Leadership Library Review — Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace: Seven Steps to Renew Confidence, Commitment and Energy

June 2012

Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace: Seven Steps to Renew Confidence, Commitment and Energy

by Dennis Reina & Michelle Reina (Berrett-Koehler, 2010)

What are the big take-aways?

Reina and Reina, a wife and husband research team who co-founded the Reina Trust Building Institute, offer a seven-step model for healing from betrayal.  It is key to note from the outset that the model they offer is not just for people whose trust has been betrayed in the workplace, but also for people who have (intentionally or unintentionally) betrayed the trust of others.

Ultimately, being able to find peace after a breach of trust – on either side of the equation – requires taking responsibility for what happened, detaching a person’s behavior from the person him- or herself, and forgiving one’s self as well as the other.  It is a long process that does not always go smoothly, or in the exact order of the Reina model.  Sometimes one or more of the seven steps prescribed by the model can be done simultaneously, and sometimes one or more steps need to be repeated (p. 13):

  1. Observe and acknowledge what has happened;
  2. Allow feelings to surface;
  3. Get and give support;
  4. Reframe the experience;
  5. Take responsibility;
  6. Forgive yourself and others;
  7. Let go and move on.

Why did I like it?

Quite simply, the Reina model resonates.  The seven steps make sense from my perspectives as a leadership coach and consultant, as well as from my personal experiences of betrayal in the workplace.  I certainly know what an essential step it is to let feelings emerge, and what a transformative shift it can be to reframe an experience; I understand the courage it requires to take responsibility for what happened when something’s gone wrong, and also how powerful forgiveness (of self and other) is.

Another thing I like about this model is that it “normalizes” workplace betrayal.  The book takes the stance that, like other forms or sources of conflict, betrayal is an inevitable consequence of the types of human interaction that regularly occur in the course of doing business.  We’ve all had our trust breached at some point, and we’ve all broken others’ trust, too – whether we meant to or not.  The Reina model’s seven steps provide a conceptual structure and a vocabulary for the complexities of what happens when you are a party – or a witness – to a betrayal, and a clear path forward for recovering from it.  The overall effect of using the steps is to help you create intentions, take action, and recognize your movement through the healing process.

In what situations would this be useful?

As a leadership and management resource in particular, Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace is very versatile and would work well in a wide range of situations:

  • from an individual incident (e.g., a miscommunication between two co-workers) to an incident affecting an entire organization (e.g., layoffs);
  • from being a party to a betrayal to being a witness to one;
  • from having your trust broken to breaking someone else’s trust;
  • from a minor unintentional act to a major intentional breach.

The book is full of excellent coaching questions, so I also see it as a terrific tool for coaches, HR professionals, and for leaders and managers who deliberately use a “coaching style” in developing their direct reports and mentees.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

The first book that comes to mind is Boyatzis & McKee’s Resonant Leadership, previously reviewed in the Leadership Library, along with their team’s workbook, Becoming a Resonant Leader (Harvard Business Press, 2008).  Another good workbook choice might be Bill George’s Finding Your True North: A Program to Discover Your Authentic Leadership, also previously reviewed in the Leadership Library.

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