People trust you, right?
Most people won’t look you in the eye and say, “I don’t trust you.” That is especially true if you are in a position of power. But, the symptoms of mistrust are there. It is up to us to see them.
You could be experiencing a lack of trust if you are seeing any of the following:
• Withholding information and selective communication
• Questioning goals, strategies, actions and decisions
• Protecting their own self-interest at the expense of the team or organization
• Acting inconsistently with the organization’s values
• Low or diminishing commitment and engagement
Here’s What You Can Do
Here are six actions you can take immediately to earn and maintain the trust of those you want to influence:
1. Follow through on commitments. Our research with organizations shows that the number one behavior causing mistrust is managers not doing what they said they would do. It is that way in most types of relationships.
If you can’t meet a promised deadline, tell people in advance. If you promise to run interference for your team, make sure your sense of urgency matches theirs and report the results. If you tell your team that being at work on time is important, make sure you address the person who is chronically late. If you don’t honor commitments, you won’t maintain trust.
2. Communicate, communicate, and then communicate. Communication is everything and everything communicates. Talk straight, and talk often. Set clear expectations and create shared understanding of priorities. Your team knows that there are things you cannot share. They want to know everything you can talk about, and they want to feel that you are telling them the truth rather than spinning the message for your own benefit.
Communication goes beyond talking. A reputation for listening and actually caring about what others are saying is the stuff of legends.
3. Get better at your job. Would you blindly follow someone out of a burning building if you were convinced that they had no idea what they were doing or where they were going? Then why would you trust a minimally competent leader to provide direction, set priorities, or keep the team focused on results?
Your team improves when you improve. More important, they trust more and question less in uncertain times when they believe that you know what you are doing.
4. Be consistent. We value and learn to trust consistency in action and response. When consistency is absent, people naturally protect their own interests even if it makes the team less successful. When consistency is present—especially when combined with open communication—people tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. They are more confident, and they are not constantly looking over their shoulder to see how you are going to react to every incident or piece of bad news.
5. Be very clear about your values. What are the principles that are so important that you would never compromise them? The most difficult challenges we face are rarely the choice between a clear right and wrong. More often, the choice between competing values forces us into decisions between the better of two acceptable options or the lesser of two poor ones. The clearer you are on your values, the more trust you will build.
6. Have their back. There will come a time when you can either stand up for your team or throw them under the bus. You will have an option to be an advocate for their success or allow them to flounder on their own.
The outcome of standing up for your team is less important than the action of doing so. Your team knows that you can’t control every decision or action. You will earn their respect and trust when they know that you will stand up for them even when it is not convenient.
The absence of trust turns small problems into huge barriers. It causes people to focus internally on protecting themselves rather than externally on meeting customer needs. Most important, it creates a cancer that destroys any opportunity for long-term success.
Don’t wait. Act now to build and maintain trust.