How-to Not Inspire Trust

5 04 2010

TRUST: A firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something :

relations have to be built on trust”

“they have been able to win the trust of the others”.

That’s the dictionary explanation for Trust.

Confidence, belief, faith, certainty, assurance, conviction, credence. All words that engender Trust.

photo by Chris Sharp / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So what about HOW to gain someone’s trust? If you’re like me you will take most people at their word, you’ll trust them, until you have some experience to contradict that trust. You’ll also know how difficult it can be to trust someone again if they have misled you, been dishonest, or in the case of leadership – they don’t do what they said they would.

There is great insight from Todd Smith (Facebook) of Little Things Matter about how the little things we say and do impact the relationships we have (see Todd’s FB page or website for some ‘little’ insights into these things).  So after writing about the need for Trust in order to foster innovation, it got me thinking of  how a leader can undermine the trust they have from their people.

Don’t do what you said you would do – When you commit to something for one of your people and you don’t deliver, you are saying that they are not important. Something as simple as not sending promised information via e-mail can erode a little bit of that trust bank. In most situations, simply recognising you’re at fault (ie you forgot to send the email) can go a long way to keep trust.

You refuse to accept that you are wrong – Admit you stuffed up. This is actually something you can have fun with, and really ease the tension. I can recall a few times in my career when after giving my team instructions, having someone point out that I’m wrong. There is that moment where the rest of the team hold their breath waiting for a quick dressing down of such an insubordinate response to MY instruction. Doesn’t happen. I’m happy that my team feel that I am open enough to accept my own stupidity. To quote (I think) Monty Python “it’s better to be happy than right!” How true! Your team will be happy, and you’ll do things right.

You keep your people out of the loop – I can’t stress how important it is to keep the lines of communication open. The stuff that comes up for your team may seem trivial or unimportant to you at times, however if one of your people is talking to you, chances are it’s important to them. Sometimes they need you to provide direction. Sometimes they need you to confirm they are on the right track. Sometimes they just need to have someone LISTEN to what they are saying. Taking time out to listen to your people will not only provide opportunities to learn more about their needs, it will also allow YOU the opportunity to build their trust in you. If you take the time out of your busy schedule (ie give them your full attention – no checking e-Mail, no answering the phone) when they bring you the small stuff, then when it comes to the bigger issues, they will trust you to listen.

You remind your team when they have made a mistake – Sometimes you just know, because of your own experience, that an idea or suggestion is not going to work. You are happy to quote “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results”. Guess what? If it’s someone else’s idea, and they know they have your support to try something, then just maybe they will look at the ‘same’ thing in a different way (isn’t that innovation?). You learnt all you know from making mistakes (and from being successful), so how can your people learn if they don’t get the chance to make a few mistakes on their own. You should encourage them if they make a mistake – it shows you trust them. Ask them a few questions about what they could have done differently. Resist the urge to tell them what they did wrong (ie show them the benefit of your experience). Let them learn from their own mistakes. Every successful person has failed their way to success. What if Edison or Einstein gave up after the first failure?

I know theses four points seem like really simple things that we all “know” we should do. Being consistent (do what you say you’ll do), Taking responsibility for your actions (admit you could be wrong), being present in the moment (really listening to your people all the time), and letting your people learn from their mistakes, will add interest to your trust bank.

If you do these four things, then you’ll find the next focus group, workshop, or brainstorming session will see your team feeling they can trust you to let them put forward all their idea’s, no matter how outlandish they may seem at the time.

Who will you encourage to fail, and how will you help them succeed (and innovate!!)