Simple, but not easy.
The problem is that you’d like trust to be something that you can instill with a little bit of effort, and then not deal much with it after that. Kind of like setting pay levels, it’s something you often only have to revisit only under exceptional circumstances – but not daily.
There’s two important principles of trust-building:
- It’s hard to build.
- It’s easy to lose.
Because of this, it’s something you have to pay attention to minute by minute, day by day, week by week, individual by individual.
Think about the people you trust – or don’t trust – in your life. Your spouse, your kids, your auto mechanic, the checker at your grocery store. I would hope that you see a much deeper level of trust needed for the people who are closer to your personal life – like your family. With them you entrust some of your deeper self, because you have higher confidence that they won’t violate that trust.
But what happens when your spouse, for example, does violate that? It’s a terribly wrenching event, because all of a sudden you have to figure out whether it was a mistake or a permanent change in attitude.
The same goes for your boss. Over a long period of time, you hopefully will entrust some more personal vulnerabilities around your personal life and career. If you do, though, you’re always at risk that they might accidentally or intentionally use that information against you, at which point you’ll face some important decisions about why they did that. Even if it was an accident, you might decide that the risk is too great, and re-impose that face of “professionalism” that we all try to display to others at work.
Trust takes a long time to build, and can be lost in an instant.
As a leader in your organization, this is something that you have to work at constantly. Every action you make, intentionally or accidentally, actual or perceived, will affect whether your employees trust you. It can be destroyed in a flash.
Sorry. That’s the reality.
So why bother? Without a high level of trust, what you’ll get from your employees is compliance. At most, you’ll get 80% of their potential productivity – and that takes a LOT of work on your part.
When you move to high levels of trust, employees will give you 100% and beyond. This is no exaggeration: They will find resources of energy and creativity that you never knew about, with minimal intervention on your part. It’s not uncommon to double productivity, or more – especially in jobs where peoples’ initiative and creativity is a main driver of value.
So shift your efforts into building and maintaining trust, and you’ll be able to move away from “managing” your people. They’ll mostly manage themselves.
It’s worth the investment.
- Flexibility results in trust
- Leadership principle #7: Value
- Engaging in your work and life
- Leadership principle #3: Variation
- Leadership principle #6: Recognition