…is to trust them.
In the past several months, the subject of trust was the most underlying theme in conversations with clients, graduate students and workshop participants. As I reflect on these conversations, it became apparent there are a good number of potential leaders waiting for others to make the first “trust” move. It is this contradiction that prompted the title quote above from Ernest Hemingway as the lead to this discussion of trust.
So how do we trust someone? While there are many ideas around this topic, my experience tells me there are two key elements to successfully trusting others; Integrity and Attitude.
Integrity occurs when our beliefs, actions and words all tell the same story. When we actually do what we say we are going to do, we engender trust in others. I have coached students and clients alike to pay little attention to the words of others but pay very close attention their actions. The more followers trust the leader’s ability to “walk the talk” they make a deposit into the “trust” account. Trust deposits are made in small increments, so it takes time to build a level of trust that is sustainable. Conversely, when the leader breaks the trust, essentially making a withdrawal from the “trust” account, it happens quickly and on magnitudes of scale greater compared to deposits.
Attitude is the other dimension of trust I find represents successful leadership. I have always believed someone is trustworthy until they give me a reason to not trust them. It is an attitude that people see when we work together. Again, there are many reasons to not trust in business, politics, sports or society in general. However, believing society in general is untrustworthy is not fair to those who are. In situations where members of the team could not be trusted, the situation was dealt with quickly and decisively. The attitude is sustainable organizations need trust to succeed. Therefore, there can be no hesitation when dealing with a lack of trust.
David Armistead once said:
“Trust each other again and again. When the trust level gets high enough, people transcend apparent limits, discovering new and awesome abilities for which they were previously unaware.”
Therefore, true trust is a sustainable success multiplier. I often hear that trust exists in an organization based on the premise the organization works well together. My argument is the absence of conflict does not equal the presence of trust! Trust must be an overt action by the leader and it is the leader’s responsibility to make the first move to establishing a trusting culture through their integrity and attitude.
Who do you trust and, more importantly, who trusts you?
Thank you, Rick. An interesting read indeed! One nagging question remains: How do you measure and gauge "trust?" Is there a test scale one could use to contrast "perceived trust" against "universal trust" in order to determine possible deviation, if any? To me trust is based on the subject's character AND skill. That's why it is most difficult to trust someone who's never "been there done that" before, even though he might have an excellent character, or vice versa.
Mustapha - you make a good point about trust involving both character and skill. However, when you trust one's character, the trust process begins quicker and has a more immediate payback as the skills are developed. By way of example, in a recent Leadership Institute class, there are several recent college graduates whose companies are giving them a level of responsibility reflecting their character, not just their skills. Their character gives their organizational leaders the confidence they will learn the skills quickly. Thanks
I always find your articles interesting, and this particular article could not have happened at a better time. I was recently in a job interview for a supervisor position, and one of the questions I was asked was how am I going to get my employees to trust me. Long story short, I am moving onto the next round of interviews and I will keep this article in mind when I am asked this question again.