Trust – do you have it?


Trust – do you have it? There’s a single word that stretches across multiple dimensions of Leadership and whereas its presence doesn’t always guarantee success, its absence is a good predictor of failure. The word? Trust.

It’s my view that in its absence, Leaders have options:

  1. Forget “trust” and insist that people do as they’re told – expect success and punish failure
  2. Assume trust neutrality, better if it’s there but hey, we can live without it
  3. Understand that it’s hard to acquire, easy to lose and will be the launch pad to better outcomes

Patrick Lencioni writes about the importance of trust in “The Five Dysfunctions of Team” and places it at the foundation of an interesting pyramid

Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team (TM) Model

And to each strata he describes “What happens if we don’t attend to …” Here’s what happens when trust is either missing or left unattended.

  1.             Mistakes and weaknesses are concealed from each other
  2.             Hesitation in asking for assistance and providing constructive feedback
  3.             Hesitation to help outside of own areas of responsibility
  4.             Jump to conclusions about other’s intentions without trying to clarify
  5.             Fail to recognise and utilise each other’s expertise/experience
  6.             Behave for effect-wasting time and energy
  7.             Hold grudges
  8.             Dislike spending time with each other-avoid meetings

Sounds great doesn’t it? How many of us would offer our views either in 1:1 conversations or in the wonderful organisational context:

“I’ve noticed that mistakes and weaknesses are concealed from each other, what impacts does this create and what would be different if the reverse applied?”

Here we’re looking at point 1 only: can you imagine developing conversations around each of the above? If you were to do so, here are some of the outcomes you might achieve. When people trust each other we can expect that we can:

# Admit to weaknesses and mistakes
# Ask for help
# Accept questions/inputs about their areas of responsibility 
# Give the benefit of the doubt before jumping to negative conclusions
# Take risks in offering feedback and assistance
# Time and energy is focussed on the important stuff-not the “politics”!
# Offer and accept apologies without hesitation
# Look forward to working as a group and team meetings

When we look at the options we have regarding our approach to trust (adopt, ignore or “meh”), the hard work is around a straightforward question:  “What do we need to do collectively and individually to increase trust?”.
It’s a challenge because I’m certain that you’ll have considered by now that this question is the parent of a whole raft of sub-questions-hard ones-that require us to disclose and accept our own vulnerabilities and uncertainties.

A tough call and one worth making: how would you go about introducing the ideas to your team(s) and what would you expect to discover about yourself and others on the journey?

Clarity is key here. Let your teams know the following:

This is what we’re doing, here’s why we’re doing it and here are some projected outcomes and believe me they will change!

You’ll need to set some caveats about responsibility, how we look after each other and confidentiality and be brave!

Good luck!
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My work is informed by the belief that Human Dignity is the key to great outcomes and after leaving my last Local Government post (2002), I had the opportunity to work with people and teams who were looking for better alignment, a sense of purpose beyond the now and an opportunity to resolve tensions and conflicts that were holding them back. There have been some huge turning points; the opportunity to work with people as an enabler/coach has been fantastic. I’m a qualified mediator working with individuals and teams and work with groups in developing approaches to see us into a challenging and exciting future that’s also just a bit scary! I like walking, cycling, photography and using my local gym. I delight in connecting with people and believe that we all of us, hold the present in stewardship for the future. I’ve been lucky because I’ve worked with great people, I have to quote Einstein and Oasis, “Stood on the Shoulders of Giants!”