Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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5 Ways to Build Trust at Work

Patrick Lencioni QuoteI’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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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”.
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?


5 Ways to Know Your Team Members Better

servant-leadershipAs a leader I want to serve those that I am privileged to lead. In order to serve them you need to know them. Each year we hold a summer outdoor team event. It’s always a wonderful time of food, fun, relationship-building and learning. And each year we capture the event by putting photos from the event in a book that I keep on the small table in my office where I meet with people. I often use the book to tell people that you are only blessed to work with a group of people for a short time and then they, or you, move on.

I can look at the books from past events to remind me that very few of the people that attended the event just a few years ago are still on the team. Some of us may work together again, but some (from a book I looked at this week from 2008) have already retired, and one sadly has since died.

Here are 5 ways you can get to know your team members – whether it be at work, church, volunteer organizations or school:

  1. See them as people, not resources. I often hear people referred to as ‘resources’, and that always bothers me. When I began my career the department currently named Human Resources was called Personnel. I think this could reflect more than just a name change. See your team members as people, not just as an analyst, for example. Do you see them as just resources to help you accomplish your goals, or as people that you want to come alongside to help them reach their goals?
  2. Get to know them personally. Find out about their family, their favorite authors, sports teams, music, hobbies and their dreams and goals. Don’t just find out about their skills and experiences, but about them as people. Find out what is troubling them. Even though it seems that many have it all together, I believe that everyone is worrying about something, be it finances, health, relationships, family, etc. You need to know your team members personally to know this. Are you praying for your people?
  3. Find out how you can serve them. Servant leadership is something that I am passionate about, though not always good at. I love John Maxwell’s quote that the leader is there for the people, not the people for the leader. I like to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. Would your team members say that about you if asked?
  4. Spend time away from the job site with them. Now don’t misunderstand me here. Mel, my career mentor told me more than thirty years ago that if you are going to have only one relationship with your team members it has to be a professional one. I apply that advice – with exceptions. For example, I make it a personal policy not to ask a current team member to be a friend on Facebook. I also wouldn’t go to a movie or ballgame with them while they were current team members. However, I do pray for them and their families often. What I also try to do is arrange opportunities to see team members other than in just our monthly “One on One” and team meetings. An example is our monthly team birthday lunch. Each month, whoever is celebrating a birthday gets to choose the restaurant where the team will get together to celebrate their birthday. Not everyone attends, but it gives me an opportunity to see many of them away from the usual business situations.   Can you think of some creative relation-building activities and off-site locations that you can do with your team?
  5. Show them that you care. Ask them about their vacation, how the recent class they attended was, what they did over the weekend, etc. If you know that they are waiting on health test results for themselves or a family member follow-up with them to show them your support. Another of my favorite John Maxwell quotes is that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Would your team members say that you care about them as people?

These are just a few ways you can better get to know your team members as a caring servant leader. There are many, many more. What suggestions do you have to share?