Leaders, from every time period in history, have tried to figure out how to create the perfect team. In modern times, this quest has led to everything from “scientific management” to Lean Six Sigma and foosball tables at work. The Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies doesn’t argue that these things might help a team, but this book’s focus is on something deeper. The Trust Factor looks at the psychology behind high-performance organizations and helps companies aspiring to be high-performance close the gap using the “trust factor”.
What is The Trust Factor About?
Many leaders in trying to avoid this trap of under-performance try a variety of strategies: “Employee of the Month” parking spots, formal awards, stock options, higher pay, promotion, Employee Relations departments, newsletters, and more. These tools, Paul J. Zak, have their place, but they are focused on the mistaken assumption that workers are primarily driven to great work by external things (money, status, title, etc.)
The problem with this assumption is that it doesn’t work, according to research.
Although workers need money to buy the things they want or need, money is actually a low-level motivator for doing amazing work. That goes for “Employee of the Day” parking spot or picture, the new title, or the increase in salary. The warm and fuzzy feeling that happens when workers get these external things doesn’t last. Something stronger has to be present in the work culture to make it a high-performing team.
What leaders are missing, says author Paul J. Zak, is the internal component that has to accompany external rewards like money or trophies to transform an “I’m just here to get a paycheck” worker to a worker dedicated to the job. That internal component, according to Zak, is trust.
The Trust Factor doesn’t focus on building trust in an abstract way, however. Zak argues that people trust, in part, because of oxytocin. Oxytocin, known as the “trust hormone” or “love hormone”, is released in moments of social bonding. Increasing oxytocin raises the sense of trust between two or more people. As expected, high-performing organizations proactively reinforce the flow of oxytocin through their organization’s day-to-day activities.
To reach the high-performing level, The Trust Factor suggests, average-performing business should reinforce their own oxytocin. Businesses that want to achieve a similar success have to start at the ground level, one experiment at a time.
Paul Zak, Ph.D., also known as “Dr. Love”, is an author, researcher, and professor of economics, psychology, and management who holds a doctoral degree in Economics and post-graduate training in neuroscience. Dr. Zak is also a founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics, the president of ZestX (a neuroscience research company that provides insights for consumer-oriented companies) and co-founder of Ofactor (a neuroscience research company that provides insight into management and leadership performance). Dr. Zak is credited with the first publishing of the term “neuroeconomics”, a field that combines insights from neuroscience, psychology, and economics.
What Was Best About The Trust Factor?
Dr. Zak backs up his assertion in The Trust Factor that “soft skills” can be managed with the precision of a scientist with research told in an accessible manner. This reinforces the book’s central principle that management should involve proactive experiments that focus on building trust. The book provides concrete steps that leaders can implement within minutes of reading the book to help reach their own (and the book’s) purpose.
What Could Have Been Done Differently?
The Trust Factor does an excellent job of taking actionable research out of the lab and into the world of work. The one thing that could help The Trust Factor even further is a discussion on time prioritization regarding the experiments. The book throws a lot of really helpful ideas at their readers but readers may need help in prioritizing and integrating the book’s ideas into a manageable schedule that busy managers can follow.
Why Read The Trust Factor?
The Trust Factor will best serve every kind of leader. For businesses perform better and think that trust is the issue, the book offers specific questions and actionable steps for leadership to experiment with to achieve greater performance. For high-performing business, this book provides the same questions and actionable steps. The difference is in the perspective. A high-performing business can use The Trust Factor to help refine their performance even further by reviewing areas the business could improve its “soft skills” based on the assessments and questions to fuel more ideas to experiment with.