Building Trust with Intentional and Transparent Communication

Building Trust with Intentional and Transparent Communication

Written by Kevin Martlage

This month we are focusing on the culture of your business and how you can continue to work towards developing and providing a supportive and nurturing environment for your employees, customers, and those your business serves. There are numerous approaches to building a supportive work culture, but two of the most important approaches focus on communication and trust. 

Trust is ultimately the most important ingredient in any positive work culture, but communication is key to building that trust and maintaining it effectively.   

It is widely thought that communication is one of the most misunderstood and undervalued of all the interpersonal skills. Despite this, most people feel that they communicate effectively. Whether you feel you are an effective communicator or not, how can you enhance your ability to intentionally provide the context of your communication in a way that ensures the recipient is successful in understanding your true intent. The answer is in reviewing the difference between Reactive Communication (it is about me) and Intentional Communication (it is about you). 

Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to lead numerous teams. Some have been more successful and productive than others, but regardless of their performance my approach to leading them has always been the same. Without an intentional commitment to communication, the team will never truly understand the “why”. Without an intentional commitment to transparent communication, the team will become consumed with the “why” and lose sight of their ability to achieve goals. Without the intentional commitment to using both of those approaches while actively listening to my team to build trust, well… nothing else would really matter. 

Let me ask you a question. How much time and energy is being spent by your tree crews, your crew leaders, or your management team each day questioning the ‘why’ behind what they are doing and what you are saying to them? The answer to that question may depend on the position that person holds within your organization and certainly the situation that person may be in. 

For example, a person clearing brush from a work site may fully understand the ‘why’ behind what they are being asked to do by their crew leader.  The ‘why’ in this case is simple. Pick up the brush that is left behind as the rest of the crew prunes the tree and pile it by the chipper. That statement is clear and understandable by even the newest member of your crew. However, as you move upward within your organization, the understanding of the ‘why’ may become a bit more difficult to understand but is equally important. 

Perhaps you have an instance where a crew leader is requesting a new piece of equipment that is not in the budget for that year. The reactive communication style would go something like this, 

“Sorry, but we cannot pursue purchasing that piece of equipment at this time.” 

Even though the crew leader may appear to accept your answer and move on, there is still a chance that they may be questioning your decision or thinking about the ‘why’ behind your decision. This internal questioning could lead to lost productivity and lost time on the job site as they wrestle to understand why it was just “no.”

As the communicator in this instance, it is important for you to intentionally provide your response in a way that ensures the receiver of that communication understands the full intent of what you are saying and the reason being that response. This is the essence of intentional communication which is all about the recipient and their understanding. This approach will help to eliminate the possibility of lost time while they are focusing on trying to understand your decision instead of obtaining your full intent and the reasoning during the initial conversation. 

The intentional response in this situation may go something like this, 

“I appreciate your request for the new piece of equipment, and I have reviewed options to see if we can make that happen. I’d like to go over my decision with you.

Based on our budget for this year, we are not going to be able to pursue purchasing that item. However, I am committed to continuing to look at some other options including making sure, at the very least, we get that item in the budget for next year. 

While this piece of equipment is certainly important, I feel that there are other options we can use to get us through the rest of this fiscal year. Here are those options, and I’d like your feedback regarding this approach.”

As a leader you have just intentionally and transparently provided as much information as possible in anticipation of the questions that you may encounter. You have done your best to ensure that the recipient of your communication understands your full intent in a transparent manner. While the crew leader may still have additional questions or comments, you have allowed for the conversation to include the ability for the recipient to ask questions and to confirm your delivery has answered all their questions. As you continue to provide this type of communication it will start to build trust as there will be little opportunity for the person to ever question your intent. They will begin to trust that when you have a conversation they will be getting as much information as possible and that you will do your best to ensure their understanding instead of just assuming all things are good. 

I have witnessed firsthand a loss in productivity due to a lack of transparent and intentional communication among a work group more times than I care to admit. While it may be difficult to put a number on the productivity lost due to communication that is not transparent and intentional, the main point is that something was lost, and that loss could have been avoided or at least minimized. I am certainly a realist in that it is difficult to achieve a perfect world where transparent and intentional communication always coexists, however it is the pursuit of that end goal where incremental success can be realized. This will make your conversations more effective and efficient while building that all important trust among your team. 

It takes commitment by the leaders of any organization to ensure intentionally transparent communication is at the forefront of their leadership style when building a trusting culture. A trusting work culture will allow the team to focus on each other, the team, and the goals of the organization instead of becoming too consumed with trying to understand the “why” behind your decisions.

In next week’s tip, we will talk about why building and maintaining trust is important to the success of your organization. Trust is thought of as the life blood of any successful team and I look forward to talking about how that can help take your team and organization to the next level. 

For additional help with company culture, contact a member of the ArboRisk Insurance teamIf you’re looking to improve upon your communication skills or want to help one of your key team members develop personally, sign up for the Thrive Leadership Development package today! Additionally, if you find it difficult to find or keep quality employees, check out our Thrive Hiring & Recruiting Package.

As part of ArboRisk’s Thrive family, we are also offering a FREE business culture self-assessment to help you begin to identify some ways in which you can continue to enhance your company’s culture. The assessment is extremely easy to complete and will take you less than 5 minutes. Following the completion of your assessment, you will receive a summary of recommended areas of impact to consider as you continue to enhance your company culture. 

Tom Dunn