It takes more than personal integrity

Knowing how to build and maintain trustful relationships in today’s world and global workplace has never been a more essential leadership skill as well as challenge, both for individuals as well as organizations.

Everyone easily agrees that a lack of trust in a leader and/or within an organization leads to discord and dysfunction, including low morale, miscommunication, poor response to problems and issues, and a toxic and unproductive work environment.

Yet understanding what trust is and isn’t, and how to cultivate and manage it head-on is commonly an elusive concept for our clients.

What Erodes Trust and How Can We Manage It Better?

Robert M. Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau describe how we need to protect trustworthiness from enemies that can be tracked back to a short list of problems related to individuals as well as organizational culture:

“inconsistent messages, inconsistent standards, misplaced benevolence, false feedback, failure to trust others, elephants in the parlour, rumors in a vacuum, consistent corporate underperformance, tumultuous times and times of crisis.”

Social psychologist Roderick M. Kramer looks at why we trust so readily, why we sometimes trust poorly, and sets out “some preliminary rules for tempering trust.”

The shadow of doubt lingers over every decision to trust. But you can do a lot to reduce that doubt.

Ken Blanchard in his book, Trustworks!, describes a simple, very effective applied tool that defines four trust-building competencies, each comprised of a set of behaviors, so issues of trust can be nailed down and addressed in relationships:

Able – Demonstrate Competence
Believable – Act with Integrity
Connected – Care about Others
Dependable – Maintain Reliability

Broken Trust – How Can it Be Rebuilt?

Trust can take years to build, but can be destroyed in a single moment.

What then?

Most trust experts agree on the steps to take when trust has been broken. Randy Conley, VP of client services and trust practice leader for the Ken Blanchard Companies, describes them here:

• Acknowledge that trust is broken and that you need to fix it
• Admit if you’re in the wrong – own your own behavior
• Apologize effectively – recognize the impact on the other person and commit to avoiding the same behavior in the future
• Assess where and how the breakdown happened and address those specific behaviors
• Amend the situation by taking corrective action to repair any damage, and create a behavioral action plan for how you’ll improve in the future.

Broken Trust – When You’re Managing Up

When trust has been broken with your boss, it becomes impossible to earn greater responsibility. How can you increase the likelihood of getting back into their good graces?

David DeSteno, author of The Truth About Trust: How It Determines Success in Life, Love, Learning, and More, says the first step is to figure out which of the two essential pillars of perceived trustworthiness by a boss has been affected by the unfortunate event:

Earning your boss’s trust depends on convincing your superiors that you possess the right balance of integrity and competence… Does your boss believe that you prioritize your own needs over those of the company? Or does she suspect that you simply don’t possess the necessary skills of ability?

He explains how integrity is often an easier fix, while a competency issue takes longer.

Knowing how to build and maintain trust – and repair it when it’s damaged—is at the heart of every successful relationship as well as the currency of leadership and organizational effectiveness.