What is the balance of your Trust Account?
At a recent speaking engagement, I shared a practice we do as part of our way of operating our business (EOS®) called Quarterly Check-ins. In a nutshell, I (and anyone with direct reports) have an informal off-site meeting with each of our direct reports. During this meeting, we share what’s working and what’s not working. They are brilliant and have added immense value to our people, our culture and our business.
I warned my audience that if trust was low or absent in their organizations, these meetings would be shallow in the beginning. And then one woman surprised me when asked, “What happens if when I ask what isn’t working, the answer is ‘you’?”
Ouch! Yes this stings, but is also the perfect opportunity to build trust. My response to her was to simply ask (in earnest), “Can you tell me more about that?” Don’t ask for examples or use any other defensive language. And most important-don’t defend yourself. Just listen. This is an incredible opportunity to make a deposit in your trust account with this employee.
I have had many opportunities to speak with other leaders about creating a culture of accountability and results while fostering motivation in the workplace. The conversation always turns to trust.
Trust is the foundation to success in any initiative to improve efficiency, productivity and results in an organization. This is why the foundation of Patrick Lencioni’s pyramid in The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team is trust. Without trust, it is difficult to have meaningful discourse, which then leads to commitment, accountability and ultimately results in your organization. Companies low on trust can achieve results-but it takes a great deal of effort and is emotionally exhausting. Why would anyone want to work that way?
Developing trust is a process. It is important to remember you cannot cultivate trust without first being trustworthy. We as leaders need to invest our time and effort into filling up the trust accounts of our team members, with our words and our actions, consistently. This allows us to have those tough conversations when they arise in a productive and meaningful way. It creates a culture of accountability and risk, clarity and results.
Be patient and disciplined when growing your trust accounts. Give the gift of your time and wisdom. Take a genuine interest in your people to better understand their hopes, concerns and aspirations. Be intentional (as opposed to reactive) in your actions and words to avoid sabotaging your efforts with a single careless action or word that results in huge withdrawals-or worse you may just drain your whole trust account. Be quick to apologize when you overreact or engage in behavior that diminishes your trust account. The benefits to you, your company and your employees will include higher productivity and efficiency, higher morale and increased motivation, and more consistent results. In short-a better bottom line.