By: Lynda McNutt Foster
Note to self: I did it again. I used that tone that instantly triggered anxiety in someone I wanted to trust me today. It was only for a few seconds, but in that short time, I recognized the signs that I might have jeopardized the trust I was building. Looking back on the week, I also haven’t called someone that is important to me to check on them since they’ve been out sick and I rushed through a conversation with a team member as they were sharing about the work they had done on their project. I had the gut feeling that I was detaching when I should have been connecting and yet, I just ignored it. I will do better next week. I will continue to put the act of building and maintaining trust at the top of my priority list.
Just because we know it and it may be common sense doesn’t mean it’s easy to make building and maintaining trust with others common practice. We can jeopardize trust in an instant. We don’t take the necessary time to do a thorough job on a project or request and bam! the trust in our competency is slightly eroded. We say that we care about someone we work with and yet we don’t take the time to listen or ask about how they are really doing during a difficult time for them. We say we will complete something by Monday and don’t get back to the person until Friday so our reliability is jeopardized with that person. Ever so slightly. Hardly noticeable, until bam! the “straw that broke the camel’s back” is laid on top of the multiple, small, infractions and no longer does that person feel safe with us.
We may not even notice when someone doesn’t trust us anymore. They may just slow down the amount of interactions they have with us or stop sharing in meetings. The erosion of trust can show up by silence as much as outward displays of anger and resentment. Since the majority of us (from our research, about 90%) want to avoid conflict, we may never know what we did to jeopardize or break the trust someone has in us. They may simply, eventually, disappear from our immediate line of sight.
Trust is the starting block for any type of meaningful relationship at home or work and is the cornerstone of everyday interactions and conversations that lead to success or failure. The building, maintaining or jeopardizing of trust is hidden beneath each action we take or don’t take and measured almost subconsciously.
There are six elements of trust that most people consider in building relationships with others:
Sincerity: Being genuine in actions and intentions. This is the number one element that team members say is most important to them when it comes to their boss. It’s important to team members that who they work for doesn’t just say they care but take the time to demonstrate it in a way that the team member feels is appropriate and valued.
Involvement: This isn’t about being “social” necessarily. It’s more about being attuned to the concerns of others and relating with compassionate presence to the person. Our surveys show that for 19-34 year-olds this is the number one element of trust. People whom involvement ranks high for want you to check in with them, frequently, to see what is going on with them. They like consistent feedback and they like a casual atmosphere where they feel comfortable mixing social conversation with business.
Reliability: This is simply the act of doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. If you say you are going to be somewhere you show up there. If you make a commitment to complete something for your team, you do it, on time, within budget, and without hassle. It’s hard to build trust on a team or in an organization unless this element is consistently demonstrated.
Time: This one is the most interesting one we have surveyed. This element is simple. Honor time commitments you have made. If you say you are going to be there at 8am, be there at 8am or call to say you are going to be late. What’s so interesting about this one, though, is that in class we ask everyone to select their top 2 elements of trust and out of say 30 participants only 1 will choose Time as their top element. HOWEVER, when workers complain about their bosses, many times they will sight how disrespectful it is when their boss is consistently late to meet with them or the team.
Competency: This is the number one answer that bosses give about team members. Competency is having the experience, knowledge, and skills to do what you commit to doing. Bosses choose this one because in order to feel comfortable delegating to team members they need to trust that the team member can do the job they have committed to doing.
Standards: Holding and meeting clear standards for performance. The trick here is to be able to align your standards with the other persons. I might have a completely different set of standards for completing a project than you do. If we don’t communicate that, up front, we may run into trust issues that may result in micromanagement or things not getting delegated properly.
For more information on building a trust with your “community” whether it be online or with your team members, peers or bosses, check out our short (under 7 minutes), free Corcast series with Adam Linkenauger and Becky Freemal. Another related article can be found here.
In your next team meeting you might want to consider going over the six elements of trust with your team and have them answer the following:
1. What 2 elements are the most important to me in building and maintaining relationships at work?
2. People jeopardize trust with me when they ________________________.
3. The element of trust I need to focus on delivering to my team members this week is…