When we trust, we feel safe to share our thoughts, our ideas, our worries, and our hopes. When others trust us, they do the same.
Trust doesn’t mean we must always agree. It simply means that we listen with respect and value the other party’s point of view. Trust allows us to debate and challenge one another’s points of view as we seek to solve problems and find solutions. When trust is present, we get better results with far less stress.
For leaders, trust frames both our obligations and responsibilities to our team because of the authority and power we have within the organization. Our behavior within these 4 domains defines our own trustworthiness.
Sincerity - The assessment of the one’s honestly. It’s the belief that the other individual means what they say, says what they mean, and their actions align with their words. When we express our intentions, beliefs, values and plans, we aren’t just describing ourselves, we are setting expectations of our future behaviors based in the minds of those who hear our words. The greater the scope of responsibility within the company, the more closely others watch to determine if our actions match our words. If they do not align, we cannot earn trust.
Reliability - The assessment of the other person’s ability to follow through with the commitments they make. If the other individual promises you a report “by Friday” - it will indeed be delivered by Friday (not an excuse on Friday and a report on Tuesday). How we handle requests, make offers and voice commitments will determine if others find us reliable or not. If we are not reliable, we cannot earn trust.\
Competence - The assessment of the other person’s capacity, skill, insight and knowledge to do a particular task or job. The degree to which they are capable of executing a task well. Being competent does not mean being perfect. It means knowing our limits, acknowledging when we cannot complete a task, and asking for help or guidance. If we lack skill and knowledge but charge ahead anyway without engaging someone with expertise, we cannot earn trust.
Care - the assessment of the other person’s capacity to think of someone other than themselves - that they have considered what is in the best interest of everyone (including the company) when they make a decision. It is virtually impossible for a team to collaborate to solve problems if some members do not believe other members do not care about the collective interest of the group. When we show up for the little things of our co-workers (meeting for coffee, asking about a sick child, staying late to help with a task), we demonstrate that we care about the interest of others. Saying we care without any demonstration of showing up for others is complete hypocrisy - and we cannot earn trust.
The degree of the team’s trust in their leader drives employee satisfaction, loyalty, and work commitment. Trust in the leader is directly tied to productivity and profitability. It creates a sense of belonging and purpose for our work.
The absence of trust (distrust) manifests as fear - and fear destroys idea sharing, innovation, and collaboration. Individuals who lack trust in their leader tend to spend more energy on protecting themselves. They engage in strategies to document their decisions should they need “evidence” in the future.
Occasionally, I hear a leaders speak as though their team members should earn their trust. That’s a perverse inversion of the leadership model.
If you are the leader - take a hard look in the mirror. And evaluate the trustworthiness of the person looking back at you. Your own sincerity, reliability, competence and compassion for others defines your own trust quotient. It’s well worth the investment of your time to discover yours. Without it, you cannot lead.
Michael is an executive coach, entrepreneur, investor, and strategist with 30 years of experience leading investor-backed, high-growth organizations.
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