My experience of leaders, managers, supervisors, department heads, is that many use the word trust in various contexts.
A couple of examples:
- Client relationships are based on trust.
- Employment of personnel is based on trust.
- Relationships in the workplace are based on trust.
- Supplier relationship is based on trust.
Some of us constantly relate to trust as “being out there, something that is external from us.” Unconsciously, in our silent listening, we keep interrogating people’s trustworthiness to some extent or another.
From my experience, for a good few managers, trust exists out there and is part of their self-preferred code of conduct. More often than not, my experience is that one’s self preferred code of conduct is consciously directed to our superiors and direct peers, but perhaps not with our subordinates.
How often do we ask ourselves the question “how do our subordinates perceive us in the workplace – in terms of trust as a leader, manager or supervisor?”
Having sat in a few disciplinary hearings where the key question at the end of the hearing is “has the trust relationship been broken?” If the manager responds “Yes” the likelihood is that the outcome will be a dismissal for the accused. What do think would be the case if the situation was turned around that the trust relationship on behalf of the employee with his manager has been broken? This is rarely the case because employees consider any gripe against their managers would be a CLM (career limiting move).
Lack of Trust and Extending Trust
How many of us as managers have experienced making a request to an employee to execute a job function that is possibly a stretch target for the employee, and may require some research or out-of-the ordinary approach, or internal/external assistance to fulfill the request? I guess many of us have at some time or another.
Let us take two scenarios of our self-listening (private thoughts) regarding lack of trust (1 below) and extending trust (2 below), when making a request.
- “I have given you all the relevant information, I am your boss; I expect it of you to carry out my request. That is what we pay you for, get on and do it. I am a little apprehensive about the outcome and the agreed target date. You don’t have to be happy, just get on with it.”
- “I have given you all the relevant information, have you any specific questions? Have we a shared understanding of what I want done? I believe in you, what assistance do you require to make this happen? I want this to be a pleasant learning experience for both of us.”
Referring to 1 above, the likelihood of the recipient’s self-listening (private thoughts) upon receiving the request could be:
I shall carry out the request as I fear reprisal, I sense a lack of self-confidence and would have preferred some encouragement and that I am not alone in doing this job and my boss has my back. I sense that my boss does not trust me which adds to the pressure that I am experiencing. I am afraid to ask clarification questions as I do not want to show up as not knowing what to do.
In my personal experience of 1 above the employee has, unbeknown to the boss, intuitively sensed a lack of trust and personal connection which may have some form of consequence on the outcome of the job request.
Referring to 2 above, the likelihood of the recipient’s self-listening (private thoughts) upon receiving the request could be:
I feel enthralled that my boss has faith in my ability to execute the job on time, meeting the specifications and quality clearly expressed. I sense that it is okay to be vulnerable and share my concerns and needs as regards what is required to execute the work. I feel safe working with my boss. The last thing I want to do is break his trust in me, I am committed to do my best.
In my personal experience of 2 above, the employee has intuitively sensed that the boss has extended trust to him/her. The employee senses a form of belonging and is more likely to be fully engaged in pursuing a positive outcome for the job.
I strongly suggest that as leaders, managers and supervisors we ask ourselves the question.
How do I show up to my direct reports in terms of trust?
Quote from Ontological Coaching “trust is the key dimension of relationships and can be considered as the glue that holds them together.”
In a sense our direct reports indirectly allow us as their superiors to shape their careers and their work experience in the business either positively or negatively.
Where am I going with this trust issue? As managers etc., a prerequisite for effective relationships is mutual trust. By this I am referring to managers learning to extend trust to their direct reports.
I Quote Pfeffer from Managing With Power: “To influence others it is clearly useful to understand them, their interests and their attitudes and how to reach them. It requires at least for a moment, to stop thinking about one’s own needs and beliefs. Somewhat ironically, it is this capacity to identify with others that is actually critical in obtaining things for oneself.”
Closing note: I have not covered in this write up the importance of making proper requests and receiving slippery promises which also compromises trust for both parties.