I lost a personal and professional friendship because I behaved in a way that broke trust. It wasn’t intentional. But it was hurtful. It was poor leadership on my part, a failure to listen to the person and the circumstances, I also had way too much of the focus on me and my world not them and their world. Not in anyway #instaworthy.
Did we recover? Sort of. It’s really good to see them round the place. It was right to have made the best attempt I could at making it right, despite taking several months. It’s also equal parts disappointing that my leadership damaged an otherwise very positive relationship. It’s forever altered because trust was broken.
The Balanced Careers website wrote this article on how trust is destroyed and let’s be real here, this isn’t rocket science! To my detriment I violated some fundamental rules of leadership and paid the price. Truth hurts.
The expectation to be real as a leader is more now than any other time in history. Our visibility is greater, our ability to share (and promote) is greater, the thin membrane of what is acceptable and what isn’t is more fragile that it’s ever been. Trust is vulnerable and perfection as a leader can never be our goal. Authenticity must be our goal.
Trust is made vulnerable by invulnerability. If we as leaders are prepared to be personally honest and authentic, and organisationally honest and authentic, then we are positioning ourselves and our business in the best possible place to keep trust. It/s like darkness and light. Whatever we keep hidden (personally and professionally) has the power to eat away at our character, our behaviour and ultimately will show up in our career and work. When we lean into the light the pain is short-lived, clean, and the ability to restore is our gift.
What matters for leaders is the following:
- We take responsibility for creating a culture of trust.
- We are acutely aware of what destroys trust.
- We restore and repair trust as soon as possible.
Dr. Duane C. Tway Jr. writes about the pathology and components of trust. We trust to the extent that we respond positively to how trust has been modelled and developed in our life experience. That we have a perception of competence in our colleagues and, we believe in the positive intentions of others. So trust is both simple and complex. Simple in the sense that a few fundamentals can strengthen or damage it. Complex in the sense that if my pathology of trust leans towards being suspicious or untrusting then the possibility of me projecting that view onto others is more likely. Some form of self-awareness around your own trust frame is essential as you lead people towards deeper and a more life-giving trust experience.
There is a long list of things a leader does that breaks trust, three big ones are:
- Failure to keep confidences. If my information isn’t safe with you I’m not safe with you.
- Failure to tell the truth. If you say it wrong or say it incomplete then the power of our word is eroded.
- Failure to lead consistently. Lack of follow through and ‘vision fatigue’ leads people to disengage.
This shows up over time. Like a slow leak in your car that holds you back in the morning but was well and truly there the night before. When it culminates it goes wrong fast.
There are three consequences of violating trust:
- We don’t believe. When we fail to keep confidences and fail to tell the truth.
- We can’t follow. When we fail to keep confidences and we fail to lead consistently.
- We won’t engage. When we fail to tell the truth and we fail to lead consistently.
This costs both us as leaders and the mission we have accepted greatly. Trust is vulnerable and a handful of things can make or break our ability to lead. Trust me, I know. In the light of whatever trust tension you’re in right now these steps might help.
- Acknowledge that you have behaved in a way that has broken trust. Own your behaviour.
- As soon as practicable take responsibility for what you did. Apologise.
- With humility, ask for the opportunity to make good in the best way possible.
- Give all other parties the freedom to decide how they want to proceed.
- Lead released from the error of that moment. That’s not who you are, it’s what you did.
The best way to repair broken trust is if the trust was broken in private, restore in private. If trust was broken in public restore in public.
Trust is vulnerable which makes it breakable (and repairable).
This is for leaders. I am for leaders.