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Many of us are starting a whole new set of work relationships this week.  We are getting to know people, trying to understand how they work, what matters to them, what motivates them, what gets under their skin. Of course there is some personal learning too – how easy is it for me to form new relationships, what baggage do I bring, who do I naturally connect with and who do I finder harder to get to know?

I think at the root of all good relationships there is trust, and I believe you form those important impressions quite quickly – not that you get to trust people quickly, but I think I know very early in a relationship whether this is someone I can rely on and someone who will hold my confidence. I did some work a few years ago with Jay Bevington when he was still in the NHS and we talked about trust at board level. He described three different types of trust – I trust your competence and capability (you can do what you say you will), I trust your intentions and motivations (you have positive intent to help not undermine) and I trust the truth in what you say. All of that is so important in a new organisation and however busy people are – and everyone will be – I think it’s worth the time to invest to help these things start to build. We have a fabulous faculty at the Academy who do great team building work and there are some key principles we keep to but here is my starter for 10 in building trust in new work relationships.

  • Take some time and do it properly, don’t pretend to do this or pay it lip service – nothing substitutes for giving people time and your genuine interest. However much of an indulgence it might feel right now to take time out with your new team, truly it will pay huge dividends in the long run.
  • Model the right behaviours straight away – whatever our past transgressions, whatever we have learnt in all our other jobs on the way this is a time when you get to start to put all that learning into practice, and do a bit of self-reinvention.  You get to be the leader now that you have always wanted to be – you will do it congruently, this is about being authentically you, but you get to try and be the best you that you can.
  • Give first – trust is built largely from what you give and how you behave. Don’t expect everyone around you to work to earn your trust if you don’t demonstrate why you should be trusted in the first place.
  • Enjoy it – we all spend so much time at work we need to make it joyful. Our work is serious and important but we shouldn’t carry that around like a burden. Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow.” (Oscar Wilde) And of course people are  much more likely to form great relationships by having some down time together

You’ll have your own thoughts and things that have worked for you in the past – do share them with us.

My final thought is a very personal one; trust is of course hard earned and easily lost. I have very recently let down a really close and trusted colleague in a horrible way and he told me so – that the trust he thought we had was ruptured because of what I’d done to him. I gave him what was well intentioned, but clumsy, and ill-timed and uninvited ‘feedback’ and it landed really harshly with him. We only really value the importance of trust in a relationship when we feel what it is to lose it and the difference that makes. The early days of new organisations and new working relationships are so important, what you build now I believe will be a set of relationships that will be the most important indicator of your organisations success or lack of it. Work hard to earn peoples trust, then work even harder to keep it.

3 thoughts on “Trust

  1. Hi Karen, really interesting blog and the linked paper. there is a suggestion that the Academy could support team development? Is this so? thanks

  2. This is a very important blog, even more for the fact that Karen has in effect said ‘we need to do this internally aka we need to practise what we preach’ than for the advice itself which is spot on but which could be found in many places. No, what’s special here is this: So many organisations involved in leadership development dish out their knowledge and advice to the world but ‘forget’ to apply it internally to their own practice. We’re not going to to that, are we? I absolutely trust the good intentions of my colleagues and invite you to trust mine. Whenever something’s getting in the way for you, let me know. But please be kind. It’s so often true that to know all is to forgive all!