I was in the USA again last week. And I decided to take control. I ran away. I ran away from something I could not see but that I knew was coming. Something that I knew had potential to ruin my week and, at worst, my year. I ran away from the weather. Indeed I ran all the way home (with help from a couple of airplanes).
My wife said December 16 was late in the year to be going away. It’s that time of year when everyone is either tired and irritable after a long year, or excited and happy about the holidays…and sometimes a strange mix of both.
I arrived on the East Coast on Sunday; emails from colleagues about an impending snow storm started Monday; I visited Corporate HQ on Monday; stopped off to visit an old work colleague near Chicago on Tuesday and was in the Mid-West on Wednesday. Up to two feet snow was predicted to fall on Thursday alone. The day I was due to travel back to the UK.
I was rapidly loosing confidence in my ability to get home. Best case? No flight to Chicago. Worst case? No flight to the UK. And if I missed my flights I had little idea when I would get home. I had no trust in my scheduled travel …not least because the airlines were still indicating no need to change my plans.
What is our most common action when we find ourselves in a situation where our level of trust is low? We try to take control.
We see this all the time. When trust is down, we ask more questions, seek more details and arrange more meetings (with more people and more detailed minutes)…all symptomatic of lower levels of trust.
Of course none of us ever set out to decrease the levels of trust that others have in us. But we all recognise that moment when we realise whoever we are interacting with has only low levels of trust in us…or we in them…so how does this happen? And how do we rectify?
We can lose trust when we feel we aren’t getting enough information – good or bad – about topics (people, projects or flight schedules) we care about. We can erode trust that others have in us when we strive to work more independently…i.e. when we begin to communicate less frequently, or in less detail about what we are doing.
Consider a Chief Finance Officer. A big focus for any CFO is their relationship with investors and analysts alike. In this space most CFOs operate in the same way – every quarter they tell Wall Street what their company will deliver in the next three months (revenue, savings, approvals, margins etc). At the next earnings call, they always start by reminding Wall Street of what they said they would deliver, and then focus on how they have indeed delivered against those commitments! Do what you say you will do.
This is an explicit strategy of communicating regularly and openly and is a strategy designed to build trust. Trust builds confidence; confidence builds investment; investment builds confidence. The counter is also true. Trust would be eroded if targets were set and then not delivered; or – worse still – if there is no communication.
Building and maintaining trust takes time and effort… time and effort invested in relationships and in communicating.
So back to my hasty departure. I had confidence in the weather forecasts. I trusted the advice of my mid-west colleagues. Collectively we took control away from the airlines…I left a day early and I made it home.