As a communication and positive conflict advisor to leaders, one of the most common issues I deal with is broken trust among team members. I facilitate many conversations around what trust means to people and have discovered that it boils down to two key questions:
Can I count on you?
Am I safe with you?
“Can I count on you?” is all about accountability. People who define trust this way care about follow-through, keeping promises, meeting deadlines, and telling it like it is. For them, trust is built when they can count on us to do what we say and finish what we start. Trust is eroded by failing to do these things.
“Am I safe with you?” is all about compassion. People who define trust this way care about emotional, psychological and physical safety. For them trust is built when they know you will honor their emotions, support them, accept them no matter what they tell you, and not betray their confidence. Trust is eroded by failing to do these things.
I know plenty of “Can I count on you?” leaders who never miss a deadline, are brutally honest while creating an environment of emotional toxicity that is anything but safe. I know many “Am I safe with you?” leaders who care deeply about their people, support them through thick and thin, yet cannot be counted on to do the tough work of accountability.
Well-meaning leaders who practice the Golden Rule do a good job at answering the trust question most important to them. Great leaders answer both questions equally well. This is what I call compassionate accountability trust.
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