Much of who we are and what we do in our professional lives is built on an unforgiving foundation of trust. Trust is hard earned and those bestowing trust do so slowly, carefully and tentatively, all the while testing for reasons to pull back and guard this precious personal asset.
True trust is rare in the workplace. It's also critical for high performance.
A number of years ago, our then Board Chairman chastised our executive team for failing to live up to our potential, with the comment, "You people don't trust each other enough to succeed." I recall rankling at the comment. In reality, he was right. Ours was an outwardly collegial yet quietly toxic environment. Once the source of the toxin was removed, trust expanded enough to make some big bets and pull them off.
Toxicity trumps trust every time.
An individual characterized as "high potential" by all of her managers and the firm's executive team, lost her way on a number of poor performing and high visibility initiatives. Called in to diagnose the situation, it quickly became obvious that she wore her "high potential" label for everyone to see. Instead of feeling like they were rallying around a common cause on their project teams, the participants perceived they were playing supporting roles to promote the High Potential's career. The projects floundered and failed.
When team trust takes a holiday, so does performance.
Somewhere on his climb up the ladder, this individual forgot how important others were to his success. He grew impatient with valued team members that would have benefited from his good coaching, and he set them adrift. While there may have been performance justification for his decisions, the common view was that he failed to provide adequate support and due process. Even more importantly, these individuals had helped him in his earlier days, and there was an expectation that their trust and support would be repaid. The hard-earned trust of his early days was squandered by his perceived selfish handling of the situation.
Trust once broken is rarely repaired.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Building trust is an extreme activity. You cannot build trust unless you give trust, and the act is much like handing your heart and your hopes to someone else, firm in the belief that they will carefully handle these items and return them to you safely.
There are no "Top Ten" lists here for building trust with others and earning trust from others. You do this one interaction at a time, with people watching and noting whether your actions consistently match your words. Trust is the essence of your professional brand. Build it carefully and methodically, guard it fiercely and ensure that your actions for others and in support of your team and your business strengthen it constantly.
Thanks to Art Petty / Management Excellence