Trust and Communication

Tim Schneider
Leadership Development from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider


(Originally published and written on August 30, 2015) 

I’m going to want you to be honest with me here and honest with yourself.

Think back to the times where you had a lot of apprehension, anxiety and mistrust.  These memories can come from the work environment or your personal life.  Maybe you thought your job was going to be eliminated.  Maybe you were being audited and did nothing wrong.  Maybe your spouse was out late and didn’t call to check in.  Maybe you were waiting for some medical test results back and hadn’t heard for a few days.  Maybe you hadn’t gotten a call or text you were expecting for a friend.

I know those are not pleasant memories and we won’t be staying here long. 

Each of those examples and most others like it have one single cause point:  communication frequency.  Communication, even a simple update can ease most of the apprehension, anxiety and mistrust described above and failure to communicate and the march of time will continue to grow those highly negative emotions and fears.

The balance of this article will take two very divergent angels in how to deal with communication frequency and the impact on trust.

Over Communicate

Quite simply tell people what you are up to and what you are doing.  As a leader, you can’t afford any lapses in trust that are so easily curable as you communicating with affected team members.  Your team can’t read your mind and they don’t automatically know what you are doing and your motives.  You have to tell them.

A couple of the best models to use include regular team meetings to insure that everyone is hearing the same thing and that will eliminate the in-the-know jealousy that sometimes develops when insiders know what is going on and others don’t.  To reduce the risk of trust lapses, these meetings should be weekly or every two weeks.

One-on-one meetings allow team members a better forum to ask questions and dive deeper into subjects than in a group setting.  When done monthly, it allows for a lot of clarifications and amplifications where needed.

Daily huddles are another great tool to give brief updates on what is happening in short term basis and it makes sure everyone has the same level of communication on a daily basis.

One final consideration is the use of technology in communication.  I started to count the ways people can communicate with me through the written word and social platforms.  There is email, text, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google + and Instagram.  Within each of those, there are subsets of groups, pages, forums and instant messages.  The excuse of not having a way to connect with team members left with the dialup modem. 

Some of the good examples of using technology to assist in communication frequency include using private groups to post project updates, using group notifications to spread the word about a new team member and using social media with tags to share key news.  This method of communication will become more and more prevalent as millennials dominate the workplace (they check their social media before email).

Self-Management and Expecting Better

The divergent side of communication and trust involves a bit of self-management, emotional intelligence and changing your expectations.  By a big part, this is harder but the long-term value is very high.

Just because you don’t hear something doesn’t mean something is bad or something is wrong.  In a perfect world, you would know and have access to the information you need when you need it but we do not live in that realm.

So there are times you don’t know and don’t get the communication that builds and maintains trust.  The reaction to that situation is now up to you.  You can choose to be fearful or you can choose to expect a positive outcome.  That choice rests entirely with you.

The other reminder here is that you have almost no control over how people choose to communicate with you.  If they communicate frequently, infrequently, disjointedly, harshly or not at all.  You can control your reaction but not control the communication.

“Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed.”

Michael Pritchard

Like many subjects related to self-management and your emotions, this is not one that can be cured by reading an article or looking at a motivating picture.  You will have to commit to changing your reaction to these situations and begin a journey where you will have to remind yourself regularly of your control over the reaction and not the lack of communication you are receiving.

The two sides of communication and trust.  Over-communicate when you are owning and driving the event and manage your reaction when you are the expected receiver of the communication. 

Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

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