Tuesday, December 3, 2013

If Building Trust is So Important Why Is It So Hard?

While in the middle of this series on "How Leaders Build Trust" I learned of the results of a recent Associated Press/Gfk poll that shows less than one third of Americans trusted their fellow citizens.   To be clear this isn't just a lack of trust of government, or large institutions or big corporations....it's a lack of trust in each other.  These results show a significant drop in trust in others over the last 40 years.

I think the implications for leaders is obvious.  The data show that more than two thirds of people....at least in America... come to the workplace not trusting each other.  This means that the leader must be especially mindful of trust building behaviours...and of those things that undermine trust.  I don't have any data to support this view, but my hypothesis....and experience....tell me this is an even bigger challenge for a global leader. If a leader from one's own culture isn't automatically trusted it's reasonable to assume a leader from another culture would have an even more difficult challenge to build trustIf staff come to work with a mental model that others are not to be trusted, any behaviour that reinforces distrust will solidfy that point of view.  I gave some examples last week which I repeat for emphasis:

  • If you say you care about people..... and do nothing to develop others
  • If you say you value challenge and disagreement....and admonish those who disagree with you
  • If you say you value work-life balance....and send email or text messages at night or on weekends or during your holiday
  • If you say you value multiple cultures....and schedule meetings or require travel on holidays of other countries/cultures
  • If you are running a global organization and say you don't favor one region over another....and then all the most favorable actions are directed toward one country or region
  • If you say you value feedback....and then react angrily to any feedback that isn't favorable.

Leaders must come to their role with the understanding that many of their staff will not trust them.  Trust has to be earned every day, action by action, behaviour by behaviour.

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