It’s a Matter of Trust: Part Five
Want Trust? Tell it Like It Is
By Doug Turner
Tell it like it is. This is such a simple idea, but so often overlooked. When there is a difficult situation, many people succumb to the temptation of doing what is necessary to protect themselves and serve their interests, rather than communicate honestly and clearly. However, “trust is a critical factor in establishing organizational effectiveness,”1 and is furthered by honesty, openness, visibility, and responsiveness to suggestions.2
W.A.I.T.: Why Am I Talking?
What can we do? When we find ourselves in a situation that is difficult, we can go back to the elements of trust, namely intent and integrity. Ask yourself why you are not telling the truth or at least not all of the truth. What impression are you attempting to create? Is it the correct impression?
Could the phrases “spinning”, “baffle-gab”, “double-talk”, “putting make-up on the pig” and others like those, be applied to your communication? Check yourself. There is a powerful acronym that can be used here – W.A.I.T. This stands for Why Am I Talking? Think about it.
Treat Others as You Want to be Treated
It is a universal tenet of all major religions in the world that you should treat other people with the level of respect that you would like to have afforded to you. Get into the habit of showing respect and dignity, showing that you genuinely care about others. Don’t fake it. Do little things, especially for people who can’t do anything for you. Speak to the night watchman or caretaker or cleaning lady whose name you don’t know.3 Ask her what her name is and then use it when you speak to her. Send a hand-written note to someone thanking them for doing something special for you. Send a card of condolence to an employee whose mother has just passed away.
The unexpected touches are the most powerful.
The amazing thing about this behaviour is that once you get in the habit of doing little things then big things happen because people notice your behaviour. As a result, they are more likely to feel comfortable around you and to do business with you. It just might be that competitive edge that makes the difference between winning the account and not, getting the promotion or not, being included in meetings or not, and so on.
This is sometimes referred to as being “transparent”4 It is important not only to tell the truth, but to make statements that can be verified. People will check up on you. If they find inconsistencies or vaguities in what you say, their level of trust in the account will diminish. If, on the other hand they can independently verify something you said, the trust balance increases substantially. It is also important that people can rely on you to tell them all that is relevant about a given thing.
This is even more important at difficult times of transition in an organization. Citing Kerry A. Bunker Michael Wakefield, Leading with Authenticity in Times of Transition (2005), here are five actions that increase trust during disruptive periods:
Be authentic. Maintaining trust is critical to any successful transition. In difficult times, leaders are often tempted to offer canned answers and to keep communication impersonal, resulting from their own stress and sense of responsibility to management. But these practices are two of the fastest ways to lose the trust of your employees. Cut to the chase with honest answers and real feelings.
Be empathetic and honest. Partners naturally feel the need to keep their people focused on the bottom line at any cost. But the cost is often the loss of trust from an excellent employee.
Give people time to digest change. It’s a mistake to make longstanding judgments about members of your firm based on an initial response to change. People commonly need time to sort everything out. Once an employee has navigated the emotions connected with change, he or she may turn out to be your greatest asset.
Give yourself time to digest the change. When leaders show reservations or other emotions spurred by change, they compromise their ability to lead with authenticity and to help others cope. Take time to adjust.
Keep your doors open. Show members of your firm they can talk to you. Let them know you understand their concerns. With empathy comes trust.5
Always disclose more than you think is necessary, within the bounds of business ethics and confidentiality; if there are legitimate restrictions that must be observed, say so. Making a statement to the effect that you can’t disclose details because you are bound by a business arrangement is far more acceptable than just omitting the details and leaving people to wonder why, if they find out later.
We are all aware of the phrase “hidden agenda.” If we look at the definition of integrity above, what pieces are out of alignment? In this case we are thinking “what she is saying is not what she is thinking”, or “he doesn’t walk the talk.” Either one can be an example of hidden agendas, but clearly there is a violation of integrity either way.
Watch for Part Six—When Things Go Wrong…Step Up—coming soon.
Doug Turner is a leadership and executive coach at True Balance Coaching.
1. Robert C. Bird, Employment as a Relational Contract, 8 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law 149, 189 (2005).
2. See Id.
3. See Covey, supra note 8, at 146; Canfield, supra note 25, at 352-56.
4. See id., at 152-57 5.06-3 Partner’s Report 9, Change Management (2006), citing Kerry A. Bunker Michael Wakefield, Leading with Authenticity in Times of Transition (2005).