When Trust Is Broken

It takes years to build up trust and only seconds to destroy it. ~ Anonymous

Trust is a key factor we discuss in my coaching engagements – with clients. There’s nothing that poisons a relationship as much as mistrust. Confront the issues as soon as possible.
When trust is broken, take immediate steps to fix the problem instead of ignoring or downplaying it. Employees will be skeptical and/or suspicious, so choose your words carefully. Acknowledge that trust has been damaged, and start the recovery process as quickly as possible.
You needn’t have all the answers or a detailed plan. There can even be a lag between naming the problem and describing what you’ll do. Just let people know that you’re aware of the issue and its impact on them, and that you’re committed to setting things right.
Identify the problem as precisely as possible. Is there an adversarial relationship between people in the sales offices and those at headquarters? Are people doing end runs around a department that has a reputation for arrogance?
Imagine what success will look like in practice. You may, for example, establish clear roles and responsibilities, an exceptions policy, a dispute resolution process, and submission and response protocols. In meetings, you can spend less time assigning blame and more time on what the staff is doing right.
With greater trust, managers and leaders can reap tangible business benefits: increased productivity, improved performance and genuine employee engagement.
I know it can be hard to deal with a lack of trust. But nothing is more important.

The Powerful Unconscious

The Powerful Unconscious

As modern brain scientists study human behavior, they find that we operate more unconsciously than previously assumed.
It’s not that we’re automatons without free will or that we lack rationality and refined decision-making skills. Our brains (specifically, the frontal cortex) simply drive us to act in ways that frequently bypass civilized thought processes – and much more often than we’d like to admit.
How else do you explain the increase in overweight, diseased, stressed-out and addicted people each decade, despite our vast knowledge of health, nutrition and fitness?
World Health Organization statistics reveal there are now more overweight than undernourished people worldwide. Only one in 20 U.S. adults engages in all top-six health behaviors according to David Berrigan in a 2003 article in Preventive Medicine, “Patterns of health behavior in US adults”:
Regular exercise
Healthful fat intake
Consumption of 5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily
Limited drinking (alcohol) and drug use
Maintaining a healthy weight
Apparently, the more our standard of living improves the less life satisfaction we report. Countries track their Gross National Product (GNP) and education levels to measure citizens’ quality of life. In addition, Great Britain recently decided to track its population’s health and wellness. The latter are now considered as essential to life satisfaction as money or education.
Wellness Defined
In past decades, psychologists used Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to gauge satisfaction. Maslow measured five key life spheres:
Physical (food, water, shelter, sleep)
Safety and security (property, employment, resources)
Social (love, sex, relationships)
Esteem (confidence, achievement, respect)
Self-actualization (morality, creativity, problem-solving)
More recently, psychologist Martin Seligman’s research on optimism and happiness proposes five elements of well-being:
Positive emotion: what we feel (pleasure, rapture, ecstasy, warmth, comfort)
Engagement: thoughts and energy flow; immersion in a desired activity
Relationships: essential social connections
Meaning and purpose: our interpretations of what really matters
Accomplishment: our desire for achievement and task completion
As a broad term, wellness describes overall health and well-being in terms of optimal functioning of the body, mind and spirit. Our daily choices – what we do, how we eat, the battles we fight, who we love – help determine our wellness level.
For our ancestors, running from a tiger meant staying alive. Early humans were forced to be strong and agile and didn’t have easily available foods. Modern life offers far too many opportunities to make poor choices.
The Paradox of Choice
Each of us has a personal responsibility to make prudent health choices. But even in today’s information-driven society, we choose to ignore much of the available health data. We find innumerable excuses to justify our negative health habits.
Doctors’ schedules are so packed that they often neglect to provide behavioral wellness plans. They may implore patients to adopt healthful diet and exercise habits, but they’re continually frustrated by rampant noncompliance. This leaves patients with no follow-up or clear action steps for achieving optimal well-being.
It’s estimated that more than half the population is operating on autopilot at work. In fact, many of us work and live in a state of perpetual non-engagement, just trying to get through the day without any conflict.
Is it any wonder so many of us turn to unhealthful habits like excessive smoking, drinking and sex to relieve our stress and boredom?
Wellness Coaching 101
Many of us wait to see a doctor until our symptoms become unbearable. Similarly, we’ll avoid booking an appointment with a therapist, marinating in denial and insisting, “I’m fine … really.” Only a heartfelt desire drives us to seek deep and lasting change.
Wellness coaches are credentialed professionals with expertise in a variety of health domains: exercise, smoking cessation, nutrition, weight loss, stress management and life satisfaction. They work with clients to effect change through personally tailored behavioral plans. Without the support and structure a coach imposes, it may be impossible for you to achieve the changes you seek to make.
While personal trainers offer side-by-side instruction, wellness coaches provide tools that allow you to discover and implement your own solutions. You learn how to meet your specific needs with available resources.
Effective coaches know how to ask the right questions, leading their clients on a path of self-discovery. They employ “appreciative inquiry,” focusing on what their clients do right instead of delving into and analyzing the negative. Storytelling is another coaching tool that helps clients connect challenges and experiences to their own life stories.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2012 annual survey of employer health benefits, 63 percent of U.S. companies offer at least one wellness program, be it a weight-loss program, discounted gym membership, on-site exercise facility, smoking-cessation program, nutrition/fitness class, web-based resources for healthy living, wellness newsletter or personal health coaching. Twenty-one percent of small companies (3-199 employees) and 56 percent of large companies (200+ employees) actually provide lifestyle or behavioral coaching.
If your company has not yet implemented a wellness program, talk with your employer about adding one. Consider working with a wellness coach to achieve more healthy habits and life satisfaction.

5 Steps Toward a Culture of Trust

Why, then, do almost 90 percent of leaders rate so poorly on measures of trust? Whether or not your leaders are trustworthy or not, it doesn’t take much to create an atmosphere of distrust. But the solutions aren’t as complicated as one might think.
To improve your connection to people and build trust, try these techniques:

1. Go on a walkabout: Walk around the office each day to touch base with individual contributors to your company’s success. While email and group meetings are important, one-on-one “face time” is critical.
2. Capture vital statistics: Learn about each employee’s life: spouse’s name, children’s names and ages, major hobbies. Use questions to elicit meaningful information: “Where are you from?” or “What do you do on your days off?”
3. Find similarities: Instead of focusing on differences, find mutual interests (hobbies, desires, career goals).
4. Ask for ideas and feedback: Trust must already be established for people to be honest with you. Ask what they need to perform their jobs better. Acknowledge that you hear their opinions and will think about what they’ve said. Don’t dismiss or argue the merits of their input; offer a simple and genuine “thanks for sharing that”.
5. Acknowledge progress and milestones: In many organizations, problems are solved, barriers are surmounted, tasks are completed – and nothing is noted. People crave acknowledgment and recognition, so seize these opportunities to build trust. Celebrate progress. Don’t let it slip by unnoticed.

Repair the Trust Deficit

Even the most competent managers and leaders will suffer a trust deficit if they fail to communicate well with their people. Misguided communications are a big cause of lack of perceived trustworthiness in bosses.
And in the work I do coaching people in organizations, it doesn’t take much to fuel the flames of mistrust.
Business professors Lynn Offermann and Lisa Rosh urge leaders to do a better job of opening up to people in a June 2012 Harvard Business Review article.
“Studies indicate that senior leaders who reveal something about their lives outside the office do so without undermining their authority,” they write, while cautioning against excessively intimate disclosures.
Offermann and Rosh offer the following tips for a balanced approach to “skillful self-disclosure”:

  • Open up. During the course of your workday, squeeze in an occasional impromptu conversation with a subordinate about interests other than work, such as children’s activities, restaurants, sports, movies and the like. Share a glimpse into your personal life while taking time to listen.
  • Empathize. Offer brief, personal acknowledgments of significant events in employees’ lives, such as additions to family, marriage, family death and serious illness. Share how a similar event impacted your life without overshadowing the employee’s circumstance.
  • Remain professional. Share information that enhances the work relationship, yet doesn’t harm your reputation. Exercise discretion; avoid over sharing.

“There is considerable evidence that leaders who disclose their authentic selves to followers can build not only trust, but generate greater cooperation and teamwork as well,” the professors write.
And this makes sense. If all a leader does is communicate corporate information in one direction to staff, there’s not much of a relationship established. What’s that saying about people not caring what you say unless you show you care?
Communications are always a two way street, even if only one person is doing all the talking. Your non-verbal expressions matter, and so does your ability to open up, empathize and act like a real human being.
What do you think? Can your leaders do a better job of sharing their human side? Or are they worried about their professional masks?

The Trinity of Trust

While many factors contribute to our perceptions of trustworthiness, three vital traits comprise “the trinity of trust”, writes management consultant James Robbins in Nine Minutes on Monday:

What do your employees see when they look at you? How do they perceive your values, work ethic, integrity and honesty? Studies consistently cite honesty as managers’ No. 1 attribute – consistently doing what they say they’ll do. When managers act with integrity and reliability, they lay a foundation on which employees can rely.
Employees place more trust in you when they believe you’re capable of effective leadership. This does not mean you’re the smartest one in the room – a position of superiority that, in fact, undermines perceived competency. Your managerial competency should not be measured by your technical skills, but by your ability to understand and influence people.
The most neglected ingredient in the trust trinity is the ability to show you care. Employees don’t want to be cogs in a wheel. They want to feel that they matter and their bosses actually care about them as people. Only then can they reciprocate with trust.

3 Types of Trust

There are three different forms of trust, according to “The Enemies of Trust,” a February 2002 Harvard Business Review article by leadership experts Robert Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau:

1. Strategic trust – the trust employees have in the people running the show to make the right strategic decisions. Do top managers have the vision and competence to set the right course, intelligently allocate resources, fulfill the mission and help the company succeed?
2. Personal trust – the trust employees have in their managers. Do managers treat employees fairly? Do they consider employees’ needs when making decisions about the business and put the company’s needs ahead of their own?
3. Organizational trust – the trust people have in the company itself. Are processes well designed, consistent and fair? Does the company make good on its promises?

Clearly, these three types of trust are distinct, but they’re linked in important ways. For example, every time a manager violates her direct reports’ personal trust, organizational trust is shaken.

The Fragility of Trust

We hardly need reminding of the wave of scandals that shattered the public’s faith in corporate leaders: the 2008 global financial crisis, the Enron bankruptcy, the Challenger explosion, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship in 2012.
Trust is a measure of the quality of a relationship – between two people, among groups, or between a person and an organization. In totally predictable situations, trust is usually a given. When you know exactly what to expect, there’s no need to make a judgment call.
Quite frankly, from what I can see in the work I do coaching, many leaders are basically trustworthy as individual human beings. But in organizations with a hierarchy, power incongruities and pay differences, perceived trust is fragile.
In addition, the turbulence created by outsourcing, mergers, downsizing and radically changing business models provides a breeding ground for distrust. In uncertain economic times, it doesn’t take much to trigger fear and insecurity that can erode trust.
What about in your organization? Are your leaders perceived as trustworthy? I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment.

The Trust Crisis

A Watson Wyatt Worldwide study of 12,750 U.S. workers in all major industries found that companies with high trust levels outperform their low-trust counterparts by 186 percent.
Nonetheless, organizations are woefully slow to realize the bottom-line implications of trust deficits.
Despite trust’s importance, few leaders give it the focus it deserves. Misunderstood as a nebulous “feeling”, trust is earned through consistent, positive behaviors practiced over time, making it ultimately manageable.
“Trust always affects two outcomes – speed and cost,” confirms leadership guru Stephen M. Covey in The Speed of Trust. “When trust goes down, speed will also go down and costs will go up. When trust goes up, speed will also go up and costs will go down. It’s that simple, that real, that predictable.”
I’ll bet there’s a trust deficit in your company, and you may not even realize it. Maybe it’s part of the culture, and it’s not talked about. It’s a hidden cause of lack of engagement. What do you think?

The Leadership Trust Deficit

The leaders I work with are, for the most part, 99.9 percent trustworthy. At least in the relationships we have, there is no doubt in my mind they are good people genuinely interested in bringing out the best in themselves and those who work for them.
And yet, if we were to survey their employees, I’ll bet they don’t all get high marks in the trust department. There are many reasons for this and I’d like to talk about them. First, here’s what the research says:
Only seven percent of employees say they trust their senior leaders to look out for their best interests. In a 2011 Maritz survey, more than 90,000 employees worldwide said the No. 1 driver of employee engagement was “when senior management takes a genuine interest in me as an individual”.
Employees want consistency between their leaders’ words and actions. But only 11 percent of employees strongly agree that their managers “walk the talk”, the Maritz poll reveals.

Trusting relationships are what make the difference between people’s feeling good about what they do and simply going through the motions. Trust is inspiring and energy producing.
~ Dennis and Michelle Reina, Trust & Betrayal in the Workplace

Fairly or unfairly, leaders’ behaviors are magnified and weighted, including their values, work ethics, integrity and perceived honesty. Employees have high moral expectations for those they choose to follow.
Why, then, do almost 90 percent of leaders rate so poorly on measures of trust? It’s not just a problem for rank-and-file employees. Roughly half of all managers don’t trust their leaders, according to a Golin Harris survey of 450 executives at 30 global companies.
These statistics are particularly troubling. A distrustful environment creates expensive – and sometimes irreparable – problems.
I’ll bet there’s a trust deficit in your company, and you may not even realize it. Maybe it’s part of the culture, and it’s not talked about. It’s a hidden cause of lack of engagement.
What do you think?