Trust at work

I’ve long been a fan of Patrick Lencioni’s leadership fable, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  In this short engaging book, Lencioni reveals five issues that go to the very heart of why teams often struggle. The issues build on each other, starting with the absence of trust.

This absence of trust is where people are unable to be open with each other about their weaknesses or mistakes. It takes time (and courage) to establish, but can be destroyed in a few careless moments.  An article in Psychology Today identifies ten behaviours that diminish trust.  These include:

  • Escalating an email chain, copying people in unnecessarily (especially the main recipient’s boss)
  • Telling half-truths and deliberately using opaque or evasive language
  • Taking credit without acknowledging others’ contributions
  • Relinquishing personal accountability by blaming others, not apologizing and offering excuses

It is far more important that people trust their managers than like them, although being liked in itself is not necessarily a bad thing (as I argued in a previous blog).  New research by Roffey Park on trust in work relationships has highlighted eight specific behaviours that tend to foster interpersonal trust. These are:

  • Being transparent: having open conversations with colleagues and presenting them with your honest view rather than concealing or spinning information
  • Sticking to commitments: doing what we say we will do means that others can rely on us
  • Demonstrating trust: when we extend our trust and let others feel trusted, it creates reciprocity and encourages our trustee to trust us in return
  • Being personal: investing in relationships at a basic human level rather than just transactionally to get something you need
  • Being consistent: this allows those who work with us to anticipate what we might do in different situations.
  • Appreciating others: showing respect to people regardless of their status or power
  • Listening well: when you listen to your colleagues, they feel valued and it also gives both parties a better understanding of the situation so you can make better decisions
  • Demonstrating vulnerability: this is about owning up to your mistakes and imperfections, and trying to make things right when they go wrong

There is no short cut to building trust – it cannot be demanded of someone. As one wise man said “whenever someone says ‘trust me’, turn around and run as fast you can”.