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5 Ways Poor Communication Is Sabotaging Your Team, pt.2

WARNING: You have an enemy lurking in your company. It sits in on your team meetings, and it even follows your team members home! Sometimes it is almost invisible, and other times it roars to life in the middle of your office. Poor Communication is sabotaging your team!

So how do you know if the Poor Communication Monster is active in your team? Let's check out five sure-fire signs that it is on the prowl within your people...

This week, let's look at the second sign: Lack of Trust

Have you ever had that feeling in your gut that you're not being told the full story? Most of us know what that's like, and if we're honest, we've been on the other end of that as well. It's not a great feeling. For most of us, knowledge of what's happening around us gives us a sense of control. It's when we feel like we don't have control that we get anxious and overwhelmed. And when we get to this place, we naturally look for who is to blame. 

Lack of trust starts with missed expectations. Who's not telling me the full story? Who is taking control away from me? If we can identify that person, our trust in them will erode. If we can't identify them, we begin to lose trust in everyone around us.

Here are three areas where you'll see lack of trust come into play on your team:

  • Your team has trouble trusting each other.

  • Your team has trouble trusting the leader.

  • The leader has trouble trusting the team.

Let's look at each and how you can rebuild trust.

Your team has trouble trusting each other.

When your team has trouble trusting each other, it is most likely because someone did something that abused the trust that had already been given. Because of that action, the team is now scared that if they trust someone else, the same abuse could happen to them. As the leader, one thing that could help would be to refocus your team's goals on their overall performance, rather than on their individual performances. As the saying goes, "What gets celebrated gets repeated." Make sure you're celebrating the team-wins over the individual achievements. By incentivizing a collaborative atmosphere, you'll give people a reason to risk extending trust to their team. When it happens, make sure it's honored and celebrated in a public way.

Your team has trouble trusting the leader.

If you sense that your team is having trouble trusting the leader (assuming you're the leader, reading this), then you need to address it fast. When a team loses trust in their leader, unless it is addressed quickly, that team is either on its way to an exodus or a revolution. It probably goes without saying, but neither of those things are good for you, boss. If you've done something to lose their trust, own it. Let them know that you see what they see and that you are working to make it right. Share with them your plan of action and next steps. 

Has a member of the team not been pulling their weight? Your team may hold you responsible for not dealing with it. It may feel like you're being a good boss or a friend by letting something slide, but in reality, the rest of your team is suffering and losing trust in you because you haven't dealt with the issue. 

Trust takes a long time to build but can be quickly lost. Let your team know that you are actively and intentionally rebuilding their trust.

The leader has trouble trusting the team.

If you are having trouble trusting your team, you need to answer this question: Is the whole team untrustworthy, or is it just an issue with an individual or two? If you can't trust the whole team, check out the previous section. You may have done or said something, even inadvertently, that has caused the riff. Something may have been misinterpreted but you are completely unaware of it. Pull in a couple of the team members and ask them if they've seen anything in your leadership that would cause the team to not trust you. Go from there.

If you find rather, that you are having trouble trusting your team mainly because of an individual or two, you have a few options to consider:

  • Is this person untrustworthy just because of the situation or the responsibilities they have? If so, you may need to shift some of your team's responsibilities to match their individual capacities. (For example, you may not trust your team with the budget because the person responsible tends to make a lot of mistakes with numbers.)

  • Is the individual unresponsive to your leadership? You may need to take a different approach with them than what you are used to. Most people are carrying more emotional/life baggage with them that anyone is aware of. Try having a conversation with the person that isn't necessarily focused on their work, but more on their life. Find out what is important to them, what motivates them, and what they've learned from previous jobs and bosses. You may find out some things that are very insightful and helpful as you lead them. Once you're able to connect with a seemingly-untrustworthy team member, you might be surprised how that can have a positive ripple effect on the whole team.

  • Do the individual's values line up with yours/your team's? If not, they may not belong on your team.

The Cyclical Nature of Trust

Trust, like communication, is a two-way street. Entrusting someone is a risky thing. After all, they could abuse it. But the only way to grow trust is to give some away. From there, it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. When trust is given and honored, it breeds more trust in the future. When it is given and abused, trust is eroded. When that happens, the burden falls on you, leader, to begin the positive cycle to build it back up.


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