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Set the tone: Trust others first

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Everybody’s got a “trust thermostat,” reports performance coach Kevin Eikenberry, who advises setting your thermostat near 10 degrees.

Most people, when they first meet someone, probably set the temperature close to 1 degree. Pretty chilly! They think trust is all about the other person, figuring, “I’ll trust them as soon as they prove they’re trustworthy.” Nobody wants to get fooled.

People with a trust setting closer to 10 degrees, on the other hand, start every encounter invested in the other person, reducing the trust level only if the situation gets sketchy.

These two starting points yield wildly different results.

You can argue about the best setting, but it’s hard to argue against going warmer if you want to build a working relationship. People tend to meet the level of expectations you set for them, high or low. A setting close to 10 may be riskier but it also will unleash the best in others.

Eikenberry offers an example from his wife’s workplace. She’s a pharmacist, and the public restroom next to her retail pharmacy is kept locked. People who need to use the bathroom have to ask, and even then they aren’t given a key—an employee has to unlock the door for them. What’s more, the nearest door to the restroom also is locked.

This lockdown mentality is presumably because of a fear that customers might steal something. And it’s not even the policy of the drugstore chain; it’s the store manager’s policy. The locked doors waste time and leave a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.

Is that worth it? What similar policies do you have? What do they say about your organization?

Bottom line: If you want more trust, trust more.

—Adapted from Remarkable Leadership, Kevin Eikenberry, John Wiley & Sons.

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