How Do Leaders Build Trust?

Trust is confidence born of two dimensions: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, motive, and intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, skills, results, and track record. Both dimensions are vital. I’ve seen and unfortunately, worked with leaders and managers up-and-down the Competent-Confident scale, and chances are you have too.

The 4 Cores of Credibility and all 4 Cores working in tandem:  Integrity, Intent, Capabilities, and Results. Part of building trust is understanding, clarifying succinctly in a clear, concise and compelling manner – what the organization wants and what you can offer them. Add to credibility, the behavior that builds trust.  As the leader, the identity of your business is to extend it through your entire organization based upon the behaviors you model and the behaviors exhibited within the organization – the combination of credibility and behavior with organizational alignment results in a culture of high trust.

Orienteering The Moral Compass

It should go without saying ethics is seamless within your moral compass, but alas, my rose-colored glasses now have bi-focals.  Given the decades of issue-skirting, corner-cutting and down-right lying and deceit, in our society, the character side of trust has fast become a ticket to play AND to stay in our global landscape. The best leaders, the Elegant Leaders, deliver leadership simply, powerfully and with grace. They don’t need to focus efforts on creation of trust as they effortlessly lead and demonstrate by example as a natural part of who they are. It’s not forced, it’s not created, it’s not in his or her explicit language – it just is who they are – genuine, authentic, gracious and transparent.  Their communication norms reinforce the natural behaviors, and their trust preceeds them as the right thing to do. When a leader’s credibility and reputation are high, it enables them to establish trust fast – remember what we mentioned earlier – speed goes up, cost goes down.

Be Intentional

It’s critical to know your intent as a leader and to communicate it clearly. Many leaders lack understanding and how vital communicating intent is in influencing others with impact. While many of us are exposed to goals, vision and mission as carefully-crafted documents, or have listened intently to great speeches delivered by well-oiled orators, many organizational leaders forget – if the intent of these plans isn’t aligned with proper communications, the peoples may be impressed externally, yet deep down inside, they will not believe in those plans or more importantly act on them. While there’s little doubt clarity of intent sheds light on the route, being transparent when the direction appears to be unclear, perhaps full of uncertainty, is more powerful than slick rhetoric.  Any CEO or leader worth their salt, who wants to move their business forward must be certain, and communicate concisely the intent is clear-cut; that’s applicable at any stage of a business’s life cycle.

Ignorance Is Bliss…to some

The need for strong leadership is greater than ever before. A differentiating and often glossed-over core of credibility – capability – is equally essential.  Capability makes a different part of our brains go to work. In it’s simplest form, capability is what we do, and it is not gained by default in your role. It is not how we do “it,” it’s not a process, nor a value stream. Capabilities are clearly-defined, have outcomes and are unique in terms of intent. As opposed to wrapping ourselves around terminology or theory, think of what a leader’s simplest capability is – delivering a solution to a problem. Elegant Leaders incorporate elements of skills and knowledge, are adaptive and intelligent in the sense of importing knowledge from the external context, experimenting and problem-solving, while moving from present to future. There are smart and intelligent people and leaders we want to work with and learn from. Conversely, employees have been treated as inferior auto-motons by some leaders who have no clue what they are doing. Those who don’t understand a product or can’t develop and implement a business model should seek counsel – don’t make others pay for your incapability.

“If you’ll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your lives.” – Coach Vince Lombardi

You Play To Win The Game

Former Philadelphia Eagles player, coach and current AZ State coach, Herm Edwards’ quote, gained notoriety with the now infamous soundbite.  In professional and collegiate athletics, it’s easy to correlate results in terms of wins and losses. The global business climate is a bit disconnected from the simplest scorekeeping given the spin and Management Weaselspeak associated with many organizations unfortunately. And no, you don’t get a trophy for participation. In terms of the Core of Credibility, you may think the person shaking your hand is sincere, even honest, but you won’t fully trust that person if he or she doesn’t deliver results. So many are rewarded for driving top line, optimizing EBITDA and soaring EPS. My question will always be, “At what cost?”

Results that sacrifice relationships are simply leveraged coercion. Relationships that merely deliver a group hug”Kumbyah” experience yield little, if any results. Organizations that preserve the core, satisfy stakeholders and shareholders and inspire people in the organization to attain the very best, demand the very best and get it – they deliver results. You will find, in those organizations, a culture and a strategy that delivers on the financial side as well as the people side; companies like Proctor & Gamble, Nike and Chik-Fil-A. Are they perfect? No. They and many others like them are better than their competitors in their space today.

Mission: Possible

How long will you continue along the same path expecting a different outcome? Don’t fear your self-imposed “unknown” and resolve yourself to be satisfied with marginal success. Do you have to be in distress to make a change? There’s an intersection of egos, relationships and results where the mindset tips the balance personally and professionally. You can change course by putting one foot in front of the other by joining forces with someone who will be with you when it hits the fan. Whether we help you Set Strategic Direction, Engage and Mobilize Employees, Influence Others With Impact or one of many other frameworks to get your organization to where you want and need it to be, we are that stake in the ground for you.

Leaders don’t change organizations – people inside the org do! Leaders change themselves on the inside to affect change! You facilitate change within the organization provided you’ve made the behavioral and perceptual changes first and your organization is in alignment by modeling those same behaviors. Great leaders are humble – it’s not about your confidence and good self-esteem – Elegant Leaders are not arrogant and filled with self-absorbed self-importance. Stop doing what’s not working and chart a new course.

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