Let’s look at a trust. Trust can be defined as a belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something. How do you define trust?
Think for a moment and answer a question; what does trust mean to you? At the heart of any work relationship is collaboration and at the heart of collaboration is trust. Trust is the central issue in human relationships – both within and outside organizations. Without trust, you cannot lead. Without trust, you cannot get extraordinary things done. Individuals who fail to trust others fail to become leaders because they cannot allow themselves to be dependent on the words and work of others. As a result, they either do all the work themselves or they supervise so closely that they become over controlling. Their obvious lack of trust in others results in others’ lack of trust in them.
In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey talks about emotional bank accounts. Acts of trust are like deposits in the account; betrayals, lies and other damaging behavior are withdrawals. It’s the amount we have in another’s trust account that determines the trust level we have with that person.
According to Covey, when deposits are high, communication is easy, instant and effective. But non-trustworthy behaviors lead to a trust account that is overdrawn. Someone with an overdrawn account has to watch every word. Tensions are high; misunderstandings frequent; politics and defensiveness common.
There are some behaviors that can build trust:
- Be honest: Answer questions honestly and tell the truth, even when it’s difficult. When you’ve made a mistake, own up to it and apologize.
- Share information: People like being in the know, so when appropriate, sharing information on the organization, yourself and the work shows that you have no hidden agendas. Sharing information demonstrates that you want to include everyone, not control.
- Provide re-enforcement: When you build up people through your behavior and words it demonstrates commitment to them, the team, the organization and the work. When you publicly re-enforce employees or co-workers it makes them feel part of something bigger, like a family. (paraphrased by Stitch in Disney’s Lilo and Stitch) "Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten."
- Treat everyone with respect: When you are sincere and interested in your team and you are respectful of everyone you work with it makes you easier to like and to trust. Treat everyone with respect, especially those who can’t do anything for you. Show kindness in the little things.
- Provide realistic assessments about risks: When someone is calm, especially when there’s a crisis, it helps others stay calm. It’s easier to trust someone who doesn’t blow things out of proportion
- Give credit: ALWAYS give credit where credit is due. Acknowledge the contribution of others over your own. Don’t just acknowledge people who stand out, acknowledge everyone who worked on a job or project. Avoid letting co-workers steal the thunder, especially away from someone else.
- Keep promises: When you make a promise, keep it! Do what you say you’re going to do. Deliver results. To build trust you have to master this because people trust people whose word is their bond.
- Communicate: Communication is the key to building trust in any relationship. Listen before you speak. Find out what the most important behaviors are to the people who you are working with. Don’t assume you know what matters most to others. So much of trust is based on effective communication. Communicate well, often and sincerely if your goal is to build trust.
If there are behaviors that create trust, then there are some that can damage trust. Some behaviors that can damage trust are:
- Not apologizing: When there is a mistake, misunderstanding or inappropriate behavior. Engaging in especially damaging behaviors such as digging in heels or protecting personal reputations.
- Judgement: Refusing to give others the benefit of the doubt or judging others without asking them to explain their position or actions. Blaming and scapegoating others, especially if it’s your mistake.
- Not keeping promises: Not keeping promises, commitments or agreements. Refusing to be held accountable by colleagues.
- Self-serving: Making sure you are taken care of first and always. Looking out for others only when it’s convenient or there’s something in it for you. Taking others’ suggestions and critiques as personal attacks or secretly conducting negotiations with other team members to create personal alliances.
- Agreements: Not following through on decisions and agreements made either one-on-one or in meetings. Failing to speak up in team meetings and avoiding contributing constructively. Consistently hijacking team meetings and moving them off topic.
- Sharing: Not sharing critical information with colleagues. Failing to ask colleagues for support or help when needed.
- Honesty: Not being truthful or honest with colleagues. Betraying confidences, gossiping and talking about others behind their backs. Not allowing vulnerability or disclosing weaknesses and admitting relationship challenges. Not creating shared values, expectations and intentions.
- Consistency: In behavior, words and deeds. People don’t know where this type of person stands.
Next month, we will continue to examine TRUST and show you signs of when high trust exists and what happens when it does not!