Too often leaders think trust should flow one way: toward them. Instead, leaders should demonstrate trust in their coworkers first. Demonstrating trust is the quickest and best way to engender trust—and find out what one’s coworkers are capable of.
Asking questions can put others on the defensive, but not if the questions demonstrate a genuine interest in the other’s thoughts and opinions. And not if the asker listens intently, reflects back what he’s heard, and acts wisely with the information.
The more leaders ask these questions of their coworkers, the more trust will build in both directions. But trust can shut down just as quickly as it opens up if both parties don’t act upon the information shared with due respect.
One of the reasons leaders avoid asking specific team members certain questions or hardly any questions at all is due to trust. If leaders don’t trust specific coworkers, what’s the point of asking for their input?
It’s a mistake to think of trust in general terms: yes, I trust so-and-so or no, I don’t trust that person.
I’ve identified seven aspects of trust (the 7 C’s) that may explain why leaders’ relationships with direct reports is either succeeding or failing:
- Capability: Has the skill and ability to do their job well
- Commitment: Has the level of desire and focus toward the team’s efforts
- Capacity: Has the time, energy, and personal management skills to complete what needs to be done well and on time
- Connection: Has the resources to complete the work that needs to be done
- Commonality: Shares common interests that help build and extend the relationship
- Consistency: Has a strong track record of success and acts in a predictable fashion
- Character: Has integrity in their work
Questions flourish when trust is present. Often the issues of trust have little to do with the follower and more to do with the leader. Here’s a way to determine if the problem lies with the leader: Do all or most of your direct reports share one or more of these 7 C’s? This commonality likely has more to do with how the leader perceive the world rather than how their coworkers show up in the world. If this is the case, the leader will need to work on underlying assumptions that are incorrect.
Trust is essential to a style of leadership that I call “Just Ask leadership”. Leaders should:
- Delve deeply into the level of trust they have with each team member;
- Work on the C’s that they aren’t excelling in;
- Commend them for the C’s that they do well.