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How to Activate the Trust Factor within Your Team

Internal trust within an organization breeds external trust outside the organization

Trust is the lubricant of all successful commerce, and organizations that have it develop loyal employees. They rarely struggle with high-turnover, low productivity or an unmotivated workforce.

As natural as night following day, internal trust within an organization breeds external trust outside the organization; clients, strategic partners, vendors and overall reputation.

My guess is that none of this is much of a surprise to you. But the real question is why don’t more organizations, which include wealth management teams, make internal trust a top priority?

From our vantage point, the reason is that the neuroscience behind this highly valuable commodity is not universally understood. And because it’s so intangible, it’s easy to assume that you’ve built trust within your organization, your team, when there is still a level of distrust woven into the environment.

There seems to be an ongoing stream of research by neuroscientists that is continually shedding light on what has been referred to as the trust factor.

How would you like to have access to a drug, legal and safe, that reduces anxiety, makes you a nicer person and enhances your ability to connect with other people? I know we would! But this “drug” isn’t necessary because we already have it stored in our brain in the form of the neurochemical oxytocin. It’s just a matter of releasing it.

According to Paul J. Zak, director of the Center of Neuroeconomics Studies and author of Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies, “Humans have a high density of oxytocin receptors in the frontal cortex—higher than any other animal—which means our social nature is anatomically inscribed in our brains.”

Zak goes on to explain how oxytocin reduces anxiety and motivates people to cooperate and conversely how fear can serve as a short term motivator but it has a short shelf-life—it’s poor in the long term.

Research on this subject has identified how sincere thoughtful acts of kindness (a small gift), pleasant experiences (social coffee, lunch or dinner), expressing a personal interest in another—stimulates this magical “drug” in our brain (oxytocin) and stimulates trust.

So here’s an exercise that might be overwhelming for large organizations while very doable for most financial advisory teams.

  • Assess your relationship with each individual on your team. Think in terms of family, children, pets, hobbies, etc.
  • Execute one thoughtful act per team member over the next two weeks.
  • Create an Excel spreadsheet for each person and keep track of your oxytocin stimulating acts.
  • Commit to this executing these thoughtful acts for three months.
  • After three months, assess attitude and productivity of each team member.

If for whatever reason you have someone on your team that is not responsive to your trust factor initiative, you’re working with a person who needs career counseling as he or she doesn’t want to be there.

Now, are we insinuating that after three months you’ll no longer need to build internal trust? Hardly! We’re counting on this behavioral change that you’ve initiated becoming a habit. In the same manner we’re counting on the improved attitude and productivity of your team members also becoming a habit.

Will this have a direct impact on your bottom line? According to Zak, in one of his studies using two luxury clothing stores, he had their sales staff wear sensors to measure the oxytocin release when on the floor with a potential customer—and you guessed it, the release of oxytocin in the salesperson increased sales!

So, the more you stimulate the release of oxytocin within your team members, the more this will be projected to your clients, and the more business (new assets, new clients) will come your way.

Just imagine that the aforementioned becomes such an ingrained habit that the act of simply walking into your office stimulates the release of oxytocin—thus, everyday the trust factor is strengthened. This can and should be your office.

Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.

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