I recently read an article by Scott Warrick containing a practical model for looking at trust development. It’s helpful, and I’m highlighting the coolest point.
“Seek out points of disagreement with people, then make the disagreement safe.”
I’ve written about the importance of making discussions safe, but Warrick’s point is to find small things to disagree about before anything really heavy comes along. This way, when larger conflicts do arise, you’ll have built enough trust to be able to handle disagreement better.
For example, early in the relationship, you can ask a new hire something like:
“Sometimes new people question our TPS reporting system. What do you think about it?”
“Yeah, that’s a fair objection. I felt that way too. I disagree, though. It’s become a predictable routine for me and I like it now. Your perspective is totally okay, though; you’re not alone. Not everyone is sold the way I am. Thanks for being open about what you think.”
The conversation could even be about non-work stuff. Sometimes, when you’re the boss, people may feel like they have to agree with you, even if they don’t. For example, let’s say you noticed your new employee is a Green Bay Packers fan. Their biggest rival is the Chicago Bears. But even though you are a Chiefs fan, consider advocating for the Bears.
“How about those Bears? You seem to be a Packers fan, right?”
Listen to them talk about their perception of the superior coaching philosophy and team culture, then respond with:
“Yeah, that’s a fair point. I just think that gameplay style matters more to our fans, but it’s really interesting to hear your perspective. Good chat.”
Whatever you choose to chat about, though, make sure it’s genuine. If you’re not into football, find something else to discuss where you can add to the conversation.
Warrick has other examples and some fun acronyms—you know I love acronyms. I recommend you check out his article for a practical approach to proactive trust building.