No matter what kind of relationship we’re talking about – intimate partners or a workplace team, trust is critical to the health of the relationship. And the health of the relationship impacts directly on the well-being and functioning of those in it. In the case of a work team, healthy relationships are critical for high performance.
Workers who don’t trust their managers are often angry or scared or both. They’re angry about perceived injustice or bad treatment, and scared of unpredictable behaviour and being disadvantaged. And when people are scared – in a constant state of flight or flight – they respond in exactly the same way as if they were in actual physical danger. The higher functioning, thinking brain gets hijacked, and our focus of attention narrows; creativity shuts down; problem solving is diminished; and we lose our ability to look at issues strategically. Not surprisingly, our performance suffers.
As a manager, if you want high performing staff, consider these four foundations of trust:
- Admit when you’ve made a mistake and make amends, rather than trying to cover up the mistake or blaming others
- Accept responsibility for your actions, even if they have unintended negative ramifications, rather than trying to pretend you didn’t do something
- Don’t pretend you did something when you didn’t, in order to promote your own status
- Don’t pretend you didn’t do something when you did, in order to protect your own reputation.
- Don’t treat some team members more favourably than others, even if you like them more or get on better with them
- Don’t change how you respond to the same issue, depending on who raises it – if you have a good reason for behaving differently and it could appear unfair, explain your reasoning
- Don’t keep changing your mind about something – If you have a good reason for changing a decision, make sure you explain why.
Consider everyone’s needs
- Get to know your team members – use regular one on one informal conversations to understand their motivations and fears
- You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but you should at least consider everyone’s needs, especially around the big issues that will significantly impact on them
- Communicate your understanding of staff needs and how you’ve considered them in your decisions and actions
- Keep people safe – physically and psychologically.
- Mean what you say
- Say what you mean
- Keep your word
- Don’t breach confidences
- Be clear about your values and act in accordance with them.
It might be tempting to be a little bit dishonest, unfair or selfish in order to solve a tricky issue, get your way or preserve your reputation. But just like your mother always knew when you were lying, your team members have highly attuned trust barometers, so you can be sure they’ll figure it out. And once trust is eroded between a manager and their staff, it’s very very difficult to restore.
Staff who trust you will accept your decisions even if they don’t agree with them, will look for ways to support you and will go the extra mile for you and the team. Staff who don’t trust you, even a little bit, will devote their energy to fighting to protect themselves rather than doing their job. They’ll withdraw discretionary effort and may even actively sabotage your decisions. Acting at all times with honesty, fairness, consideration and integrity often takes a great deal of courage, but Managers who make the effort to develop and maintain trust within their staff will reap the rewards of happy, loyal, high performing teams.
Staff and managers trying to re-establish trust within their team will benefit from personalised, confidential coaching to identify and implement positive changes. Call or email me to discuss coaching rates and availability.