How Do Real Leaders Earn Trust?


Most companies are saying the right things when it comes to trust but my company’s assessments and research findings confirm that what they say is not translating to results. Even those companies that have statements like “respect individuals,” “our people are our point of difference,” or “value our and all people” as part of their mission statements.

That’s because trust like a real apology, is not like changing a light bulb. Saying, “I trust you” in an environment that is judgmental and lacks value and respect for people sounds a lot like saying “I’m sorry” without accepting any accountability for whatever you did.

Trust comes from actions that you take but it must be felt by others in order to resonate. So why do so many leaders not understand this about their people?

Because they aren’t listening. They don’t understand that when it comes to trust, respect of who they are is more important than recognition.

In today’s new normal, people want to be heard. They want to be part of a workplace that allows them to be their authentic selves—one that supports their efforts to be more purposeful, responsible, and accountable.

As a result, many organizations have encouraged their employees to freely speak up, be bold and engage in courageous conversations. While these are well-intentioned efforts, they can only be successfully implemented within a workplace culture that can authentically create a safe environment to speak-up—where leadership is open-minded enough to allow their employees to influence their decisions and where fresh perspectives are welcomed and acted upon.

That’s not easy to do, especially in overly metric-driven business climates, which values execution over thinking more and differently.

And if this sounds touchy-feely or soft to you without more data well then know not everything can be solved with data.

I didn’t say this. Google did.

In 2015, Google released an employee survey, called “Project Aristotle,” through The New York Times which showed that all people on every team just want to speak and be heard: “Project Aristotle is a reminder that when companies try to optimize everything, it’s sometimes easy to forget that success is often built on experiences—like emotional interactions and complicated conversations and discussions of who we want to be and how our teammates make us feel—that can’t really be optimized.”

Thus, the most important and effective way for managers to earn trust quickly is to be a strong communicator—to speak authentically and then listen as others do the same.

I remember when I was a young manager; I always took the time to communicate across all levels of the organization; to get to know everyone directly and indirectly involved with my business unit (those who could potentially influence outcomes and decisions). This extra step always made it easier for me to communicate needs for my team and allowed my team to more effectively communicate with the key players in the organization.  I had earned my credibility, and it helped my team learn to trust me (knowing that I ultimately had their best interests in mind).

In the end, great communication uses diversity of thought to break down departmental silos and create inter-dependency between people thus building strong workplace alliances. Diversity of thought is about being inclusive: Everyone listens to each other and values individual differences enough so everyone contributes and believes they can achieve. It improves relationships and creates an effective group think environment that further promotes teamwork and consensus.

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