Have you ever wondered how you can create a climate of trust around you?
Most people do.
Especially in moments of change, for example when moving to a new job or joining a new team. And especially now with virtual and decentralised work.
ESTABLISHING TRUST WHEN STARTING IN A NEW JOB
I have recently been supporting the transition of some senior executives to C-suite level, in some cases including reassignments abroad. One of the first questions on the table is how to establish a trust-based relationship from “day one” with direct reports, peers and stakeholder.
The answer to this question is counter-intuitive because instinctively we feel on shaky grounds in a new situation and we therefore – naturally – want to gain all the information we can get; however, as we focus on soothing our own anxiety and pump people for info, we might inadvertently communicate the opposite of trust.
Let me share my own experience: as a serial expatriate who worked in large global companies, I had a long string of new bosses coming in from somewhere else and I was myself often in the position of the boss coming from somewhere else. What I observed in my new bosses provided learning about behaviours that I could reapply, or avoid; this was very useful empirical learning later confirmed by my studies of behavioural neuroscience and transformational leadership.
What I learnt was that there were two general types of behaviours:
- Some Managers tend to ask for information, lots of information, in order to acquire sufficient knowledge and then draw their own conclusions, make their own decisions and be ready to answer stakeholders’ questions with confidence; they would typically ask their people for lengthy reports, data charts and status updates benchmarked against KPIs.
- Some other Managers, would rather ask people about their opinions, not only in order to learn about the new business area, but mainly in order to have productive conversations. These Managers – I would call them Leaders – would ask questions like: How are things in your area and beyond? What do you think is working and what not? Where are our biggest opportunities and the biggest challenges? What would you like to discuss with me, if I can help? What would help you be at your best and what would help the company in general? These Leaders would listen and would acknowledge what they learn, not only the info, but especially how the info is interpreted, the opinions and insights, they would engage in building a collective intelligence from all the diverse inputs.
What I also learnt was that:
==> I am turned off by the first type of behaviour,
==> while I am instantly drawn to trust someone who asks for my opinion.
In the first case, I feel exploited, simply used as a distributor of data or treated like a cog in a machine; my instinct would make me discount the boss as a “jerk”.
In the second case, I feel valued and trusted, so I am inclined to think high of the person who seems to think high of me and I trust that person in return.
So my answer to the question of how I want to establish trust from day-one is to avoid asking for information that simply satisfy my curiosity and help me form my own opinion; rather engage people in peer-to-peer discussions asking for their opinions and valuing it.
ESTABLISHING TRUST IN THE VIRTUAL WORLD
The pandemic has taught us that we feel, and often are, handicapped when sitting in front of a screen rather than working with people in-person. We feel uncomfortable because this situation is something very new and very different. Any “new and different” situation feels “unsafe” and gives us anxiety. This is when we may instinctively turn inwards and forget to give others the benefit of the doubt.
Have you noticed how emails have become more frequent and also have a more “rough and rude” tone? Have you noticed how we tend to be more “stiff and stressed” in virtual meetings?
These are natural instinctive reactions, originating from a place of uncertainty and insecurity inside our minds, but they are counterproductive when it come to creating trust. “Trust” is the place where we are not afraid.
Also in this case, opening up to others with curiosity rather than staying “closed” and protecting or defending ourselves is the best way to convey and obtain trust.
An example is to pick up the phone and talk with the person who sent a rude email, enquiring as to what is going on, rather than assuming bad intention and defending yourself in a new email, thus escalating the issue: most of the time we discover that the other person did not intend to be rude at all.
Another example is to pay attention to how we communicate, both on screen and in emails; when others do not see our entire non-verbal, it is easy to misinterpret any short and direct questions for arrogant and rude commands. We need to make extra efforts to remind of our intention every time, instead of making straight requests.
I hope I have giving you some useful food for thoughts.
I also want to draw you attention to the news below. I especially encourage you to register for Andrea’s webinars, because it is really fascinating to hear a man’s perspective on Inclusive Leadership, expressed in terms that resonates with every woman and hopefully with many men. I also want to encourage you to nominate a Fabulous Lady to be part of LIS Woman!
Take care and continue to courageously …
… Lead with a Smile!
Managing Partner, Grooa AS
Registered company address: Manglerudveien 93, 0678 Oslo (Norway)
Visiting address: Grooa Inspiria Learning Center, Den Hiek 33, 5421XG Gemert (Netherlands)
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