Trust as a
foundation for high performance means just that: trust comes first. When we try
to make the plan before the trust issues are resolved, we deal with symptoms
rather than causes and repeating problems just change names.
Yes, you can order people to do
things. But you run the risk of getting the salute and not the heart, gaining
compliance and not the commitment.
Train People How to
You can train
people to think quality, to think servicebut there's a difference:
whether these efforts come from trust and commitment, and whether they're
genuine. And that's the difference that communicates to the market, that makes
people want to do business with you.
concept of trust is simple: build on individual confidence and eliminate fear
as an operating principle. The process is achievable, once we understand the
emotions associated with trust and incorporate them into these four steps:
1. Define what we mean
2. Understand our
with intention, and,
4. Produce. The conversion to a team mentality is difficult
because effective teams must be predicated on trust.
There are two parts to
trust: a feeling part that indicates trust and a performance track record that
active feeling of trust is confidence: in leadership, in veracity, in
reliability. A passive feeling of trust is the absence of worry or suspicion.
Our most productive relationships are already based on trust, sometimes
unrecognized and frequently taken for granted.
Trust, then, can be defined as
confidence, the absence of suspicion, confirmed by track record and our ability
The track record is only a confirmation of well-placed trust. If we
define trust solely in terms of past events, we often consign ourselves to long
periods of testing and sometimes stubborn unforgiveness. It is much more
productive to correct mistakes and miscommunications to re-build trust starting
Over our careers, each of us has
collected a set of beliefs, world views and sweeping opinions, some of which
are productive and some of which are not. The latter tend to be our blind
All beliefs are
formed from facts and assumptions. The blind spot beliefs are formed with two
additional ingredients: fear and loss.
Centuries ago, for instance, the world
got flat when societies observed facts, (the boat disappearing over a straight
horizon), experienced fear and loss, (loved ones and survival necessities), and
assumed there was a logical explanation using the available facts.
Similar blind spots accumulate for
each of us in our careers. The sequence goes something like this: on an
occasion when we are extending trust, often contributing extra, something
happens which leaves us feeling burnt, or betrayed. The emotional response is
immediate: shock, fear, loss, anger. The mental reaction is a "never again"
decision that affects trust. These decisions are logical, but are often
categorical, over-protective, and therefore limiting.
If we have a "betrayal" event with one
boss, for instance, we may unconsciously conclude that all bosses of that
"type" are untrustworthy, or that we ourselves are generally vulnerable, naive,
or otherwise disabled. When these decisions are "unremembered," they result in
limitation: future bosses (or corporations, or whatever category) may be
fighting hidden barriers to trust. We sometimes "protect" ourselves further by
unconsciously reducing our motivation to do extra, to be flexible with the
times, or to take appropriate risks.
Since virtually all of us carry similar
"trust screens," we can expect some over-reaction and misunderstanding from
others' blind spots as well as our own. The resulting confusion can lead to
unproductive and sometimes amusing "solutions to the problem": analyzing each
other, seeking solace in categorizing people, trying to "fix" our associates.
While changing each
other remains futile, changing interaction dynamics from non-trust to trust is
achievable. The pathway is communication.
trust-building hinges on three components of communication: intention,
preparation, and mechanics.
Building trust is vastly different from
trying to establish who is right. The differences are obvious in how the
parties communicate. The two keys to trust-building communication are
committing to find win/win strategies even if the starting point is clearly
not trust, and arriving at defined, accountable outcomes.
First, list the important
misunderstandings or frustrations from your perspective. Think through to some
possible win/win outcomes. But rather than take positions at this point,
identify the general substance of each interest.
Next, look at what you have been trying
to contribute. Have you felt blocked? Forced? Excluded?
Take an honest look. Might your intended
partner fall into one of your "trust screen" prejudices? Are some of your
reactions "knee jerk," over-emotional, or somehow familiar? Might it make sense
to extend benefit of the doubt in some specific instance?
What has been your participation in the
problem, or in allowing the problem to remain unresolved? For example, are you
avoiding the problem while it grows underfoot? Pretending the problem matters
less than it does, while stress subliminally builds? Omitting communications
because "it should be obvious?" If you feel your contribution is being
thwarted, has your reaction exacerbated the problem, and if so, how? What could
you do instead?
How a sensitive communication begins is
important. Successful conversations usually start with tact, a win/win intent,
and even a sincere and disarming admission that you have been part of the
willingness (to listen, to speak frankly) builds mutual respect; demanding
attention ("we need to talk") builds suspicion. Private communications build
confidence; public scenes build walls.
Non-assumptive questions are important
tools for eliciting willingness ("How are we doing on our timeline" vs. "Why
are your reports always late").
Listening accurately means separating
the act of receiving information from the act of judging that information.
While both processes are critical, prematurely communicating judgment (e.g.,
abrupt interruptions, restlessness, a frown) invites changes in the message
itself. When listening is compromised, we lose diversity of viewpoint and
reduce our intelligence.
Closure means not leaving any unnecessary question marks after
communication. Closure is critical to building trust; dangling voids are
susceptible to later negativity. Make a point to close every interest and every
suggestion in some form. When an answer isn't available, set a time and a plan
for a more thorough response.
When only action will supply an answer,
share the risk and set end-points together.
Produce a Win/Win
With this type
of communication, attitudes convert to win/win. The next step is to frame the
action, distribute the responsibilities and accountabilities, provide and
secure the required support.
Again, the sequence is critical. Resolve
the trust issues first, then create and execute the strategies.
Remember that slipped commitments do not
necessarily mean false commitments. Handle slippage by building trust. Rather
than be accusatory, ask "what happened?" in a neutral fashion, and mean it.
Listen carefully, correct collaboratively, and choose alternative resources
important, sincerely acknowledge increasing productivity. In this way, we
continuously learn what success is and how to expand it.
Trust is the
basis for our drive to contribute. The basis of mistrust is fear, but fear is
also a requirement for survival. If we didn't have a "hot stove" protection
mechanism, we'd be getting burned daily. But as we see, not touching the hot
stove sometimes goes to the extreme of not even going into the
We need to
recognize fear, yet not base our actions or our organizational systems on fear.
The occasional "betrayal" experience is unavoidable in a productive career.
While the pain is real, the experiences also produce valuable lessons. The cost
further diminishes compared to the cynicism, inflexibility and risk-aversion
that results from never extending trust. This is true particularly when we
examine the enormous profits that a confident and trusting approach will
The team that
competently manages its members' desire to contribute is already building
trust. This involves an improved understanding of ourselves. We must recognize
our blind spots in order to tip the balance away from fear and toward our vital
and vulnerable desire to better things.
Built on Trust.