by Achim Nowak

4 Everyday Trust Builders

August 1, 2022

In his classic book “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team,” Patrick Lencioni keeps it simple.

Lencioni offers a 5-stage pyramid as a metaphor for how team behaviors frequently play out.

At the top of the pyramid are our business results, or more specifically, our inattention to these results. All the targets that were not met, the projections that were missed. And the attention that was not paid along the way.

In a time of supply chain disruptions, these disruptions will, indeed, cause unmet projections.

In more predictable times, we tend to blame a lack of commitment or accountability on outcomes not met. Not so fast, suggests Lencioni.

The bottom of his pyramid, where it all begins, is trust, or the lack of it. When we don’t trust, we don’t have the critical conversations that need to happen. We don’t fully commit. We don’t hold ourselves or others accountable. We don’t deliver.

A lack of trust dilutes every single business effort.

It derails all other efforts in life.

Remember, teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”

Patrick Lencioni

I am reminded of the importance of trust every time I listen to a business executive address a Town Hall meeting, every time I catch a politician make a public statement in front of a camera, every time a sales person seeks to engage me. I watch, I listen, and I do a gut check:

Can I trust you?

I think about you and me. Our spheres of influence. Our everyday interactions with folks. Colleagues, clients, friends. Our laboratory for everyday leadership.

Can they trust US?

Let’s assume competence, for a moment. Let’s assume that we honor our commitments.

Beyond these 2 C’s, it boils down to consistent behaviors that embody our character, doesn’t it? Behaviors that unambiguously signal that we can be trusted. These signals are transmitted in nanoseconds. Here’s the tricky part. The specific behaviors can be learned. They will, however, always inhibit trust the moment they become rehearsed or faked.

Fake it ‘til you feel it doesn’t work when we seek to build trust.

Here are 4 of those behavioral signals. I think of them as Everyday Trust Builders.

You speak the truth.

You have your own bullshit meter. You keep your own crap in check. The platitudes. The easy responses. Yeah, they often sound good. And folks can tell when you’re running on automatic pilot.

You understand context and know what to say when. When there are things you can’t divulge, you don’t pretend to be transparent. You acknowledge that there are things you can’t talk about. You stay real even when you have to be strategic. That is speaking your truth. You don’t avoid it with pretty talk.

You shut up.

You invite conversation. In conversation, you let others talk. You listen to the words they say. To the deeper meaning behind the words. You don’t fake-agree. You don’t fake-listen. You give evidence that you have listened AND understood. If you don’t understand, you ask for clarification. You engage with sincere curiosity.

You appreciate.

You appreciate folks at every organizational level. The attendant in the parking garage. The receptionist. The new hire. The accountant who is retiring after 30 years of service. The Head of the Board. Your competitor.

Your appreciation doesn’t hide in your thoughts, it is actively expressed. It is expressed not with clichés and platitudes. Your every word and action explicitly show that you have noticed, and that your appreciation is heartfelt.

You are FULLY present.

That means you show up on time. Show up mentally prepared. Show up with heart and mind intact. You don’t pretend to not have feelings. Yes, you show up undiminished, as the whole person that you truly are, beyond the confines of your job function.

We don’t remember our Everyday Trust Builders only on a good day. We remember them on a tiring day, on a frustrating day, on the occasional day from hell. Yes, every day.

The more we remember, the sweeter our interactions become.

The day from hell becomes a sweeter day from hell.

The shift happens nanosecond by nanosecond. We just need to remember.

Our world gives us lots of reasons to be cynical and distrust. Be a trust-builder. Remember your trust-building behaviors, one nanosecond at a time.

Trust will unfold in delectable ways.

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