Emotional Intelligence: Relationship Management & Trust

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Some leaders expect that by virtue of having a title, their colleagues and team members will naturally trust and follow them.  You know the saying about “assuming” anything.  This belief could potentially enable the leader to behave in ways that others might perceive as arrogant, uncaring, closed or dismissive.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Relationships are two-way, and if the leader does not make an effort to extend trust to others and behave in a way that builds a trust bank account with their team, the leader cannot expect others to blindly grant trust nor follow.  Relationships between two or more people will never be perfect, but the core of an effective relationship is trust.  Trust is defined as the belief in another’s reliability, truth, ability and strength.  When team members trust their leader, they know they can rely on, depend on, count on, and bank on them to tell them the truth and to allow them to do the same in return.  Trust takes a while to build, a trial and error of behavior observations so to speak.  So, there is really no short cut to this core competency of effective relationship management.

How can you do it? 

  1. Make your feedback direct and constructive.  Think of the BEST feedback you have ever received.  You probably didn’t want to hear it, but it was shared with you in a way that really helped you change your behavior.  Certainly, being direct and clear is very important so there’s little chance of a misunderstanding.  However, use your social awareness of the receiver to think of how they would best receive the feedback so you can adjust your delivery for the best chance of enhancing the relationship.  I am not suggesting to sugar coat the feedback, as that does not build trust because it is not honest.  Do, however, consider the best delivery method for “where” the other person is and how best you can get your feedback across.
  2. Take feedback graciously.  On the flip side, we need to receive feedback graciously.  When trying to build a relationship, we must make ourselves open to others’ perspectives.  While we may not always agree with suggestions we receive from feedback, when we make an effort to acknowledge and apply what we learned from feedback, our behavior communicates that we trust and respect our team’s opinions.
  3. Invest in building trust.  Most of the behaviors we discussed in this blog series, when consistently repeated over time, play a part in building trust.  Be open when you communicate, telling the truth (good, bad and ugly).  Be consistent with your words and behaviors.  When we say one thing and do another, our colleagues will believe our actions over words, and trust in us is lost.  And lastly, follow through with what we say we are going to do.  Remember, trust means that others can rely and depend on us.  Follow-through is therefore one of the key building blocks of trust.

What are some additional strategies you have used to deliver direct and constructive feedback?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

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