Jeff Marquez recently authored this article on Trust on LinkedIn.
When you are asked a question and are uncertain of the answer, frustrated, or are short on time, how do you respond? We all have short-circuited answers that allow us to respond and move on. Or so we think. These so-called default answers—“Let’s talk,” “We’ll have an answer soon,” “Don’t ask, just get it done”—can damage the trust between mid-leaders and Team members. While these default answers might allow a leader to provide a response quickly, they can unintentionally send signals of uncertainty and mistrust to the receiver. Put yourself on the receiving end of these defaults and consider the feelings and anxiety they may create:
1. Let’s talk—uncertainty. Is this positive or negative? How should the employee prepare?
2. We’ll have an answer soon—ambiguous. Is soon next week? A month?
3. Don’t ask, just get it done—lack of confidence, trust, and value in the Team member.
Provide context and drive meaning to motivate people. Experts say it takes five hundred milliseconds, or half a second, for sensory information from the outside world to incorporate into conscious experience. So, we can still get an answer out quickly, but if we take a few extra seconds to be more transparent, we can change the meaning of these defaults and bring clarity, understanding, and commitment to our work. Consider how the three defaults from above, but now with context, change the feeling:
1. Let’s talk about this at 4 p.m. I like your idea of involving the staff because it gives them ownership of the process—You specify why you like the idea, you set the expectation for time, and the employee feels valued.
2. We have not decided yet but will by the end of the day on Wednesday—You are honest about not having decided and have set expectations so that the Team member has a clear idea of how to proceed.
3. Here is what we thought when we made the decision—The Team member is going to have a better understanding of the conditions and will likely give their best work because they feel like they are part of the team, trusted, and valued.
Trust comes from words and actions, but it must be felt by others to resonate. Take the few extra seconds to be transparent, honest, and only promise what you can deliver. Think about the work environments this crisis has created with back-to-back virtual meetings and online overload and consider how these conditions impacted your organization. Think about what is before us as we enter the renewal and new opportunities. Do what you can to remove uncertainty. Invest those few seconds to help your people feel trust.