When you make the decision to take a position of authority, whether it is an elected political position, board/committee chair position or CEO/president of a company, a key element the general public, your board and committee members or employees want is to feel they can trust you to know what you are doing in that position. The same goes for co-workers and those of your family and friends. Most want to have people they trust in their corner – someone who will have their backs in time of crisis or turmoil as well as a person who encourages and stimulates.
Trust exists in our minds and depends on individual conduct and on how that conduct is perceived. It is a feeling of safeness and it is a vital element to ANY relationship whether personal or professional. Trust will always make the list when defining characteristics of a "leader".
I had a phone call from a larger company asking me to work with their department on building trust among the employees within that department. They were a diverse group of different generations and longevity within the company. The employees that had been there for many years did not trust the new hires ideas, while the newer employees didn't understand why change was so difficult and it was causing some conflict. There were statements like "we have always done it this way" and "it's been done this way for a long time and it can be done more efficient this way". See the conflict? There wasn't a lot of respect for new ideas and there wasn't a lot of respect given to the old ideas and traditions. With more discussion, I learned they didn't take the time to know one another very well and therefore it was easy to quickly say they didn't really like each other. They went to work, did their jobs and then went home. Now, I'm not saying they have to know intimate details about the others, but learning something and being interested is a key element to building trust. Meg Wheatley, author of Leadership and the New Science states "You can't hate someone whose story you know."
Here are symptoms of "trustless" relationships – think personally and professionally.
1. Poor communication – lack of openness and an unwillingness to truly listen
2. Lack of respect – concerns about competence, knowledge or motives
3. Inflexibility – dogmatically sticking to beliefs or perceptions even in the face of contrary evidence
4. Guarded information flow – excessive control of information and processes
5. Hidden agenda – objectives and expectations are not shared with the group
6. Avoidance of conflict – lack of interpersonal confrontation about legitimate concerns
7. Backbiting – critical discussions of the team members behind their backs
8. Sabotage or Backstabbing – attempts to undermine the credibility or success of a team member – some will use "devil's advocate" to justify this behavior
Page 2 of 2 - 9. "End-Arounds" – avoiding or eliminating some who should legitimately be at the table
10. Inappropriate Independence – stubbornly refusing to seek input from others
11. Poor Follow Through – failure to keep commitments or agreed upon actions
12. Disinterest – displaying apathy, indifference or inattention.
Trust builds slowly, over time and it takes only a moment to lose it. Although very difficult, trust can be rebuilt. Careful attention to open communication, ethical behavior and consistency can be a stepping stone. Here are some things to keep in mind when rebuilding trust.
1. Show respect for old ideas and traditions while exploring new ones, especially in times of extreme change
2. Listen in ways that shows respect to others, valuing their ideas and thoughts
3. Practice openness and sharing whatever knowledge you have to improve the group's performance
4. Be attentive and intuitive
5. Be consistent with all of the above – repetition
Resources for this article – K-State Research and Extension LEADS Curriculum and work of Leadership Butler, Inc.
For more information on building trust, contact Becky Wolfe, Leadership Butler at email@example.com, website www.leadershipbutlerinc.org