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Leadership Skill: Distrust

Nov 11, 2007
The very best way to repair a broken bond of trust is to not let it break in the first place. If that is no longer an option, you have a long road ahead of you, winning people back to your confidence. The only way I know is to keep slogging. Tell the truth. Keep your promises. Be reliable. Rebuild your account using regular small deposits. It may take years of faithful, timely payments.

When you can't be perfect on any of these scores (and who can?), acknowledge it. Explain it. Ask for forgiveness. And promise to work to keep it from every happening again.

As a prerequisite for building trust, team leaders and team members must:

1) Have clear, consistent goals. I've said this before -- that a clear, acknowledged sense of where the team is going is essential not only in giving a clear sense of direction, but as a foundation for trust. If you don't know where you're going, that's probably exactly where you'll end up.

2) Be open, fair, and willing to listen. The more open, fair, and willing to listen individuals are, the more they are likely to receive the trust of others (both on and off the team). Fairness must be built into the conversation. People need to hear the word "fair" come out of your mouth.

3) Be decisive. Nothing sucks the air out of a team faster than having outcomes that need to be achieved when no one is making any decisions to draw nearer to those outcomes. Particularly the person or persons "supposed" to be making those decisions. Are you a fan of frightening truisms? Try this on for size: when it comes to building trust, even a bad decision is better than no decision.

4) Support all other team members. Loyalty is the linchpin of building team trust. You back each other up, especially in a fight. Internal fighting sometimes happens. When it does, you don't broadcast your dirty laundry to others. You protect team members from becoming victims of nonteam-member abuse. You stick together.

5) Take responsibility for team actions. This is a hard one for some team members to get. If something goes wrong, you don't point fingers; you take personal responsibility for the actions of the team as a whole. Blamestorming (finger pointing) destroys the very fiber of the team.

6) Give credit to other team members. Albert Einstein offered this choice piece of wisdom: "Nothing is yours until you give it away." This means that if it's acknowledgment you want, be generous with what you have done.

7) Be sensitive to the needs of other team members. Work is hard. It can be tiring, frustrating, often painful. So we appreciate it when teammates indicate that they understand the pressures, and sympathize. This also means eliminating the cute little barbs that we like to throw at one another in jest. It isn't all that funny when you're under pressure.

8) Respect the opinions of others. Not everyone sees the world the same way; in fact, no one does. Other team members may come up with ideas that you think are the craziest things you've ever heard uttered by another human being. That doesn't make them crazy or deserving of disrespect because their opinion differs from yours. The best teams are made up of people with the biggest diversity of perceptions, who first learn to understand and value the opinions and views of others.

9) Empower team members to act. Team members cannot be empowered to act; they must empower themselves. As a team member, however, you can help create an atmosphere in which other team members feel free to take risks, and to take action toward the completion of tasks. Have more to add to the list? Go ahead - good idea, add your own strategies. We need to keep thinking about this building of trust.
About the Author
A world class speaker, author, and educator, Dr. Robbins focuses on transformational leadership by providing leadership skill training, team building / team leadership training, management development training, and executive coaching. See more on http://www.harveyrobbins.com.
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