Building Trustworthy Relationships at Work

I recently worked with a client and the questions he had were around building trustworthy relationships at work which got me thinking…

Who do you trust?

And more importantly, why do you trust one person and not another? Like love, trust is amorphous. You can’t touch it, smell it or see it. Yet, most of the time you know by your feelings if someone is playing you for a fool or acting in your best interests.

A large component of leadership development and effective team building has to do with building trustworthy relationships at work.

Here is a recent email I received asking for a strategy session around this complex area of trust and I might add telling the truth.

Here is a bird’s eye view of my conversation with a very smart and successful CEO who was just told his team felt that trust was lacking in the organization.

The story:

David was confused and disgusted when we talked. He thought that by having a compelling vision, innovative insights, and a solid work strategy his team was rocking it.

However, when they finally told him (at a recent off-site) the only way to please him and have solid job assurance was to show their happy faces and never argue. They didn’t really trust each other, it was all about performance and saying the right thing at the right time.

It took some deep digging for them to tell him that, yes, they were, in fact, afraid of him. They respect him and yet, much of their behavior was for show and they tended to internalize their feelings rather than be open and honest.

David wondered as we talked if it is even possible to be open and honest when salaries and a bonus are at stake.

Here is his new strategy after we talked and dissected his concerns:

Trust must be earned over time and it takes time. The bedfellow with trust is the truth. It is only by telling your clear and concise truth that trust develops.

Here is what David learned in our time together: Telling the truth is NOT spilling your guts. Let me say this once more, telling the truth is not spilling your guts.

Trust can also be pushed aside if real feelings are shoved aside so everyone can look happy and no deep conflicts are ever addressed.

David, began to see that underneath the best-laid plans, underneath the most comprehensive numbers, there is always, always an emotional component that must be considered.

Being a leader and inspiring trust means giving up control. It means searching for meaning that is above and beyond the mistakes and disappointments that come with the territory of relationships at work. It means listening and interacting with others using the tools of communication to find solutions.

Among other action items, I suggested two books for David: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together by William Isaacs.

These are amazing books I think all of you would love. And if you have an issue with building trustworthy relationships at work (or want to my help with seeing new possibilities for yourself) and want a strategy session this summer is a great time to connect.

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Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options