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How Much Does Your Team Trust You?

(May 30, 2023 Newsletter)

Myth: When there’s high trust, we’ll never have conflict.

Fact: When there’s high trust, we can resolve conflict faster.

Think of the person you trust most in the world. Do you agree on everything? Of course not. Do you have the ability to talk through differences? Most likely.

At work, as in life, sustaining and rebuilding trust regularly is crucial for teams to function effectively.

Many years ago, my first real boss (and a treasured mentor) sat me down to tell me I was being a sore loser. I was in my early twenties and didn’t realize that I was moping around our team because I didn’t get my way.

Since I knew how much she cared, and because she had created a generous work environment full of nonjudgment, I could quickly move past my initial feeling of defensiveness and hear her feedback for what it was – a tough but loving reflection of a blind spot that was hurting important relationships.

How can you get in the habit of consistently maintaining trust with your team?

Initiate an honest conversation about how much your team currently trusts you.

  1. Give them the BRAVING inventory or the Thin Book of Trust model and explain that you’d like to get a more granular understanding of trust levels on the team in order to strengthen what’s working and improve weaker areas. You want to start by hearing from them.

  2. Ask them to look over one of the models and share in which ways they feel they can really trust you and how you can further develop trust with them.

  3. Get more details by asking for examples. If there are gaps in how you perceive certain situations, try the phrase, “I appreciate your perspective. I remember/see it differently, so tell me more about…”

  4. Wrap up the conversation by committing to one or two specific things you’ll keep doing – from the strengths – and one or two specific things you’ll work on changing.

  5. Before ending the conversation, check for accountability (have you taken responsibility for missteps, apologized, and made a plan for amending your actions?) and reliability (have you only committed to what you’ll actually be able to do? If you’ve overcommitted, circle back and edit ASAP).

What to do when someone violates your trust

  1. Check in with yourself. Name the exact emotion (or array of emotions) that you’re feeling and identify the specific behavior that tipped you off kilter. Most importantly, refer back to the trust components (see links above) and figure out which aspect of trust was violated.

  2. Plan the opening of your conversation. Here’s a sample template: “Yesterday when you [name specific behavior], it led to [name specific outcome]. It made me feel/I interpreted it as [insert subjective lens]. I want us to be able to trust each others’ [component of trust] so rather than ruminate on this for long, I’m bringing it up now so we can resolve it and learn from it together. How did XXX look from your perspective?”

  3. Schedule a time to talk ASAP. This is the only part of the process that should happen in writing. The level of detail you give in the invitation (be it a text, slack message, or email) should vary depending on the frequency of your communication. Whatever you do, don’t send a blank calendar invite and blindside the person.

(If you’re wondering, I put scheduling last in case the person says “I’m free right now.”)

There’s so much more to say about trust, but I’m going to pause here for now.

  • Please reply and share your thoughts on this three-part series (ICYMI, you can read part I on defining trust and part II on establishing trust)

  • If your friends or colleagues would derive value from this newsletter, forward it to them and encourage them to subscribe.


The Coaching Corner

How do you make the switch to talk about a team member’s development or your relationship when you’re used to having very task-oriented conversations?

At first, you may need to schedule a distinct meeting with a clearly laid-out agenda (“Hey, in today’s 1:1 I want to check in on how you’re doing and get feedback about my leadership style”) but with time you can integrate the two kinds of conversations.


Are you “Above the Line” or “Below the Line?” Watch this Youtube video entitled “Location. Location. Location.” by The Conscious Leadership Group to get some shared vocabulary for quickly checking in with your team members’ moods.

“Skin Care: Is Anti-Aging a Scam?” It may seem a bit off topic for our leadership and communications work… but… with summer arriving in the Northern Hemisphere, here’s a fun podcast episode that reminds us (spoiler alert!) to wear sunscreen.


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