Strengthening Conversations About Trust

We all know that trust is the cornerstone of effective relationships, and that’s especially true in the workplace. Trusting relationships typically lead to enhanced job satisfaction, higher engagement, and improved performance. And for leadership teams, trust is a key “lubricant” to successful implementation of priorities and strategies across the organization.

leadership trustWhen it comes to talking about trust at work, we need to be much more specific regarding what we’re referring to when we say, “there’s a lack of trust in this team,” or “trust needs to be strengthened for this work group.” Without this level of detail, we can”t recognize what’s working well and what can be improved.

To get at this, several key factors are critical to strengthening trust within your leadership team. These include your perception that colleagues on your team have:

  • Competence – Your colleagues are competent in their knowledge/skills/abilities and won’t let you down when their expertise is required. They can handle whatever is thrown at them and will come through for your team and your business.
  • Openness – Team members readily share information important to the team both clearly and transparently. They are open, honest and clear in their communication.
  • Integrity – Integrity is critical to a successful team and to trust. Members of your leadership team must keep their promises and behave consistently.
  • Mutuality – Collaboration and cooperation are also key; team members must give you and each other the benefit of the doubt and work together well.
  • Compatibility – Just like any successful team, your leaders must have compatible values, approaches, interests, and objectives. Even if they have different backgrounds, areas of expertise, and personalities, a leadership team needs compatibility for trust.
  • Good will – When others demonstrate concern about your overall well-being, beyond just the work at hand, that is good will in action. Good will is an important ingredient in successful teams because it demonstrates interest, empathy, and good team dynamics.
  • Predictability – In the best leadership teams, big surprises are few and far between. These teams clearly demonstrate behaviour that is consistent over time and in different contexts, offering an important level of predictability.
  • Safety – You should think, “I have nothing to fear from other members of the team. This is a safe place for discussion and exploration.” In successful teams, retribution is minimal or nonexistent, and mistakes are treated as part of the risk-taking and learning process.
  • Inclusion – Other team members actively include you and each other, as appropriate, in their social and work activities. Inclusiveness engenders even more of the qualities above.
  • Accessibility – Colleagues openly share their thoughts, feelings, and wants about key issues and concerns.  Even better, you can relate to them on a personal level because they are so accessible.

Using this simple framework will enable you to have more productive conversations about what aspects of trust are working well in your leadership team and which ones need to be strengthened to improve engagement, satisfaction, and overall performance. You might even be able to add further qualities to your organization’s list of key leadership traits.

About The Author

Scott Borland, Founder & President of CYGNUS Management Consultants Inc, , is a recognized expert in helping executives host strategic conversations and obtain high impact feedback. He brings insightful perspective and proven strategies to strengthen the alignment between strategy and leadership behaviour. Scott has presented frequently at regional/national conferences and is a regular contributor to online journals/blogs. Follow Scott on Twitter or add him as a connection on LinkedIn.

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