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4 Steps to Build Trust in the Workplace: How to Stop the Divide and avoid office space civil war.

By Whiskey Tango

Bottom Line upfront- Trust is the cornerstone of all organizations. Building and fostering trust is critical. As leaders, we have to strive to be better at this vital skill.

Short Story- A pack of wolves wandered through the Russian wastes. The pack leader Sergi had led the wild animals for the last 5 years. Sergi was undoubtedly the Alpha. This winter had been rough. There was little prey for the pack to hunt. The group of wolves scoured the countryside in search of their next meal. The pack was ragged from their lack of nutrients. The wolf's skin and fur wrapped their skeletal frame tightly. Ribs were exposed. Their undernourished state made them sharp but sluggish. It had been one month since their last meal and the pack was edgy.

The runt of the pack was Dimitri. Dimitri was clumsy and had spooked a kill two weeks earlier. Dimitri was largely ignored by the pack and often got the scraps after the bigger dogs had gotten their fill of meat.

Sergi sniffed the air as the pack crested a ridge. He caught the glorious smell of moose in the air. Sergi signaled to the pack to freeze in place. Sergi's eyes scanned the valley below. He spotted the lone moose. The moose drank from a stream at the bottom of the valley. Sergi signaled to his pack to begin their approach. He nodded left and right at the unsuspecting mammal. His pack began to position themselves to surround the objective. Each wolf began to stalk into place. Sargi's pack needed this kill to survive. Sergi eyed the pack's positions as he crept down the embankment towards the unsuspecting mammal.

Dimitri was determined to earn his keep this time. He was fixed on not being the week link. Dimitri would show the pack he deserved to be there. Dimitri stalked into position just as the alpha had instructed. He waded through the deep snow like an artic shark, being careful not to make a sound. As he approached he felt a metallic sharp edge underfoot. A Russian bear trap. Dimitri was unsure of the foreign object and stayed fixed on his objective. He continued forward and all of the sudden felt a violent movement under his foot. Dimitri lept back from the trap as it clamped shut narrowly missing his paw. The steel teeth made a harsh metallic snap.

Everything is going well Sergi thought as he came within 30 meters of the moose. The pack is going to feast soon and they will appreciate me leading them to this kill. Out of the corner of his eye, Sergi saw Dimitri jump straight up in the air. "That idiot"Sergi huffed. "He ruins everything. He is daft, clumsy, slow and a poor excuse for a wolf. He probably thought he would scare the moose by jumping in the air and it would just die from a heart attack." "Stupid wolf", thought Sergi.

The moose caught sight of the jumping wolf. In a panic, he began running from the pack. The moose spotted an opening in the circling wolves and broke through the pack. The wolfpack dinner was vanishing in the distance. The pack began to argue. They began barking and howling at each other in disgust. Who spooked the moose? Sergi wasn't fit to lead! Why did the moose get through the opening? Who's position was that supposed to be? The arguing turned to fighting. They snapped and bit at each other. Sergi took off a piece of Dimitri's ear in the scuffle. The wolf pack was strung out and disbanded in search of a stronger pack. Broken from the infighting they went their separate ways.

So What? If you don't build and foster trust, your team will never function. You will have a rudderless team. Most of us have had a Dimitri as a part of our team. We've had a moment as a leader where a team member fell short of expectations. How do we deal with this shortcoming? How do we set up our pack for success? We must stay ahead of the distrust curve. Stay ahead of leading a team into infighting and distrust. Regular efforts to reinforce a culture of trust are critical to all organizations. Below are 4 Steps to Build Trust in the Workplace.

1. Mutual Expectations/Relationship Goals. The building blocks to trust is clear communication. Start your working relationships with good old fashion expectation exchange to promote relationship goals. Exchanging expectations is best when delivered early. Sections and personnel that work together should start by communicating what they desire from each other.

2. Trust and Task. After conducting an expectation exchange trust that all parties and members involved are capable. Put trust where trust belongs. Task sections and people with jobs commensurate with their roles. Actually, believe that they will get the job done.

3. Spot the divide. Eventually, a mistake will happen Someone will slip up. Someone will create a divide between what we expected of them and how they performed. Our go-to reaction is to look at the divide as a failing of someone's character. However, when we make mistakes we attribute our shortcomings to unexpected circumstances. I was late because I hit unexpected traffic. I was late because my alarm didn't go off and I lost power. When someone else is late it's because they are a poor planner. It's because they lack foresight. It's because they never cared about other people's time. When we are faced with a gap in what we expected and how someone failed to perform up to that do we fill the divide? Do we fill it with trust? Do we think, "I bet that person has a really good reason for coming up short.""I should ask them what went wrong" Or do we begin a negative conversation about that person's shortcomings? Fill the divide with trust.

4. Accountability- When an error is found. When a shortcoming is confirmed to be short. Then as a leader, a form of gracious accountability must be upheld. As a group, we have agreed upon goals and standards. For the sake of the team Accountably should be enforced and upheld.

A message to the readers- If you found my blog insightful, I recommend using it to develop the team you lead. If you don't lead a team consider passing it to someone who does or shoot me a message with your answers. Listed below is a team-building activity that works with the blog above. Don't be afraid to get personal.

Team Building Activity

Instructions: Choose one of the following ways.

  1. Have your team preread the above blog and schedule a time to drive the discussion questions below

  2. Schedule a lunch and learn session where you carve out time to read the blog together and then review the discussion questions below.

  3. Have your team preread the blog and use the discussion questions as an opener for your weekly meetings.

Discussion questions: (select some or all of the questions below)

  1. What does expectation exchange look like in our organization?

    1. How can we do this better?

  2. Are we trusting sections to get their tasks done?

    1. Is good guidance being given along with tasks?

  3. When there is a gap in performance how is it addressed?

    1. How can we do this better?

  4. Do we hold ourselves and our teammates accountable to the standard?

    1. How can we do this better?


Unknown member
Oct 07, 2022

Thank you

Daniel Wright
Daniel Wright
Oct 08, 2022
Replying to

Anytime friend!

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