04 Aug 2011

Lesson 6 – Team Development Lessons Taught by My Dog

Lesson 6. Trust is built over months, not seconds.

It took me quite a while to realise this, but the relationship between a dog and its owner is all about trust. There are certain things that I expect Jake to do, and there are certain things that he expects of me. When those expectations are met and not broken, we have started to build trust. For me, trust is a fairly simple thing to define:

Trust – the knowledge that someone is going to do what they say they are going to do.

Jake has certain expectations of us as a family. He expects to be fed in the morning, he expects to get a pat when he comes over to you, and he expects to go for a walk every day. There are plenty of others, but this is a blog post, not a novel. In return, we expect certain behaviour from Jake; not doing his business in the house, not jumping on people, not chewing things.

During particularly busy weeks, it is easy to forget that I have an obligation to Jake to maintain his trust. The last thing I want to do when I get back from a difficult day of training is go for a walk with the dog. Often there is not enough light, and there are requirements for the rest of the family. On days when I have haven’t taken Jake for a walk, you expect to see the consequences – a shoe could be chewed, paper is taken out of the bin and chewed, or worse, he does his business on the rug. He is expressing his displeasure in the only ways that he knows how. I can look at the results as his bad behaviour, but it has stemmed from my lack of meeting his (not unreasonable) expectations.

So many of the teams that I work with have trust issues caused by Managers / supervisors failing to meet the trust expectations that they have with their staff. It can start with the smallest of things:

a.         Stating that you will have a catch up once a week with your staff. It lasts for the first few weeks, then slowly becomes once a month or whenever you feel like.

b.         Promising to speak to your boss about the great job your staff member did, but never quite finding the opportunity.

c.         Saying that you will be somewhere or do something, but doing it far later than you expected.

Each time you complete one of these actions, you break the trust that you have with the people that work for you. Yet, we are surprised when those same people don’t meet our deadlines or expectations. Their behaviour is blamed on poor attitude or ‘they are just difficult to get along with’ – if only Managers could see that their staff members are mirroring their own behaviour.

Consider your own team. What do your staff expect of you as a Manager / supervisor? If you don’t know, why don’t you ask? Is the negative behaviour that you see from certain team members due to their lack of drive or passion, or are they just mirroring the lack of trust you have demonstrated to them? Lesson 5 was all about consistency. Lesson 6 is following through with what you have said that you would do. Meeting your obligations to the team consistently every day; quite simply, that is how trust is built.

What do you do each day to maintain the trust of your team? Do you know what your team expects you to do to maintain their trust? Are you seeing the effects of not meeting your trust obligations?