13 Things I’ve Learned about Trust and Leadership
Here, in no particular order, are thirteen things I’ve learned about trust and how we need to wield, build, and protect it as leaders.
1. Trust is a decision at first and a reward later on. What I mean by this is that when you first enter a professional relationship, you need to decide immediately that you (cautiously, sure) trust this person to have good intentions, to care about the work, and to do their job well. As the relationship progresses, they will prove you right or wrong. And the reverse is true as well. You will prove trustworthy or not. But the trust (or lack thereof) you convey to them will set the stage for the rest of your relationship.
2. Vulnerability combined with passion is what makes a group of people into a team. Without trust, vulnerability is impossible. Trust is the foundation of all good collaborative work.
3. Ideas are incredibly personal. Sharing ideas makes us feel vulnerable. When someone shares an idea with you, it’s like they’re planting a seed of trust. How you respond to their idea determines whether you water the seed and get a big, beautiful bloom or whether it withers and dies. You water the seed by expressing interest, asking positive questions, adding your ideas on top of theirs, and giving it room to breathe. You kill it with immediate dismissal, veiled or overt criticism, and silence.
4. Trust is very difficult to regain if lost, so you need to guard it as jealously as you would your most valuable possession.
5. Trust is the foundation of vulnerability, but the opposite is also true. In order to establish trust, someone has to be vulnerable. If their vulnerability is met with approval, celebration, and understanding, trust appears. So, in order to increase trust among your team, try bringing your own vulnerability to the table. Share something personal, share an insecurity or confess a professional weakness. Model the behavior you want to see in others.
6. If you don’t trust someone to do their job, they’ll meet your expectations every time. On the other hand, if given the gift of trust and the support that comes with it, they’ve proven nonetheless they can’t be trusted, they’re not right for your team.
7. Authenticity, like vulnerability, breeds trust. Be emotionally honest. Have hard conversations without being manipulative. Make mistakes and own them. Be messy, be human. You don’t have to be perfect to earn respect…you have to be honest. Ditch the perfect leader costume and come as you are. Trust will follow.
8. Be a learner, and do it openly. The people you lead want to see that you care to learn how to better lead the business, how to be a better leader, and that you’re staying up-to-date on trends in your market. Not only will it inspire them to do the same, and bring their learnings to the table, but it will increase trust in your leadership.
9. Be clear. Everyone you lead should know exactly what the mission is, what the strategy is, what the goals are, how close you are to meeting those goals, and what is expected of them. When strategies or goals change, call explicit attention to the change and explain why. Trust follows clarity and is destroyed by opacity.
10. Conduct yourself with integrity and demand nothing less from your team. If your direct reports or your greater team observes you being dishonest or manipulative with others, they won’t trust you to operate honestly with them either.
11. Cultivate a culture of honest feedback, not just from manager to subordinate, but between peers as well. People who know where they stand with each other trust each other.
12. Build in opportunities for socialization. That’s especially important now, during the COVID 19 pandemic, when we’re physically isolated from each other. Don’t let the isolation disrupt personal relationships and, by extension, vulnerability and trust.
13. At the beginning of your transition to management or leadership, especially when you’re supervising people who are in your former position, you might have a hard time letting go of your attachment to your own way of doing things. This can lead you to micromanage your creatives. And it can also hinder your organization’s success. After all, if you disregard other people’s ideas, talents, and processes, you can only ever be as successful as you have the potential to be. But when you trust others and let their talents develop, you now have the potential of everyone combined. That’s powerful.
I’d love to hear which ones resonate with you, which ones don’t, and about those I’ve left out. Let’s have some fun in the comments!