The Essential First Step for Building Trust!

There are many actions we can discuss to strengthen Trust in your organization or on your team. However, let’s start with an area that’s an essential building block of Trust –simply doing what you say you’re going to do.

Trust is about employees feeling secure, and from my experience and study, security comes from employees believing and having confidence in what their leaders say. Susan Brandt in her book ‘Manager as an Initiator of Trust’ says it this way: “Being perceived as trustworthy involves behavioral consistency and integrity. Integrity centers around telling the truth and keeping promises.” To be trusted as a leader you must deliver on what you say, by keeping your word to maintain integrity with your employees. Over the years, there are three principles I have attempted to follow myself, and have encouraged other leaders to do the same:

  1. Do what you say you’re going to do
  2. If you are not going to do it, then don’t say it
  3. If you say you’re going to do something and can’t, renegotiate

As you can see, this list is not rocket science, and I’m sure it is consistent with the values that most of you already have in place as leaders –but I have found it to be a good reminder. #1 reminds us to only commit to doing what we’re confident we can accomplish with the resources we have at hand, or the personal capability to do or influence. #2 reinforces #1 by forcing us to be honest with ourselves and others about what we’re not willing or capable of doing. Finally, because nobody is perfect, and sometimes things don’t go as confidently planned, #3 allows us to maintain our integrity by informing others upfront when a commitment cannot be met, and to renegotiate other options. Actually, I have found that in some situations #3 can be a big Trust builder especially for those who value not being surprised and/or having the opportunity to plan for other contingencies.

I’d encourage you to take action immediately to refresh your resolve to follow these principles intensely going forward. The other thing I would encourage you to do is take a bold step with your own boss, direct reports, or team members to revisit and clear up recent instances where the perception was that you didn’t follow through on one or all of the above. Again, this would be a bold step, but will go a long way in reinforcing or offering proof of your trustworthiness.

Stand up and Lead!

Dr. Tim