I’m increasingly reminded of the importance of trust in healthy work (and all), relationships. I’ve read books by authors such as Patrick Lencioni, Stephen M.R. Covey and Ken Blanchard on the subject over the past few years. Dave Kraft recently posted a helpful article entitled “I Don’t Trust You”, stating “When it comes to business, church and family (just about anything having to do with relationships), trust is critical. Probably one of the worst things anyone can say to another person is, ‘I don’t trust you.’”
In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, one of the most helpful books I’ve read and a book I refer to often, Lencioni states that trust is the foundation of real teamwork. Covey writes that the first job of a leader – at work or home – is to inspire trust. He states that regardless of the relationship – sports team, business or family, if you can’t trust one another there’s going to be trouble.
If trust is so important, how can we build and maintain it? Here are five ways:
- Start with trust. Ken Blanchard writes that trust is a delicate thing, taking a long time to build, but it can be lost in a matter of minutes. My parents often told me that it is the last thing that someone does that people remember you for. Think of the sad Bill Cosby situation, for example. In the expectations/philosophies document I send new team members I state “You have my trust – that is my starting point. You will have it unless you give me reason to withhold that trust”. Where do you begin in regards to trust?
- Maintain trust by developing strong relationships. Lencioni writes that like a good marriage, trust on a team is never complete but must be maintained over time. Covey states that in relationships of high trust we can say the wrong thing and people will still get our meaning. However, in relationships of low trust we can be very measured and precise but people will still misinterpret us. How do you build strong relationships so that you can maintain trust with your teams? See my article, “5 Ways to Know Your Team Members Better”.
- Show trust in action. Blanchard writes that today we hear a lot of talk about trust and even more about the lack of it. He states that people need to see trust in action more than they need to hear about it. What are some ways you show trust in action? For example, are you able to keep confidential things that people share with you? Do you keep your word and can people depend on it?
- Work hard to restore trust. Even if we start with trust, there are times we will do or say things that will damage trusting relationships. We need to work to restore that trust by being accountable and repentant. Lencioni states that the key ingredient to building trust is not time, but courage. Members of trusting teams admit weaknesses and mistakes to one another. A friend once told me that once trust is lost, she will never give it again. I don’t think that’s a healthy approach. What do you do when trust needs to be restored?
- Be intentional about maintaining trust. Demonstrate daily that those you work with can count on you. By consistently showing trustworthiness in action on a daily basis and over a long period of time, you make daily deposits into your trust account with each team member. How do you intentionally do that?
These are just a few thoughts on how to build and maintain trust at work. There are many, many more. What are you doing to build trust with those you work with?