Finding the balance between trust and data

Feb 10, 2020
In this digital age, data analysis is important to a high-performance culture, but so is trust. Teresa Stapleton discusses how to find the balance.

There is a need for a data-driven approach to understand how a business is performing, but capturing, analysing and interpreting large volumes of data is a time-consuming process that can lead to analysis paralysis, slow decision-making and delays in getting work done. 

When building a high-performance culture, the key is to find the balance between trust and data, where people feel motivated, engaged and empowered to do their best work and collaborate with colleagues to make the business successful. 

Building trust

For most people, trust in another person is based on knowing from personal experience or by reputation that someone is reliable. We naturally tend to trust people with a proven track record, who can keep commitments, deliver on time, be open and honest, admit mistakes, and speak up to share concerns. Trust is essential for a leader to stand back and give their team space to get on with the job. When a leader doesn’t trust their team, it inevitably leads to micro-management in order to keep tight control and minimise risk. This approach can be extremely frustrating and demotivating for an individual, and particularly for experienced, competent teams. Micro-management often produces disengaged employees, increased absenteeism and reduced productivity – ultimately impacting bottom line results. 

When trust is lacking, it’s important to identify and tackle the root cause behind the trust issues. In some cases, it’s down to personality clashes where people have different beliefs on the best way to get work done. When this is the issue, it really helps to invest in team building exercises to promote collaboration.

Managing a new team

New managers are often in the tricky position of not knowing if they can rely on their new team while having to depend on them to be successful. This can create an anxious and stressful atmosphere. Taking time to get to know a new team, being clear on expectations and open about how you like to operate are critical to building a solid foundation for a good working relationship. Having the right mix of skills, experience and personality style is critical to the success of any business. This explains why many leaders like to build their own teams or bring people they trust when they take on a new role. However, more often, managers inherit people they wouldn’t have chosen. As a leader, it’s important to keep an open mind and give people the opportunity to prove themselves. As Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” 

Situational leadership

The most successful leaders adapt their leadership style based on the ability and level of commitment of the person or group, as well as the circumstances. Situational leadership involves evaluating what level of trust versus support is optimal. When managing someone new in a role or with responsibility for critical or high-risk tasks, close oversight is advisable. But, as the person demonstrates that they can perform competently, experienced leaders will adapt their style to give the employee more accountability and independence.  

Remote working

It’s increasingly common for managers to have employees who work remotely. This requires a hands-off style of management with clearly defined goals and KPIs and regular check-ins to stay connected and aligned on performance. While calls and teleconferencing are great for remote working, it’s still important to plan face-to-face meetings periodically to build the relationship and employee engagement, and to ensure they feel that they are valued members of the team.So, what breaks trust? Failure to deliver expected results, keeping someone in the dark, misaligned goals and priorities, competing for rewards and different personal values are often underlying causes. Whatever the reason, once trust is broken, it is extremely difficult to repair. The key to business success is strong leadership with the ability to set a clear vision, create high-performing teams and promote a culture where people feel trusted, valued and motivated to deliver great results. 

Top tips for building trust

1. Get to know your team.

Share your background, previous experiences, goals, values, expectations, and ask the team to do likewise. Sharing information on family or interests outside work is also a great way to identify common ground and build relationships.

2. Assess whether you have the right resources.

Have you got the right mix of skills, experience and capability on the team to support the current and future needs of the business? Modify your plans, or team, to close gaps and set everyone up to be successful.

3. Set clear expectations.

Agree and document clear, concise goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) and expected results. Ensure clarity and alignment on the performance management and rewards process. 

4. Build self-awareness and collaborate.

Personality profiling tools and workshops enhance self-awareness and provide practical support to help individuals, teams and organisations improve communication, increase productivity and drive results.

5. Stay connected and keep up-to-date.

Agree with your team what you should know and how you want to be updated on progress and issues. Check-in to ensure the communication approach is working for everyone and adjust as required. Ensure decision-making authority is clear and protocols for escalating issues to the right levels are defined and understood (e.g. highlight bad news fast, no surprises, etc.)

6. Recognise and reward success.

Take the time to thank team members regularly for their contribution and impact. Recognise and reward success and behaviour that demonstrates company values or best practices. Provide honest feedback on performance and coaching to drive improvements. Ensure performance is rewarded fairly and that your team knows they can trust you to represent them well.

Teresa Stapleton is an Executive and Career Coach with Stapleton Coaching.