3 Keys to Building and Maintaining Confidence and Confidentiality


“Confidence” is the feeling or belief that you can rely on someone to do what they say they will do, including keeping personal information confidential.  In supervisor and coaching relationships there must be mutual confidence between the parties for mutual trust to be developed.  Here are three keys to developing confidence in a relationship. 

1. Set confidentiality ground rules.

This may seem unnecessary, but just setting a ground rule that all information about each other is to be held in confidence unless there is agreement to the contrary can help create an environment of trust. This will create an atmosphere where the parties are willing to be vulnerable with each other, making it easier to be helpful to the other person.

2. Be honest about expectations and abilities.

In supervisor or coaching relationships it is critical that each party understand the capabilities and expectations of the other. This requires that honest evaluation of what is expected from the other person and what the other person feels competent to deliver is made clear. Supervisors must have confidence that the employee understands and is able to deliver. The employee must have confidence that the supervisor is providing complete information about expectations and the resources necessary for success. Failure in either of these areas can lead to lack of confidence.

3. Keep promises.

This is simple; do what you say you will do. People need to be able to rely on others if trust is going to be maintained. When you can’t do what you say you will do, then make sure that you make the other person aware at the earliest possible time so that surprises are eliminated. The ability to rely on the other person to do what they say they will do and to protect that which is told in confidence is critical to the development of mutual trust in a relationship.

3 Essential Components of Mutual Trust

There is an old saying that “relationships are built on trust” and it goes without saying that trust must go both ways for a relationship to grow.  Effective supervisors know that there are three primary components to building trust.

  1. Shared Purpose:  Both parties are interested in achieving the same thing in the relationship, and believe that the other person shares that purpose.  If either party thinks that the other is not interested in or actively helping with the achievement of a common purpose, then trust is diminished.  For example, if the employee perceives the boss as only interested in making him/herself look good and not in helping the employee to progress, then shared purpose does not exist and trust is diminished.
  2. Mutual Respect:  Each person shows respect to the other.  Notice that we say “shows respect” not “likes” the other person.  While it helps, it is not necessary to like the other person; but it is essential that you show respect for the person as a person.  One of the primary ways that respect is demonstrated is by taking the time to listen to each other in an attempt to completely understand before giving advice.
  3. Confidence and Confidentiality:  This is the willingness and ability to confide in each other and depend on the candid, truthful feedback from the other.  It is also the knowledge that each person can depend on the other to do what they say they will do.  Failure to maintain dependability and confidentiality are sure ways to diminish confidence and trust in a relationship.

Over the next three weeks we will examine each of these in more detail to determine how to go about executing each one.

Relationship: The Key to Motivating Different Generations

There has been a great deal of research and discussion about the differences between the various generations over the past several years.  Three generational groups make up todays workforce and while there is some disagreement as to what birth year ranges make up each, the following can be used for our discussion; Baby Boomers (1943 - 1960); Generation-X (1960 - 1981); Generation-Y (1982 - 2001).  While Baby Boomers have been the primary supervisory group for the last couple of decades, they are now retiring and Gen-X’ers and older Gen-Y’ers are moving into those positions in larger numbers.  So is understanding generations important? Research findings have not always been consistent, but in general, findings have indicated that Baby Boomers are motivated by money and title, Gen-X’ers by freedom to do their thing, and Gen-Y’ers by meaningful work.  We would argue that this information is particularly useful at the bigger, systemic level (HR policies and systems), but is less useful at the individual level.  Treating all members of a generational group as homogeneous - all motivated in the same way - would make us generally bad at motivating specific people.

The best supervisors treat their employees as individuals rather than members of a generational group, and establish relationships with each employee based on knowledge of the person.  We can all be motivated by money, title, freedom and meaningful work depending on the stage of life and the goals that we have set for ourselves.  Those good at motivating others understand this and attempt to “know” each employee’s desires and use this information to create a relationship that works to capitalize on what each individual hopes to accomplish.

Money may be more important as a person starts a family or approaches retirement.  Freedom and creativity may be more important as a person is attempting to define him/herself.  Meaningful work may be more important as a person is attempting to determine what occupation they will choose.   I am a “Boomer” who wants more money for retirement, likes the title that I have achieved, the freedom to do my work independently and I certainly want to do only what is meaningful to me and valuable to my company and my clients.  Best Bosses don’t look at employees as generational members, but as individuals who desire to be successful - and they make the effort to understand each employees’ definition of success.