We talk about how important building trust is for a team to work effectively together, but sometimes the actions required to meet that goal aren’t as clear as we’d like. And as our busy, chaotic days go by, we tend to default to getting stuff done.
These five practices are practical ways to build trust while also allowing you to get stuff done — because you can work them into your daily interactions. As you put just a little extra thought into each conversation you have, you will be surprised how much you can improve the energy and communication on your team. Depending on your efforts, you could see results in as little as a month!
1. Reveal Your Agenda
If part of your agenda is self-serving, you should reveal that too. Mistrust usually shows up as suspicion about a suspected hidden agenda. And most people will suspect a self-serving agenda whether you mention it or not. If you are clear about your agenda, people won’t have to waste time and energy trying to figure you out, and they might even support your self-serving agenda, especially if they can negotiate some help in return.
Here are some examples of ways you might reveal an agenda:
“This project has great potential to strengthen the company’s brand image, and it will also give me a chance to highlight the work my team has been doing. I’d love to collaborate with your department and extend the recognition to your team. If we share resources and get the teams excited and working together towards such a highly visible win – it will increase everyone’s confidence and engagement.”
“I was wondering if you’d be willing to share anything you might know about the Johnson deal. I’m trying to figure out how it relates to the Brown deal that I am working on – since there may be some synergies or some conflicts of interest that I would want to make sure to get resolved up front.”
“I know you and I are up for the same promotion. If I get it, it will mean a lot to me, and I’ll need your support. If you get it, I imagine I may feel resentful for a period of time. But I’ll need to support you in order for us both to be successful. I was wondering if you want to talk about this now, so we can maintain as good a relationship as possible, no matter who gets the job?”
2. Find a Positive Intention
One of the worst sources of miscommunication is the assumption that when someone’s behavior affects us negatively, it was done with full knowledge and ill intent. You’ll hear people say “he threw me under the bus,”…. “she knows how to push my buttons,”….or “he just wants to keep harping on this.” It’s important to understand that people don’t behave the way they do because of you; they behave the way they do because of the thoughts in their heads – usually problems they are trying to solve or goals they are trying to achieve. And when they are stressed out, (which most people are) they aren’t always going to choose the most effective behaviors.
If you can make a practice of looking for the positive intention behind the behaviors of others, you will understand them better, and react to the negative effects of their behavior less strongly or frequently. This doesn’t mean you have to accept negative behavior. Instead, this approach gives you the power to be less impacted by the drama of the behavior and empowers you to address issues with calm confidence.
3. Apologize – Whether you are Right or Wrong
There are many times when you will unintentionally upset or offend someone, simply because you are tired or not thinking carefully. Often the best decisions for your organization will make life difficult for individuals on the team. Your job isn’t to make everyone happy, or to be perfect in all your interactions. But when you discover that you’ve hit a nerve, the act of apologizing is often the most positive thing you can do to help the situation. It’s not an admission of wrongdoing — unless you did, in fact, do something wrong. Instead, it’s more an acknowledgement of another person’s position.
Here are some examples of genuine apologies:
“Wow, I understand how you could have come to that conclusion and I’m sorry that I wasn’t clearer about my intentions. When I made that decision, here’s what I was thinking….”
“I was so stressed at the time that didn’t realize you would see my comments as demeaning, and I’m sorry for how I handled this…”
“This will be a difficult adjustment for you and I apologize for putting you through it, but I also believe you will rise to the occasion and do a great job.”
4. Talk about Behaviors not Characteristics
Imagine you overheard someone talking about you in the next office. If you heard, “she is so inconsiderate of other people,” how would you feel?
What if, instead you heard, “I’m having a hard time dealing with the way she interrupts my conversations” – would you feel differently?
In both cases you probably wouldn’t feel great – but I bet there is a huge difference between the first and the second scenarios. This is because in the first scenario the person talking about you is using a characteristic (inconsiderate) to describe you, and that is a judgment on the kind of person you are. In the second scenario you are getting specific information about your behaviors without any judgment about you personally. This makes it easier to hear the feedback and think about changing the described behavior.
5. Give Specific, Positive Feedback and Give it Often
Whether or not you are currently a manager, you can make a huge positive impact giving people specific and positive feedback — relating to how their behaviors are having a positive impact on you or the organization. If you are a manager, doing this on a daily basis helps you think about people in terms of their behaviors, not their characteristics, and makes it much easier for you to give negative feedback when issues arise. If you are not a manager, this is a great way to build a strong network within your organization and get support from others when you need it. People appreciate being appreciated and want to collaborate with people who value their contributions.
Here are some examples of positive feedback:
“I so appreciate how you get back to me within a day of when I e-mail you. I know you are busy just like the rest of us, with hundreds of e-mails. The fact that I can rely on you to get back to me makes me want to work on projects with you, because I know we’ll be able to get them done together.”
“I noticed that you took extra time to wipe off the counters in the kitchen and throw away trash after people left from lunch. Not only does it keep our common area nice, but it shows that you are willing to step in and help out with tasks that aren’t necessarily your responsibility. This willingness is critical when we have peer teams working on interdepartmental projects.”
It doesn’t matter what you notice, as long as you verbalize it in behavioral terms and show what the positive impact of that behavior is. The more you notice people doing things right and acknowledge them for it while also reinforcing how their behavior helps the team, the more you’ll notice people repeating those behaviors. With every observation you make out loud, you influence behavior, and over the course of just a few weeks, you could see a significant difference.As you can see, these five practices can be done during the normal course of your business day. By making them a regular habit, they actually save you time on the back end.
When you start with an honest approach, assume the positive, take ownership as needed, and reinforce positive behaviors — you’ll find you’re able to build a strong and trusting team with less effort and with better outcomes!