I know it’s a bit early to call it, but I reckon one of the hot topics for 2017 is going to be Trust.  I guess that’s not surprising, given what’s going on in the US, Russia and elsewhere.  I’ve noticed a big increase in the number of online articles on this subject, so thought I’d wade in with my take on it.

It’s quite easy to let ourselves worry about this. On the macro level we can worry that Trump is going to do what he said he would.  Or we can worry that he won’t, in which case we also worry about him.

Horrible Boss #1

Horrible Boss #1

But how about at work?  How are the trust levels around you?  Do you see things getting worse?

Is it as bad as Georgina Kenyon makes out in her article “There’s no such thing as flexible work.”?


“….the propensity for email, texting and quick-type apps has led us to forget some of our people skills, including distinguishing the nuances of language and meaning, fostering of a feeling of belonging among groups of people, and knowing our bosses and colleagues well enough to have confidence that others will pull their weight. That, in turn, has diminished implicit and earned trust among the people we work with.”

What do you make of this statement:

“No matter how much a work rock star you might be, your manager does not trust you. Your colleagues do not trust your manager. And, truth be told, you probably don’t trust most of your colleagues or your boss, either.”

Do you recognise that, or is she wildly overstating it?

Trust is the platform on which high performance teams are built.  It lies at the heart of Win/Win, and thus is an essential component in collaboration.  It’s what you need to build first before you dig into the details in a negotiation.  If you successfully build trust you can afford to trip up over the details, because trust is more important than anything else.

Let’s assume we all get the point:  this is not rocket science. Less obvious perhaps is HOW we go about building it.  Here are my thoughts:

  • Building Trust involves taking risk.  One of the best ways to do it is to display openness:  giving away some information (perhaps saying how you really feel about the situation).  If the other party is cynical it may take advantage of this information rather than reciprocating with a piece of openness from their side.  Making the first Trusting move involves risk – so be open with something which is not too high stakes.  You can move towards the riskier stuff once you know you are on a path towards Trust.
  • Be aware that building Trust requires both Courage and Creativity.  I need to be the first to put the gun down and have the presence of mind to get creative (possibly by asking a question.  “What are the options here?”  might be a good one.)
  • Building Trust takes time, which is possibly one of the reasons why it is being eroded so much, as we have even less time now than before.  You may need to plan how you can make the time available to build that crucial relationship.
  • It’s hard to build Trust without physically being with the other person.  Yet another factor in the erosion of Trust in the workplace.  If you do not know (because you can’t see the whites of their eyes) what the other person thinks of your proposal, it’s hard to trust them.  If you can’t physically be with them, try the next best thing:  speak to them online with the video switched ON!!!  (Yes, I know it means you will have to put some clothes on for the call.  Sorry about that.)
  • Building Trust requires us to be humans, and to get to know each others as humans.  Try putting some of the human stuff on your meeting agendas.  Give time for feedback, acknowledgement, celebration.  Let people check in with any personal news they want to share before you dive into the agenda.  Try eating a meal together, or even better, preparing it.
  • Think about your management style, and see what happens if you switch from performance management to performance coaching.  Ken Blanchard has an excellent short video on this.  If your team feels that instead of judging their performance you are supporting it, the dynamic changes and they can open up and be more real with you.
  • Finally, be reliable.  Do what you say you are going to do.  Make commitments on small things you know you can deliver.  Once you establish a pattern of reliability, your reputation for trustworthiness will build.

How have you gone about building trust in your team?  What’s the first thing you could do to build it?

Please share any ideas you have or ways of building trust which have worked for you.



Image © Warner Brothers