Is Trust Really That Critical?

Last week’s articles on Trust, Character and Competence and the 3-Legged Chair gave you the strategy and tactics on Trust. In another vein, they gave you the Why components of Trust as a foundation builder for Elegant Leaders. At the end of the day, all that remains is your integrity and credibility regardless of how favorable your results are. For those of you charged with creating or developing an environment of change that “sticks,” you realize building credibility begins at the personal level. Influence happens one person at a time, and in the foundation of trust is your own credibility. A person’s reputation is a direct reflection of their credibility, and it precedes them in any interaction or engagement they have. From company to company, business to business, job to job and everywhere in between, ALL of us take our behaviors with us – good and bad. When a Elegant Leader’s credibility and reputation are high, it enables them to establish trust fast – remember, speed goes up, cost goes down – Integrity, Intent, Capabilities and Results, the 4 Cores of Credibility.

Many of you know, I’m not one for theory. If you want meat-on-the-bone answers, then implementation and execution of the 4 Cores of Credibility are necessary, actually they are demanded. Let me as you, “Would you rather be popular or successful?”   An Elegant Leader will extend trust through their entire organization – the combination of credibility and behavior with organizational alignment results in a culture of high trust.  How do you execute trust? How do you extend it? How do you gain traction with it?  It begins with creating a safe environment for your employees – ALL of them. If and when an employee does not feel safe, then you will find a culture that operates in fear, resists change and can be very territorial.

One pillar of an Elegant Leader is to go first, to extend trust first – to enable, empower and to hold accountable – to cut the strings and let his or her people deliver. The best leaders always lead out with a decided propensity to trust, as opposed to a propensity not to trust. They recognize trust impacts us 24/7/365 affecting the quality of every relationship, every communication, every project, every business venture, everything in which we are engaged. It changes the quality of every present moment and alters the trajectory and outcome of every future moment of our lives. I am convinced that in every situation, nothing is as fast as the speed of trust. Here are some Key Trust Behaviors, and I welcome your thoughts and additions to actionable Trust Behaviors in the comments below:

  • Listen First and Talk Straight – No one cares how much you know, until they know you how much you care. In order to establish, nurture and build trust, you must first listen in order to understand their frame of reference, their motivation, their WHY. Let yourself finish listening before you begin to speak! You can’t really listen if you are busy thinking about what you want say next.  Asking a question to clarify you heard correctly shows respect to the speaker and that reflection ensures you’re understanding what was said, without judging. No one ever said in divorce court, “She always listened to me,” or “He tried to understand.”  We live in a day when airing our opinion matters more than listening intently in order to learn. We’re not going into non-verbal comms today, however listening intently also includes body language and facial expressions.

“History repeats itself because no one listened the first time.” – Anonymous 

Instead of massaging your ego with Management Weasel Speak, keep your communications clear, concise and compelling – without proselytizing, fluff and BS – PLEASE be sure whatever comes out needs to be meaningful, coherent, and is something that comes from the depths of your mind and your heart. In other words, speak honestly and authentically. As you see, there is no gossip, petty, drama-driven drivel accepted here.

  •  Demonstrate Respect and Extend Trust – A key element in being trustworthy is demonstrating and reinforcing respectful behaviors towards others. Whether you are or you are not, your employees, your family, your audiences’ perception significantly shapes what is their reality of you. How you acknowledge communications – fully engaged, taking time to listen, is attentive – has equity with employees and intolerant of inequity. Trust is extended by building up or edifying a team member, manager or other peer/colleague, the leader extends trust of this individual as a recommendation of the acceptable behaviors and/or acknowledges those behaviors are in alignment with the organization. The Elegant Leader models respect and trust, creates a safe environment to operate within and extends trust to those who follow his or her lead – their behaviors.

  • Be Transparent and Keep Commitments – Always be honest, genuine and sincere. Committing to transparency requires Honesty, Integrity and Service. The Elegant Leader will establish and nurture an environment of honest, candid discussions without any fear of recrimination. Transparency is a key to successful change and a positive workplace environment. Without it, the people will not follow through with what is being said, because what is being modeled is what they will mirror – from rank and file, managers and above throughout an entire organization. Follow up and follow through in everything you say and do; DWYSYWD – do what you say you will do – a core value at Brookestone Associates. Your actions are more valuable than your words. You’ve heard it before, even worked within it – you’re actions are so loud, I cannot hear you.

  • Give It Away – In order to have loyalty, you first must be loyal. In an age where some company’s rarely exhibit loyalty to their employees, an environment where loyalty and humility are honored will catch many jaded employees off guard. It must be modeled by leaders, reinforced sincerely when employees are caught doing it right and not penalized when they are not. In order to affect change, everyone is party to accountability by creating a trusting environment by being transparent, committed, loyal and humble towards each other. Each behavior builds on a previous behavior. Companies that espouse high guest, customer or client satisfaction better than their peers have a culture of transparency, commitment, loyalty and humility towards their employees.

By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company – from the Employee Promise at The Ritz-Carlton

  • Deliver Results and Get Better – Positive performance delivers desired results. By committing to improvement and leading with Trust Behaviors, the fear of failure and recrimination will diminish – I didn’t say it would go away, because we’re dealing with people from diverse backgrounds, environments, education, etc. Commit to building trust one day and one step at a time.

We can deliver desired results because we know we have to or we feel obligated to do so. However those results if performed without the relationships in mind, while positive today, were delivered in part by coercion, not because of any environment of trust, loyalty or humility. Conversely, when the environment is solely focused on comfortable, fruitful, well-meaning relationships entirely, nothing of value ever gets done. What do you want to be, popular or successful?

  • Enable, Empower & Get The Hell Outta The Way – Congratulations! You’re well on your way. You’ve established the frame and the ground rules of acceptable behaviors and an acceptable trusting work environment. What’s happened is you’ve enabled your people to “wear their own hat” by themselves. You’ve taken the training wheels off for them. Now that you truly believe and trust in your employees, tell them.

Telling your team, “I believe in you and I trust you” is an incredibly powerful act. By “cutting the strings” your people can accomplish more than most leaders can envision, because someone trusts them to perform. Now, get the hell outta the way and guide, coach, mentor, develop and challenge them by providing consistent feedback of accountability.

Regardless of the size of organization, division or department, your vertical career growth, up and down, is largely dependent on how you exhibit trust and how trustworthy are 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.

I look forward to your thoughts and additions to these behaviors. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ or on our website and ask about How You Can Become an Elegant Leader today!

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