Why you can’t build trust

One of the biggest challenges in the workplace is building trust amongst teams. Even more of a challenge when there is trust, but then for some reason it is broken.  Well, actually, lets expand this. It is not just in the workplace. It is about trust in any relationship between human beings.

When I work with business owners and leaders invariably building trust comes up at some stage. Building trust within their teams, or building trust as a leader. It is an important element of productive, healthy and happy relationships.

When we talk  about building or having trust we each seem to accept that ‘trust’ is a thing we can have. But what does it really mean to ‘trust’?  Baroness Onora O’Neill who is a philosopher focusing on international justice and the roles of trust and accountability in public life says that it is not about having more ‘trust’ rather it is about being trustworthy.

As  she discusses in her short video below there  are different contexts for ‘trusting’ people. For example, you might trust someone to perform a certain task, but you wouldn’t ‘trust’ the same person to do a different task.  It is necessary to differentiate trust from context then.

Another aspect of trust is that it is given by other people. You can’t rebuild (trust) what others have given you.  You have to demonstrate your trustworthiness.

So how to you demonstrate trustworthiness? There are three elements.

  • Competence – is this person competent to perform the task/role required?
  • Reliability – can you rely on them to do what they say they will do?
  • Honesty – are they honest?

If these are 3 measures of being worthy of trust, what other evidence might you see ?

Onora O’Neill asserts that displaying vulnerability is evidence of trustworthiness. You see many examples of this where companies might  provide a money back, no questions asked policy. In other words they are being ‘vulnerable’ , they are exposed or ‘open’

Next time you are pondering how to build a tighter team, one that each member is trust worthy and therefore has been ‘given’ trust by others think about those 3 elements. Think too about the context these 3 elements  are within, that is, the values of the team or organisation.  You can start to get some really clear measures and possibly even KPI’s that each person understands and knows how to ‘be’ vs. ‘do’

Take a few minutes now to listen to Onora O’Neill’s talk.

How are you and your team demonstrating trustworthiness?

Gai Foskett is one of two Master Certified Coaches in New Zealand. Gai specialises in executive leadership coaching.
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