smashed windshield2A missed meeting, a forgotten call, a misunderstood comment, making a tough decision or just screwing up – crash! Trust is broken. What now?

I know I have experienced the challenge of rebuilding a trusted relationship. Sometimes it feels impossible, yet other times it can be done. Why is that?

You may be like me and wonder why with some people trust shatters with the slightest bump and with others it takes a giant jolt to disrupt two-way trust. The Harvard Business Review recently published a summary of a research project that looked at differences between people in maintaining and restoring trust. The four researchers discovered that our mindset regarding growth actually influences our trust in other people. If we have a fixed mindset, meaning we believe that people’s attributes are stable, we will tend to maintain trust or maintain distrust and actually overlook or ignore current interactions or behaviors. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset, who believe that attributes can be developed and changed, pay attention to current behaviors. This means they develop and lose trust quickly and also can quickly rebuild their trust in others!

Understanding our own and others’ mindset can help us take action when we inevitably need to rebuild trust. For those on our teams who have a growth mindset, we should be prepared to continually take small actions to demonstrate trustworthiness. Even if you have strong relationships, they are looking at what you have done recently. Apologizing and quick statements reinforcing your integrity will be heard and accepted.

Losing the trust of someone with a fixed mindset is tougher. When it happens you need to prepare for a longer and more challenging effort to restore trust. Small actions will be ignored and they will be looking for long-term evidence that you are trustworthy. In fact, you may need to first focus on the idea that people can change and look for examples of people who have successfully made changes. Then you can move on to providing repeated examples of your interest in rebuilding the relationship.

Experiencing the crash of breaking trust is never good but it is a reality for leaders. Learning how to repair a shattered relationship with everyone on your team can help you keep moving forward.

Todd Thorsgaard





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