In our last blog we explored the importance of trust at work. This time we look at 4 ways to encourage trustworthy behaviour – and as we know that trust has a positive impact on team performance, it is anticipated that working on trust will help improve productivity, relationships and retention.
The most fundamental aspect of trust – being true to your word. It sounds easy but in our busy lives and given the nature of work these days, it is also easy to lose track of our commitments and promises. If we don’t acknowledge the failure to deliver on a commitment, the other party is left to form their own conclusions about our reliability and our trustworthiness. The more often we overlook a deadline or a promise, the less we will be trusted.
It isn’t hard to be proactive about this – we simply signal to the expecting party that we aren’t going to hit the deadline and explain why. Giving good notice of the missed deadline also allows the other party to manage their own workload and expectations. Naturally the degree to which the missed deadline is critical will have an impact on the exercise of trust between the parties (and how often this happens between them). There are also ways in which colleagues can check up on work progress without signalling distrust (particularly if the person doing the monitoring isn’t in the chain of command). By emphasising the importance of collective success and doing a good job as a team, we promote a collective responsibility by the team without finger pointing.
More broadly, making good on commitments is important for managing change and developing and deepening the trust that will help address resistance to change – because there is a basic level of trust within the relationship.
If we don’t respect our colleagues and the impact our behaviour has on them, we work in a vacuum – particularly if we work apart during part of the working week. Our colleagues may be very forgiving of our behaviour – they may be understanding and work hard to accommodate our differences to their own. But we should also reach out to do the same thing and give some thought to how our behaviour could be interpreted.
For example – Julie works at home on a Wednesday, turns off her email, Skype and phone and gets LOADS of work done. She feels less stressed and this really helps her hit her performance targets. She returns to the office on Thursday invigorated! Back in the office, her manager and colleagues are increasingly frustrated that she isn’t contactable, she leaves them to bear the additional workload caused by her absence and frankly they wonder whether she’s doing any work.
So, Julie does what works for her – but doesn’t think of how this impacts the rest of the team. The manager and colleagues could also raise this as an issue – but it is interesting how this is an issue in many teams that have people working remotely – and nobody raises it.
Another important aspect of trust is being there for your colleagues in their time of need – “having their back”. Through developing and deepening team relationships, trust grows more quickly and can be cemented more easily. Hence focusing on getting to know people better, identifying their strengths and differences will help colleagues to understand and interpret their behaviour better. If we care about each other, we’re more likely to have each other’s’ back and not succumb to many biases that can otherwise take hold.
Bear in mind that people’s behaviour is a function of their personality, their life experiences and their vulnerabilities, which most of us work hard to disguise. We work at our best when we feel “safe” – we need to trust our colleagues not to exploit our weaknesses, and more so, if they show an understanding and respect for our issues, our relationships can deepen, cementing that much needed level of core trust between us.
Finally, in our experience, if you have high levels of trust in your business – you should spend some time establishing how you achieved that (if you don’t know!) because trust is easily broken, and it would pay you dividends to figure out what you’re doing and do more of it!