What’s faster than the speed of trust?
The speed of distrust.
No matter what type of relationship you’re in, you need trust at work, at home, and with friends. It takes just a little bit of distrust to spoil the relationship. In today’s world of isolation and social distancing, with employees working from home, and some working the off shifts where they rarely see or hear from senior management; it is vital that we learn how to develop, build, and maintain trust from top to bottom within the organization. So here, I’ll discuss six DOs and four DON’Ts that I’ve learned over the years about trust.
- Walk the talk. How you behave needs to support your messages. You have chosen specific words when you craft a written message for your team. Use your in-person time to support that message. Think about what you do and say, and the impact it may have on the recipient and on others that the recipients will share the message with. Being deliberate in what you say aligns your message with how you behave. Don’t be the person who says, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Teammates will see right through this, and you will have lost their trust.
- Keep commitments. Keep track of your commitments and manage them. However, things change, so you also need to manage those changes. Be prepared to have another commitment become your priority. Don’t blow people off and forget the original commitment. Communicate the change in a timely, honest, and effective manner. Make new arrangements as soon as possible to ensure you keep the trust you’ve already gained.
- Know your team. More than simply knowing what tasks your team is expected to complete, know at least something about them personally, and create comradery among members. It’s okay to use the first five minutes of a call to talk about personal things and find out things about your team. Who went to a game, had a bit of excitement in their lives, etc. Creating that personal touch brings friendship and the commitment of friends to the team.
- Be consistent, have clear expectations, communicate often and well. These all go to accountability. Accountability for you — and for your teammates. Providing a clear expectation at the beginning of a project is as important as providing updates to that expectation when it changes. Ensuring that every member of the team knows the expectation and any changes to it is vital. Your consistency in keeping this message in front of the team is vital to assuring you have the trust of the team.
- Keep confidences. There are confidences that you simply cannot tell the team for legal reasons; but there also are those provided by teammates or other employees that need to be kept. Before you share any confidential information, ask yourself if it really needs to be shared, and if disclosing it will be helpful or a hindrance.
- Be supportive of your team. Set yourself up for success by using technology to help your team. With remote workers, use the right technology so that everyone can participate in a conversation. Keep your team engaged with each other. Use a tool that keeps everyone on the same page. Make sure all the questions are open for all to see and respond to. (Don’t allow anonymous Q&A.) Use the right automation so that screens can be shared and everyone can see what is being talked about. In person, be sure to speak well of your teammates and create opportunities for them to grow and shine.
- Don’t misrepresent the truth. Taking things too lightly and exaggerating a situation are both problems when it comes to trust. You become at risk of not being taken seriously. I worked with a manager we called “captain panic” because of the way she reacted to even minor changes. This misrepresentation of facts through her actions led to a lack of trust by each of the other managers. Stretching the truth or making excuses are similar telltales of misrepresenting the truth, and teammates will minimize their interaction with the untrustworthy souls who use these tactics. If you don’t know or are not sure, it is acceptable to tell the team you don’t, but that you will find out and get back with them. (Remember the #2 Do — keep the commitment!) Honesty builds trust.
Don’t withhold information — do be transparent. As noted in the #4 Do, you need to communicate often; not sharing needed information can lead to rapid mistrust. Your team needs information to meet their commitments and expectations. Withholding needed information commits your team to failure. Being transparent and timely with needed information builds trust and fosters a much more collaborative environment for your team. The biggest key piece of information I’ve found valuable in a food manufacturing plant is “why.” Why do I need to wash my hands (or follow GMPs)? Why do we have this or that policy? Once the “why” is known, teammates generally follow the rules or procedures.
In today’s off-site work environment, being transparent with information when teammates disagree on a conference call is also important.
Many times, this disagreement will be taken offline. Don’t forget to get back to the team when a resolution has been found. Ensuring the team knows the outcome builds trust that you are communicating. For the most trust, default to transparency.
- Don’t gossip. Gossip happens. But when you engage in gossip, you’re telling the listener that if you would talk about someone else, you’d also talk about them behind their back. This is a trust killer. If you have an issue with someone, talk with that person. Avoid the rumor mill and work to solve the problem. Remember, we started this conversation with “walk the talk.” If you’re a gossip, that is what your team will see you as, not as a trustworthy leader.
Don’t throw others “under the bus.” This usually occurs when excuses are being made and responsibility avoided. Before you do this, consider asking yourself if you did all you could to ensure this teammate was able to meet their commitments and to be a success, or did you fail to manage the situation or person so the expectation could be met. Being trustworthy sometimes means accepting responsibility for the team not achieving.
Trust goes a long way with employees and teammates. Demonstrating trust takes effort and time. Communicating, being honest and transparent, then walking the talk show your commitment to being trusted by coworkers.