Teamwork is rooted in trust, no matter in which location—physical or virtual—the teamwork happens. Everything in business and in life derives from the authenticity of relationships built on a solid foundation of trust. There are no investments more important to a leader than cultivating the psychological safety and authentic conversations that build trust and teamwork. These are the investments that give colleagues permission to be their full, authentic selves at work, to innovate, to think outside the box, to build a culture of integrity and to be willing to speak up when integrity is violated.
Trust is more durable than many people think. Yes, trust can be betrayed but it can be rebuilt by the right combination of contrition, apology, and restitution. That’s where a credible corporate culture comes in. Not even the best cultures will perfectly immunize an organization from lapses in integrity. What a trust-based culture will do is act as a canary in the coal line: alerting the team early that violations of the culture are imminent so that the team can take steps to prevent the organization from going off the rails. In the event the violations happen anyway, a trust-based culture sets up the organization to recover by quickly disclosing the violations, holding the offenders accountable, apologizing without reservations or excuses, offering restitution, and stating how the organization intends to earn back the trust it betrayed.
Second, think about executives driving their organizations like cars down the highway. Too many executives have taken their eyes off the road and are instead navigating by looking solely at the vehicle dashboard. They don’t realize that the dashboard has been hacked to prioritize profits over any other values. So the executives believe that their organizations are zipping happily down the center of the highway when in reality the organization has long ago been diverted to a cul de sac. Had these executives simply looked out the windshield, they would have seen that the vehicle was far off the path.
“Don’t advertise yourself as trustworthy. Have other people represent you as trustworthy.”
Maintaining trust is like driving a car at night. You can see the road as far as the headlights illuminate. But you can make the whole trip that way. It’s the same with trust. You earn trust one encounter of decency at time. Over the journey, the trust becomes the true north that drives the organization to better performance.
Best Practices to Increase Trustworthiness
Here are some ways for leaders to build trust one encounter at a time:
- Avoid credentialism. Let people discover your expertise.
- Demonstrate your experience, don’t talk about it.
- Don’t advertise yourself as trustworthy. Have other people represent you as trustworthy.
- If you don’t know, admit you don’t know. You are not expected to know everything.
- Avoid surprises. People like surprises only when they see them coming.
- Get buy-in on every agenda so “me” meetings become “we meetings”.
- Be super responsive.
- Deliver exactly what you promise. The advice to “underperform and overpromise” is manipulative.
- Listen twice as much as you talk.
- Don’t be the first to solve the problem. Let the solution flow from the team.
- It’s not about generating solutions. It’s about making the other party feel heard.