Have you ever wondered about the point when trust begins to erode? In nearly every moment of every day we filter our communication through our personal truth spectrum, which is influenced by our lived experiences and perspectives of the world around us. For the sake of a mental break, think about the last time you lied…including when you told someone “good morning” knowing it’s Monday and your mind hasn’t fully committed to another work week. For me, I confidently told someone I was ready to head to a meeting, knowing that I wanted to finish writing an email, file a document, check my phone, and get a drink. If you’re like me, some days you just smile and go with the safe response, but on other days, it’s easier to be direct, even when it is unexpected.
While I respect the person that responds to the age old question of “does this make me look fat?” with “yes, it actually does, you should probably go with something else…”, I also recognize that there can be a lot of fear associated with the repercussions of such as truthful statement.
Whether it’s professional or personal, there is no place on the truth spectrum that is safe from scrutiny. People who are too transparent are considered untrustworthy and disloyal because they can’t keep a secret, while those who share nothing are viewed the same because they’re stingy with information. Furthermore, we judge others based on our own spectrum without acknowledging that 50% of the problem begins with oneself, typically beginning with our bias perception.
Rather than trying to work on impacting other’s truth spectrum, I challenge you to work on enhancing trust within your organization. As professionals, we should recognize that we won’t always have access to every conversation, piece of information, or personal perspective that is shared, but we should acknowledge the intent of why the information was shared or withheld from us. It is also important to be self-aware enough to recognize when circumstances negatively impact trust within your work environment. This is equally important for employees and supervisors because it contributes to how your words and actions align, which ultimately contribute to your brand.
Personally I believe that transparency is an important professional development tool that builds rapport, increases one’s knowledge bank, and contributes to overall success, but I also recognize the risk associated with this mindset. Regardless of your approach, it is important to understand that it is challenging to find the right balance. There spectrum of truth is filled with risks, often influenced by perception, past experiences, and misunderstandings, but a working environment infused with a common trust can help organizations overcome these challenges.
Here are some strategies to enhance trust in your organization:
- Take ownership of who you are. Our actions are influenced by our experiences and perceptions of the world around us, which can be great, but terrible too. Be honest with yourself about your habits, how others perceive them, and how they influence the environment around you. Sometimes the results will be positive, but other times the dose of reality will be humbling.
- Provide context. Some people choose to not share every detail, while others don’t process information through a detailed lens, but it is important to provide context in conversations so others understand how and why the information shared is relevant. This approach places parameters on the thought process and allows for better application towards the common goal.
- Place humanity before task. While it is important to set common goals, it is also important to recognize that we are people first. Start with hellos, connect with please, and end with thank yous. When we remember that we are people first, it creates an environment where grace can be applied and those around you recognize that when it comes to achieving a common goal, we are all equal, regardless of title. Furthermore, this job, these goals, and your challenges will likely outlast you which means we are all replaceable.
- Expand your knowledge bank. Active listening is an important strategy to building trust, but I believe the expansion of knowledge is even more important. Knowledge is power and if we prevent others from sharing and contributing to the narrative, we risk stifling the development of ourselves and others. While it is important to achieve the goals set within your department, there is nothing wrong with understanding how the entire organization works and how your piece contributes to the larger body. It we tell students to dream big, there is nothing wrong with you attempting to learn how to run your institution.
- Pay attention to non-verbals. While you can’t influence the way others think, you can influence their perceptions. Take inventory of non-verbals among your team, as well as your own, and find effective ways to address them. Most people will only address negative behavior, but I recommend that you also recognize positive behavior that advances the group forward. Furthermore, refer back to step one (take ownership of who you are) to recognize your personal bias. Sometimes that people that frustrate you the most are those that either catapult you to the next level or serve as a reminder of a part of your personality you haven’t figured out how to manage.