“Trustworthiness is the single greatest quality for creating leadership.” -Counterintelligence expert Robin Dreeke
Trustworthiness is in short supply. Earning Trust, like many things we discuss in Leadership FIRSTS, requires playing the “long game.” Trust can take months and years to develop and it can be lost in moments. Trust is an exhaustive topic so I will focus on just two aspects of Trust- the benefits of trust and principles for cultivating trust.
Many of the benefits of trust are well known. Relationships of all types work better from a foundation of trust. In a business and leadership context building trust can materially benefit everything you wish to accomplish. A relationship built on trust is mutually beneficial to the stakeholders. Trust is a vital quality in successful business because “People do business with people.” Success is contingent upon building trust in both professional and personal relationships.”
“People do business with people.”
“Success is contingent upon building trust in both
professional and personal relationships.”
Some of the key benefits to having trust in professional relationships are:
Speed of action, decision, execution
Partnership without strife
Increased value creation
Velocity in overcoming challenges
New or greater opportunities
Extra effort from your team
The penalties for either violating trust or for not building the relationship on a foundation of trust are high. Just as the above are true of relationships built on trust the opposites are true for relationships without trust. Lack of velocity, indecision, poor execution, strife, value destruction, closed opportunities, lack of loyalty, and the inability to get people to step up their effort when you need it are all consequences of a lack of trust. You could add to this list of consequences very easily. In business it means lost business. In personal relationships it is completely destructive to relationships and friendships. It is worth the effort to develop and then maintain trust in every area of your life. It is a necessity for any character-driven leader.
“It is worth the effort to develop and maintain trust in every area of your life.”
Cultivating trust is not difficult but it does take time. Below is not a complete list of ideas for cultivating trust. Some ideas are obvious, like always doing what you say you will do, but some ideas may not be. Take some time to digest this list and see what you can begin implementing in your life to increase the level of trust in all of your relationships.
Principles for Cultivating Trust
Follow-through/execution. Always do what you say you will do.
Give people confidence in your competence. Don’t be shy about your strengths and then "deliver the goods" when called upon.
Invest in others. Those you lead will trust you when they know you have their best interest in mind and are looking out for them. Help someone else be successful. Make their goals your own. It is easy to follow someone who is helping you be successful.
Get used to living in a fish bowl. People are always watching what you say, what you do, how you treat others, the words you use. The more visible you are the higher the level of scrutiny. This is one reason character-driven leadership is vital. If your leadership is not derived from your core values and beliefs everyone will notice the incongruity of your statements and your actions. Many leaders are effective because of the strengths they have, at least in the near-term. We have all seen, however, the countless examples of leaders that lost everything because of their lack of character. They were not trusted, not loved, and did not have the loyalty of their team. In some cases, it was someone on their team that facilitated their downfall.
Don’t put your quest for “power” above people. I am not naïve to the power struggles that take place in business, the jockeying for position, and the effort some people make to succeed at the expense of others. Dick Costello, upon being named COO of Twitter, famously tweeted, “First full day as Twitter COO tomorrow. Task #1: undermine CEO, consolidate power.” While this was presumably a joke he later became CEO of the company. He was ousted in 2015.
Give “grace” for mistakes. You will never get your team’s best work nor encourage them to take risks if every time there is a mistake it is followed with a reprimand. I have been fortunate that my mentors allowed me to learn from my mistakes. I have made some VERY costly mistakes in my career. The key is to mine the lessons learned and not repeat the mistake. Give your team members the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.
Cultivate an environment that promotes transparency and visibility. When something is not working or there is a problem, your team needs to trust you enough to bring it to you immediately. We have a “no surprises” rule with my team. You must demonstrate giving “the boss” the bad news so your team members will also give “the boss” the bad news. Team members may be apprehensive about giving you bad news but they should not be in fear of your reaction nor, in most cases, their job.
Deal swiftly with lapses in integrity. Don’t confuse lapses in integrity with honest mistakes. Remember, your team is watching and knew about the problem long before you did. Once known, how you deal with it will be a lesson to them for the future.
Learn from your own mistakes. No, you’re not perfect. Your ability to face reality and make corrections is being watched by your team.
Face problems head on. Denial and avoidance are not behaviors that will engender trust.
Demonstrate loyalty to your team members. The loyalty you desire must be reciprocated. Over time, people will observe if you remain committed and loyal to your team members. How you deal with someone in a crisis can increase their loyalty, and the loyalty of the observers, or have the opposite effect.
Play the long game. Your team will know when you are after a quick win or when you are interested in producing something that will endure. Knowing that you are striving to build something that will endure will give your team confidence that a short-term setback won’t mean the unraveling of the effort, project, or business.
In times of change, over-communicate and stay visible. If you can give sincere reassurances do so but don’t hide facts that may adversely affect your team members. In times of change there may be restrictions on what you can communicate and when but be as transparent as possible. Once you are able to communicate, do so often and make sure you can be seen and approached by those with uncertainties. Be truthful. Be authentic. Be seen. Be compassionate.
Be aware of how you are being perceived. Perception can be managed but do so with integrity. Managing perception is also a long game. You cannot change someone’s mind overnight. The best perception management simply communicates who you really are. Communicate and be your authentic self. Trust is gained when perception matches reality.
Make continuous improvements. Trust is gained when you are constantly getting better and constantly making your team better. It shows commitment.
The same principles above apply to rebuilding trust when it is lost. It may take years to rebuild trust when it is lost. It may never be regained.
Trust matters. Become the trusted leader, advisor, employee, friend that others need. The ability to develop trust in your relationships will enhance your ability to make a difference in every endeavor and will make you a more complete, authentic leader. Trust and trustworthiness is at the core of character-driven leadership. It ties everything together. If you aspire to lead at a higher level then become more trustworthy.
“If you aspire to lead at a higher level then become more trustworthy.”
This blog is one way I try to invest in others and to encourage character-driven leadership in life and business. If I can help feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.
For more information please visit www.leadershipfirsts.com.
By Alan Buttery