Trust in teams is good. As a manager, it’s nice to be trusted and to have people you can trust. So far, so obvious.
But just how important is it? A recent article explored some of the costs when it doesn’t exist, and they’re significant.
In short, if trust doesn’t exist between you and a team member, its absence doesn’t just create a void where everyone’s sad about the lack of trust on the team and moves on. Instead, rather than operating through trust, formal processes will start to creep in to govern your relationship.
For managers, this most often manifests in checking on employees to make sure they’re doing their tasks, and other forms of micromanagement. For team members, this in turn leads to the pressure to be always on and to look busy. At best, this monitoring is a vast waste of everyone’s time. At worst, it can be severely detrimental to mental health.
Last year, the Harvard Business Review reported on a survey which found:
“For those workers reporting low levels of monitoring (less than 2 on a 5-point scale), 7% were often or always anxious when doing their job. But for those reporting high levels of monitoring (more than 4 on a 5-point scale), 49% were often or always anxious when carrying out their job.”
So although it might seem intangible, ask yourself how much you trust your team? If the answer isn’t as high as you’d like, you’re probably compensating with a range of behaviours which could have a negative impact on your team’s performance and wellbeing.
So what’s the solution?
Shane Parrish, who wrote the original article, puts it pretty simply:
“If you want people to trust you, the best place to start is by trusting them. That isn’t always easy to do, especially if you’ve paid the price for it in the past. But it’s the best place to start. Then you need to combine it with repeat interactions, or the possibility thereof.”
We’d agree, but it also depends on regular communication. Tobi Lutke, the CEO of Shopify, has this metaphor of a trust battery which he uses with those he works with.
“I can have a conversation with someone saying, “Hey, you made a commitment to ship this thing, and you did. That's awesome. That's a super big charge on the trust battery, but you’re actually late for every meeting. Even though that's relatively minor—like it decreases 0.1% on your battery—you should fix that.”
Lutke’s not formally keeping track, but just letting people know that trust is important and when something has positively or negatively impacted that.
Kim Scott, author and management coach, described how after making several new hires, the first question one CEO asked her was “How can I build a relationship with each of them quickly, so that I can trust them and they can trust me?” We should all be asking similar questions.