Building Trust is Hard, Breaking Trust is Easy

One of the key components of becoming an effective manager is understanding the importance of trust. That’s pretty obvious. But writing about it wasn’t that easy. The members of Nomadic’s content team and I have had some awesome conversations about trust, and below is a little snippet from our new Trust module.

Trust is a complex topic, but it is rooted in a very simple principle: do what you say you’re going to do.

As we interact with each other over time, we come to have an expectation about whether certain people “keep their word.” If people consistently do what they say they’re going to do, or quickly affirm their commitments if something goes wrong, our trust in them gets stronger. If, on the other hand, they consistently behave differently than they have promised, if they miss deadlines or fail to make payments or deliver subpar work, our trust disappears quickly.

And that is the great paradox of trust: it is hard to build and easy to break. It takes time to see if someone really keeps their commitments. Following through on one thing, even an important thing, does not make you trustworthy. But a failure to follow through on just one thing, especially an important thing, can make you untrustworthy.

Managers have a unique and critical role to play in building trust on their teams. Whether we have teams that work efficiently and cohesively, or teams that are totally unproductive and run on gossip and intimidation, we earn the credit or deserve the blame.

We’re in charge of trust on two levels. First, we have to build and maintain trust between ourselves and each member of our teams. And second, we have to cultivate a team culture that encourages everyone to trust each other.

If our teams can’t trust us to be consistent and respectful, they’ll start to think they can only succeed by fighting for themselves. Their lack of trust in us will morph into a lack of trust in each other. And things will go from bad to worse very quickly.

After a Core Concept like this, we ask learners to respond with their thoughts and experiences. So how about yours? How do you experience trust on your team? Do you build it, does it matter to you?