Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Building Trust - Azara Feroz Sayed

During my experience in working for corporates, I found the one thing that could have helped the most was a trustful environment. The energy sapping acitivites that we engage in, due to lack of trust, especially at a time when we are required to do more with less, makes the time spent in consciously building trust so much worthwhile. I would push it to the extent of including it in the organization's mission statement and having policies and procedures aligned with it e.g. 360 degree feedbacks to include examples of trust building acitivities implemented

I came accross an interesting article relating to "Building Trust" at
http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/twelve-keys-for-building-trust/ which I have used for discussion in this post.

The foundation of any relationship, whether it be with a business associate, spouse, parent, client or, friend, is trust. Trust is not something that can be built with quick fix techniques. Rather, it is something that is cultivated through consistent habits in our interactions. The following are twelve patterns of behavior that increase trust in our relationships.

1. Be transparent - Do not try to hide things from others. Refuse to have any hidden agendas. We might think we can pull a fast one on someone else. We can’t. Most people have good intuition and even though they may not be able to consciously determine that we are hiding something, they very likely will have an uneasy feeling around us. If they don`t feel comfortable around us, they won`t be able to trust us.
Another sinister aspect of having hidden agenda is that it erodes our ability to trust others. We will assume that if we aren’t fully forthcoming, other people aren’t either. When we are trustworthy, however, we will see others as more trustworthy too.

In my experience, being transparent in a Manager-Employee relationship takes lot of courage for meeting the consequences (emotional and reputational hurt apart from additional issues being created) of being transparent. Even though we are transparent, prior experiences and organization culture, makes it difficult for people to accept it and they continue to engage in untrustful actions. Me and Feroz would debate a lot on being transparent, every time I would go thru a difficult situation, due to someone indulging in an untrustful action. I am all for transparency - experience makes you stronger - to face the consequences and not give up on the trust building process!

2. Be sincere - This is similar to the previous point. Only say what we mean. Be impeccably honest with our words. Refuse to try and craft our words to manipulate others. Don`t give fake compliments, patronize others or say something just because we think we are supposed to. Again, people have good BS detectors. When others know that we only speak genuinely, it increases their capacity to trust us. Everyone loves authenticity.
In my experience, in an Manager-Employee relationship, as mentioned earlier, prior experiences and organization culture blinds people to our attempts and it could be a fursterating experience when your attempts to build trust don't go anywhere. Staying at it and not being affected by some failures is the key to building life-time relationships!

3. Focus on adding value - In any relationship, always have the best interest of others at heart. Work hard to give as much or more than we get. When we consistently add value to someone`s life, they not only feel like we are on their side, they also have the urge to reciprocate. In business relationships, this means always under-promise and over-deliver. In personal relationships, focusing on meeting the needs of the other person instead of taking in order to get our own needs met.
In my experience, in an Manager-Employee relationship, apart from "adding value", it is also important that 'we are on their side' feeling be implicitly created, by communicating the value that the relationship has been providing as "value add". Since "value add" is sometimes taken for granted especially in an environment of "peer pressure" where we are more focussed on comapring the "value add" that the manager has been providing to peers.

4. Be present - The last thing anyone wants is to have a conversation with someone who isn’t there. Instead of retreating into your head, focus on listening to others. Whenever you are with someone, make them your primary focus. Don’t think about work while we are at home talking to our spouse. Don’t think about life at home when we are with a client. When it comes to relationships, presence means quality time and quality time builds trust.
In my experience, in an Manager-Employee relationship, a big investment in communication (emphasis on listening) is the most important thing. Looking back at those instances where trust was not shared, I feel spending more time in communicating would have helped to improve the trust in the relationships. An improvement area for me!

5. Always treat people with respect - Ever since we were little kids, we have been taught to be respectful. However, when our standards get violated or there is no one around to see (read: we don`t think there will be any consequences), we can often engage in petty behavior. This encompasses a wide range of actions from personal attacks during arguments to gossiping behind someone’s back. Always remember that another person’s inherent worth as a human being entitles them to be treated with dignity. When people know that you will always treat with them respect, it is very natural for trust to flourish.
In my experience, in an Manager-Employee relationship, this is important and additionally important (read Item#9 "Set Boundaries" below) is to make sure you are treated with respect too and not taken for granted. Feroz would caution me on this aspect based on the few interactions with my team members that he was part of.

6. Take responsibility - When we mess up, which we invariably will, be quick to clean it up. Skip the excuses and just take responsibility. Justifying and making excuses may help us in the short term but in the long run, it does nothing for our character or the level of trust we are given. Accountability is a rare trait these days with most people wanting to avoid negative consequences at all costs. Dare to be different and we will win the trust of others.
In my experience, in an Manager-Employee relationship, taking responsibility for glitches done by the team is an expectation. I believe it is important that we talk about such behaviour too as part of "value add" to the relationship. In my experience all these actions on my part were never considered as "value add" by the team.

7. Focus on feedback - Unless we`re mind readers, the only way we can know how well a relationship is going is by getting feedback from the other person. Be not only willing to accept feedback – actively seek it out. Many people are afraid to give us feedback, especially if its negative, out of fear that they will offend. Ask with sincerity and respond respectfully and others will be far more willing. Take both the positive and negative into account along with our own judgment and adjust our behaviour accordingly.
In my experience, creating an organizational culture of providing frank personal feedback is important. Tools soliciting feedback need to encourage for specific examples which makes the person revisit the situation as they write about it rather than simply checking-on a box.

8. Take criticism well - Learn to handle criticism with grace. Instead of getting defensive, consider the possibility that what the other person is saying might be true. Closing yourself off from criticism has the effect of closing off all communication. In some cases, the criticism may indeed be inaccurate. In these instances, you have the opportunity to show empathy. Try to understand the problem from the other person’s point of view. Perhaps the criticism is just a thinly veiled attack that stems from a deeper upset they may have with us. In these cases, our willingness to dig deeper without getting defensive will certainly enhance the trust in the relationship.
For a leader, this is important. In my experience, due to lack of trust, people don't provide direct feedback. Regular feedback is important and I believe spending time on frequent one-on-one communication will probably help us 'hear' the feedback. Once again, I wish I had spent more time in on-eon-one communication to 'hear' the feedback.

9. Set boundaries - Be clear about how we expect people to behave around us. Again, do this in a mature manner: be sincere and respectful. When we have clear standards, people know exactly how to behave around us and that gives them certainty. The strength that we communicate by setting boundaries builds trust – when someone knows that they can`t take advantage of us that alleviates the fear that someone else will.
Important! I already talked about this in Item#5 - "Always treat people with respect"

10. Be a class act - Hold ourself to a higher a standard. Be quick to apologize when we know we are wrong. Only speak well of others, even those who don`t speak well of us. Why should we do this? First, imagine what it would do to our sense of self to know that other people only have good experiences with us. Second, imagine how much trust such behaviour engenders in others. Finally, imagine the example we set for others – the conduct of others will improve just by being around us consistently.
Important in building relationships. I would consider this as an important aspect in the evaluation of a manager. The only reason I keep mentioning about these attributes being part of a formal feedback for a manager is - we otherwise are blinded with the organizational culture and lack of training to notice i.e. one becomes blinded to these important aspects that the manager is demonstrating. I believe having to write down an example for a feedback always makes me think about actions taken for granted.

11. Our word is our bond - Keep all the promises we make and ensure that we make promises only sparingly. Make our word stronger than any written contract. Refuse to make empty promises and manipulate people. When a promise we have made is no longer beneficial to us, instead of deciding to not follow through, attempt to renegotiate the deal. When we renegotiate the agreement, ensure that the new commitment provides even more value to the other person.
I think this is Item#3 "Focus on adding value" and Item#10 "Be a class act" working together at all times.

12. Be consistent - Above all, be consistent in our behavior. Don’t engage in the behavior once in a while when it seems convenient. Our consistency is the key to your trustworthiness. Small actions add up and a track record of high character is invaluable in any relationship. Become intensely principle-centered and trust will follow easily and consistently.
It needs courage to not get frusterated - when efforts to build trust are washed out turns - and continue focussing on our endeavors. I think this is the most important of all the items mentioned above. I regret losing some relationships due to the emotional and reputational hurt and not investing in mending them.


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