For trust to have a long tail, it must have good leadership over time, consistently focusing on the right things. Regaining trust is essential. Knowing the ingredients of trust is essential. Doing what it takes to build trust overt time is masterful. In fact George MacDonald sees it as so important he said, “To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.” Leaders do what it takes to build and maintain trust over long periods of time. That’s the long tail of trust.
- Trust needs to be regained.
- Trust needs to be understood.
- Trust needs to be deepened.
- Trust needs to be experienced consistently over time.
By way of reminder, trust has three inputs and three by-products. These are demonstrated in the Trust | Master Model below and was elaborated on when the Ingredients of Trust was discussed.
TRUST | MASTER MODEL
Assume people are intelligent and they know what’s going on.
People are really clever. People know what’s going on. People can often work out what’s going on well before you think it’s time to tell them. A critical distinction for a leader is to know when to inform your people of what needs to happen and when you simply language what they already know and invite them to be part of the solution. Tell the truth. Be dedicated to authentic and wise leadership. Invite input on the right things at the right levels. Ask people to consider positive options and alternatives that would add value to your mission.
One of the key roles of leadership is to be able to “language the atmosphere” that is, to put into words what is happening IN your organisation and link that to positive next steps while inviting people to embrace the reality. John Maxwell says it in a pithy way when he is quoted as saying “People are down on what they are not up on.” Our role as leaders is to help people get UP on as much of the right things as possible.
Develop a small yet powerful ‘Jedi Council’ as a sounding board.
Three thousand-year-old wisdom says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel.” This idea of having a trusted group of leaders who know everything about you and love you anyway, is critical to keeping you grounded, sharp, humble, and focused. This does not have to be your Board yet it may contain members of your Board. This is about ensuring your leadership is staying within the three traits that the Trust Model focuses on. Keeping your integrity high, your consistency clear and your longevity on track. These people do not need permission to ask you anything at any time because they are for you, and they want you to win. Perhaps you can be that for someone else as well.
Having a small group like this gives you a safe and significant place for a sanity check. You develop an environment that is both safe and sharp where you can road test ideas, let off steam and map a pathway forward. It could make or break your leadership.
Remember, trust leaks.
Leaders are famous for saying ‘Vision Leaks’ meaning over time unless you continue to remind people of the BIG WHY of your organisation then they will drift over time. Trust works the same way. You have to work at building trust consistently (See Point Four) and the more you add into the trust bank, the better the returns will be. Conversely, the more withdrawals you make, the less trust capital you have left at the end to leverage off. Trust leaks over time. Leaders continue to act in ways that create trust, and they consistently tell the stories that exemplify trust.
Do the work that builds the trust at all levels of your organisations.
If it’s true that trust leaks then at all levels of your organisation, you’ll need to find ways to make sure that people experience you the way you believe they should at every level of the organisation. This is where impartiality becomes important. All your stakeholders matter, no matter how big or small. Trust gets built when people experience the feel and culture of your organisation wherever they are.
In addition to running a corporate people development practice, I lead a local Church where we have people attending from newborn babies through to very mature, senior people and everyone in between. Our good people MUST have the expectation that whoever they are and wherever they find themselves, they will have the same experience of our vision and culture no matter who they are. Trust is more often built in informal settings, off the course, and in the moments between the moments. It might be built remembering a wedding anniversary or an important football match or following up and doing what you say you are going to do. Getting things done on time, respecting the time and commitment of volunteers. Providing training and development opportunities and sharing the spotlight in victory. Every year my wife Megan and I write a card to all the children starting school and place a $5 note inside the card. The cost is minimal and the payoff huge. For weeks, parents thank us for the card and kids thank us for the money!
Small steps build big trust, and as the key leader you have the responsibility of ensuring people experience trust at every level of your organisation.
Be transparent and humble in testing and turbulent times.
One of the critical tests of leadership is who you are when it’s not going well. When there is a failure in a person or the system. It takes serious courage to step up and tell the truth, be responsible and make a positive difference. When things don’t go well, stand firm, be transparent and truthful. Who you ARE as a leader at that specific point in time can make or break the trust your organisation and stakeholders have in you.
If you made the mistake. Take full responsibility for that action and the consequences.
If the error occurred on your watch, fix it and tell people everything they need to know.
People know what’s going on. They can see it. They can feel it. When you own up to it, sometimes that’s enough to create a change in the momentum. Then rebuild.
When the transgression is so great, trust is often rebuilt by a clean sweep of leadership. As painful as that sounds, trust cannot be experienced for a long period of time when there is no confidence in those steering the ship. When a clean sweep takes place, you provide yourself with the opportunity that Abraham Lincoln says, “Starting again, more intelligently.”
It’s one thing to regain trust. It’s entirely another to do it consistently over time so you have a long tail that serves the mission and the movement you belong to. Trust, it’s the oxygen to your future. Earn it diligently and spend it wisely.
#onestepleadership | A Big Vision to Make Leadership Smaller