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Top Two “Opposing” Trust Challenges for Managers (A Specific Example on How to Engender Trust)

Posted by Dr. Holly Latty-Mann on

While establishing trust between and among managers and others continues as a hot topic, those in the leadership development industry strive to offer as many specific examples as possible to support those managers who are motivated to implement trust-inspiring specifics.

But first, take a look at the following top two “opposing” leadership challenges in managers:  (1) they can be overly protective of their own respective areas while engaging in pushback behaviors with not only their own manager but their senior management teams as well, or (2) they can be harsh on their own direct reports while subservient and compliant with their own manager and management team.

Trust is paramount in leadership and must be equally shared amongst all work associates except in those obvious instances in which sensitive material has been selectively entrusted. When we treat groups of people differently – or play favorites, for that matter – we lose credibility, and trust erodes.

Here is one specific example of how one president engendered trust between himself and his direct reports. I had never encountered it before yesterday until I worked with a management team who months earlier had received feedback from their direct reports and now were interested in receiving peer feedback for comparison. The feedback process allowed everyone to hear anonymously the feedback profiles of their remaining team members; however, the feedback of the president was distinctive in nature and could not be presented anonymously using the same format. What to do?

The evening before the team building retreat, I called the president and explained the situation and asked him if he would be willing to read his feedback out loud in front of everyone.  Keep in mind he had no idea what was in the content of his feedback. Without a moment’s hesitation he said, “Absolutely.”  The following day he did just that. He offered his team transparency along with a commitment to work on those areas brought to his attention. I suggested in front of the team he elicit more specific feedback from everyone to ensure he has a working (operational) definition of what those new behaviors would look like, thereby ensuring his success.

A great leader stood before us that day. He knew he had to show trust to earn trust.

You may ask in light of this topic, could he do that with those beyond his own team members? That issue came up when 15 emergent leaders joined his team following the feedback process. Had there not been sensitive material within that which he read, he would have done so, and he explained the situation to everyone. What happened next was an opportunity for open discussion. Yes, there were some awkward moments, yet everyone agreed that their culture was one that provided safety in expressing concerns. What could have been perceived as a gap between management and non-management members was transformed into a spirit of heightened trust. It is now clear to everyone what must happen to continue growing that culture of trust.

Everyone witnessed when we show trust, we create the opportunity for others to trust us back.