I once had an occasion with a leader, who was new to me, in which the circumstances required me to decide on the spot whether to trust without the benefit of a longstanding shared team history. What I saw in this man was unyielding integrity and loyalty to the whole team, which now included me. In my presence, he had only treated others with dignity and respect. His visible character allowed me to make a leap of faith to extend trust. In good faith, I was then able to bring forward the truth of a serious situation that had significant ramifications. Prior to him, I’m afraid, the truth would have otherwise been complicated by the politics surrounding it.
So, the real question is, how do you build that kind of trust connection with your team? Leaders are forever in the spotlight and must remember that everyone is paying attention to your words and actions. If they see you take a moral short-cut because it will make something easier, you’ve lost. If they see you back-biting and tearing others down, they’ll wonder what you say about them when they’re not in the room. Treating others with dignity and respect is another visible means of judging one’s character. There is no escaping the reality that if they don’t see you acting with loyalty and integrity, building trust will be impossible.
Stop and think about what these components mean:
Loyalty breeds trust. It’s as simple as that. Merriam-Webster defines loyalty as “unswerving allegiance”.
Integrity can be boiled down to doing the right thing, every time, even when no one is looking. This consistent ethical and moral boundary is not only good for you and your team, but your organization benefits as well.
Dignity and Respect means that no matter the position within the organization, individuals deserve to be treated as valuable human beings. From laborer to CEO, your language in addressing them and making requests should remain the same. Leaders need to be consistent. Your behavior should not change just because certain people aren’t in the room.
What do these traits look like in a leader? When there is trouble, people know they’re not in it alone and that they won’t be thrown under the bus as an example to others; you have their back. Consistent accountability. The team is confident that it is safe bring a mistake forward and that redemption is possible. The team sees their leader deal only in the truth, most especially when it’s hard. Doing the right thing, consistently. Standing in the gap. Helping. Making individuals feel valued for doing a good job. Caring.
What does poisonous organizational leadership look like? If any of the following are a part of your team environment, building trust is unlikely: a lack of accountability, intimidation, closed-mindedness, manipulation, secretiveness, blame, individual attacks, power through fear, stifling creative problem solving or improvements, negativity, favoritism, or political land mines. The existence of any of these workplace toxins means that you have a leadership problem and you must work on yourself before you can build trust in others.
While man’s best friend, will overlook your shortcomings and the times you weren’t at your best, your team needs more than a quick pat on the head and tossing the ball to gain their trust.
What did your best leader do to build your trust? What did your worst leader do to destroy it?
Related Articles: 4 Secrets to An Empowered and Engaged Team
Cross-posted in LinkedIn