Lack of trust sabotages team productivity by enabling interpersonal conflict, apathy, or cynicism. Not only does it make innovation impossible, it makes meeting ordinary expectations difficult. When low trust exists between team members, there is a tremendous emotional cost, creating doubt, fear, anger, frustration, resentment, and resignation.
Creating a consistent environment of trust is difficult because despite our best intentions, we may be delivering mixed messages. Trust isn’t about truth and facts; it’s about perceptions of authenticity and caring.
Have people ever described you as too nice?
If so, be careful when you are “getting input” from your team. To appease your natural desire to avoid conflict and not disappoint others, you may talk to each person in a way that sounds you want to make a decision that favors them. This results in each person leaving their conversations with you believing you support their idea or approach, only to find out that is not the case later on. Be intentional about using neutral language; practice advocating for the other side (no matter which side you favor) in order to appear neutral.
Are you an introvert?
If so, there may be times when you are thinking something but don’t say it. When this happens you may have a substantially different conversation going on in your head than is occurring out loud. When what you think and what you say are incongruent, your body language matches what you think. This leaves other people feeling uneasy, even if they cannot pinpoint why, thereby eroding trust nonetheless. Instead of allowing such a miscommunication to occur, you can explicitly delay your response; acknowledge what you are hearing and state that you need more processing time before making a judgment.
Are you a big picture thinker, a visionary, or creative?
If so, you may have a more difficult time focusing on a single executable strategy and communicating it in a way that your team can wrap their minds around getting on board with it. If you seem like you are constantly changing your mind, your vision and intentions will be taken less seriously over time. You might also use language that comes across as unclear, creating confusion. Before you make requests of others, you need to think it through until you are able to include enough information in a direct enough way that the other person is able to easily determine what you need, by when, and is able to evaluate whether they can commit to fulfilling your request or not. Though your mind can quickly shift to the next thing, be sure to follow-up on previous conversations and projects to see them through to completion.
Are you very action-oriented or task-focused?
If so, it might come across to your more laid-back or relationship-focused colleagues as if you don’t care about them and their viewpoints. It’s a collaboration killer for work teams when some members believe that others don’t care. Interpersonal conflict, withdrawal, and distrust escalates while healthy exchange and debate of ideas fades. When people know you care about them, you don’t have to convince them every time you need their trust. They will tend to be more forgiving when things inevitably do go wrong. Go out of your way to show them you do care, even if it means slowing down the pace of your project.
Trust is a two-way street
Really think twice any time you distrust someone. When we distrust someone, our natural instinct is to protect ourselves. The way that we protect ourselves is often by resisting, withholding, avoiding, arguing, ignoring, or attacking. Even if we don’t do it blatantly, our body language does it for us. Unfortunately, these behaviors only serve to accelerate the dysfunction; they encourage the other person distrust us. Whenever possible, extend trust first; assume good intentions unless you have evidence otherwise.