Sunday, 16 November 2014 15:58

Leading With Trust

Leading with Trust: Principles and Practice


“Trust is a critical ingredient for leadership, since few people follow someone they do not trust…You cannot even get out of the starting gate as a leader if others do not believe your words.”

~ Cornell University Professor Tony Simons, The Integrity Dividend: Leading by the Power of Your Word (Jossey-Bass, 2008)

A Watson Wyatt Worldwide study of 12,750 U.S. workers in all major industries found that companies with high trust levels outperform their low-trust counterparts by 186 percent.

In a 2011 Maritz survey, only seven percent of more than 90,000 employees worldwide said they trust their senior leaders to look out for their best interests. It’s not just a problem for rank-and-file employees. Roughly half of all managers distrust their leaders, according to a Golin Harris survey of 450 executives at 30 global companies.

Despite the importance of trust, few leaders give it the focus it deserves. Misunderstood as a nebulous “feeling,” trust is earned through consistent, positive behaviours practiced over time, making it an indispensable leadership skill.

“Trust always affects two outcomes—speed and cost,” confirms leadership guru Stephen M. Covey in The Speed of Trust (Free Press, 2008). “When trust goes down, speed will also go down and costs will go up. When trust goes up, speed will also go up and costs will go down. It’s that simple, that real, that predictable.”

Your success as a leader depends on the degree to which stakeholders trust you. Whether you’re a business developer, salesperson, client relationship manager, C-level executive, consultant or manager, you need to master the principles of trust and put them into daily practice. You must train your thinking and change your habits to earn the trust necessary to be influential, successful and recognised as someone who makes a difference.

Two great books on this important topic are:

1. The Trusted Advisor (Free Press, 2001), by leadership consultants David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford

2. The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, 2011), by Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe.

Their authors offer several key truths:

• Trust grows; it doesn’t just appear.

• Trust is rational and fact-based and emotional and intuitive.

• Trust is a two-way street, experienced differently by each person in the relationship.

• Trust is intrinsically about taking risks.

• Trust is always personal; you place trust in people.

Feeling and Fact


“When we are having a good conversation, even if it’s a difficult one, we feel good. We feel connected to the other person in a deep way and we feel we can trust him. In good conversations, we know where we stand with others—we feel safe.”

~ Executive Coach Judith E. Glaser, Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust & Get Extraordinary Results (Bibliomotion, 2013)

Trust evolves more slowly than other feelings. You may immediately know if you like someone, but trust builds over time. You withhold it pending confirmatory evidence.

Of course, much of this evidence is fact-based. When you follow through on a promise, you provide rational reasons to be trusted. When you extend trust, you create a platform that encourages others to be trustworthy.

Emotional factors also influence trust. Leaders provide support, encouragement and personal stories. You confide in others, express your true feelings and share your values—acts that promote reciprocity.

Trust is never a solo operation. Another person must participate and respond. Unilateral efforts cannot force trust.

5 Trust-Building Skills


Trustworthy leaders practice and master five key abilities:

1. Listen Well Most leaders use their listening skills to gather information. But listening is a critical tool for connecting with others, building relationships and strengthening influence. You must pay attention, be empathic and let others know you understand them.

2. Partner Partnership involves collaborating (not competing), committing to fairness, balancing assertiveness and cooperation, dealing with disagreements, and sharing responsibility for successes and failures.

3. Improvise Things don’t always go as planned. Glitches and challenges can be “moments of truth” that require rational and emotional flexibility. Leaders are stretched at times, but your ability to handle moments of truth determines your trustworthiness.

4. Take Risks Trust cannot exist without taking risks and leaving your comfort zone. Every risk you take builds trust. Leaders must be courageous enough to overcome their fears and confront challenging situations with curiosity and authenticity. Work toward boosting your tolerance of ambiguity and exposure. Learn to take the right risks at the right time.

5. Know Yourself Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence and trustworthiness. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses allows you to delegate and collaborate more effectively. Work with a trusted mentor or executive coach to identify blind spots that impede self-knowledge.

3 Common Blind Spots


“When employees are given honest feedback, even if the feedback suggests they have room to improve or change, the conversation can have a powerful impact, energizing them and motivating them to access new skills and talents. When handled well, honest feedback triggers growth, and employees will trust this feedback in the future.”

~ Glaser

Well-meaning leaders often overlook barriers to trustworthiness. The traits that make you a strong leader may inadvertently interfere with building self-awareness and trusting relationships. Consider these common blind spots:

You don’t realise the extent of your need to be liked. How often do you avoid saying or doing something because it might be unpopular? While this may sometimes be wise, it lowers your credibility, effectiveness and overall trustworthiness.

You’ve underestimated the intensity of your internal drive to achieve. Results-oriented leaders habitually move too quickly from fully listening to pushing for commitments.

You overlook your discomfort with feeling unprepared. Leaders aren’t clairvoyant and don’t have all the answers. This uneasiness may prevent you from engaging in collaboration and depending on others.

These three traits are fairly common among high-achieving leaders. You must take off your blinders and identify barriers to trust. Without self-knowledge, you risk damaging relationships.

4 Components of Trust


“It’s not enough to keep your word; others have to be aware that you are doing it. And here is where it gets sticky. Like beauty, behavioral integrity is in the eye of the beholder. Consistently keeping promises and living by your stated principles are difficult tasks. Being seen as consistently doing these things is harder still.”

~ Simons

As a leader, you know how fragile trust can be. Four key components contribute to your overall trustworthiness.

1. Credibility (the realm of words): Our level of expertise and how we present our knowledge determine our credibility. When we study facts and complete analytical research, we build up our credibility. We boost credibility in our business conversations by:

a) Developing formidable expertise in our industry

b) Staying current with industry trends and business news

c) Offering our point of view (when we have one)

d) Being willing to say “I don’t know” when this is an honest answer

e) Expressing passion for our areas of expertise

f) Communicating with self-assurance (a firm handshake, direct eye contact, a confident air)

2. Reliability (the realm of actions): Do you fulfill the promises you make? Do you deliver on your commitments? Reliability is built over time, but it can be destroyed in a second. Boost your reliability with consistency, predictability and certainty:

a) State expectations up front. Regularly reinforce them.

b) Make lots of small promises, and consistently follow through on them.

c) Be prompt.

d) Communicate if you fall behind. Take responsibility for delays.

e) Respect organisational norms and culture.

3. Intimacy (the realm of emotions): While credibility and reliability are predictable, workplace intimacy can be tricky. It’s easy to keep a professional distance in our interactions, but the “all-business” leader rarely gets ahead. We need and should seek trusted relationships at work. Without openness and transparency, the real issues will never surface.

The problem with intimacy is that the word carries a connotation of closeness that isn’t appropriate at work. In reality, intimacy refers to your willingness to share appropriate information about the things that truly matter. In short, can you speak with candour?

Boost intimacy by sharing personal experiences and values. Learn to:

a) Listen beyond the words. Pick up on tone, emotion and mood. Acknowledge these elements aloud.

b) Tell people what you really appreciate about them. Don’t keep it to yourself!

c) Use people’s names in conversations.

d) Share something personal about yourself. This makes you more human and interesting.

4. Self-Orientation (the realm of motives): Without doubt, we are all self-motivated to a degree. But we also want what’s best for others, the company or the team. How often do you speak about yourself: your wants, needs, goals and priorities? Are you oriented toward finding win-win solutions that take others’ needs into account?

When trust breaks down, excess self-orientation is usually to blame. You can lower your level of self-orientation in relationships by:

a) Taking time to find the best solution

b) Sharing time, resources and ideas

c) Asking lots of questions from a place of curiosity and figuring out your partner’s definition of success

d) Negotiating for a true win-win

e) Listening even when it’s uncomfortable to be silent

f) Speaking hard truths, even when it’s awkward

g) Giving your partner the credit for ideas and achievements

Measuring Trust


Consultants Maister, Green and Galford use the four components of trust to provide a concrete measurement tool they call the “Trust Equation”:

Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy


Let’s measure one of your work relationships. Choose a subordinate or team member—someone you deal with on a regular basis.

1. Give each factor at the top of the equation—credibility, reliability and intimacy—a rating from 1 (low) to 10 (high). Ask yourself:

• How much credibility do you have with this person?

• How much reliability is there between you?

• How close, open and honest are you with each other? Add up the three numbers.

2. Next, rate your degree of self-orientation (how much of yourself you insert into your conversations) from 1 to 10. Factor in the following criteria:

• Are you basically self-oriented, focused on what you think and want from the relationship?

• If you’re a direct supervisor, do you focus primarily on your expectations and results? If so, consider yourself highly self-oriented.

• If your leadership style is coaching-oriented, your self-involvement is lower, as you encourage others to come up with solutions.

3. Determine your total score by dividing the first (top) number by the second (bottom) number. According to the authors, a score of about “5” equates to a trustworthy relationship, while a score of about “1.25” would demonstrate low trust.

You can lower your level of self-orientation by increasing self-awareness. The more you understand your quirks and weaknesses, the better you can rein in your ego and focus on others.

Leaders who fail to gain subordinates’ trust will always struggle to be influential and inspirational. Focus on the four key components of trust, and measure your overall trustworthiness. Your score will clarify the action steps you must take to increase trust.

Last modified on Sunday, 16 November 2014 16:33

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