No wonder leadership theorists are focusing on trust as a key leadership quality.
In an article for Forbes, David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line shares that anyone in a leadership role can have a compelling vision, excellent strategy, flawless communication skills, insight, and hard-working direct reports, but if people don’t trust them, they’ll never get the intended results.
At the same time, research by Towers Watson identifies that only 55% of employees trust senior management, and only 52% of employees think their leaders are aware of how their actions impact the thoughts and emotions of other workers.
Business leaders need to be skilled in the art and science of trust if they are going to succeed in engaging the hearts and minds of those they lead.
So how can a leader build trust? Here are five places I’d start. See how this matches up with your experience.
- Increase self awareness, and living with core values.
A good leader needs to know themselves well, and understand their own behaviors and actions. Becoming more aware of their own moral values and personality traits allows a leader to identify assumptions and behaviors that might hinder their ability to lead effectively.
- Avoid breaking promises.
Leaders who keep their word build trust because people know what to expect from them. Leaders can avoid breaking promises by learning to say “no” if necessary; only making promises they intend to keep in the first place, and keeping agreements clear and precise. If something comes up that requires a change, share any setbacks early on.
- Being honest and upfront.
Trustworthy leaders keep their team members informed as much as they can—sharing information openly and honestly—even if this means having a difficult conversation. Honesty and openness increase trustworthiness because employees know that their leader isn’t intentionally hiding information.
- Approachability and mutual respect.
A trustworthy leader needs to be approachable. Team members won’t approach their leader if they can’t predict how the leader will react, or what kind of mood he or she will be in. This consistency in reaction should be applied to everyone on the team (and not just the people they like the most!)
- Being firm, but fair.
Leaders need to be clear on their expectations and then be available for course corrections as needed. If a leader sees someone off course, tell them right away. Be honest and upfront but also be prepared to listen carefully and really understand the reasons why a direct report is not meeting the expectation set.
Trust is a key element of success in today’s business environment. When everything is moving quickly, you need people you can count on, and people need leaders they can trust. Without it, things grind to a halt and even the simplest of tasks takes forever.
Leaders have a major role to play in setting the tone for their team, department, or organization. I hope these five points get you thinking about ways you can improve trust in your organization. Any additional ideas? Be sure to share them below.