Trust is kind of a big deal in the workplace, to say the very least. I’ve probably mentioned it a time or two or 50, but if you don’t have trust in any relationship you ain’t gots no relationship.
I hate to say it, but most companies have a serious lack of trust running throughout their organization. I don’t mean trust as in “I trust you not to steal my purse if I leave it out.” It’s related more to risk. When trust exists, you’re willing to have risky, open, and truly transparent conversations because you trust it won’t be held against you in the long haul.
Trust in this sense is really about “I am more focused on doing good work than I am avoiding be fired.” It’s the trust that everyone wants the company to succeed. It’s trust that acknowledges that people will make mistakes, but most of the time they will work to fix them and move on. So what’s the opposite of trust?
If you’re in a leadership role I can almost bet you’re being lied to. I know, I know, not your team. After all, you have a great dynamic and you work so well together. Everyone is happy in their position, right? I want to defend your team for a moment. They don’t mean any harm by lying. In fact, most of the time they don’t “lie” per se, but rather they’re holding back some truths. This kind of deception is sometimes called a “lie of omission.” But more importantly, it means that they just aren’t speaking up because keeping quiet is easier and safer.
Signs that true trust may be lacking on your team
- No One Gives You Feedback: When was the last time you had an employee provide tough, constructive feedback about your management style without being prompted, or even after being prompted? If there are no complaints, you’re probably being lied to. You’re not perfect, and you can’t improve if people don’t help out.
- Finger Pointing and Blame: When trust is fully present throughout your team, finger pointing and blame should not happen. We blame others when we’re afraid of the consequences. Instead, people will step up and claim responsibility, and move forward.
- Everything is fine, all the time. Listen, mistakes happen and humans screw up from time to time. If your staff is terrified to make a mistake, you’ve created a culture of mistrust. What’s actually happening is that they are making errors–they’re just covering them up.
- Excessive Turnover: Some change in staff IS normal. People come and go. What isn’t normal is consistent turnover especially in a specific department or position. Managers usually blame it on a bad hire; but truth-be-told, no one has trusted you enough to complain about deficiencies…or worse: they were said but you didn’t hear them.
- One Way Meetings: One surefire way of knowing trust is lacking is the climate of meetings. If one person presents, each person nods and then moves on to the next topic/speaker, you’ve got a BIG PROBLEMO! No engagement means no trust.
- “It’s Not My Place”: This is a favorite phrase among many in a trust-less environment. Typically, teams feel safe venting to colleagues but not management. I once worked with a team that was disgruntled about a decision made six months earlier, yet they never spoke up. Why? It wasn’t their place, or so they thought. The owner was in complete disbelief that they kept their frustrations to themselves all that time. If no one is knocking on your office door, be worried!
Teams who trust one another implicitly are inherently more successful. How are you measuring and creating a trusting environment for your team? How can you tell its working?