When I work with organizations, teams, managers or employees on everything – leading dispersed teams, facilitating a move to an open work environment, or helping individuals stay visible in the virtual workplace – trust is the centerpiece of the project. I call trust the operating system because without trust, the success of any individual, team, organization or society will be seriously impacted.
There are a lot of different ideas about trust.
Some think you have to earn it. Some think you can never get it back once it’s broken. There are a million examples in our world of broken trust, all you have to do is read the headlines, for instance just last month we had another round of wikileaks. Even our own organizations’ policies, or what I call Policy Prisons, interfere with organizational trust. Many policies are created to prevent or remedy broken trust… providing documentation when a family member dies, a doctor’s note when you call in sick, dress codes, the list goes on and on.
That common organizational practice is a precedent that is set immediately after someone is hired and it screams, “We don’t trust you!” This is a typical response to broken trust; many believe that that they can create rules to stop “it” from happening again. Sometimes that works….
Often it just disengages the majority of the people who have been trustworthy in the past because they feel punished. I see this often with mobility, putting in software that can count keystrokes, monitoring what websites people are on during the workday, measuring call center employees’ average speed to answer. I personally don’t like the message, but often people believe they can throw some money at performance accountability for a quick tech fix.
Is it even possible to manage trust? The answer is yes, by providing leaders and individuals with a specific set of skills, trust can be managed and increased to the benefit of the person, team, organization and even society.
Here are 5 simple ideas to help build a trust surplus in your world
- Start small – I learned long ago that volume is vanity and execution is sanity, a quote I adapted from Jason Jenning’s book, Think Big, Act Small. Start with the people that you interact with on a daily basis. Let people know you trust them to do what you ask, or to give you their honest option, etc. Listen when they speak up so they know you mean it. You will see that everything you do together either becomes easier, or you learn something about the other person that will allow you to adjust how you interact with them in the future.
- Work at it – Building trust among team members takes both expanded emotional bandwidth and time. Talk about your intention to build more trusting relationships out loud, let people know that this is a shared goal and invite them to be transparent while you work together to improve relationships.
- Create safety – In Trina Hoefling’s book Working Virtually, Second Edition, she dedicates an entire chapter to trust and calls out the importance handling conflict. Team trust will never evolve beyond structured trust when conflict is not managed because people naturally self protect. When people feel unsafe or disconnected, they are less committed, so help work things through. Creating a culture where people can discuss their disagreements without risk, when people are encouraged to inquire and advocate ideas vigorously, will speed along the growth of trust in both working and personal relationships.
- Drop the bullshit – Have you ever played bullshit bingo? Hilarious game, here is a link: http://bullshitbingo.net/. And now even more exciting news… there is an APP for that! Whether you’re talking to your team, your colleague, boss, whatever, let people know where you stand. Use simple language, don’t bamboozle people with a string of meaningless words, call things what they are.
- Make mistakes – And do it loudly, we all know the saying that if you don’t fail, you’re not trying. In a world where innovation is on the list of things to do, making mistakes should be #2. I have been doing an outstanding job of making mistakes for over 50 years and haven’t had an issue admitting to them (at least in the last 20 years). Sometimes, just to get a meeting moving forward, I will even own a mistake I didn’t make.
Trust is a crucial factor for team cohesiveness. Without trust, people won’t be willing to voice their opinions, questions, and improvement ideas. They won’t speak up if they see something unethical or that puts quality at risk. They won’t share their feelings, and they won’t be willing to help others. They certainly won’t engage fully. All these aspects are crucial in building successful teams. If success is on your agenda, I have taken this excerpt from Trina’s new book, to help you do better:
When Can I Relax? You Know You Have a Trusting Team When … All team members freely:
- Admit mistakes
- Ask for help
- Accept input
- Give one another the benefit of the doubt
- Offer feedback and assistance
- Speak freely but without controlling the conversation
- Appreciate (and show appreciation for) one another’s skills and experiences
- Focus time and energy on important issues
- Offer and accept apologies as necessary
- Look forward to opportunities for collaboration
- Support one another in ordinary—and extraordinary—ways.
Teams begin with swift, structured trust and hope to end with genuine trust. They show initiative and adjust to one another as team roles emerge and change, becoming a truly interdependent team that takes pride in delivering on its promise. To summarize General MacChrystal, performing teams are benevolent, in integrity, and competent. Team conflict bonds them as they work through issues.
To learn about your own trust behaviors, check out our new, free trust assessment at the SMART Workplace.
~ Kathy Kacher, Workforce Solutions Expert and co-founder of The SMART Workplace