Suspicious WomanIt’s an unsettling feeling when you lose trust in your team.

(And the same goes if you are an employee and you don’t trust your boss or co-workers anymore.)

I don’t mean the type of trust like fearing they will steal from you.  In a way, that’s easier to resolve.  You fire them.  Or if you are an employee, you quit.  I mean the type of trust where you just aren’t sure you can trust what they say, trust their commitments, or trust them to stick around and follow through.  You get that sinking feeling when you talk to them that you just aren’t sure if they are “there” and maybe they don’t even know it.  What do you do?  Do you let a great team member go, or quit a great boss, after a relationship that may span years and tremendous accomplishments?

So often we see the worst happen, which is a boss (or team member) going through the painful conversation of “what’s wrong?” and “this can’t continue.”  Both parties declare their commitment and may even acknowledge mishandling of situations.  But both still leave with that uncomfortable feeling that they just don’t trust each other.  They want to.  It isn’t lack of loyalty or commitment, but the sting of realizing that recently things haven’t been working.  And you aren’t sure what the future holds.

So what do you do?  How do you show up and not be so insecure in your trust of the other that you suck the life out of them and you in every interaction?  How do you move forward and not let the past predict the future?

The following exercise is powerful in any relationship where you need to rebuild trust on how situations will be handled.  Rather than reminding each other of the past missteps and restating what you DON’T want to happen (which you’ve likely done ad nauseam at this point, both in your head and out loud) instead focus on how you will each handle the situation in the future.

Say, out loud and to each other, what you WILL do in certain situations.  Stay away from stating what you won’t do or what you won’t accept from the other person.  Stay forward-moving and focused on what will work.  Give each other and yourself freedom to declare how you will handle a situation free from the shadow, and sometimes the shame, of the past.  There is as much healing and recreation for yourself in this as what you get from the other person.  Not believing in someone is damaging to both parties.  It creates an environment that is very hard to endure every day with energy and spirit.  It’s one of the saddest situations we see, because both parties are committed to and care about the other.  They just don’t know how to get past the past.

For example, say you have a team member who missed some really important due dates.  While it’s unlike their normal responsible behavior, it’s happened enough that you’ve lost trust in them.  They’ve promised, again and again, to be more focused, but you aren’t sure if anything has really changed.  You want to believe – but you just don’t.  Instead, pose a question like this: When you have a critical deadline looming, what will you do?

The answer should be forward-thinking and focused on what will work: When I’m faced with a critical deadline and find myself overwhelmed with responsibilities, I will sit down with you and go over what’s on my plate, before I get overwhelmed and stressed out and it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, and together we will prioritize and adjust due dates and who is doing what.

It should NOT sound like this:  When I am faced with a critical deadline and have too much on my plate I will not get stressed and keep it to myself.  I will speak up and get your help prioritizing.

Although it sounds fine, it’s hard to believe in what someone WON’T do.  That approach focuses on the negative action, which isn’t empowering.  The mantra becomes “don’t stress out, don’t suffer silently, don’t, don’t, don’t.”  There is nothing engaging or motivating about don’t.  It’s just a reminder of the mistake you made in the past – you are in fact repeating the mistake verbally each time you say you won’t do it again.  That just brings back the shame, defeat and frustration.  Instead, declare and create what you will do when faced with that situation.

Then, let the past go and just believe.  Trust what will happen.  Will it happen 100% of the time?  No.  But will it happen more often than if you are operating from a place of distrust?  You bet.  And this has the additional impact of putting your spirit and mindset in a more positive, productive place, which has an immeasurable impact on what you produce each day.

If you are giving someone “another chance,” give them a full chance to declare a new future.

To learn more about how to cultivate a team, including handling the tough situations, join our free webinar, Essentials to Hiring and Keeping Great Employees, on January 22nd at 5pm ET.  Click here to register today.