Avoid These Trust Diminishing Potholes at Work

Seven trust building leadership tips

Posted Nov 21, 2014

Despite the current historic lows for workplace trust, the good news is that for the most part, we want to trust other people. Just look at a typical day. We drop our child at daycare, buy a new product, or share information with the person next to us without much thought. Despite the science that tells us we're wired to trust, it turns out that the reality for many of us is that we're not always good at building it.

We make mistakes, fall into potholes, and stumble in our actions at times, especially when it comes to the people who report to us. When that happens, we unintentionally diminish, rather than enhance, the trust levels in these relationships.

If you want trusted work relationships, a trusting work environment for those you lead or work with, there are both small and large potholes you need to anticipate and navigate around. Here are 7 trust diminishing potholes to avoid:

Mosul Dam Sinkhole

Mosul Dam Sinkhole; Compliments of US Army Corp of Engineers

1. Ignoring people problems. This pothole quickly becomes a big sinkhole, so don't let it envelop you or your results. Address the situations that need addressing clearly, firmly, and quickly, even if it's hard to do. Doing so builds trust; ignoring people issues depletes it.

Mosul Dam Sinkhole

Mosul Dam Sinkhole; Compliments of US Army Corp of Engineers

2. Forgetting anything you say or do can come back to you. Nothing you do in a leadership role is "off the record" or totally confidential. When it comes to your building trust, everything you do or don't do, say or don't say, matters.

3. Remaining blind to your blind spots. We all have weaknesses, blind spots, and problem areas. Find key people you trust who will help you see yours. Don't let simple, unintended actions sabotage your trust building by staying in the dark or remaining ignorant about yourself and how your actions may be perceived.

4. Responding in a reactive mode. At some point, you'll have staff, colleagues, or bosses that disappoint, violate your trust, or undermine your efforts or authority. These are critical times to stay grounded in best-of-self behaviors. How you respond sets the tone for others in like circumstances.

5. Believing you don't need trust. Develop safety nets, support structures, and strong trust-relationships before you need them. When a crisis happens, these are the people who will offer resources, increase personal efforts, and help pull you or your key project through. People help people they trust, and who help them in return.

6. Ignoring your own words. Good bosses are given a little leeway, but the operative word is little. Always take your own words seriously; your staff does. Your words are the backdrop by which they are measuring your actions.

7. Thinking you're above company politics. Not everyone wants you to succeed. That can include staff, bosses, and peers. Don't be naïve to dark-side antics of others; learn to use a dependable approach that others can consistently count on that's grounded in positive intention and integrity.

How will you show up when faced with common potholes, work stumbling blocks, or dark-side organizational politics? Will others see your actions as trust-enhancing or trust-diminishing? When potholes emerge, sinkholes expand, and the unexpected derails our common sense, we can navigate the turmoil and peril by staying grounded in best of self-behaviors like: integrity, honesty, compassion, tolerance, accountability, fairness, self-awareness, and trust.

Here are more trust building tips:

You'll find specific how-tos in my latest book: Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation (Career Press, 2014).