2018 Thought Leadership series – Nicole Gillespie

On Thursday 29 March 2018 Dr Nicole Gillespie, Associate Professor of Management at Queensland of University’s Business School delivered a number of sessions on why trust matters and presented a set of good practice interventions for building and sustaining organisational trustworthiness during major organisational change. Her presentations and links to additional material are below.

Presentation – Building and sustaining organisational trust (session for chief executive officers) (see below)


Sustaining the trust of both the WA community and our own employees is critical to the success of the State Government’s commitment to significant public sector renewal. Cross country and cross sector research consistently demonstrates that trust underlies effective service delivery, reduces compliance costs and has a major impact—for good or bad—on employee attitudes and behaviours, as well as overall organisational performance. In the face of reform both the opportunities and challenges of building and sustaining trust within organisations needs to be a major focus for public sector leaders.

Presentation – Trust & effective leadership (session for senior executives) (see below)


Research over time across countries and sectors tells us that both trust and trustworthiness really matter for leadership and organisational effectiveness. Cynicism, mistrust and disengagement reduce organisational performance and capacity to deal with volatile conditions, impose high compliance costs, and disrupt relationships and morale. Against the current backdrop of reform, how can the public sector leadership build and sustain vital relationships of trust and trustworthiness? 

Presentation – Trust Matters: building organisational trust (session for human resource and change leaders) (see below)


As well as the ethical imperative, there is a powerful business case for paying careful attention to trust. Trust underlies effective working relationships, and compelling research evidence points to the positive impact of trust on employee attitudes and behaviours, group functioning and levels of organisational performance. In short, trust-based organisations cost less and are more productive. Additionally, a strong reputation for trustworthiness underpins organisational resilience and authenticity. Such a reputation can provide sustainable competitive advantage because it enables the organisation to attract and retain top talent, establish valuable business partnerships and retain the confidence of the citizens we serve. 

Related reading

The Decision to Trust by Robert F Hurley, Harvard Business Review, September 2006

Trust is a measure of the quality of a relationship – between two people, between groups of people, or between a person and an organization. In totally predictable situations the question of trust doesn’t arise: When you know exactly what to expect, there’s no need to make a judgment call. The turbulence of outsourcing, mergers, downsizing, and changing business models creates a breeding ground for distrust. Leading in such an environment requires acting in ways that provide clear reasons to decide to trust. There is no returning to the days when organizations expected–and received–unconditional loyalty from employees. But by using this model, you may be able to create a more dynamic and sustainable foundation for productive relationships.

Designing Trustworthy Organizatons by Robert F. Hurley, Nicole Gillespie, Donald L. Ferrin and Graham Dietz, MIT Sloan Management Review Summer 2013, Vol. 54 No. 4

It is challenging for companies to meet goals and manage trust in complex, competitive and dynamic markets and a globally interconnected, multi-stakeholder community. Companies that do this well develop robust trustworthy organizational systems that enable them to reliably deliver on their core responsibilities to stakeholders and rapidly recover in the event of a trust failure. They reap benefits from having earned a sustained reputation of trust among employees, customers, investors, suppliers and communities. In fact, we would argue, and some research supports the idea, that high-trust organizations also tend to be high-performing, with lower employee and customer turnover, lower monitoring costs and even better financial returns. The good news is that we know how to engineer trustworthy organizations. If leaders and senior managers get smarter about how to manage trust, perhaps we can stop the deluge of damaging headlines and reverse the declining measures of trust in business by manifesting authentic and consistent signals of trustworthiness.

The enemies of Trust by Robert M. Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau, Harvard Business Review, February 2003

The building blocks of trust are unsurprising: They’re old-fashioned managerial virtues like consistency, clear communication, and a willingness to tackle awkward questions. In our experience, building a trustworthy (and trusting) organization requires close attention to those virtues. But it also requires a defensive game: You need to protect trustworthiness from its enemies, both big and small, because trust takes years to build but can suffer serious damage in just a moment. This article takes a look at some of those enemies, discusses trust in times of crisis, and explores ways to rebuild trust when it’s been breached.

If you would like to take a closer look at the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer you can visit www.edelman.com/trust-barometer


Page last updated 28 November 2018