Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Losing Trust Quiz

There are several indirect ways in which you can lose trust. Consider the following questions:

  1. An associate has made a formal proposal that you are going to oppose at a committee meeting. The meeting is going to be dedicated to discussing the proposal. You arrive early at the meeting and find your associate has also arrived. Do you: (a) tell your associate that you have some objections to the proposal or (b) say nothing about your opposition and engage in small talk and don't surface your objections until the meeting begins?

  2. An associate has sent a list of questions about a potential project to you and other team members. Do you: (a) refrain from responding for a week and then only respond in a joint phone call with another team member who opposes the project or (b) promptly respond directly to the associate and ask questions about your concerns?

  3. You have committed to supporting a course of action but have recently discovered some information that will cause you to change your position. Do you: (a) call the action officer for the project and tell him or her about your change of mind or (b) wait until a group meeting to do so?

  4. You receive an urgent e-mail from a colleague but you don't have time to provide a substantive response. Do you: (a) immediately respond with a note explaining that you won't be able to give a substantive response until later or (b) wait until you've had a chance to assemble your information and then respond?

  5. You receive an e-mail from a manager which describes an innovative approach to handling a major project. Do you: (a) respond solely to the manager or (b) respond and copy others on your response?

The best approaches for preserving trust are 1(a); 2(b); 3(a); 4(a); 5(a).

These may seem obvious and yet in the course of a busy workweek it can be extremely easy for otherwise trustworthy people to slip into some of the less admirable choices. While trust can be lost rapidly via a major breach, it can also be eroded through smaller actions.


The Engineer said...

I would agree with your answers except for number one. Number one is the only situation where group approval has been solicited. All of the others are situations that involve your decisions only. If I were in the first situation I might, depending on how well I knew the associate or if asked, indicate that I am starting out in opposition to the proposal. However, not imparting that information is not being untrustworthy as the whole point of the meeting is to discuss the proposal. The associate should be prepared for objections and have responses to them. To do otherwise implies that a decision has already been reached. If true, why meet at all.

Michael Wade said...

The Engineer,

I agree that a failure to impart the opposition is not inherently untrustworthy and the associate should be prepared to handle objections. That said, the seed of mistrust can be avoided simply by giving the other person a "heads up" along the lines of "I want you to know that I've got some concerns about your proposal and will be surfacing them in the meeting." That's straight-forward and it avoids the perception that you smiled before the meeting and then ambushed the person in front of the group.