When considering the great leaders within business there is one core attribute that they possess that sets them apart. That attribute is trust. They are all highly trusted by those that interact with them. These leaders can have an engaging vision, a well-considered strategy, excellent communication skills and innovative insight but if the people didn’t trust them, then they would never get the results that they consistently achieve.
As leaders we need a community of supporters to achieve stretching and meaningful objectives and goals. Teams are built through shared objectives and mutual trust and it is the leader’s role to build that trust. Yet not everyone views trust in the same way, so as leaders we must learn what others value if we want to inspire trust. At a minimum, this effort leads to greater understanding.
In fact, simply recognizing and embracing the differences in how people perceive trust can strengthen it. Once we are aware of our own, or others’ characters, we tend to adjust our behavior subconsciously. When we do so deliberately as well, the results are quite powerful. After all, it’s our behavior that instills trust in others, not our intentions.
Here a few characteristics that we need to demonstrate consistently if we are truly to engender trust within our teams:
- Reliability – ensuring we don’t make commitments we can’t keep and always clarifying our expectations and delivering on our promises.
- Congruence – our language and actions are aligned with our thinking and true feelings. We avoid fads and management fashion.
- Equity -we withhold judgment or criticism and we always separate the person from the performance.
- Openness – straight talking, stating our intentions and ensuring we are honest about our limitations and concerns.
In our interactions with clients it is not unusual to uncover an atmosphere of defensiveness, bureaucracy, and pervasive mistrust. These feelings invariably reinforce a silo culture that makes it harder to collaborate on key strategies such as putting the customer first, developing integrated and aligned objectives or launching new products. Interestingly we used to have to place the word ‘silo’ in inverted commas but as it is so pervasive these days it is a much understood destructive symptom within corporate dysfunction.
Trust is a fundamental issue supporting any company’s culture. Any lack of trust undermines any attempt at delivering results and yet consistently we see leaders that are not trusted by their teams, their peers, their colleagues and even their own leaders.
Reliability and openness should be seen as a core competence for leaders and their performance judged accordingly and this requires a shift in mind-set for many companies.
When we as leaders can shift our mind-set from “trustworthy people are a scarce resource” to “I can inspire almost everyone to trust me more,” our teams and community of supporters will expand significantly and exponentially.
Building trust requires time, effort, focus and character. Trust cannot be faked. While it may take a considerable amount of time to achieve trusted status it can be lost instantly through a moment of carelessness.
Trust affects a leader’s impact and the company’s bottom line more than any other single thing so make sure that you are investing the appropriate level effort in developing trust within your organization.