opinions to other people to meet their needs. And our Q12, our engagement survey, is a great tool to do that. But also advocate for their needs and advocate for them by telling them in your -- you're in their corner, you're there to support them, listen to them, advocate for their ideas, and so that they can see it. And when you can make changes based on their, their perspectives or opinions, make those changes. That, that's going to help to create that, that trust, that trusting relationship with them, if they see you're willing to do that.

Paul Walters 13:39

The other part -- another part I think about is creating a culture of accountability. And the way I think about that, it helps to foster trust if I'm sitting down with you, Jim, and you're my manager, and we collaboratively set expectations. And that's what you hold me accountable to. Because then I have ownership over that and it feels fair to me, right, because I was a part of this. And if we're in constant communication throughout the year, then nothing is a surprise; you can hold me accountable for that, and I'm going to be happy to do that. I'm going to be happy that you held me accountable. And that helps to create that trusting relationship and foster that level of trust, because you do it not just with me, but I see you do it with other employees as well. And so everybody is being held accountable with the same sort of expectations that we have to perform at a certain level, though they're individualized to each person.

Paul Walters 14:32

Another thing I think about around the accountability and creating trust, it's making data-driven, informed, unbiased decisions for the good of the team and the organization. Data-driven, unbiased informed decisions, versus just, as a manager, letting my emotions get the best of me and making an emotional decision. I want to trust my manager, that they're thinking about all the different factors -- what does the data say -- and making the decisions based on that.

Paul Walters 15:02

Just a couple more. One of them I think about it to foster trust is finding ways to really motivate your team, connecting purpose to their actions. Spend more time focusing on successes than failures. I think a big one is really focusing on people's strengths versus weaknesses. If you're focusing on my strengths, I trust that you have my best interests in mind, right? If you're aligning my role with something I'm not good at, I might not trust you as much. But if you're taking a strict strengths-based approach to my management, I'm more likely to feel that trusting relationship. And the last one is what we talk about a lot. When I think about building a trusting, trusting relationship, or creating a culture of trust on a team, it's switching from being a boss or manager to a coach; spending more time coaching me, asking me questions. Spend more time listening than talking. Listening intentionally to individualize your approach and how you manage me. Lead through collaboration. Those types of things. Help me find those resources I need to be successful. So those are the things I think about when a manager starts -- needs to create a trusting environment and culture of trust on their team.

Jim Collison 16:11

Paul, it's -- I was in a team meeting for Gallup a day or two ago, and the manager started the meeting with, What's the biggest success and epic failure for the week. Right? And not everybody had to say something. But it was an opportunity for folks to say, to talk about both what had gone well, and what had just, you know -- talk about an opportunity for transparency in that. And I was able to share, you know, I'd had a kind of a big blowout this week. And that's a team I don't even work with all the time, but because the question was asked, it gave me an opportunity. This is a team that supports me in a lot of the things that I do, but I was able to say, yeah, you know, yeah, I had an epic fail in this area, right, to kind of create that. Because sometimes, Lisa says in the chat room, if you make it data-driven, unbiased, you need to be transparent about the data you're using. If you're team doesn't know the sources, right, they may think you're making it up.

Paul Walters 17:04

Yeah. Great callout, Lisa. Yeah.

Jim Collison 17:06

Yeah. You also have to know that, so, and then of course, Paul, really quick, think about how, how do strengths -- when we think about adding strengths into a team and team formations -- how does that help in this area of transparency, when people actually know the themes of the people on their team?

Paul Walters 17:22

Yeah. And actually, I think, Jim, that, that tees up with that third bucket, that third level in creating trust, and that's around the individual contributors that make up the team. So when we know -- so we've studied teams, and we found that great teams have really 3 things in common. One is they have a common purpose, a common objective that we're aiming for. We're all working together to accomplish this one thing or these several things. And that's, so that's one. The second one is everyone on the team understands and appreciates that they are good at some things, and not very good at other things, and that's OK. It's not a competition. Jim, you're better at this than I am. And I'm better at this than you are. And we appreciate that about the other one.

Paul Walters 18:06

Then the last one is team members are aware of each other's talent filters. What that means is, Jim, I know that you bring these strengths to the table. And having an understanding of what your strengths are and you explaining how they show up for you, it helps me better understand how to leverage your talents and honor your talents. Because so often, what happens is, before we have any type of strengths language, we make unnecessary assumptions. And I'm gonna, I'll pick on two themes that I often pick on when I'm, when I'm explaining this in a class, Activator and Deliberative. Before having a strengths language, I might be somebody, and I have Activator and you have Deliberative, Jim. I might be like, ah, Jim, he's such a pain. He is always trying to slow us down. I'm trying to get us going so we can actually have some impact here on our mission, but he is slowing us down every time. He won't let me jump forward, all this stuff. And Jim's thinking, gol, Paul never thinks; he just acts, he just does stuff. Why can't he slow down and think for once? There's a bunch of things that are going to go wrong if he's just starts moving forward!

Paul Walters 19:13

But once we have the strengths language, instead I'm like, oh, man, Jim is Deliberative. I'm actually gonna give this to him to sit on it and chew on it for a week, and -- so he can figure out what might go wrong with this idea that I have. And Jim might be like, I'm gonna bring Paul in so that he, so I don't get stuck thinking too much. And he can actually move us forward. So that, that strengths language is, is really powerful. I had a participant in a class a year ago. She talked about there was, she'd come up with really great ideas. She'd bring it to this guy. And he would always shoot her down. He'd say, "This is a bad idea. Here are all the things that are wrong with it. Have you thought about this? What does the data say about this?" They did strengths -- and so he's a big adversary. They did strengths. He had Analytical; she had Positivity, Ideation and Communication. So what she did next is when she'd come up with ideas, she'd asked herself tough questions. She'd do a lot more research. And then she'd go to him will make up his name. Let's say it was Jim. And she'd say, "Jim, what am I not thinking about? What am I not asking? what data have I not pulled for this?" And he, Jim, knowing that she had Positivity, Communication, Ideation, would, would soften the way he brought things up. "I'm really excited about this idea. It looks great. Let's dig into it a little bit." And she said they went from adversaries to allies and powerful partners.

Paul Walters 20:32

So that's really the power of strengths. When you're trying to create this culture of trust, when we know each other's strengths language, it makes a huge difference in fostering that trusting relationship.

Jim Collison 20:42

We also see an increase in productivity because of that, right? The teams not only get along better, reduce things like sick time, reduce things like turnover, right, reduce things like conflict in there, and turn that in -- that that energy gets turned into productivity, right, in people.

Paul Walters 20:59

And as we said, like, the high-trusting teams aren't having the conversations about trust, right? They're they're, they can have that type of performance and that type of wellbeing because that trust is already there. Because that strengths language is ingrained on the team.

Jim Collison 21:14

Yeah. And I think just one final more, final thought, not a "one and done," like we take the assessment -- "OK, now, you know." It requires, I think, constant, continual reinforcement, because people are continuing to discover things about themselves that they're not static; we're always changing. We're always learning things about each other. And so it gives people an opportunity to reflect, to react and then respond. And so it's just kind of a way to, to continually do it. And so I think, when we talk about this idea of trust and transparency, it is really kind of a centerpiece of teams. And if we're not getting this part right, it's very, very destructive inside an organization. Paul, anything else you'd add before we --

Jim Collison 21:58

No, 100% -- just a reminder, it does start at the top. And it filters it all the way down. You might have teams where there's pockets of trust. But really, we need to start that top level and work itself down to the managers and individual and teams.

Jim Collison 22:11

That's great. Well, with that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available, just like this. A lot of the things we talked about are available out there: While you're out there, you can sign up for the CliftonStrengths Community Newsletter at the bottom of the page. We'll send you some updates every single month on things that we're doing here. Would appreciate if you, if you want to get that information, sign up at the bottom of the page. If you have questions, you can always email us: Follow us on Eventbrite:, and you'll see all the complete list of all the programs coming up. Maybe you want to get more of this or plug some of this into your learning. It's available there as well. Join us in our Facebook group: I'm always surprised, Paul, at how many people make it over from me just saying that, you know. Sometimes we say, Oh, you gotta have a link. Well, apparently you don't. Because lots of folks make it over there. And then on LinkedIn, if you want to do it that way, "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches." You can join us there. If you're listening live, stay around for Part 2 with Paul. If you're listening on the recorded version, I bet it's already there. You can just put play to the next one, and we'll see you over there. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Paul Walters' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Communication, Arranger, Competition and Woo.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030