T*R*U*S*T – Takes Practice

“It takes 20 years to build a relationship and five minutes to ruin it.”– Warren Buffett

Trust. The word alone strikes a chord in people whenever it is mentioned. The response to discussions about trust are usually emotional and passionate. But wait a minute, isn’t trust something that is black and white? You either trust someone, or you don’t.

When we trust people we allow ourselves to be seen and thus become vulnerable and exposed. Trust in the workplace allows us to feel as if we belong.  We are part of the team and we have friends. But so often that trust is broken and then the drama begins…

I decided to ask my Facebook friends how they defined trust within the context of work relationships and want to share some of the responses: 

“I think it means (or depends upon) open, sincere, and productive communication. That’s not the same thing as unanimity, but trust certainly requires great communication.

Like relationships between a parent and a child, trust lost (in peers or supervisors) takes time to be restored. And, in fact, may never be. /rant off”

“There are many components but one thing that seems to be harder and harder to find… I need to trust that they will do their job well, meaning the job will be done on time, the material/data will be accurate, it will be presented in a professional manner, and it is error free. Too many times things are “done” only for me to find I have to re-do them.” 

“I think it depends on the person. I do not trust all of my coworkers the same way because of many factors like how long we have worked together, the behaviors they display, our positions or roles at work, my gut feeling.”

“Trust is someone who is there no matter what, who will stand by your side even when people who say they will aren’t, won’t judge you by what you say, do, or if you screw up. They will always be there and have your back no matter what.”

“To me it’s those few people you know will always be there, no matter what. The ones I trust the most I don’t even need to talk to all the time. Don’t have to. Lives are busy and it’s hard to always communicate. Thing is you do when it matters. That trust takes time to grow. Once it’s there it always will be, no matter how hectic life can get.”

Everyone has an inherent need to be liked, and by our very nature we want to be trusted, even when we aren’t trustworthy at all.  How do we work at being better with trust so that we may be trusted and build long lasting relationships that impact our work in a positive way consistently?

1. Tell the truth

Telling the truth is an important part of being a trustworthy person. Many people would rather avoid confrontation or disagreement than tell the truth. If we stick to the facts and focus on the behavior or situation rather than on the person when giving feedback, it gets easier over time and we are less likely to resort to passive aggressive non trustworthy behaviors. Tell the truth, all the time, even if you are not going to benefit from it.

2. Be emotionally intelligent

Understand what information you should share and be aware of the right time, place and context.

Never share someone’s personal information. Think before spewing judgmental statements as they do just the opposite of building trust. Understand that “I’m sorry” after destroying someone’s credibility or shaming someone in public will rarely be enough for you to regain someone’s trust.  If you are going to share information that is “just between us”, then don’t share the information with others.

3. Walk the talk

Let your actions speak. If you are trustworthy, then you act with integrity consistently.  Be who you say you are. Do what you say you will do. Keep your promises. Look people in the eye when you talk to them.  Steer clear of self-promoting behaviors. Nurture great relationships and welcome constructive feedback with open arms.

4. Be a good leader

Ask the right questions and be genuinely interested in the answers.  Live in the moment and be present with your staff and not distracted by email, phone or other priorities.  Focus on the goals and solutions rather than complaining about the people. Set your own standards high and meet them.

Trust means that people can count on you consistently to be a safe place to share and learn. Trust is an important part of a functional team environment and when people do not trust their leader, productivity, profitability, engagement and team effectiveness all plummet. People become risk averse and innovation stops.

So how, you ask, do I make changes and become a more trustworthy leader?  The answer is counter-intuitive: Let go of control. When you do not trust your team, you try to keep control of people and situations at all times. This makes you a Micromanager.  Micro-managers are the number one management type employees most often complain about.  It comes down to knowing yourself well enough to recognize the fact that you may be so risk averse that you fall into this trap.

The truth is, even if you micromanage; you are not in control of other people. You can influence them, or strongly suggest that they do things a certain way, but at the end of the day, YOU are the only person you can control.

Trust requires your investment in someone else’s success. It is a process and takes time to develop. It must be given from your heart and without restraint. It must be practiced early and often, but once you have it down, it becomes part of who you are.  I promise you will not regret it.  Go forth and lead with passion!

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