Talking about trust

When I worked with teams and encouraged them to ‘cough-up-their-fur-balls’ I could 99% guarantee that the biggest problem every team raised would end up being communication.

Employees would say their bosses communicated nothing and bosses would say they communicated everything.

After years of doing this type of work, I realised that what was going on wasn’t in fact a lack of communication, it was actually a lack of trust.

In my experience, employees don’t trust that their bosses are being totally honest; they often feel that when information is being given to them that there are bound to be some hidden agendas. Meanwhile, bosses often communicate way more than their people need to know or even understand and think their job is done.

The tragedy is, that if each party trusted the other, communication wouldn’t even be an issue. So if my boss tells me that times are tough and we are ALL going to have to pull our belts in and I trust my boss, then I would do whatever I could to help in whatever way that was required.

However, if I’d been fed that line and then watched my boss driving into work in a brand new company car after I’d pulled in my belt; agreed to a wage freeze or offered to work overtime for no pay, then the next time I was asked to do something, my reaction would be very different.

There is a reason that employees work-to-rule; or take all their sick days; or leave dead on the dot of finishing time. They do that because they are either not valued or because they have been burned.

It takes time to build trust and seconds to destroy it. Re-building trust could take several lifetimes so best not to lose it in the first place.

If you are a team leader, manager or owner reading this, build trust with your people. Tell them what they need to know rather than overloading them with information that is beyond them. Explain the aspects of the business they need to understand (like the cost of poor quality; or the cost of losing a customer). Start to teach them the inner workings at a pace that suits them. Remember they have a commitment to your business also – they too have families to feed and mortgages to pay. Value them and they will trust you. It’s a really simple equation.

If you make a promise keep it. If you ask for additional help – acknowledge it. If you do have to break a promise explain why. Never, ever take your people’s sweat and loyalty for granted. And never ever ask them to go the extra mile and then trash that effort by rewarding yourself with something before you reward them. Common sense really.

And I’ve always love this thought from Randall Terry: ‘fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.’

Ann Andrews CSP

Author: Lessons in leadership: 50 ways to avoid falling into the ‘Trump’ trap

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