Being a leader is a tough job these days. They have to instill a high-performance mindset while creating a culture founded on teamwork and competitiveness. They’re expected to have a firm handle on industry, regulations, technology, strategy and people. They’re required to deliver against continuously increasing levels of performance. And, they’re expected to do this while working in a global environment where there are differing sets of cultures, attitudes, ethics and communication styles. Still interested in this job?
“The glue that holds all relationships together including the relationship between the leader and the led – is trust.” ~ Brian Tracy
To prosper in this environment, leaders must have the support of those that surround them. They have to use their people skills, and their ability to inspire others. They must cast a vision that creates buy-in and drives results. Most importantly, leaders must quickly earn trust from their colleagues to inspire team unity and collaboration.
Leading a team of people is hard without trust. As Warren Bennis states, “Leadership without mutual trust is a contradiction in terms.” Stephen M.R. Covey writes in his book, “The Speed of Trust” that low levels of trust have hidden costs because it, “Creates secret agendas and guarded communication that ultimately stymies innovation and productivity.” It’s easy to say that the first job of any leader is to inspire trust.
So, how do you go about earning trust?
Well, trust is born of two dimensions: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, motives, and intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, skills, and track record. Both dimensions are vital.
The 8 specific behaviors that I have noted in my global career that most impact trust are:
- The way you keep commitments. There’s no stronger way of earning trust than by doing what you say. If you say I’ll call you right back, or the project will be done on Friday – this is your word, your pledge. People trust those who deliver what they say.
- The way you treat others. Respecting others is an important element in earning trust. If people see you treating others poorly they will be hesitant to offer their trust.
- How you listen. People tend to trust those who listen to them. Be a good listener, ask questions, encourage others to vent – all these require work and time, but the rewards are worth the effort.
- How you act under pressure. Stress often reveals the inner workings of a person. If your reaction to pressure is bad behavior, then trust will be hard to acquire.
- The way you handle conflict. If during conflict your tendency is to bully, dominate and squash the other party, then trust will not be earned. Keep cool, look for creative win-win solutions, search for common ground in the heat of battle.
- How you extend trust. If you constantly double check everything that your people are telling you, then they will not trust you. Trust them a little – you will get it back.
- How you offer support. If you offer help only because you expect it to be reciprocated in the future, then people will not trust you.
- Your honesty. Many corporate climbers are just passing through various positions on their way up. If you’re not genuine in your intentions, and it’s perceived that your true interests lie elsewhere, like your next gig, then others will not trust you. Be honest, be clear, set expectations, and focus on helping those around you to be their best – the next job will follow.
Finally, earning trust is often a building-block process. Each day you acquire trust through the behaviors noted above. In a sense you are acquiring equity – which you put in the trust bank. Eventually, you build up enough equity where trust is a given.
A Belgian colleague used to say to me, “Dale, trust is something you have to earn. It takes time.” Well, I guess now’s a good time to get started. Because if you don’t take the time or make the effort to build trust, you’re not going to be a successful leader. Are you still interested in the job?
What do you think? I’d like to hear your views.
“Trust is like the air we breathe. When it’s present, nobody really notices. But when it’s absent, everybody notices.” ~ Warren Buffet