Relationship Enders: 5 Ways to Lose your Executive’s Trust

Trust is earned, not given, in relationships, including the relationships between an Executive and their Force Multiplier. The foundation of these professional relationships is the firm belief in the reliability and commitment of the other person. So, what happens when that trust is broken? Can it be repaired? Can the cracks be filled in or will everything eventually start to crumble and fall apart? 

Every strategic partnership is different, but there are some common mistakes a Force Multiplier can make that will create doubt in the mind of their Executive. To be successful, avoid these 5 things:

1. Don’t Break Confidentiality

This is the golden rule. As an Executive Assistant in the C-Suite, you’re always in the know. It’s your job to stay up to speed on everything going on with your Principal, which means you’re being trusted with information that not many other people are privy to. It’s your job to guard that information, respect it, and keep it confidential until directed otherwise. 

2. Don’t Gossip

Listen, I like good water cooler banter as much as the next person! But it’s important to be mindful of what communication is being brought into the office dynamic. Taking part in workplace gossip can have serious consequences, not to mention harmful effects on others and the ability to undermine your professionalism and credibility. So, how can you avoid it? 

  • Speak directly to someone if there’s a conflict. Do not involve other parties unless they are directly involved. There’s nothing worse than finding out someone has a problem with something you said or did from someone other than that person. 
  • Keep other people’s personal lives and information (especially your Principal’s) out of the workplace unless they choose to involve it. This one seems simple enough, but if it’s not your news to share, remember to keep it to yourself. 
  • Don’t repeat things that have been said to you unless it needs to be addressed at a higher level. Avoid the game of telephone or “he said she said.” If there’s a problem in the office that needs to be addressed, bring it to the attention of your Principal so you can come up with a plan to tackle it. 

3. Don’t Lie

Lies, no matter how big or small, are harmful and destructive to the foundation of trust you have built with your strategic partner. For example, it’s easy to say a task has been completed when you’re in the process of doing it, and plan to get it done, but what happens if something interrupts you and the task gets tabled and forgotten about? It’s always easier to be honest and straightforward about where you’re at with projects in the workplace. Ultimately, lies, even “white lies,” will deteriorate your credibility, which will leave your founder second guessing items he or she has delegated to you. 

Speak your truth. Own your mistakes. Taking responsibility for your actions, though not always easy, is what will provide you the most personal and professional growth. 

4. Don’t Become Unreliable 

It might seem harmless to show up late for work once in a while, miss a deadline you said you’d meet, or back out of a meeting at the last minute due to a conflict, but unreliability creates doubt even if you’re a very intelligent, skilled and capable employee.

You might be saying, “But life happens! How can you avoid that?” The most important thing you can do is set expectations and boundaries at the beginning of your partnership and maintain them. This might mean saying “no” to some things, calendar blocking in order to accomplish tasks, and being on top of your time management. If something does come up that may prevent you from meeting a deadline, communicate it clearly and lay out the steps for how you will get the job done. Remember, a Force Multiplier should bring solutions to the table, not problems. 

5. Don’t Be Negative

No matter what the reason is, bringing a negative attitude to work will hinder your productivity and your overall relationship with your Principal and your colleagues. The important thing here is to figure out why you’re frustrated and look for ways to improve it. Are you working long hours? Having communication issues with other staff? Feeling uninspired? Try to pinpoint what’s creating these feelings of negativity and then work with your Executive to find solutions. They will sense if things aren’t right with you. Be straightforward instead of making them wonder. If you have a good working relationship, they will want to help you find creative solutions and a path forward.  

What other small habits can make or break trust in a strategic partnership? What best practices do you implement to ensure you and your Principal can count on each other? Drop them in the comments!

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