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Saturday, July 25, 2015

How You Get to Trust

     “You’ve got to trust me on this one.” Confident voice, arm around the shoulders, the whole scene just like in the movies, until the response: “No, I don’t. No way I have to trust you.”
     That flat-out vote of no confidence did not come in a movie – it was a real-life business moment.
     The key word was “trust,” and that was the issue. Trust requires the surrender of your independent judgment to someone else. You’re a fool if you give very much of it without really believing you should. That’s why we rarely place total trust in another person.
     How much trust do you think we exercise every day, and in whom? We do it frequently, but usually in small doses. You couldn’t get through an intersection controlled by a three-phase traffic light if you didn’t think the cross-street drivers would really stop.
     Sometimes they don’t, so we enter intersections with caution. We limit our trust.
   Less warily, we go to work every day with a certain level of trust. We expect to find our workspace as we left it, and we know how much cooperation we can expect from various co-workers. We are sure we’ll get paid, so there is a high level of trust on that matter.

     How about the managers in your place?
     Actually, we often aren’t fully conscious of the trust level we have established for each of the people we answer to. Early on, as we have just met the boss, or have just come under her/his authority, our general policy is to proceed cautiously.
     In our first experiences of the workplace, we learn that there is a different reward/punishment system for each manager, and it’s a very good idea to nail that down with each new one.
     You don’t ask the person, of course – you just tiptoe through assignments and exchanges, watching for signals and paying careful attention to directions, responses and comments.
     We all know people who don’t do that. They proceed according to their accustomed way of behaving, learning through bumps, bruises and lectures what is expected and what is not acceptable.
     An occasional winning personality can get away with that, but most careless people run the risk of establishing first impressions that will permanently burden their relationship with the boss.  
     Once we have established a working understanding, we think about it only if we have a particularly prickly person to work for. You just can’t please some people. They have reason, in their own minds, for repeatedly showing who’s boss.
     Sometimes it’s insecurity, and sometimes you’re the punching bag paying for the way the person was treated by the big kids in grade school. It may take the form of bullying, it may be micromanaging. Sometimes it’s a do-it-myself perfectionist you’re working for.

     Elsewhere on the arc of management, there are those who take this business of relationships seriously, and know how to earn and maintain the trust of those they supervise. That’s what you and I want to do.
     Whether you’re a manager yourself, or simply a staff member who recognizes the value of collaboration, you want to be confident things will go right without a lot of tending, fixing and friction. That’s teamwork, and it doesn’t work without trust.
     In the case of project management, or any other risky, pressured situation, trust is especially important. The more serious the project, the more pressing the need for committed professionals maintaining dynamic connections with each other.
     Weakness in the trust factor is one of the reasons why so many projects fall short of meeting schedule, cost and functional goals.
     Trust is built slowly and by consistent demonstration, over months and years when there are important issues.
     It never had a chance in the “just trust me” situation at the top of this commentary. An initial expectation of mutual value disappeared as the lead character described grand ambitions while displaying a selfish and unreliable ego.

     So the foundation of trustworthiness is integrity. The person must be honest in word and deed. Especially if you are to be a leader, you must do your homework, think things through and sharpen your judgment. Importantly, then, you are equipped to produce the results you promise.
     An immediate support for integrity is discipline in personal productivity. You know how to organize initiatives as well as routine, estimate time requirements, manage risk and collaborate effectively.
     When people come to know that you will do what you said you would do, they trust you to do it. That puts you in relatively elite company, because most people aren’t that good or that committed to predictable follow-through.
     Relationships with co-workers are equally a bedrock principle of trust. They know you will listen, will tell the truth, will respect and honor them in your dealings.
     You also will return their trust. You will expect them to earn your trust as you are earning theirs; and you will free them to employ their demonstrated competence and judgment.
     Integrity. Disciplined productivity. Worthy relationships.
     Under each of those broad labels, there are numerous familiar behaviors: Time management, listening, problem solving and encouragement, among others.

     When you’ve done all this right, there’s no need to tell people they’ll have to trust you. It goes without saying.

See Also: Career  Move: Talk to the Boss












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