Bosses hear all sorts of crazy things from their team members. Some of the things employees say are funny, some outlandish, some critical, some stupid, some helpful, and some are just downright mean. Receiving feedback comes with the territory of being a leader. I’ve learned you must have a thick skin and a soft heart when it comes to leading people. You can’t let the negative chatter get under your skin and give you a jaundiced outlook on people, yet you also need the emotional maturity to examine the feedback and see if there is something you need to learn or improve upon.
But there are four words a boss never wants to hear: “I don’t trust you.”
However, you will rarely, if ever, hear someone say that to you directly. Trust is one of those topics, along with religion and politics, that is usually taboo to discuss openly in the workplace. It’s often talked about in the shadows and hallways of the organization, not in conference rooms and one-on-one meetings. Instead, you will see how people don’t trust you through behaviors and actions like:
- Excluding you from activities
- Not sharing information with you
- Not following through on commitments to you
- Stress or tension in your relationships
- Team members not taking risks
- Team members doing the bare minimum to get by
- Low morale and productivity in your team
- Rumors and gossip abound in your team
- Team members question your decisions
So if this is your reality, how do you turn it around? What do you do to address low trust with your team? Here are three steps to get you started:
1. Own it – Assess the feedback, take it to heart, and determine where you need to improve. If you’ve broken trust, consider this five-step process to rebuild it. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes. Owning up to your shortcomings and apologizing for your behavior is a key way to infuse your relationships with a high dosage of trust.
2. Be consistent – DWYSYWD – Do What You Say You Will Do. Follow through on your commitments, be reliable, and walk your talk. Steady and consistent leaders inspire trust because their people can reasonably predict how they will behave in most situations. Leaders with Jekyll and Hyde personalities create a culture of fear, suspicion, and uncertainty, whereas trusted leaders create an atmosphere of security, confidence, and consistency.
3. Be patient – Trust takes time; it doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re starting in a trust deficit, it can take even more time than if you’re starting from a neutral or low-trust position. Focus on using behaviors that build trust, such as displaying competence in your job, acting with integrity, establishing meaningful connections with your people, and being a reliable and dependable person. Stay committed to your goal of building trust and the results will follow.
Trust is the foundation of all successful relationships. With it, all things are possible. Without it, you’re pushing a large boulder uphill. If you are hearing, or seeing, “I don’t trust you” from your people, take steps now to remedy the situation. Your success as a leader depends on it.
Randy Conley is the Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies and his LeaderChat posts appear the last Thursday of every month. For more insights on trust and leadership, visit Randy at his Leading with Trust blog or follow him on Twitter @RandyConley.