Jan 26 2021| Leadership | Trust
by Phil Eyre Founder
Am I Trustworthy?
Trust is a powerful thing. It’s essential for sustainable high performance. Trust is the basis on which true empowerment happens within any organisation, the foundation for exceptional customer relationships and fundamental to investor confidence. Trust can be hard won and is always easily lost. It can’t be bought yet can come at a cost. I’ve yet to find anyone that would prefer to be with someone they don’t trust, whether in a personal or working context. Yet, it seems that this valuable commodity is increasingly scarce.
The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reports that trust has evaporated; there is “widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world.”
The research flags a crisis of leadership, with leaders of institutions deemed largely “not credible”. CEO credibility has dropped in some countries to all-time lows. This creates a huge challenge as we seek to navigate the pandemic, just one of a number of massive global issues - population ageing, climate change, extreme inequality to name just a few.
However, our trust in ALL institutions has dropped. Government, NGOs and media have all seen a decrease in their position as trusted sources of information since the start of the covid-19 pandemic last year.
Whilst it is clear we are in a “crisis of trust”, that situation brings an opportunity for leaders who are attuned to the importance of transparency and integrity to stand up, and stand out.
It is imperative that leaders in all communities commit to being trustworthy and continually increasing in trustworthiness. In fact, building trust is central to our work with leaders in any setting. Not the falling-blindly-into-someone’s-arms type, but fostering authentic relationships marked by high integrity. Simply start by asking yourself, ‘am I trustworthy?’
Trust is characterised within five core principles. Like the spokes of a wheel, all five need to be felt by others in order for trust to exist; a deficiency in one will undermine the impact of all others. In summary, the five principles are:
1) Transparency. To be trustworthy, you must share information confidently, whilst maintaining appropriate confidentiality. Too often, confidentiality is used as an excuse to exclude others; being party to exclusive information can be a real ego boost. Transparent leaders communicate clearly and often, including the purpose of initiatives, their reasoning and their expectations. They communicate, also, with their ears, listening to learn and not just to respond. Transparent leaders tell the truth quickly even - especially - when the news is bad, refusing to invent excuses or soundbites that sound good but aren’t true.
Challenge: What news - information, perspectives, opinions - are you holding back and from whom?
2) Relatable. Trustworthy leaders are relatable, in that they understand where their people are coming from. Relatable leaders don’t just communicate with others, they connect. They recognise that one size does not fit all and make effort to draw out individual team strengths. Critically, they actively seek out diverse experiences and perspectives, seeking to understand differences so as to respect them. In so doing, they become even better informed and make higher quality choices. They are interactive; genuinely interested and interesting. Ergo, they don’t talk that much about themselves.
Challenge: How much of your conversation and thinking centres around you and your needs?
3) Consistency. If you have worked with someone who’s doesn’t do what they promised, you’ll know the impact that this has on trust. Being consistent with promises, true to your word, living what you preach and require of others is crucial for trust to be established and maintained.
Challenge: Do you excuse yourself from policies that you expect of others? (hint: I often observe this in leaders that work excessive hours yet tell their colleagues to take better care of themselves).
4) Feasibility. Personally, I enjoy being around “blue-sky” thinkers and dreamers. They can be exciting ad thought provoking. But for trust to be built, leaders need to be more than dreamers; they need to do the right homework to create a feasible plan. There’s a difference between taking a risk and taking a considered risk. Feasibility skill is usually marked by a willingness to learn from mistakes rather than simply dismiss them.
Challenge: Are you running so fast dealing with immediate issues that you’re not asking the more important questions?
5) Empowerment. Trust is all about power. Low-trust leaders hoard power and wield it over others. Trustworthy leaders actively share power, with a “power-with” rather than “power-over” mindset. Team members have autonomy to pursue objectives and are not dependent on the leader. There will be high accountability in such a team - calling out problems and supporting in solving them. There will be high levels of encouragement, praising other peoples’ successes, not seeking self-glory.
Challenge: What proportion of your typical fortnight is spent doing work that others in your team could and should be performing? Why are you holding back and what will you do about it?
Solving the crisis of trust in leadership begins with each of us. Creating a worksplace that is built on trust will bring long-term benefits to every business, but must start from the top. So, start today by asking yourself, “how trustworthy am I?”