Last month, the Harvard Business Review published an article about neuroscience and trust.

The article, “How Our Brains Decide When to Trust”, highlights the very learnings we share with our clients – that without trust, leaders won’t get the engagement, innovation or cooperation required for optimum performance.

“Trust is an essential ingredient for effective leadership and teamwork, great customer service, and achieving satisfaction from one’s work,” writes Paul Zak, who is the founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and a professor of economics, psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University.

“The payoff goes to both the top and bottom lines.”

Without SAFETY There is No Trust

Through our own research, we developed the SAFETY framework, focusing on Status, Assurance, Fairness, Empathy, Thinking and Your Mindset. Using this framework, leaders can foster a workplace climate or culture that promotes more of an “Approach” or rewarding brain state. Simply put, one of trust.

Studies suggest that being in an Approach state increases collaboration, cognitive ability, risk-taking and creative problem-solving capacity, thanks to the increased levels of our happiness hormones, serotonin and oxytocin. A workplace that fosters high-innovation and engagement is one that is psychologically safe. At Noesis, we call this a climate of NeuroSafety.

Interestingly, according to Zak, “research shows that oxytocin release can be reciprocal – if our interaction causes your brain to make oxytocin, it will typically do the same for mine.” Just imagine what this means for teamwork.

But the flip side is true too. Just as a climate of safety and trust fosters teamwork and productivity, fear does the opposite.

“Fear is a great motivator in the short term but a poor one in the long term,” Zak writes. “If your boss occasionally pressures you on a deadline, it can push you to get the work done on time. However, if you know your boss will berate, threaten, or punish you no matter what, it ceases to affect your performance.”

Noesis delivers neuroleadership consulting and training to organizations handling everyday change and major transformation initiatives. We help our clients scientifically improve leadership.