One of the effects of the “Covid Crisis” is that trust is swiftly racing up the priority list for leaders. As people have been subjected to high levels of fear and anxiety during the pandemic, they have become more discerning about following leaders based on how much they do, or don’t trust them. There’s therefore a growing need for leaders to win and retain the trust of the people they lead. Here are three points leaders need to know about trust.
Trust is not a given, it’s earned
Just because you occupy a leadership position, it doesn’t mean that those who work for you will trust you. Previously, in the command and control days, leaders did not require their followers to trust them simply because those followers were given instructions which they were expected to carry out, no questions asked.
Obedience doesn’t require trust. It requires compliance. Many business leaders who were trained with the command and control model struggle to understand that they now have to give people reasons to trust them. They see it as an insult to their position and a challenge to their authority if people don’t trust them.
Breaking news: the “command and control” days are over. If you want to get the best out of your people, you have to win their trust. Chances are, when people trust you, they will want to be trusted by you.
Trust takes time to be earned and can be lost in an instant
Your people are not going to trust you automatically. They’re going to watch what you do and listen to what you say, then assess your trustworthiness. So, depending on your track record and your current performance, it could take months before your people decide that you are worthy of being trusted.
Trust is earned by doing simple things – things that start with you doing what you say you’re going to do. In other words, being honest, consistent and transparent. That also includes keeping your promises and demonstrating sound ethics and fairness.
I often ask leaders if they would trust their lives to somebody they’ve never met. Invariably – and understandably – the answer is, “No.”
“What about airline pilots and doctors?” I ask.
“Oh, that’s different,” they usually respond.
But that’s not actually different. Airline pilots and doctors are trusted because they have gone through a process of selection, training and qualifying (meeting strict criteria) before being put in a position of trust. So, they have, in effect, spent years building up the trust that’s put in them.
If you expect people to trust you when you haven’t given them reason to trust you, you’re going to be disappointed. Don’t feel insulted when people don’t trust you. Understand that they simply have to be given a good reason to trust you. So work hard at giving them good reasons to trust you. Bear in mind, too, that just one bad move can result in that trust being lost. And then it may never be regained.
Trust requires a relationship
In the “command and control” days, leaders had no need to form and maintain relationships with those they led. If they issued an instruction, they expected it to be carried out. There was no talk about whether the person wanted to carry out the instruction. They complied or else.
In today’s workplace where you have to make sure you retain your good talent, if you don’t build a relationship with that talent, they’re simply going to find a company where the leaders are prepared to build a relationship with them. And they’re never going to tell you this.
Relationships form the atmosphere that enables trust to breathe, survive and prosper. If the atmosphere you create is toxic because of a lack of trust, it’s only a matter of time before the good talent moves on and all you’re left with are people who are prepared to simply survive in the toxic atmosphere you’ve created.
On the other hand
When you have earned the trust of your people, their productivity will increase exponentially because they’ll bend over backwards to do what they can to ensure the team and/or the company succeeds!
Trustworthiness is but one critical quality today’s leaders require. Should you wish know more about a programme that develops trust in leaders, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net and @HRFuturemag. He is a recognised authority on leadership skills for the future and teaches experienced business leaders as well as Millennial managers how to lead with integrity, purpose and agility. In 2018, he was named by US-based web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the “Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter“.