What does trust mean on a team? Clients often describe trust as “being able to rely on someone to treat them well, honestly and fairly” (character) and to do “what they said they were going to do accurately and on time” (competence). In order for this combination of character and competence to work consistently, I’ve observed that the most trustworthy and trusting people operate with trust as a mindset.
When we strive to be trustworthy, our words, actions and behaviors shift to match that outcome. Below is a list of questions to ask ourselves and our teams. Use these questions as a way to self-assess an individual level of trustworthiness, what generates trust in others, and what may fray trust over time.
- How do I treat others? Am I respectful? Do I seek to understand?
- Do I do what I say I’m going to do?
- If I can’t follow through as anticipated, do I communicate in a timely fashion with a revised action plan?
- Can people trust me to be skilled and competent in my job?
- Am I responsive to phone, email and face-to-face communication?
- Do I give others credit for the work they’ve done?
- Is my communication transparent and direct? Is it free of hidden agendas, politics or posturing?
- If I break trust with someone, do I work to repair it? How?
After answering the questions above, If often ask team members to reflect on the next three questions prior to discussing with the team:
- Which of my answers surprised me?
- Do I believe that others would assess me the same way I assess myself?
- Based on the answers, what will I keep doing, stop doing or start doing?
Once teams have assessed their “trust mindset”, it’s a good time to discuss next steps toward increasing trust on the team or between pairs of people on the team. Consider these five tips for building trust:
- Show that you care – Meet deadlines on time, respond to emails the first time they’re sent, inquire after a co-worker’s elderly parent. Show you care through your actions and your words.
- Be transparent – Be open about your agendas, goals and needs in your verbal and written communication. Ask questions rather than make assumptions about someone’s intent. Answer questions openly and honestly.
- Do what you say you’re going to do – Following through on commitments build not only trust, but integrity as well. When people know you will do what you say you’re going to do, your “trust quotient” rises quickly. You become known as a professional on whom co-workers can rely, trust, and work with easily.
- Address issues directly – When issues arise (and they will), make it a practice to address communication breakdowns, problems or conflicts directly and in a timely manner. Leaving issues unaddressed usually creates more challenges, allows a lack of clarity to “fester”, and can generate intense conflict over time.
- Trust others – Understand who you can trust and in what ways you can trust them. Extending trust to others first often allows trust to build between you. (That being said, if someone exhibits through words or actions that they are not trustworthy, believe them).
Building trust on teams can be a challenge, and it’s worth the effort. Without trust in place, most actions we take require a greater expenditure of energy, effort and thought. Trust is the foundation for healthy conflict resolution, effective communication, and risk taking – all necessary for organizational success.