the ceo magazine, leadership

Trust-building is often considered a “soft” component of management – one that can be delegated to an HR committee, trotted out during team-building activities, or shelved altogether in lieu of more “concrete” strategic initiatives. While it’s true that the trust people have in you is intangible, that doesn’t mean paying attention to it is optional. If you want to have a high functioning business – and become a high-functioning leader – you simply can’t afford to ignore one of the most basic drivers of human relationships and your leadership effectiveness.

When people trust you and one another, they openly share information, work collaboratively together and go the extra mile to produce extraordinary results. When trust is missing, the spirit of a team withers. Information is withheld, ideas go untapped, and results diminish. There is a direct correlation between a leader’s trustworthiness and an organization’s capacity for trust, and its overall effectiveness and profitability. Trust-building isn’t a fringe initiative…unless you’re satisfied with leaving a critical mass of your market share on the table.

So, how do you begin to build trust in your leadership and in your workplace? The answer begins in your own head and heart. You have a predisposition for a certain capacity to trust people, situations, and outcomes. You may approach each situation ready to trust, and have no problem taking others at their word, believing in the results that they promise, and doing what you can to support their stretch goals. Or, you may approach things differently, needing to be convinced with hard proof that you can trust in others’ communications, capabilities, and ambitions. Once you understand your own orientation towards trust – and how it affects your approach to your colleagues, bosses, and employees – you can begin to choose the right behaviors for each situation that will encourage others to trust you, and each other in turn.

In our work with trust-building over the past 20 years, we’ve learned that trust is built and broken by the little things. While you’re probably more attuned to fractured (and revived) trust in the context of dramatic change or disaster, the truth is that you do more to damage (or energize) trust in your relationships by the little things you do (or don’t do) every day. More often than not, you’re not even aware of how your behaviors are impacting others’ ability to trust you ….though you probably sense that something is “just not right” when you fail to get what you need from those relationships.

As with all forms of leadership development, awareness is the key to mastering your professional presence. Getting honest feedback on your trustworthiness is essential to your leadership and workplace effectiveness. When you don’t know what you don’t know, you can’t possibly operate at the highest levels, or achieve your deepest impact. It’s time to become aware, embrace trust-building in your life and place of work, and reap the personal and professional rewards that are guaranteed to follow.

About the Author

Drs. Dennis and Michelle Reina are co-founders of Reina, A Trust Building Consultancy and co-authors of Trust & Betrayal in the Workplace and Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace. Their clients include American Express, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, MillerCoors, the US Army, Harvard, Yale, and Walt Disney World. Their best-selling business book Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace won a 2007 Nautilus Book Award and a 2008 Axiom Business Book Award.


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