Many of us were introduced to the five fingers (or five elements) of trust on the LEAD 24/7 retreat. We talked a lot about trust during that time together. What we discovered is that trust encompasses many critical pieces. I can trust (or not trust) your talent, your commitment, your character, your alignment, and last but not least, your communication. It’s this last one, communication, that we will consider today.
I can trust that you have the talent to do the job, that you are committed to the organization and its goals, that you are person of character, and that we are aligned and going in the same direction. But if I don’t trust your communication, that undermines almost everything else.
President Ronald Reagan borrowed an old Russian proverb when he talked about the scaling back nuclear weapons in the Soviet Union. The proverb is simple and goes like this: Trust but verify. That is great advice when it comes to communication.
It is good to trust ourselves and have confidence in ourselves that we are clear communicators and that our messages have been expressed well and received in the way we intended. AND, we should verify.
- A new safety policy was rolled out in a meeting and everyone was on board. We can trust that it was rolled out well AND we should verify that it was understood and is being implemented by follow-up conversations, emails, or face-to-face conversations.
- We had a leaning in conversation where we agreed to some next steps and a plan moving forward. We trust it was a fruitful conversation AND we should verify that we had the same takeaways as the other person.
- We set up an important meeting involving different departments. The group email was well worded and Outlook meeting reminders were sent. We trust that we communicated clearly and everyone will be there AND we should verify by following up.
Communicating one time, one way is a great way to trust and NOT verify. Communicating multiple ways (7 times/7 ways) is a great way to trust and verify. Sometimes this means face-to-face communication, sometimes it means summarizing in an email or note, sometimes it means repeating things in subsequent meetings.
Trust and Verify—Both are important. They might even prevent the kind of miscommunication that could lead to a cold war!