“I’m having trouble trusting my employees. They don’t seem to give me a straight story about what’s going on. I don’t know how to fix that.”
Thoughts of the day: Make sure that both you and the employee you’re talking about perceive there is a problem. Look at your feedback loops – how you go about getting information. Check on the goals you’re working with, to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Ask yourself if you’re expecting more than you should. Make sure you’re walking the walk, when it comes to being straight with people, telling the truth, not fudging the details.
Leadership is about getting the other person to the place where they have the tools, motivation and confidence so that they can work with you towards a mutually beneficial outcome.
Take a look at the situations you’ve been through. What happened? Was misinformation passed around? Where you harmed because people didn’t do what you wanted them to do? Did people stop communicating altogether, when you hoped they’d volunteer information? Were you stuck taking a position by yourself, when you’d hoped to have other people backing you up?
As you can guess from the above questions, trust is a two-way street. Perception of personal harm can lead to distrusting others. Lack of trust can lead to withdrawal by the other party. A downward spiral ensues. Think of it as frost building up and turning into a wall of ice that separates you from the people with whom you’re hoping to work.
One way out, once trust has broken down, is to take the high road. Extend good will at a time when others would expect you to be self-protective. Extend an olive branch. Continue to do a good, without immediately asking for anything in return. It takes more than one example to build up trust on the other side, so keep at it until you begin to see the ice melt.
Another solution is to prevent errors in communication. Make time to listen carefully to what people are trying to tell you. If someone says they expect to have a problem with a project, don’t brush them off. Give them an opportunity to share their personal concerns. Ask for details and suggestions. Make sure they perceive that you value their input.
When you’re trying to break through and reach out to another person, it’s about getting to know what drives the other person. Spend time finding out why the other person sees the situation the way they do. Ask them to give you facts about the situation. If there’s a discrepancy in how you both perceive things are going, don’t make it personal. Keep focusing on the facts, until you find common ground.
Often conflict arises when peoples’ goals are mismatched, or misunderstood, or when there’s disagreement as to how to accomplish those goals. Put goals in writing, and share them with everyone. Even better, ask those around you to help brainstorm the goals, so they buy into where the company is heading. When people around you suggest a different path to take, to accomplish specific goals, allow them the flexibility to experiment and report back on results, even when things don’t go as well as expected.
Check on the source of the distrust. Are you giving people enough room to disagree with you, or are you demanding they tell you only what you want to hear? Be open to feedback, even if it doesn’t match with what you expected. Encourage people to express disagreement, so long as they stick around to brainstorm the path to take to get to a common solution.
Treat people with dignity. Tell them the truth. Check your ego at the door. It’s not about being the toughest, strongest, most forceful person in the room. It is about leading by example.
Looking for a good book? Building Trust: In Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life, by Robert C. Solomon.