The conscious expectation
Isn’t it interesting where and with whom we place our trust. A couple of incidents recently have got me thinking about how conscious our extending of trust really is and why it matters.
Like many I’m an internet shopper. Most of my Christmas gift buying was done this way. And, of course, I’m placing a high degree of trust in companies I know little about in a faceless, impersonal transaction. I’m handing over payment details and trusting that X or Y limited has a secure system and that the right goods will turn up in the right place at the right time. Mostly, of course, they do.
Yet one confirmed gift order was swiftly followed by an email advising of severe delay to despatch because of bad weather. As parts of the UK were under a blanket of snow at the time this was a credible response until an email the following day advised me to ‘hang tight…your order is on its way.’ Two days later another email advised me they didn’t actually have the goods in stock but were planning to post out by 21st December. On 20th December…ping…another email telling me my goods were clogged up in freight congestion on the way from Australia!
I know things go wrong. The poor communication was, for me, the real problem – clouding the issue and setting incorrect expectations.
The other incident was a fundamentally brusque and uncaring response to a friend of mine from a GP who was refusing to make a house call as my friend was too ill and infectious to visit the surgery (this friend has to be very ill to miss work or consult a doctor). I know medical professionals are under huge pressure – and not just in winter – yet I think, rightly or wrongly, there’s a trust-based assumption we make that our interactions will be underpinned by an attitude of caring.
There’s something for leaders to think about here given the importance of trust in building the relationships that ensure getting things done well.
As leaders that’s about understanding the expectations others infer from what we say, do and our position whether our commitment is explicit or not. There’s also something about our own reflection…what expectation are we intending to set, is it what’s needed and is it realistic?
Then there are the expectations we hold of others. Likely many of these are unconscious, based on previous experience or interaction. Previous context may hold good and it may just be inapplicable this time. Without a real awareness of our expectations and a reality check we may be undermining our ability to extend trust to our colleagues and, little by little, eroding important relationships.