“I can trust people I disagree with...

Building-Trust2 What is your team’s level of trust in their leadership and how do you know?

...But I can’t agree with someone I don’t trust”

As we’ve written in the past about the two main themes in the title (Trust and Conflict) as separate topics by themselves, we decided to combine the two based on what we are seeing in the world of leadership over the last few quarters. We’ve talked about trust quite a bit as leaders navigate the new reality with their teams. It is a central ingredient to being able to connect with and influence their team. We’ve also talked about a leader’s ability to manage conflict effectively including recognizing not all conflict is negative or destructive.

As we combine the two into a single discussion, the title comes from a variation of narratives we’ve used in our coaching practice to help leaders understand how the two align. From a practical sense, we are breaking down any misconceptions that trust implies agreement or that disagreement implies mistrust. That is simply faulty logic based on an incomplete understanding of both trust and conflict.

  • I can trust people I disagree with ~ In Patrick Lencioni’s bestselling book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, he identifies trust as the foundational dysfunction that teams need to overcome. The very foundation of teamwork is in the level of trust the team has with each member of the team, especially the leader. We also know that communication is both the cause and the cure for conflict, another one of the five team dysfunctions. So, it is the trust that allows for healthy conflict to occur within the team and effectively communicate through the disagreements to meaningful and lasting solutions. For instance, as an executive leader, I disagreed with the approaches my directors took to solve issues on many occasions. More often than not, the issues were resolved in good order! I trusted my directors to do the right things in ways that were different than I would have done them and ultimately increased the level of trust on the team!
  • I can’t agree with someone I don’t trust ~ We know from previous articles that trust is a combination of credibility, reliability, psychological safety, and the self-orientation of the leader. When a leader’s team does not trust their leader or the team does not trust others on the team, it usually begins with a lack of honesty (credibility) and/or integrity (reliability). These elements are relatively easy to detect. The more difficult element of trust is psychological safety as it is not always obvious to what extent it exists unless the safety boundaries are challenged! For example, as an executive leader, if I did not trust another’s word that something would get done as stated, I would not agree with the approach until I could trust the overall process. Often times, this was based on a person’s actual track record of doing what they said they would do. If honesty and integrity are in question, a leader must not agree or risk becoming complicit in the mistrust by association!

In a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment, the leader’s ability to be trusted and effectively manage conflict are crucial. Understanding their relationship to each other is important to navigating situations where natural disagreement does not lead to mistrust and the impact of mistrust is not watered down to agreement, implied or otherwise!

What is your team’s level of trust in their leadership and how do you know? If you don't know, we can help.

Lead Well!

You don’t know what you believe...
“Knowing is Not Enough. We Must Apply

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Wednesday, 06 July 2022