A recipe for trust

Employee trusting boss to shoot an apple off his head.

The positive effect of drugs on your team

In the (circa) 1990’s an adage came out “Hugs, not Drugs”. It was a campaign for parents in the War on Drugs, saying that if they hugged their kids often, then they were less likely to feel alienated and as a result, not turn to drugs. In the workplace, there is a more covert drug operating that can have hugely positive effects on the success of the business but cannot be tested for as easily as drugs – oxytocin.

OK, so I know oxytocin is a hormone (something your body produces, as opposed to a drug, which is something introduced to your body) but the lack of oxytocin in your employees will directly limit their team performance and the business as a whole will be adversely affected so we do need to figure out how to give our team more of it!

What if the way to create a recipe for oxytocin was right in front of you and didn’t involve actual hugs, expensive trips to a dude ranch to bond or risk a lawsuit for invading someone’s personal space? 

What is oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a hormone that is produced in your hypothalamus in the brain and is distributed through your body in the blood. It’s the hormone that builds trust and relationships – often called ‘The Trust Hormone’. If it is present then it leads to openness, generosity, and empathy.

Why you need oxytocin in your business

Back in the days of our ancestors (in my case Scottish ancestors) the clan’s  very survival meant that they needed to depend on fellow clans people. A balanced clan needed people of different skill-sets, and by that nature different personalities, in order to survive and thrive. But how does this mix of personalities manage to stick together when they are so different? Hormones! In this case, it is oxytocin released in our brain when we do something to help someone else that is our reward. We actually feel good when we help others.

Now look at your business and the different personalities you need for a successful business and think about how they are brought together. I’ve written often about how to unify your team (you can read the blog here). But oxytocin is the reason that it works! For your business to become a well-oiled machine you need to oil it with the right hormones.

The recipe for oxytocin – made with ingredients already on hand

There are many different ways to create strong connections within your business: Team building; reward systems; company hug days (OK I made that last one up), but the downside of these often sporadic systems is that they are often deemed insincere, producing little if enough good vibes to be effective.

Here is my Four Step Recipe to make The Trust Hormone:

1. Know your people

Our ancestors had a much simpler life, harsher, but much simpler. The leaders in those days knew their people, they knew them from childhood – knew their trials and tribulations whilst growing up, understood what drove them and where their natural skill sets lay.

The challenge for our leaders in business is, in contrast, they do not know what major life experiences have shaped their views and motivations. They have no idea about what makes them tick.

The first thing any leader must do is find out more about their immediate team, simple things to begin with, what is their partners name, kids names, pets names? What do they do to unwind at the weekend? What hobbies do they have?

This will eventually lead to a deeper understanding of them – What was it like to grow up in their family? Who was their first role model out with the family and why? What has been their best holiday experience? etc. The key here is to know as much about them, where they have come from and what has shaped them from their past.

2. Let them play to their strengths

When you gain a more in-depth understanding of your team members then you can start figuring out what their genius is. What is that specific skill set that they have that comes easy to them, takes no conscious effort that they are great at doing? When you figure this out, you can label that genius to everyone else in the team. This helps to bring the team together and allows each member of the team feel valued through the recognition of their genius.

Every team member should be known for their strength so that the rest of the team can leverage it to help the team as a whole. For example, if Margaret loves numbers and can pour over spreadsheets and recognise numerical patterns and easily spot anomalies but Dan hates spreadsheets and everything about tables, then leave those tasks to Margaret. She’ll thank you for it because she loves doing it and Dan will thank you for not giving it to him. After all, it will take Dan all day and frustrate the heck out of him!

3. Recognise their performance

When someone achieves a goal or a task as an individual, they receive a different hormone, Dopamine. But, when that goal or task is recognised as benefiting the team, or when the team comes together to achieve something together, then its oxytocin that is produced, bringing the team closer together.

4. Repeat steps one through three

Trust is only built through consistency. Now that the team has seen success together the trust bond will be reinforced. As a leader of that team your focus is to ensure you continue to create, set and deliver goals as a group, so that they can perform and win together as a team. This cycle of success will feed itself, attracting the best people to it, why, because everyone wants to be part of the winning team.