The first job of a leader is to inspire trust. But why…and how?
The why behind the significance of building trust is that the essence of leadership is the ability to persuade teams to act boldly in alignment with a big vision. The reality is that none of us are likely to be inspired or influenced by leaders we do not trust. Where there is low trust in a relationship or on a team, there is the very real perception of high risk. Conversely, where there is high trust, the feeling is one of low risk. This is where we are not afraid to step out of our comfort zone or our defensive/cautious posture and try something new and bold. But then, how do we establish trust? First, come to realize others do not owe us their trust, regardless of our expertise, tenure or position. Trust must always be earned. So where does trust come from? When and how do others come to a place of high trust with a colleague or leader?
The building blocks to trust are simple but require uncommon discipline. The steps that lead to high trust begin with establishing credibility with others, then earning respect, which will lead to trust. A leader does not earn trust from just what they say nor what they do. The path to trust is built on the relationship between what we say and what we do every day with great consistency. It’s about walking the talk, where there is consistency between our words and our deeds. Openness, vulnerability and a visible caring heart also serve to catalyze trust.
Here is a simple yet disciplined process to build trust with your team members, regardless of your position.
- Make only those commitments and agreements with others you fully intend to keep. This requires discernment, and also the ability to say no or negotiate agreements on the front end. Then always follow through—always deliver!
- Do not make or allow others to make fuzzy or unclear agreements. Be clear on what you are agreeing to deliver and by when. Otherwise, you have only a promise, not an agreement, and when you break either you weaken trust.
- If you must break or alter an agreement, give the earliest possible notice and do it directly without excuses.
- Listen to others with a compelling passion to understand them. Instead of giving orders, make requests and solicit feedback to make sure that the request is understood and can be delivered upon. This shows others that you care about them.
- And finally, come to understand that vulnerability and openness always precede the highest levels of trust. Be both honest and caring in your feedback to others. Solicit feedback and receive it with grace and thanks. The more you share with others at a genuine level about who you are, what you are good at, what your hopes, fears and dreams are, the more they will come to be open with you, and through that process will come a bond of trust difficult to break.
About the Author
Dr. Joe Paul serves as the Full Potential Coach at HORNE LLP where he helps team members navigate through various stages of career and personal development to reach their full potential.