Leadership: Trust

: belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.

Originally posted on LinkedIn.

I would like to devote the second post in my leadership mini-series to this fragile substance - to trust. As you can see in the definition, it is "just" a belief. Something that cannot be bought or ordered to people. On the other hand, it is very stable. Like your belief in any kind of God. It is something that does not change overnight. Usually a terrible experience changes someones belief in God. They either begin or cease to belief.

And the same is truth for trust. Gaining trust is a hard work. You can imagine this like a glass of water that someone holds. This would represent the level of trust this person has to you. The good thing is that you typically do not start with a completely empty glass. Let's say it is somewhat half to two thirds full. People are insane optimists.

The tricky part is that you can pour out all the water by a single act at any time. Or you can be regularly drinking from that proverbial glass. The only thing you cannot do is to put it under a tap and full it at once. Only little drops can be added to the glass especially when completely empty.

Now what can empty the glass? There is a plenty of things and it can be done even unintentionally (be careful to differentiate between intentions and looking for excuses). What are the most typical conscious acts that pour out the water? Here is a few examples.

First, quite simple thing - promising something and do not mean it, or actually never fulfilling the promise without showing any remorse. We are very limited in our powers and we are not capable of achieving everything even if we wanted. However, by giving promises that you do not mean or even never try to accomplish, we send a clear message out: "My promise does not mean a thing, do not believe it."

Second, saying one thing and doing another not only sends mixed signals but also shows a great level of inconsistency. It is fine to change our mind. We learn constantly and under the circumstances of new facts, we might want to act differently to what we originally anticipated. Just make sure this is clearly communicated. Or in some situations, it is perfectly fine to tell that you did not want to share your plan or opinion. This is definitely better than making up a fake story. Having this inconsistency too often is like saying: "Well, no matter what I tell, it is just some gibberish, you cannot count with it."

Third, it looks suspicious if you are nice to someone or help people for no obvious reason (and you are not Mother Theresa). There is no good turn without any motivation. In such a case, this often leads to the trouble with a hidden agenda or misuse of people. Either way, someone helps you to achieve your goal without knowing or even worse, by you masking it as their benefit.

And the last example, which can be very obvious, is called symmetry. Trust is a bidirectional relationship. It is very hard to build trust if you do not provide any. Just ask yourself, could you belief someone who does not trust you? I guess hardly ever.

Now the question is what can I do to gain trust? Except for avoiding the above, we can be open, honest, genuine, we should be the ones of high moral value. Simply lead by example. Typically, decalogue is a good manual which has just a tiny design flaw. Violating decalogue can be fixed easily during a confession. Trust cannot be regained that easy.

It looks simple and you might say that I just skipped through this part quickly with a very obvious statement. Here I would like to ask you to simply digest the statement, to validate all your daily acts against it. Demonstrating the trustworthy attributes is an extremely hard job.

I should have asked the following question at the beginning probably but why would I want to gain trust with people? I am the boss, people listen to my orders and then go and do the job. Really? Do they? What is the quality of the result? Do they work with passion? Nobody gets the best out of them if they do not believe in what they do. If there is no trust you need to breath down their necks to work hard. And the day you are not in the office is celebrated. If you do not watch closely and do not supervise at a great level of detail people will do nothing. And you cannot blame them. They do not know what to do without you. Not because you are that important (a big shock?). It is because you never gave them the responsibility because there is no trust between you.

Do you have a very detailed system of measurements of employees efficiency? Do you have a very detailed system to check the work done, to ? Or do you even check all work done by your team? Does not this approach sort of paralyze your organization? Would not it be better if everybody took the responsibility and accountability and did what just needs to be done?

If you would like to read more on changing your organization towards the one with open communication and trust, I would recommend you the following books:

  • Stephen R. Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Jim Whitehurst: The Open Organization
Image source Freepik.com
. .