Trust is fragile in a workplace…

Posted: November 20, 2011 in Features...

For eight months of being in-charge of the school I am in, I have seen and experienced difficulties of being a leader. In leadership building, maintaining trust in relationships with your people means providing consistent evidence that you can be trusted.

Steven R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, compared building trust to making deposits in an “Emotional Bank Account.” Using this metaphor, Covey explains that you build trust by making regular deposits (consistent evidence that you are trustworthy) in another person’s emotional bank account. As you make deposits, like keeping commitments and delivering on promises, the balance of trust in the account grows. When you fail to honor commitments, renege on promises, make the other person feel unimportant or unappreciated, behave in an unlikeable or inconsistent way, you make withdrawals. The theory is, by making regular deposits, trust will be maintained, and there will be greater tolerance for your future indiscretions and mistakes—which you will make, because no matter how hard you try you’ll never be perfect. However, like any bank account, when you make too many withdrawals and allow your account balance to get low or become overdrawn, you lose trust and place the relationship in jeopardy.

Of course there are people who will challenge you and your patience to govern. The issue of “personality clashes” is controversial. According to the Australian government, the two types of workplace conflicts are “when people’s ideas, decisions or actions relating directly to the job are in opposition, or when two people just don’t get along.” Turner and Weed argue, “In a conflict situation, don’t ask ‘who’, ask ‘what’ and ‘why’. Managers should avoid blaming interpersonal conflicts on “personality clashes”. Such a tactic is an excuse to avoid addressing the real causes of conflict, and the department’s performance will suffer as a result. Managers must be able to recognize the signs of conflict behaviors and deal with the conflict in a forthright fashion. Approaching conflicts as opportunities to improve departmental policies and operations rather as ailments to be eradicated or ignored will result in a more productive work force and greater departmental efficiency.”

According to Jeb Blount , trust in the workplace is fragile. Companies and their leaders have added to the inherent suspicion people carry for their bosses by using the terms trust, teamwork, and transparency as buzz words. They hire consultants, hold special meetings, or do team-building and trust-building exercises. Then everyone goes right back to what they were doing before the feel-good exercise, nothing changes, and skepticism and distrust prevail. What is missing in these often empty exercises is that trust is personal. It is emotional. It is earned. It is a foundation that is built—one brick at a time.

There are many factors contribute why people trust in you. The important lesson I learned from Coveyy’s metaphor is that in leadership, trust is something you earn. “Until trust is established, each party in the relationship is suspicious of the real motivations of the other party. Because of this, you are almost always starting off in a hole with your people. This is why you must lay a foundation of trust with consistent evidence that you can be trusted (Jeb Blount, 2011).

How important is trust? Consider these findings from a 2010 Maritz Research poll. The study found that employees with a high degree of trust in their leaders were significantly happier, more committed, less likely to leave the company, and looked forward to coming to work more than those who did not trust their leaders. This translates to higher productivity.

Trust means being able to predict what other people will do and what situations will occur. If we can surround ourselves with people we trust, then we can create a safe present and an even better future. It is the foundation on which your success as a leader rests. Every action, decision, and behavior links back to and directly impacts trust—positively or negatively. Simply put, you will never gain the success you desire without the trust of your people. You will not consistently achieve your business objectives.

Without trust you people will not give their best work and sometimes go against you so their loyalty is found nowhere. “People won’t watch your back when the chips are down.” The best people will not want to work for you. You will not earn promotions or praises. Without trust, your reputation suffers. The bottom line is no matter how likeable you are or how connected you are, how many wins your people get, or how many nice things you do, you absolutely, positively cannot lead without trust.

(References: 7Habits of Effective People by Stephen Covey; In the Workplace, trust is fragile by Jeb Blount)

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