Some expert advice on gaining organizational trust
Take a moment and ask yourself, what is your definition of trust and how do you know when you are trusted?
Did the answers come quickly, or not? If you don’t have a ready definition, don’t worry, most people don’t. It’s just one of those things that we have an impression about. We know it when we feel it. Here’s the bad news. It’s hard to know when you are trusted and even harder to know how to build it. And on average, we need to earn a lot more trust than what we currently have. The good news? It’s possible to earn trust with the right plan.
What’s that you ask? Doesn’t ‘planning for trust’ sound Machiavellian? I can imagine that it must, but here’s more good news. The plan not only can help you build trust, but it can also help you make a few friends along the way. The same tactics you use to build trust, are some of the same you might use to build relationships and gain friends. The problem is that we leave too much to chance and we don’t always know what works. Don’t do that. Instead, do this:
- Understand the context in which you want to earn trust. If you are a CIO working on getting a seat at the table or build out a digital transformation plan, that context is far different than the context of traditional IT and how you may have built your brand so far.
- Recognize that trust is developed based on your expertise and knowledge within that context.
- Acknowledge that trust is also developed based on the rapport and relationships you build accordingly.
Trust is contextual
The determination of trustworthiness happens within a particular context. A pediatrician is someone trusted to treat a sick child, but not to manage a problematic investment portfolio. A CIO and their team may have built trust in the context of building and running robust and predictable back-office IT systems, but they may be untrusted to create innovative and flexible solutions for end consumers. Paradoxically, past success is not an indication of future success. Studies have shown that people who have been successful in the past are actually more likely to perform worse in a new context. They can become overconfident and less open to feedback.
Trust is a measure of expertise and rapport
CIOs may try to develop trust by first demonstrating expertise in all things digital. However, unlike consultants or contractors, who are external parties and can rely on expertise alone (part of an open social system), the CIO must rely on expertise plus rapport (part of a closed social system), but rapport leads the way. Focusing on expertise can diminish perceptions of warmth. Instead of coming across as an expert, CIOs risk coming across as overconfident or arrogant. Building rapport requires empathy, listening, curiosity, and genuine interest. Compare that to how one demonstrates expertise using logic, opinions, and arguments. It is wiser to have built some rapport before asserting opinions and arguments.
Author: Ed Gabrys