Assessing Trust in Your Work Relationships

Ed Baldwin Books, Career Advice, Coaching, Culture, Ed Baldwin, Employee Development, Leadership

How do you assess the strength of the working relationships you have with your colleagues, your subordinates, and your boss? 

When I assess the strength of my relationships, it all comes down to trust.  The trust I have in others and the trust they have in me.  If high trust exists in our relationship, then I will seek out opportunities to work with you and our work together falls naturally and comfortably into a highly productive rhythm.  We exchange thoughts and ideas, challenge each other and collaboratively develop solutions.  All of our collective energy goes into the work, not the relationship. 

But if trust doesn’t exist, it’s a completely different story.  Initially I’ll drag my feet to work with you, and I’ll begin finding ways to guard and protect myself.  I’ll spend significant amounts of energy questioning your interests, desires and motives rather than directing my energy into the project we’ve been asked to tackle. 

My approach and the productivity difference is profound.

According to Stephen Covey, “trust is the foundation of everything we do and the key leadership competency of the new global economy.”  I couldn’t agree more. 

So why then is so little time invested on trust in our workplace?  No framework, no vocabulary.  No practical and understandable way to assess it, build it, maintain it, and most importantly repair it when it’s damaged.  After all, all relationships are imperfect. 

Most people (myself included) can’t articulate how strong trust gets built in some relationships and not in others.  Attempted explanations are nothing more than a historical collection of successes or transgressions that lead to our verdict. 

Building trust is important. 

We all need a framework and vocabulary to guide our discussions with those we work, and when I went looking for one, that’s when I met Charles Feltman.  Charles is the author of The Thin Book of Trust.  The book had me at “thin” since I’m not what you would call a voracious reader.  The Thin Book of Trust was just what I was looking for – a simple framework of rich practical content in 64 concise pages.  With lots of pictures.

Stephen Covey’s book The Speed of Trust, while excellent too, is 365 pages long.  Nothing speedy about that. 

According to Charles book there are four primary components of trust:

  • Sincerity – I mean what I say, say what I mean, and act accordingly.
  • Reliability – I meet my commitments and you can count on me to deliver what I say.
  • Competence – I have the ability to do what is being proposed. I have the requisite capacity, skill, knowledge and resources.
  • Care – I have your interests in mind when I make decisions or take actions. 

These four components create a common language for openly discussing trust – the trust you have in others and they have in you.  If all four components exist, then that relationship would be mutually regarded as a high trust relationship.  And when discussing mistrust, these four components allow you to be specific about why trust doesn’t exist.  That specificity is valuable to the other person because it will guide them on how to rebuild trust with you, and vice versa.

Having a common vocabulary about such an important topic in the workplace is invaluable.  It brings the topic of trust out into the open.  And candid and open dialogue is trust-building in itself.  So if you’re struggling with trust in your work relationships I highly suggest picking up a copy of the book.  Reach out to Charles via his website if you want further information and support. 

Any culture and working relationship can benefit from what Charles and his book offers.  Trust me.