Building trust with another individual takes time and effort. In the workplace, where relationships are often hierarchal and, to some extent, forced, developing a culture of trust can be even more complex.
In 2011, John Gottman dedicated a book to the subject—The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples. Patrick Lencioni, who has observed the impact of trust among teams declared it’s establishment as vital to functionality and success. While Gottman and Lencioni recommend slightly different activities to promote trust, there are key concepts their approaches have in common.
The first factor is the degree to which follow through occurs. How closely do commitments made align with the results delivered. Lencioni calls this predictive trust. Gottman describes this as transparency. This factor is important, but it is not enough!
Team members need to demonstrate that they consider the success and wellbeing of those around them as important as their own success and wellbeing; and they understand doing so may come at the price of personal sacrifice or compromise. This conveys positive moral certainty, establishing one is ethical in our character. While we can control our own behavior and choices, will our co-workers do the same for us? And, what happens when we come up against a personal limitation? Could we threaten the success of the team by ignoring our own shortcomings?
This brings us to what Lencioni calls vulnerability based trust. When this trust is present, we can be candid with our peers and take emotional risks:
- “I’m not as good at this as you are; will you help me with it?”
- “I am sorry for what I said yesterday.”
- “I don’t agree with you, but I am going to support the team’s decision.”
What we really want to feel is a certain sense of reciprocity, of pulling together.
- “I’ve got your back. I want to know you have mine, too.”
- “We’re in this together.”
And yet, how many places have we worked where the person no one trusts is never held accountable for that behavior? Everyone has a story about this. Share yours in the comments below.
While you’re here, this would be a good time to circle back to the first post in this series to consider where your organization is on that conflict/productivity curve. Then, you can listen to Dr. Gottman’s advice about how to start building trust. He advocates practicing the fine skill of listening non-defensively. How do you do that? I will cover that in another post!