I recently came across some commentary on trust by Dr. Henry Cloud, a noted leadership expert and clinical psychologist whom I greatly respect. Dr. Cloud emphasizes how trust is the minimum character requirement necessary to lead any group effectively.
In previous posts, I’ve discussed trust as the foundation of a healthy team. Trust is necessary to promote open, honest, and direct discussions to address the real obstacles and setbacks that inevitably come when running departments or organizations.
Dr. Cloud discusses five elements which demonstrate trust in a leader. As a leader, if you desire those on your team to be “all in” with their hearts, minds, and best efforts, they must have complete trust in you.
When those on the team do not fully trust the leader, it is impossible for high impact work to be accomplished. Instead, doubts begin to grow and create a tone of uncertainty among team members. When this happens, it doesn’t take long until the leader’s influence begins to lessen and the team falls short of their goals.
As you read through each element below, I suggest you perform a checkup on how you consistently demonstrate each principle. On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being “all the time, without exception,” how do you rate?
- Understand the other person – Trust requires connection with another person. To ensure connection, the leader must listen with the intent to understand and identify the items the person finds most important.
Yet, it goes beyond mere understanding on the part of the leader. The person must be able to perceive in the way you speak and act in everyday situations that you are listening to them and striving to understand their position as best as you can.
- Honest desire to help others, particularly those on your team – The best performing leaders begin each day with the intention of helping others learn, grow, and perform with more drive and passion. This requires the leader to treat each person individually based on their unique skills, interests, and growth goals.
The gain trust, a leader can’t step in to be helpful only when it is convenient or only after business challenges are overcome. They must consistently manifest this desire.
A leader must demonstrate a strong track record of recognizing the needs of those on the team and an equally strong track record of providing everyone opportunities to learn, grow, and develop.
- Consistent character patterns carried out over the long term – Character is the set of values the leader holds as an individual. These values are demonstrated by the leader’s actions and are in clear sight of those on the team. Actions always speak louder than words.
When a leader’s actions are inconsistent with their stated values, the trust in their character is rightly questioned and those on the team begin to wonder if the leader is trustworthy.
When trust is questioned, those on the team begin to withdraw and protect themselves. They can no longer blindly follow the leader and will only perform minimally required job functions.
- High performance – For a leader to maintain and grow the trust others have in them, they must consistently perform with excellence.
This means they must demonstrate high levels of competency in key skills and traits including communication, organization, decisiveness, strategic thinking, and problem solving, to name a few.
Those on the team must be able to count on the leader to be their ‘go-to’ person when they are stuck and cannot seem to overcome an obstacle or problem.
While the leader doesn’t have to be the problem solver and hero all the time, they must know how to guide those on the team to identify options and find solutions.
- Proven track record delivering strong results – All of the elements above are certainly necessary to maintain and grow trust. Yet, the leader must also produce better than expected results on a regular basis.
After all, leaders are hired and paid to deliver results that are consistent with the organization’s overall vision, whether this impact be profits, opening new markets, developing innovating products or services, etc.
How do you rate according to these elements of trust? If you realize you need to grow in one or more of these areas, congratulations! Awareness is the first step in recognizing the need to grow and change.
If you have a desire to be the best leader you can be, prioritizing this insight on the importance of trust is a good place to start. Over time, with a consistent focus on the above items, you will develop exceptionally high levels of trust with those on your team.
Your reputation as a strong leader will become known and you will have the highest performers clamoring to be on your team. The results you and your team produce will continue to soar. This is a good vision to have, wouldn’t you agree?