This post is the second in our 3-part series called “Building Trust at Work”, with Chris Brogan. Chris is president of Human Business Works, providing business, communications and emerging technology strategy for mid- to large-sized businesses. He blogs regularly at chrisbrogan.com.
Bestselling author Charles H. Green wrote the book on trust. His seminal work with David Maister, The Trusted Advisor, taught countless business professionals how to go beyond simply booking billable hours with clients to instead provide them much, much more. He, along with Andrea Howe, recently released The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, which further explores the concept of how leaders in organizations work with trust. So who better to talk with about how to build trust at work than Charles? After all, trust is one of the core elements behind successful efforts to launch remote and distributed employee programs.
According to Green, there are 4 pillars of trust. Through his work in surveying many leaders and stakeholders from companies of varying sizes and industries, he’s discovered that workshifting success takes credibility, reliability, intimacy and low self-orientation.
Credibility makes sense without much explanation. If you aren’t very credible (people won’t take your word for things), then there’s not enough trust to allow you to work on a project-centric basis. To repair credibility, simply make small commitments and keep them. If you miss a commitment, own up immediately, and then take extra steps to do even better.
Reliability is also clearly important. If you’re being counted on to do the work, do it. But the way we express reliability is another matter altogether. Sometimes, we feel that being responsive – answering email within a few minutes – is the same. It’s not. That just means you’re easily distracted from your important work.
Other times, leaders feel that “butts in chairs” is the only measure of reliability. That’s equally as wrong. The goal here is to build up trust by delivering within certain parameters and by keeping that level of quality going. If credibility is about doing what you say you’ll do, then reliability is about doing it in a way that people can count on.
Intimacy is a strange word when thinking about work relationships. In this case, it’s a mix of being attentive to details (an intimate relationship with the work at hand) and to the needs of the people related to the project.
If your boss needs morning email briefs to feel comfortable, then intimacy would suggest that you know to help by sending these along without being asked. If you’re working remotely, you miss some of the “hallway chatter,” so your role is to know what’s being said anyway through inquiries to team members. Though you need all 4 pillars according to Green, intimacy strikes me as being one of the most crucial.
Having low self-orientation is one of the areas where people could use more improvement. The idea is that one must be a team- and goal-oriented individual. If you’re to be working remotely and with less supervision, doing your best work from afar with the needs of the company in mind will garner you the trust of your employer and teammates. By focusing on the success of the team and the project, you’re demonstrating a strong level of trustworthiness that isn’t easily faked – and that becomes gold to the leadership at hand.
The 4 pillars of trust, as Green laid them out, make a great deal of sense for people seeking to build a strong relationship between leadership, team members and remote workers. It’s a powerful mix of metrics to consider. If you’re worthy of high marks in all 4, you’ll likely do well.
Check back next week for the 3rd part of our “Building Trust at Work” series.