The Concise Anatomy Of Trust in Its Interpersonal Context

Dictionary definition: “firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.”

In the course of my consulting work, helping leaders navigate the untold complexities of human behaviour, the trust challenge keeps rearing its head: “How can I create an atmosphere of trust within the team?” “How do I handle a breach of trust?” “Why is it so hard for people to trust one another?”

When trust is built, it emanates an aura of ease, dissolving the tensions that arise in the absence of trust. Tensions cause interpersonal friction, reactivity, suspicion and the depletion of precious emotional energies. If you work in a team where interpersonal reliance is at a premium and for whatever reason trust is not present, from your experience you know what happens – each and their story.

Building trust is a tough challenge because we live in a culture that has created over the centuries a defective trust DNA: The wholesale betrayal of trust is happening each and every day as part of the world-wide ‘Missing Blue’ epidemic; thereby making it all too easy for people to lower their standards and trustworthiness.

“How do I go about building trust?” you may ask. To accomplish that consider the following four key guidelines:

The trust that matters most
Interpersonal trust is far more about trusting what a person will not do and will not resort to than what they will do. To appreciate this vital perspective, envision for a moment a world where people will never resort to non-constructive ways to have their way or something else’s way. You can’t change the 21st century culture but you can make it your choice as an individual to, no matter what, forever be constructive. And, you can engender within your spheres of influence trust building processes and agreements.

Is it not so that the most powerful binding element in a relationship is knowing what your partner will never do?

The skill of trust leadership is in creating ecologies where people get to trust what their colleagues and companions will not do

Don’t trust – make certain
Some liken delegating to a form of art. Passing on responsibility without ensuring that you and the person to whom you are delegating are on the same page regarding what is exactly expected, including time-frames and outcomes, is like playing mental roulette. If you do not make certain by how you communicate what is required in clear and exact terms – even if it’s with a trusted colleague – in leaving people to their own interpretation of what is needed you must be prepared for an undesirable outcome with the consequence of double the work.

“What about creating space for creativity, innovation and original thinking?” you may ask. Making certain is not about the how but rather about the what. When there is a clarity about the what, you can then leave it to the person to discover the how in their unique way.

Don’t just trust – make certain by how you communicate what is required in clear and exact terms. When you make certain, you create the conditions in which inter-personal trust can be nurtured

Anticipating delayed honesty
Delayed honesty is being honest after the fact. Like admitting to having missed a committed to deadline one minute after expiry. The point being that the person knew full well that they may not make it in time but would not promptly communicate it. Which in black and white terms amounts to a misleading act because in not being honest in time one gives a false impression to those relying on its timely fulfilment.

One of the reasons for delayed honesty is excessive pressure and stress factors that impair people’s good judgement. A competent manager knows how to spot the presence of excessive stress and do whatever is needed to address it.

The way to neutralise delayed honesty is by putting in place clear communication and feedback protocols

Establish a clear feedback protocol
The way to not be wasteful by being needlessly worried is by setting up clear feedback protocols. As obvious as it sounds, I keep encountering situations where all too often good feedback protocols are overlooked, to the detriment of needed outcomes.

Setting up effective feedback protocols, including the intelligent deployment of modern technology, is the antidote to excessive ‘project anxiety’

Trust always needs a context. Create a context and make sensible agreements with those you are leading to cultivate an atmosphere of trust. However, the most searching question within the trust universe is: Do you trust yourself in what you will not do..?

Success begins with getting the simple things right…

David Gommé
World Copyright 2015© David Gommé

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