Friday, June 5, 2009

directness and trust

Interesting conversation this week about directness and trust. I had someone tell me that they appreciated the fact that I could be direct with them and do so in a way that was respectful and kind. They indicated that they had observed this behavior not only one-on-one with me but also in meetings...and that it seemed to help meetings move along and also help to build a sense of team. Later on in our conversation, we began to talk about the importance of trust among individuals and teams. We discussed the book The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey (the younger) and sunddenly A LIGHT BULB WENT OFF for me. It seemed there might be a connection between trust and directness. Let me explain a little more.

For me, trust is my line in the sand. I inherently trust people - I trust them to do the right things, I trust them to be honest with me, I trust them to do their work in an excellent manner, and I trust them to be ethical in their decisions and actions. I give them trust to begin with (as opposed to them having to earn my trust). I think that because of that starting point, I am also able to be direct with them. Because I trust them (and they know I trust them), I can tell them what I see and observe in their behavior, be it positive or negative. Because they trust me (trust is often reciprocal), they can handle that directness because they know I have their best interest at heart - and more important I have the best interest of the organization at heart. Trust provides the opportunity to be direct...and being direct can build a greater sense of trust.

So how can we make this more of a reality in our own lives and in the lives of our organizations?
  1. when being direct, shape your comments around the organization, not the individual
  2. when being direct, reflect how one's weaknesses are often a result of the overuse of their strengths
  3. when being direct, be sure to note that you may be wrong (and if so, allow the person to tell you so)
  4. when being direct, state the issue and let it go (do not beat the person up with negative comments)
  5. when being direct, be sure you have your facts straight
  6. when being direct, be sure to follow up to see if the behavior has changed
  7. when being direct, do so with an empathetic heart, mind and voice
  8. when being direct, trust that the comment will be taken in the spirit in which it is given

What do you think? Is there a connection here? What does an organization look like when trust and directness is present in all areas? And while this post seems to infer trust and directness from a superior to a subordinate, does the same hold true from the subordinate to the superior - and/or across similar levels? And ultimately, where trust and directness is a part of the culture, does an organization even need levels?

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