With Trust in Mind
The Neuroscience of Trust by Paul Zak
Harvard Business Review, January 2017
If we accept the decades of data that show that high engagement leads to positive outcomes, it is worth knowing more about another bank of research, the data on building trust. What does science tell us about how to create and sustain trust, a key contributor to engagement in our workplaces? Neuroscientist Paul Zak has written extensively about the science behind trust, specifically what happens in the brain when trust is present, and his most recent work then analyzes the promoters and inhibitors of trust as shown in brain analysis. In this article, Zak summarizes strategies that build trust such as recognizing excellence, creating “challenge stress,” and communicating in ways that reduce uncertainty. He is perhaps most compelling on the strong impact for leaders of building trust by showing vulnerability. Secure leaders who ask for help from their team, and are honest about what they themselves don’t know, evoke high trust, rather than low regard, from colleagues and staff members. If we accept the adage that “trust begets trust,” this article earns its place in this month’s Harvard Business Review and as recommended reading for school leaders. In the process, it further points the way to building robust trust and sustaining it in the form of increased commitment and engagement.