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...

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 Nonsmoking 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...

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...

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...

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: Character: 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. Competence: 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. Caring: 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...