An extract from an article in the Harvard Business Review by Paul Zak

neuroscience of trust

Through various experiments and surveys, there are eight management behaviors identified that create trust. These behaviors are measurable and can be used to enhance performance.

Recognize excellence.

The neuroscience shows that recognition has a huge effect on trust when it occurs immediately after a goal has been met, when it comes from peers, and when it’s tangible, unexpected, personal, and public.

Barry-Wehmiller Companies, a supplier of manufacturing and technology services, is an organization that recognizes top performers in the 80 production-automation manufacturers it owns. The staff at each plant nominate an outstanding peer annually. The winner is kept secret until announced to everyone and the facility is closed on the day of the celebration. The nominee’s family and close friends are invited to attend (without tipping off the winner) and the entire staff joins them. The recognition is tangible, unexpected, and both personal and public. It has grown from a single plant in 1987 to a conglomerate that brings in $2.4 billion in annual revenue today.

Induce “challenge stress.”

When a manager assigns a team a difficult but achievable job, the moderate stress of the task releases neurochemicals, including oxytocin and adrenocorticotropin, that intensify people’s focus and strengthen social connections. But this works only if challenges are attainable and have a concrete end point; vague or impossible goals cause people to give up before they even start.

Give people discretion in how they work.

Employees once trained need to manage people and execute projects in their own way. Being trusted to figure things out is a big motivator: A 2014 Citigroup and LinkedIn survey found that nearly half of employees would give up a 20% raise for greater control over how they work. Often, younger or less experienced employees will be the real innovators, because they’re less constrained by what “usually” works.

Enable job crafting.

When companies trust employees to choose which projects they’ll work on, people focus their energies on what they care about most. As a result, organizations like the Morning Star Company-the largest producer of tomato products in the world-have highly productive colleagues who stay with the company year after year. At Morning Star, people don’t even have job titles; they self-organize into work groups.

Share information broadly

Most employees in organizations do not feel they are well informed about their company’s goals and strategies. This leads to uncertainty and stress, which inhibits the release of oxytocin and undermines teamwork. Openness is the antidote. Ongoing communication is key: A 2015 study of 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries found that workforce engagement improved when supervisors had some form of daily communication with direct reports

Intentionally build relationships.

The brain network that oxytocin activates is evolutionarily old. This means that the trust and sociality that oxytocin enables are deeply embedded in our nature. Yet at work we often get the message that we should focus on completing tasks, not on making friends. Neuroscience shows that when people intentionally build social ties at work, their performance improves.

Management can help people build social connections by sponsoring lunches, after-work parties, and team-building activities. It may sound like forced fun, but when people care about one another, they perform better because they don’t want to let their teammates down.

Facilitate whole-person growth.

High-trust workplaces help people develop personally as well as professionally. Numerous studies show that just acquiring new work skills is not enough. Personal growth initiatives include discussions about work-life integration, family, and time for recreation and reflection. This has a powerful effect on engagement and retention.

Show vulnerability.

Leaders in high-trust workplaces ask for help from colleagues instead of just telling them to do things. Asking for help is a sign of a secure leader-one who engages everyone to reach goals. Asking for help is effective because it taps into the natural human impulse to cooperate with others.