If you have ever aspired to build trust and credibility but struggled to achieve it, then you know that there is more to trust than having solid values.
There is no denying those values are a prerequisite. However, they are not enough.
Not only does a leader need to be intrinsically committed to values such as integrity, but the competent leader must also know how to leverage their own behaviors to inspire trust in others. Good values and genuine intent is not enough. Leaders need the right tools to get the job done.
In a previous post, I talked about how essential credibility is to leadership. In this article, I want to give you five very practical, concrete behaviors that you can use as tools to build trust.
1. Straight Talk
Direct, open communication is essential to building trust. People cannot read your mind to understand what is going on in there. However, if they do get some information, their own minds and imagination will try to create the rest of the story. Often that story is as inaccurate as it is fictional.
Do not leave your people to fill in the blanks.
Talk to them using direct, open communication so that they know where you are at. Moreover, whatever you do, make sure you walk the talk. Incongruent behavior will undermine your message faster than anything else.
Do not be a mysterious leader. Not only is there the need to be direct in our communication as leaders, but also to communicate widely. Address concerns. Keep people informed. Share the bad news with the good. Describe your vision and dreams for the company, team or class that you are leading. State your values clearly.
Transparency brings people closer and facilitates trust.
3. Set Expectations
This one runs true from parenting through to leading a major organization. Make sure everyone knows what is expected.
People want to know exactly what you expect of them! Jack Welch says, “Find out what your boss wants and then over deliver.” Your people want to do that. You want them to do that. But how can they do that unless it is clear what you expect?
4. Listen First
If you listen carefully to those who rave about the care they receive from their family doctor, something interesting stands out. The sophistication of equipment is never the top acclamation. The intelligence of the doctor is not the primary asset that is admired.
It is always one thing: “My doctor listens to me!”
Just yesterday, a colleague mentioned that a year ago he went to get medical attention for a severe cold he was experiencing. It was dismissed as a simple flu bug, despite his protests, and he was sent home. Two days later, he was admitted back to the same hospital with pneumonia. He was not being listened to.
Leaders need to listen, and listen to understand.
5. Follow Through
Few things breed disappointment in followers as quickly as a lack of follow through. A leader must make keeping commitments a priority. Most leaders that I have witnessed struggle with this one fail for one of two reasons. Either they over-commit or they simply do not keep track of everything they commit to.
People generally do not like to ask for things. It feels like begging or groveling. So when you or I as a leader make a commitment it is our responsibility to make sure that we keep it and that it does not get lost in the busy demands of life.
Sometimes we commit to something we later find out we cannot keep. I have found people to be disappointed but accepting of this if I am transparent and talk straight with them about why I am unable to keep the commitment. But the worst thing we can do as leaders is to just let it go and hope it will be forgotten. That will not happen.
If you are a leader who is struggling to gain the trust of your team I hope this has been helpful for you. Perhaps if things have not been going well it is time to call the team, the family or the class together and just start with #1. Talk straight to them about the changes you want to make and ask them to help by holding you accountable. They will appreciate the transparency.