Creating Trust – a risky business

Effective leaders are trusted. Being trusted gives you influence with your peers, managers and staff. It also makes you someone who is listened to, who others turn to, and it enables you to have the tough conversations and push back when you need to.

But trust is a two-way thing. Trusting takes courage and wisdom to create the relationships that will support you as an effective leader.

What is trust?
Trust is generated at an emotional level. A relationship is based on trust when you can expose your vulnerabilities to others, believing they won’t take advantage of your openness, and that they keep your best interests in mind.

In a trust relationship, staff members will share their hopes for their career with you, or a peer can express doubt about the likely result of a project, both knowing that their thoughts will be heard and respected.

When you are trusted as a leader, or member of a team, you can initiate the tough conversations, whether that is a development conversation with a staff member, or pushing back on an unrealistic timeframe with your CEO and leadership team, as what you are offering is accepted as constructive.

The risk factor
Part of creating trust is exposing yourself in a way that someone could take advantage of your vulnerabilities. For example letting a staff member know that you don’t have the answer to a particular problem, or telling a peer about your difficulties with your son’s behaviour could be passed on as gossip against you. But if you are not prepared to be vulnerable, others will equally not be prepared to expose themselves to you and you may not be able to develop the depth of trust for effective leadership.

Appropriate levels
Knowing that disclosure is an important part of generating trust does not mean though, that the greater the disclosure, the greater the trust. It is important to be aware of appropriate levels of disclosure in the workplace and exercise wise judgment in what you disclose and with whom. For instance you may well want to let a trusted peer know that your concerns with your son’s behaviour may be distracting you, while it may be more appropriate to make a simple disclosure to staff, I’m a little distracted by a family matter right now. A fuller disclosure to staff may have the effect of you generating the sympathy of staff and potentially undermining your role as their manager.

Some of the behaviours I see that generate trust relationships in workplaces are:

  • Empathy, genuine concern, care, and compassion
  • Ensuring disclosures or vulnerabilities are not shared outside of the immediate relationship
  • Sharing a vulnerability
  • Providing valuable information which hasn’t been sought
  • Listening and acknowledging what you hear
  • Responding to questions with both detail and precision
  • Doing what you say you will do, and communicating simply when that isn’t possible
  • Acknowledging your mistakes when you make them.

Trust killers
Trust may take time to build, but it can be destroyed remarkably quickly. Here are four things that I often hear about destroying trust relationships:

  • Gossip – (betrayal): Using private information about someone or acting without their best interests in mind
  • Breaking agreements
  • Not listening, or simply disregarding what someone has said
  • Uninvited and persistent criticism.

Having trusted relationships is a powerful source of influence in understanding what is really happening in your organisation and how people think and feel about what is going on. Building these relationships though, means exercising your own trust, sometimes through the trial and error of learning who to trust, and how much to disclose. it also means learning to repair relationships when trust is broken.

Generating trust means, learning to repair relationships when trust is broken. In today’s organisations, where changing structures, people and priorities are the norm, developing trusted relationships rapidly is one of the keys to agile and high success work outcomes.

To increase trust in your organisation, team or relationships, get in touch with Diana

© Diana Jones,The Organisation Development Company 2013.