FULL Training on Building Trust Leadership

Not Without TrustCreatures of emotional habit

As human beings, many of us recognize and accept we are creaures of habit; vessels of repetitive motion.  What is less recognizable and less understood is—human beings are also creatures of emotional habit; vessels of repetitive E-motion; and just as we can train ourselves in muscle memory, we train ourselves in emotional memory as well.  Emotions are consistent drivers of human behaviors.  Every individual (at some level) is striving for constant emotional validation and if you are a person who is lead, or who is leading, it is important to understand this aspect of human nature.  Emotional intelligence is the capacity to recognize, manage and evaluate personal emotions as well as the emotions of others.  Strong emotional intelligence is necessary for effective leadership and is required for success.  Innovation occurs when team members feel safe and comfortable and HEARD within their environment.  Safety and comfort grow from trust and that is built by listening; adequate emotional intelligence brews trust.  Therefore, emotional intelligence and listening  is at the foundation of all workplace success.  Emotional intelligence is comprised of five categories:  self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.  Effective execution in each of these areas equate to successful relationships in and out of the workplace.


First things first…ITS ALL ABOUT YOU!


Do not forget—IT IS ALL ABOUT YOU!…..and for every individual it is all about them as well.  To make everything about yourself is the default setting of every human being.  Even when you think you are not making it about you…you are.  Being able to understand and relate to others will not happen naturally until you understand people ONLY see the world through the narrow corridor of their own experiences.  This is worth repeating: people ONLY see the entire world through the narrow corridor of their own experiences. Even when considering and relating to those we love and cherish the most, we are only seeing their happiness or pain as it relates to our own happiness or pain.  Therefore, it is essential to constantly strive to view ourselves truthfully and objectively.  When we lose objectivity and are unable to turn a clear mirror on ourselves we lose reliable sensitivities and begin to drift further from reality.  If you refuse to see your contribution to negative encounters with others then it is easy to place blame on the other person.  Removing yourself from blame will inevitably lead to “the-whole-world-is-out-to-get-me” narrative, when in reality most of the people you encounter are just trying to survive you.


Build from trust.


What exactly is trust?  The direct dictionary definition of trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something (Merriam-Webster; trust).  Simply put, trust is the name you give to any behaviors/outcomes you can rely on.  And make no mistake, trust has both positive and negative connotations.  Positive trust is easy to identify: you can trust your mom will take good care of your kids, you can trust your best friend will be at your wedding, and you can trust your local grocery store will be open till 11p.m.  You have built trust in these statements because the overwhelming majority of your past experiences have not given you reasons not to.  You have never felt concerned after picking up your children from you mom’s house, you feel your best friend has never let you down when its important and your grocery store has never failed to be open until 11 p.m.  Negative trust may not be as recognizable but you may:  trust your cousin will borrow your black t-shirt and never return it, you trust your son will forget to feed the dog, and you trust your boss will not consider your recommendations for changes in the office.  All the examples you’ve read represent elements of trust, but what does this mean in the workplace?


Why is trust important?


If you cannot trust your boss to respect you, or your coworker to value your skills then the workplace environment becomes tense and potentially hostile.  Creativity is stifled when team members do not trust their supervisors or coworkers will respect their contributions and take them seriously.  Trust is hugely emotional as it requires one individual to expose vulnerabilities that can be exploited or cherished by another.  Experience provides us with insight on which result we should expect in any given situation.  From those we trust we expect our vulnerabilities to be cherished and protected, from those we do not trust we expect our vulnerabilities to be taken advantage of and used against us.


Build trust


Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Make this statement a motto, to guide your thoughts, to guide your actions, to guide your life, and a guide to help you in listening.  Make promises and keep them—no excuses! If you set out to listen to people, then do it!  Do not avoid making promises, this does more damage to relationships than people realize.  Promises must be made, and they must be kept.  Keep your promises simple, ensure you are promising something you can deliver, then deliver.  Kept promises build reliability, build hope, strengthen all relationships, and lead to trust.

Say no, when you mean no.  It is better to just say no, even if it is for shallow or selfish reasons, than it is to commit and disappoint.  By saying “no” right away you do not risk damaging whatever trust you have gained.  Most likely you will gain respect from the person you say no to for being truthful even if it hurts their feelings.


Learn to repair trust


Repairing damaged trust is a slow process requiring diligence, commitment and patience.  Being untrustworthy, unreliable, noncommittal is a way of life, it is habitual—being trustworthy, reliable, committed is a way of life—it must become habitual.  What is most important is to stick to your changes and be predictable in your responses.  Pick changes in areas you can maintain consistency.  Punctuality and attendance are possibly the easiest ways to build trust.  If you’ve been unreliable in punctuality and attendance previously then commit to being present and on-time.  It really is that simple.  Cut out the excuses and put in the work to be where you are expected to be and/or be there on time.

Be truthful with yourself so you can be truthful with others.  When there is no intention to be on time to something, or even show up, then do not say that you will.  That’s it!  If you know you are not going to do those things, do not lead people to believe you will.  You will not provide support to a peer—do not say that you will.  You hate the idea of joining a coworker carpool—don’t join the damn carpool.


Dealing with untrustworthy people


It would be nice to have every workplace be a utopia of trust and safety but the truth is not at all the case.  At some point in your career you will have to deal with untrustworthy coworkers, team members and bosses.  So what can you do?

Keep a paper trail.  Always be on alert for those situations that can be turned against you, act with integrity and keep a legitimate paper trail to cover your steps.  Maintain relevant emails, or any other type of written correspondence.  Note important conversations and never be afraid to request information and commitments in writing from third parties, remaining ever diligent, constantly supporting a defensive wall of fact around your personal image and integrity.

Keep your guard up.  Being instructed to “keep your guard up” may seem counterintuitive in a discussion surrounding emotional intelligence.  On the contrary, recognizing who to trust and who not to trust is a part of emotional intelligence and can be of aid in many workplace situations.  Having deemed a coworker (or supervisor) untrustworthy, and subsequently keeping that person at a comfortable distance without causing social or political “drama” in the workplace will require unwavering emotional intelligence.  This can be a very delicate tango at times but can be danced successfully with patience and dedication.

Keep your thoughts to yourself.  Again—counter intuitive, I get it, bear with me.  The rules have to change a bit when you are dealing with an untrustworthy coworker (or supervisor).  It can be dangerous to your career and to your workplace social life if you reveal or share too much around someone who cannot be trusted.  You risk losing credit for great ideas or you can find an aspect of your personal life is the new gossip topic in the break room, leading to an unnecessary impromptu “mentoring” from someone who probably should not be serving advice.

Dealing with untrusting people.  Perhaps the most important way to deal with untrusting coworkers is to understand and relate to why they do not trust others.  Four of the most common reasons people develop distrusting attitudes in the workplace are:  lack of confidence, lack of hope, a sense of injustice and a desire for change.  How does one combat these negatives?  With positive communication, collaboration, transparency and respect.  Make everyone feel included and valued, fostering an environment of trust for everyone.  Do not try to focus on a single distrusting individual.  Instead, create a healthy and trusting environment for all.  Encourage collaboration and engagement between leaders and followers and place heavy emphasis on transparency and engagement.


How and Why do Most Leaders get this Wrong?


Leaders that have low morale or untrusting employees have a tendency to fail at the four major trust categories mentioned previously: communication, collaboration, transparency and respect.  Without positive strength in these areas, across an organization’s leaders, it is difficult to develop innovative and effective teams.  Put simply leaders are not listening to what their team members are saying.Individuals must feel safe and secure to realize their full creative potential.  Strict, structured, bureaucratic organizations will struggle with increasing innovation and moving in new directions because their processes are inherently slow and are heavily based on titles and authority. 


Is everyone involved?


Leaders must ask themselves if enough people are involved, then constantly evaluate if the “right” people are participating in the decision making process, then engage.  If you are the head executive of a division or branch of an organization tasked with updating and remodeling your branch office of 100 people, who should be involved in the decision making process?  If you are getting it wrong you will only mention other executives and those in leadership roles.  But what does this imply to the people who actually sit, work and mingle in those spaces?  To make decisions for others without their consideration only says two things:  (1) leadership does not trust your ability to make these decisions, and (2), your wants/desires/needs are not important to me or the organization.  If leadership cannot recognize that those directly affected by a decision should be involved (at a reasonable capacity) then they are getting it wrong!  Trust is diminished.


Is everyone empowered?


Do your people feel they have a voice?  Can any individual contribute to a discussion?  Is there space for all levels of employees to express their comments, questions and concerns?  If the answer to any of these questions is “no” then your organization is getting it wrong.  It is irrational to believe every employee can be involved in every decision.  No one wants the new employee in the mail room sitting in on engineering safety designs for a vehicle.  However, if the employee is well over 6 feet tall, he or she may have some insight on comfort and accommodations.  The point is…if you are a leader it is your job to seek out every opportunity to involve every perspective available to you.  If your organization has a customer service issue, talk to your customer services representatives and find out their perspective.  And for the sake of all things rational….TALK TO YOUR CUSTOMERS!  Engage, involve, and elevate.


Do your coworkers trust you?  Do they trust each other??


Make sure your people matter…and they know it.  Organizations and leaders who fail to connect with their employees, fail because a lack of attention has been paid to gaining (protecting) trust, focusing instead on profits, obsessing over bottom lines, greed, selfish dictatorships, never ending undercutting in upper ranks, subordinates constantly in the dark, never feeling valued, never feeling respected—never trusting.  These organizations have employees that do not trust executives, supervisors or the organization as whole.  These organizations and leaders typically have failed in the areas of inclusion and empowerment, directly influencing trust.  Employees who do not feel as if they matter, never developing a sense of belonging, never feeling safe, will not trust their organization.  Low morale and a lack of trust is directly reflective of leadership methods and organizational structure.


What are the benefits of getting this right?


Simply dedicating your team or your organization to communication, collaboration, transparency and respect will increase trust and help to realize the benefits of effective leadership.  Members who are valued, consulted and respected feel safe and are therefore more positive and more creative in their efforts.  Consider altering leadership structures to include and consider the values and needs of those who are led.  Empower and see that  every employee is heard and you will empower the entire organization.  Strict, authoritative organization structures confine individuals emotionally and creatively.  To be a great leader and to build a great organization requires collaboration, commitment and contribution from every member.


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