Trust: The foundation for an Ally Relationship


During a recent keynote presentation the participant discussed one of the key themes from Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships – the ‘Four Yeses’, four critical questions that underpin every interaction, social and professional.
The four questions are

  • Can I count on you?
  • Can I depend on you?
  • Do I care about you?
  • Do I trust you?

These four questions are fundamental to developing Ally Relationships. However it’s a two-way street. It’s not enough for you to think of your colleagues and be able to answer ‘yes’. How do your colleagues answer when they think of what it’s like to work with you?

While all four questions are important, it was the fourth question, “Do I trust you?” that prompted a lot of discussions. The conference participants agreed that trust is most important, the critical question that is the foundation that underpins every single professional relationship. Whether it’s the boss-employee relationship, peer-to-peer relationships or employee-boss relationship. Without trust you will struggle to develop an Ally Relationship.

What is trust and how long does it take to build it?

To be a ‘yes’ to question #4? During the Q&A conversation that followed the keynote one of the leaders this question.  Unfortunately there is no formula that guarantees that after x days, y minutes, z seconds you will have a trust-based relationship. Trust is something that is both given and earned.

However, we all know when trust is broken. One of the first symptoms might be that we inwardly roll our eyes when the other person speaks in a meeting, or when we go home we complain to the dog or our significant other “You won’t believe what happened at work today! What [insert name] said or did!” When trust is broken performance suffers. Toxic behaviors infect the team, backstabbing, fear of making mistakes cause otherwise smart individuals to hesitate in taking action, candor and debate become stifled and as a result creativity and innovation suffers.

When trust is high we see teams that exceed expectations, where healthy competition is rife, team members look forward to coming to work, look for ways to improve processes and systems, anticipate needs and share warnings of potential disaster so that course corrections can be made. As a result engagement is high.

What does trust look and feel like?

At work we are perceived as someone who can be trusted based on our words and actions. The challenge with trust is that it while it can take time earn, it can easily be lost in an instant. You know you are trusted when others:

  • Share their concerns, and ask for your coaching and support
  • Talk about the success of the team with you and others outside of the team.
  • Celebrate the team’s success and acknowledge individual contributions where appropriate.
  • Identify mistakes and don’t try to hide them because they’re treated as learning opportunities, not as opportunities to punish.
  • Provide feedback that’s two-way and balances ‘do more’ with ‘do differently’. We don’t softsoap the message.
  • Bring warnings of impending disaster, and then discuss them to identify potential solutions or an alternative course of action.
  • Demonstrate accountability – for their own actions, and in holding others accountable to their commitments. Others don’t drop the ball or make excuses.
  • We are allies and have each other’s backs on the good days and especially tough days.

You know you trust others when you:

  • Don’t feel the need to ‘check up on progress’. When a commitment is made the other person will follow through.
  • Know you only have to pick up the phone and ask to have others rally around to help you achieve a tough deadline.
  • Provide feedback that others need to hear, and not just what they want to hear.
  • Listen to feedback from others that you need to hear, but may not want to hear
  • Encourage candor and debate in your meetings, you are having the right conversations at the right level, with the right people, and are not caught in the weeds and minutea.
  • Are able to work things out when they don’t go to plan. No drama, no retribution
  • Are open with your hopes and fears, and are authentic with each other and don’t feel the need to wear a mask at work.
  • When you choose to be an Ally and have your colleague’s back at all times.

Your Relationship Insight

What would you add to the list? What does trust look and feel like to you? A final thought, as you seek to build trust, to help others to trust you, have you considered that building trust isn’t about the other person. Building trust starts with you. Are you willing to give trust?

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