Gravity keeps the earth rotating perfectly around the sun. If that gravitational force became any weaker, we would drift away from the sun forever. Trust is the gravity that keeps our relationships in orbit – including work relationships. The first step to building trust is to trust others. Here’s how I think we complete step two and become trustworthy.
Act with Integrity
To me, integrity means doing what I say I am going to do. I try to keep every commitment I make to my reports. The best management technique I’ve learned is practicing weekly one-on-one meetings with my team members. I try never to miss one. When bosses cancel or reschedule meetings at the last-minute it seems the boss feels his time is more valuable than his team’s.
Address Conflict Quickly
I believe in resolving staff disagreements fast. Sometimes this means moderating a controlled argument. I once let two reports scream at each other for about thirty minutes. I was afraid I was doing the wrong thing or worse I would lose control of the situation. After the argument, they agreed on a resolution and shook hands. It was a big win. I never had an issue with them again and they became a highly productive team for me.
Communicate Change Early and Honestly
Change is inevitable, yet I see how surprised people are when they learn about the next organizational shift. I try to teach my team to expect change. Some organizational shifts are confidential, but I try not to let people sweat anymore than necessary. I tell them why we are changing, what it means for them and how we will survive this new direction just like all the others.
I appreciate yet rarely hear straight talk these days. I try to avoid spin, dancing around an issue, sarcasm, patronizing and jargon. Telling people what they want to hear won’t make them more effective. True candor can make people uncomfortable but it’s more uncomfortable for them and me to have an untrusting team.
I figure I’m wrong at least 25 percent of the time. When this happens I accept responsibility for mistakes, apologize, learn and sometimes make fun of myself a bit. I used to let my ego get in the way, but today I realize how admitting mistakes actually builds credibility.
There’s no script for earning the trust of others, and people won’t remember most of what we say at work. In fact, I bet my reports don’t remember what we talked about three weeks ago. But I’m sure you remember the last time your boss broke a promise, ignored a concern, talked in circles or passed blame. What really matters are our actions and commitment to being truly trustworthy.