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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Working in a Low Trust Environment

So there is plenty of press about how to change from a low trust work environment to a high trust environment from a management perspective and especially how to recognize the low trust environment. But what about when you are a subordinate supervisor or employee struggling to be successful and product a good product.

I had previously shared the go to book in my opinion that helps establish the high trust organizational culture: The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey.  Identifying a low trust environment is easy n my opinion (and confirmed by Stephen M.R. Covey): the constant checking, micromanagement, double checking, constant informational meetings that don't actually get any work done.  If you think you have a high trust corporate culture, just ask your subordinate supervisors or employees what they thing.

So even in a medium to high trust environment, I think it is safe to say we could do better. But how do I effect the environment from below?  To be trusted, you must be trustworthy.  But how do we regain trustworthyness?  We must first understand how we lost our trust.  A corporate trust issue must be identified from the source.  Is it that corporately, individuals did a poor job instilling trust at multiple meetings?  And over time, the lack of trust made it impossible to trust the organization?  Or was it an event, such as a failed inspection?

For the former, the only way to recover from a lost trust is to give upper management a reason to trust you.  Know the answers to questions that will likely be asked at the next meeting.  Script the responses just like you would for a job interview.  If you don't know the answer to a question, politely  say you don't know the answer, promise you will get the answer, and the follow-through with the response.  Practice speaking with confidence.  When you are done, close your discussion and move on.  Generally, stopping and constantly asking if there are any other questions and leaving lots of air time does not build trust -- quite the opposite. It appears that you don't know what other questions might be out there.  If you did, you would have already answered them.  Air space invites questions that may not be relevant and especially you may not have a good answer.

For the later (the failed inspection), this is quite possible the easiest to solve.  For most inspections I have been involved in, you know the "test" questions in advance.  Prioritize the most important ones, and work to ensure you will pass the test.  Make sure the team understands the importance in passing the "test."  Everybody should understand how much easier their life will be in a higher trust environment.

What if your low-trust environment is due to a higher than normal gathering of low-trustworthy individuals (not you, of course)?  This is probably the hardest to overcome.  But by becoming trustworthy first, you may be able to win them over. If not, you have done all you can do.

So in summary, to gain trust, be trustworthy.  Speak honestly, speak confidently, based on knowledge, promise to follow-up if you don't know the answers, and then honor that promise.  Know that it will take a while to build the trust.  Stick with it.

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