Building trust

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about trust recently.  I’m asking a group of people who don’t know me to accept my leadership when they don’t have to.  So how am I going to manage that?

Here’s what the literature says I should do.

  1. Avoid promises, but if you say you’ll do something, you do it.  Yup, that’s been number 1 for me over the last few years of working in consultancy.  People expect to be let down, and they’re pleasantly surprised if someone does exactly what they’ve said they’ll do.
  2. Listen and show understanding.  That is harder than it sounds.  I’ve found one technique that works – where you create a gap and repeat what the person has said back to them in their own language once, and then repeat it again but this time in your language, with a calm tone of voice.
  3. Work out what matters to them and frame what you’re asking them to do in a way that will help achieve what matters to them, again in their language.
  4. Be open about your own feelings.  I was chary about this until I looked in detail at people round me who seemed to be successful.  What I noticed was high levels of empathy from people who shared their own experiences of change – and who were confident because they’d had those experiences of discomfiture, stress and challenge.  Confidence is needed – you can’t just share feelings of difficulty without that eventually damaging your credibility unless you’re showing the end result of your struggles – that confidence is what will inspire people to go through with change processes semi-willingly.
  5. Small talk is big talk.  Ask questions about family.  Chat about the weather.  Some colleagues have struggled with this, and want to go straight to technical chats, or outcomes, seeing a meandering conversation as pointless.  Small talk gets the meeting off to a good start.  Remember the names of their children, or where they last went on holiday, and your colleague will be impressed at your memory and ready to engage more willingly in your subsequent discussions.  Use humour.  It’s impossible to feel stressed if you’re laughing.
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