Five Ways to Build Distrust

There are certain core leadership principles that run deep in leading well, and one is trust. Trust doesn’t just happen. Although trust should be second nature, the reality is trust takes effort. This isn’t an effort in a time-consuming way but in a fully-engaged leading way. In fact, distrust is easier to do and may be why leaders fall into this trap. Some leaders are just lazy. The result: They build distrust.

5 ways to build distrust

Here are five ways someone builds distrust within an organization.

1 - Send a detailed list of tasks before a project begins.

As we take on a new project (large or small), we receive an email detailing out all the steps we need to take as if we are some incapable fool who needs to be told what to do and not do. Some call this micro-managing. For me, it is worse. Sending detailed lists of what to do signifies unwarranted distrust. The detailed list assumes someone will be error-prone even before they take the first step forward.

2 - Thank someone only for insignificant things worked on.

In tenuous working relationships, we receive the tepid gratitude on very small things. Receiving this limited gratitude is like getting a ribbon for participation. No one wants to be thanked for just showing up and then ignored for the bigger achievements done. For the person delivering the small words of gratitude, they want to feel like they are saying "I trust you" yet they are really saying "You can do the small things well but not the big things."

3 - Host a brainstorming session so only your ideas can be adopted.

A big meeting is scheduled to brainstorm new ideas on how to resolve a problem or undertake an initiative. The reality of the situation is the one calling the "brainstorming" session is just calling a session to validate their ideas. No real brainstorming actually occurs. These sessions are just tense re-hashing of old ideas, ones that certain leaders may be more comfortable.

4 - Change the team's direction when the manager is out of the office.

The ultimate distrust is when another manager changes a team's direction or introduces a new approach when the team's manager is out of the office. Distrust is abound, along with undercutting the credibility of the manager. Sucking the credibility out of another leader is worse than firing them.

5 - Talk endlessly at someone.

Conversations are two-way. For some though, conversations are an opportunity to lecture. These "talks" happen under the guise of a conversation but they are really just lecture time. Remember the old ad of a guy sitting in front of a speaker with his hair blowing from the sound of a Maxell cassette tape? This is what I mean. Distrust is built in one-way lectures promoted as a conversation.

Warning: Please don’t do these things! The costs of leading your organization will skyrocket and, ultimately, you will fail. Instead, heed the warning and:

  1. Empower people in trust as projects get underway
  2. Exhibit gratitude in large and small achievements
  3. Let ideas flourish from all levels
  4. Support managers in their growth and leadership capabilities
  5. Listen to understand

Trust is a leadership imperative

The message is simple.

Don’t be a lazy leader.

Be a leader centered in trust.

Build trust even when it is challenging to do so.

As leaders, we need to set the trust example in all we do and say. Building trust is about working within and between generations. What could be more important?

Just remember. Building distrust saps the spirit out of all involved. Leading with trust sparks the spirit in all.

How do you build and empower trust within organizations?

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