I have come to trust a couple of mentors in my career. I trust them based on the many interactions; they’ve shown me that they come from the right place when they provide me feedback.  What I mean by “a right place” is that the feedback is genuine, and they are to help me become a better professional and a person. My mentors are honest with me and can offer their observations about myself that I may not want to hear, but nevertheless, I readily accept them.  I’ve come to realize that the intent (perceived or real) behind the feedback from others does matter in terms of how well they are accepted. To effectively provide feedback to others, we must earn the trust of those we seek to provide feedback.

While feedback about my performance/behaviors sometimes hurts, I still seek them as I think in my role as a leader, it’s important for me to understand how I am perceived by those I lead and serve. Just recently, as a part of a departmental survey about my department’s organizational health, I included a couple of questions about my areas of strengths and improvements. I presented the result at our department meeting and thanked my staff for providing helpful recommendations on how I can be better.

I’ve received feedback in the past when I’ve had to question the motivations behind them. There have been times when I found out the “friendly criticisms” were based on professional jealousy and less than noble intentions on those providing them. Unfortunately, I became skeptical about the feedback I received from these individuals who broke my trust. I’m still open to them and I do consider them, but not to the extent I do with my trusted mentors.

Trust is a key component that must be considered in an effective professional relationship. The effectiveness of the messages we provide to others and the actions we take depends on how we express them and how others perceive our level of trustworthiness.