Q: I’m not a leader in my team, but my team has low trust and its making it hard for us to work together.  My leader doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it.  What can I do?

A:   That sounds like a tough situation.  You can do a few things. 

First, own your part in the low trust environment.  Think about who you need to build more trust with and think of ways that you might start doing that.  Remember that trust isn’t always a big action – it can be small things, like being more open to listen to people when they share reasons they didn’t make a commitment and offering to help, or offering to figure out ways to help them be more successful. 

Another thing you can do is lead by example.  Assume about others what you would want them to assume about you and your intentions and motivations.  Challenge your own stories about why people are failing to earn your trust, or are actively losing it and think of an alternative that you would be likely to assign to someone that you do trust, like a close friend.  For example:  If your co-worker fails to get something done on time, test your assumptions about that.  Did you think – I knew it – she always misses deadlines, she knows its going to cause extra work for me and she just doesn’t care, she thinks her own stuff is way more important?  If so, turn that around and think about a time you missed a deadline – did your own intentions and motivations match that story you just told about your co-workers intentions?  Think about a more generous way to interpret what happened and let the new, more generous story guide your opinions and actions about your co-worker.  This may sound too simple to work, but when you change your energy and story about someone, the interactions with that person change.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes. 

Lastly – see if you can find time before meetings or after meetings to just chat with your co-workers for a couple minutes – about anything really.  When we spend time getting to know people, we often learn new things about them and those shared moments are moments where trust and connection are built.

What are your experiences with building trust?  Let me know in the comments.


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