Reading the above title several times may lead you to the realization of its absurdity. This unfortunately is how many approach trust.

Based on personal experiences and many professional opinions, such as Patrick Lencioni’s ‘The 5 Dysfuntions of Team’, trust is the foundation of top performing organizations. If this is true, how much profit is being lost in organizations where people spend copious amounts of time earning trust rather than just ‘trusting’.

Consider the following outcomes of not trusting others:

  • Doing work oneself rather than delegating it to the appropriate person.
  • Monitoring the behaviours of others. This is also known as micro management.
  • Not proactively and openly sharing ideas or feedback because it might be used the wrong way.
  • Engaging in politics and back door chats about systems, people or processes.
  • Carrying the emotional burden of distrust.
  • Risking business productivity as open and honest dialogue never happened from the start.

I worked for a company years ago where I was accountable for growing sales nationally, and quickly created my own sales silo through an “I can do it alone attitude”. I failed to spend time up front to ensure crucial internal relationships were established in order to be successful.

As a result, high customer relationship building success quickly plummeted when pending sales orders were halted due to my lack of communication with the credit department on requirements for new clients. I not only had to resolve the negative client impacts but spent a great deal of time rebuilding the distrust I cultivated with key internal stakeholders. My silo mentality created quite the ripple effect in eroding trust. Sound familiar?

Negative results in our work efforts could be overcome by spending time upfront in building relationships. A conversation needs to happen with internal stakeholders so that a foundation of trust, support and accountability is created.

There are five actions that should be taken in relationship building:

1) Trust: Assume that you can trust the stakeholder. Objectively, what is the chance that they can’t be trusted? Likely very minimal. Most people want to do the right thing. Be authentic from the first interaction. When I engage a group, if I am not willing to be vulnerable, how on earth can I expect them to be?

2) Accountability: Share what you each are accountable for. In other words, what is your part in the big organizational puzzle? I constantly hear about teams wanting to understand one another and be clear on role authorities. Letting others know why you exist builds awareness and a sense of their importance.

3) Collaborate: Evaluate each other’s needs and discuss how you best can work together to achieve win-win results. By sharing ideas and actively problem solving, you are creating a mutually agreeable path to success. Create some rules of engagement that are clearly defined and agreed upon. If not done, things can quickly fall apart.

4) Negotiate: Agree on what you can agree on and put it in writing. Setting clear and realistic expectations up front will ensure both parties do not compromise each other. Too often people place their expectations on others without asserting themselves or coming to a mutually acceptable agreement.

5) Provide Feedback: Create a forum for ongoing dialogue on what is working and what is not. Actively identify and solve problems in order to mitigate relationship and business risk. This also provides an opportunity to find new and innovative ways to improve things.

A foundation of trust leads to an ability to engage in healthy conflict, commitment to each other, accountability to our actions and anticipated results.

Consider this: we spend as much time with our co-workers as we do with our spouse or life partner. Yet, we don’t generally create the same foundation and behavioural requirements at work that lead to a happy working relationship.

The root cause of many divorces is that trust may have been violated and the toll of earning it back through monitoring, questioning, and disrespecting becomes too heavy to deal with. We are not married to our colleagues at work; however, they are bound to break our trust at some point in time and it’s likely not done intentionally.

When others break our trust, swallow a pill of courage and have a timely, open and honest conversation about what happened. By applying a bit of forgiveness and understanding, you will go a long way in reducing personal stress, anxiety and negative team performance.

In the work I do, I sometimes feel like a marriage counselor that specializes in creating lasting relationships.

When facilitating Kwela’s Team Optimization Workshop which enables this conversation, it never ceases to amaze me how teams transform before my eyes. Participants start with strong brick walls and then eventually cracks are evident when greater levels of trust occur.

These crumbling walls enable the lighter and proactive dialogue about ways to optimize team trust and performance near the end. In other words, “How do we agree to best work together as a team?”

Stop earning trust. Just trust.

Glen Sollors, Senior Consultant