Repair the Trust Deficit

Wednesday 03.26.13Even the most experienced managers and leaders will suffer a trust deficit if they fail to communicate well with their team. Faulty communication is a big reason that lack of perceived trustworthiness exist in bosses.

And in the work I do coaching people in organizations,, it doesn’t take much to fuel the flames of mistrust.

Business professors Lynn Offermann and Lisa Rosh urge leaders to do a better job of opening up to people in a June 2012 Harvard Business Review article,

“Studies indicate that senior leaders who reveal something about their lives outside the office do so without undermining their authority,” they write, while cautioning against excessively intimate disclosures.

Offermann and Rosh offer the following tips for a balanced approach to “skillful self-disclosure”:

  • •             Open up. During the course of your workday, squeeze in an sporadic spontaneous conversation with a subordinate about interests other than work, such as children’s activities, restaurants, sports, movies and the like. Share a glimpse into your personal life while taking time to listen.
  • •             Empathize. Offer brief, personal replies of important events in employees’ lives, such as additions to family, marriage, family death and serious illness. Share how a similar event impacted your life without overshadowing the employee’s circumstance.
  • •             Remain professional. Share information that enhances the work relationship, yet doesn’t harm your reputation. Exercise discretion; avoid over sharing.

“There is considerable evidence that leaders who disclose their authentic selves to followers can build not only trust, but generate greater cooperation and teamwork as well”.

When you think about it,  this really does make sense. If all a leader does is communicate corporate information in one direction to staff, there’s not much of a relationship established. What’s that saying about people not caring what you say unless you show you care?

Communication is always a two way street, even if only one person is doing all the talking. Your non-verbal expressions matter, and so does your ability to open up, empathize and act like a real human being.


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