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Contractual trust

Contractual trust implies a mutual understanding between people that each will do what they say they will do. Managing expectations, encouraging mutually-serving intentions and keeping agreements are examples of behaviours that build such trust. When contractual trust is practised, people understand what is expected of them; roles and responsibilities are clear; promises are kept or renegotiated, and employees collaborate freely, depend on each other and deliver results.

People need to understand what their leader expects and what they can expect in return. They become confused when expectations are not clear. Expectations are most successful when they are mutually serving: when we are invested in the best interests of others as well as in our own, and when employees encourage mutually serving intentions, efforts are aligned and shared success is sought. This is when there are no hidden agendas and trust is nurtured.

Unfortunately, hidden agendas are often a part of an organisation’s culture. Most are inclined to occur when people are fearful or anxious. When hidden agendas are present, individuals work to meet their needs covertly. Rather than openly sharing information and views, people withhold them for personal gain. Hidden agendas are self serving, diminish trust and derail efforts.

When people are focused on themselves and lose sight of others, agreements may not be kept. The failure to keep agreements breaks down collaboration and affects others’ ability to deliver.

Behaviours of contractual trust

There are six behaviours of contractual trust, described below.

1.Manage expectations

Make sure people are clear as to what is expected of them and the specific outcomes that you want. Make implicit expectations explicit.

  • Are your expectations understood?
  • Are they being met?

2.Establish boundaries

Define clear roles and responsibilities.

  • Do you have a clear definition of your role and responsibilities or is there some uncertainty?

3.Encourage mutually serving intentions

Think and act with others in mind, support each other and operate with a sense of shared responsibility.

  • Do you have any self-serving agendas or agendas that you have not shared with others?
  • How might these intentions be perceived by others?

4.Be consistent

A leader’s consistency creates boundaries for employees, giving them parameters within which they can operate.

  • Where do you perceive that you are consistent in your behaviour and where do you tend to be inconsistent.
  • What influences the variation?

5.Keep agreements

Honour commitments, renegotiating when necessary. Keeping agreements speaks to an individual’s reliability in carrying out commitments.

  • Are you likely to keep your word with others?
  • With yourself?

6.Delegate appropriately

Give people authority along with responsibility to do their jobs. Make sure people have access to appropriate resources to complete tasks.

  • Are there circumstances where you find yourself ‘holding on’ or micromanaging?
  • If so, what is contributing to that tendency?