Leadership: How to Build Trust in Teams and Relationships

A recent discussion on the importance of trust in our teams has prompted me to re-post this article:

Trust is the lifeblood of all relationship – business or personal.  It is the foundation of all mutually satisfying and sustainable long-term relationships. More than just a concept, it is also a feeling state – based on our experience of other’s behavior over time which is taken as evidence of their trustworthiness or not.

“If you don’t have trust, you don’t have a meaningful relationship.” So how do we build and grow trust?  The following eight behaviours are vital in building trust:

1)    Be your word.  As Stephen Covey puts says, “speed happens where there is trust.”  As a leader, work on building a high trust culture, brand and or organization. The quickest way to erode trust is to say things and then not follow through with your actions.  It is better to under promise and over deliver than the other way around.  As leaders, you are already in a fish bowl and are constantly being judged as to how authentic, credible and worthy of “followship” you are.  If you are unable to keep up your promise – for whatever reason –  than being upfront and transparent about this can still be a trustworthy act.

2)   Take responsibility.  Jennifer Elliot, the founder of Integrity and values powerfully coached us that we take on the mindset that everything we do has impact and therefore are responsible for the smallest of actions that we  engage in on a daily basis and the outcomes generated by this.  Taking responsibility means identifying and acknowledging when things go wrong and taking ownership.    As a leader the worst thing one can do is to not take responsibility.  Blaming, shifting responsibility, becoming defensive and or argumentative behaviours will not build trust.  In the words of another successful CEO   “share the successes around but ultimately as a leader, shoulder the blame.”

“Responsibility and Trust — these two are like Yin and Yang, together perfectly complete, and each one requiring the presence of the other.― Vera Nazarian

3)   Hold others to account. As a manager and leader, be clear about the results you expect from others and deal with issues as they arise.  Be willing to have those courageous conversations.  Leaders lose face when team members are allowed to get away with bad behavior. An example is where a direct report, who is very bright, keeps bringing in business and or producing the results, manages upwards really well but exhibits questionable behavior such as bullying, deception or total lack of collaboration with other teams or colleagues.  As their manager, if you are not tackling this, you can be sure that those in the rest of the organization will be looking up to you to take action and losing faith in you if it is not forthcoming.  You may get their time and some of their mind but you will not be getting the hearts and spirit for total engagement.

4)   Be values led.  Live, breathe and model the values that you and your organization hold dear such as respect, transparency, integrity. “Walk the talk and talk the walk!”  You are creating the culture of your organization every step of the way.  Celebrate examples of where the team has gone over and above living these values say with customers but also deal with issues and people who are not honouring the agreed upon values. Professor Mitch Kusy says that one of the best ways of dealing with people who are constantly displaying bad behavior and need managing out is through using values-based behavior as the expected standard.

5)   Collaborate and value diversity.  Trust builds when people feel affirmed, validated and respected. One way to do this is to be a good listener and be empathic. It is easy to fall into the quick trap of “this is the best idea” and anything else is discarded.   Team members pick up very quickly as to whether you have a listening for their contribution.  Be mindful of your own listening so your people feel heard and listened to, even if ultimately their ideas are not adopted.   Ideas can come from anywhere especially those right at the coalface be it production line, dealing with customers and or other stakeholders.  Where there is good teamwork; a zany idea can be picked up and developed upon by others in the team.  “No idea is a bad idea” can be one to play with. Trust also grows when team members are able to express doubt without feeling penalized.

“Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team.” ― Patrick Lencioni

6)   Dealing with broken trust. Being human, we are almost guaranteed to stuff up from time to time. Trust takes years to build and moments to destroy. However, what is more important is how quickly we can own up to this and do whatever it takes to put things right. Most people tend to be forgiving especially where there has been no malice or a deliberate attempt to sabotage or deceive.

7)    Be open to feedback.  Trust is also demonstrated when you are able to show, ask and receive feedback. Challenging as it can be to the ego, to be told things about ourselves that are not our strengths, being able to accept this feedback and then do something about it is a mark of a true leader.  Being open to feedback requires a degree of humility.  And humility keeps us in check and fosters compassion towards ourselves and others. When team members are able to give each other open, honest and  constructive feedback, it’s a very positive signal about the organizations culture.

If you don’t have trust inside your company, then you can’t transfer it to your customers. – Roger Staubach

8)    Trust yourself. It is very hard to trust others and cultivate trusting relationships when we don’t trust ourselves. Unearthing our own relationship with trust can be quite a journey of revelation as we get challenged and come across scenarios where our own level of self trust comes into question.  However, it is at the edges that new learning and growth are waiting to be touched and embraced.  By trusting that there is some learning here and by staying with the self-inquiry – difficult as it may feel – you can come out with greater knowledge about yourself including trusting yourself more.

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

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