Leadership insight #10 / 2022: Trust: How to build more trust at work
16 June 2022
Trust is fundamental to building strong relationships. It supports us to talk about difficult things and to take risks when the path is unclear and uncertain. In leadership, trust is one of the core building blocks upon which good relationships are built. Trust enables effective collaboration and cooperation that are so essential for providing complex care over time. Trust is foundational leadership capital.
Leaders need their team to trust them, and they need to trust their team. Regardless of whether you ‘hold’ a leadership position or not, to take leadership – to engage others, make a suggestion, make a decision, ask for support – you are doing so based on others and your relationship with them. You are saying – I want, need, or must work with you, and I want and need your support – to join me in this task. We can bring greater quality to our professional relationships if we can build trust. We can build this foundational capital to enhance the meaning and effectiveness in our collaborative relationships at work.
Researchers Frei and Morriss (2020) argue that trust has three core drives: authenticity, logic, and empathy. “People tend to trust you when they believe they are interacting with the real you (authenticity), when they have faith in your judgement and competence (logic), and when they feel that you care about them (empathy)”.
So how do we show authenticity, logic, and empathy at work?
Authenticity: How do you show the real you?
- Know yourself – your values, your purpose at work – why you do what you do. Having clear knowledge of this will help you share this in the way you talk and act at work.
- Share a little about yourself – interests, family, what you did on the weekend. It’s not Facebook, there’s no need for oversharing or overly positive moments – just that you went for a walk, made coffee, watched TV.
- This doesn’t mean bring your whole self to work – it’s important to be aware of boundaries and stay professional in your role, as well as being yourself.
Logic: How do you show you are competent and reliable?
- Have you reflected on your strengths and weaknesses – are you confident about what you’re good at and what you need to work on?
- Ask questions during meetings and discussions to show you’re engaged, and aware of issues and willing to learn.
- Ask for help – if people know that you will ask when you’re unsure or need support, then it’s easier to delegate work and difficult tasks.
Empathy: How do you show you care?
- Check in on your team: Say hello, ask them how they are (if you mean it), and make sure that you take time to listen to anything they share with you (and don’t ask if you don’t have the time to stay present and listen).
- Remember things about people and what they care about – make connections when you talk with them.
- Think about what opportunities at work are available for their learning and development and career opportunities and talk about them when you can.
The authors end with a big question: Do you trust yourself? Bit of a doozy really! They follow up with the 3 parts:
“Are you honest with yourself ….? …. Do you acknowledge your own needs and attend properly to them? …Do you lack conviction in your own ideas and ability to perform?”
Yes. They are big questions. But so important for us to think about.
In leadership it’s important to do your own reflective thinking on who you are and how you take up leadership at work, and it’s important not to ask others to do things you wouldn’t do yourself. So, think about how trustworthy you feel to yourself, and then think about small ways you can reach out to others to share a bit more of yourself at work to develop stronger relationships – who you are, what you know, and that you care about them.
Consistency is key – Make small contributions, every day, every week.
Dr Anna Clark (PhD)
AMA Victoria Leadership consultant and coach
Dr Anna Clark is AMAVs Leadership consultant, coach and educator, currently offering individual coaching for doctors and directing the AMA’s professional development programs in leadership, the Emerging Leader Program and Middle Leader Program.
- Frei and Morriss (2020). Begin with Trust | Harvard Business Review.