Leading with Trust

Building Rapport Shows Employees You Care – How to Get Started

rapportIf you’re a senior leader in your organization, chances are the vast majority of employees don’t view you as a real person.

Research by Nathan T. Washburn and Benjamin Galvin shows employee perceptions of senior leaders are governed by mental models they form through incidental interactions with the leader, such as emails, videos, speeches, or other impersonal means of communication.

So what should you make of that? First, it should make you question the level of trust people have in you. Second, you should know that without trust it’s virtually impossible to influence and inspire your team to follow your lead. And third, it should prompt you to consider ways to build a more personal relationship with those you lead.

But where to start? Start at the beginning. Start with building rapport.

Merriam-Webster defines rapport as “a friendly, harmonious relationship; especially a relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy.”

Rapport is a fundamental component of having a connected relationship with someone, and the lack of personal connection is the reason people view their leaders as impersonal avatars. Research has shown the importance of warmth as a critical factor in building trust. Your team members are wanting to know that you care about them as individuals and not just nameless worker bees showing up to do a job.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

It doesn’t matter how brilliant or charismatic you are as a leader; if your people don’t think you have their best interests in mind and truly care for them, they won’t give you their trust, loyalty, and best performance. Establishing rapport with someone creates an environment of warmth and safety which allows trust to blossom.

Building rapport isn’t rocket science but it takes an intentional effort. Here’s a few easy and practical ways to foster rapport with someone:

  • Remember and use their names
  • Learn something about their life outside of work
  • Share information about yourself; show some vulnerability
  • Strike up a conversation (about them, not you)
  • Identify mutual interests

When clients tell me their organization is suffering from a lack of trust between senior leaders and front-line employees, the first area I explore is the sense of connectedness between the two groups. Almost always the issue boils down to the front-liners not having any semblance of a personal connection to senior leaders.

It’s a predictable dilemma. The further up a leader moves in the organization, the wider her span of control becomes and the harder it is to have a personal relationship with each employee. However, through effective communication techniques, conveying a sense of authenticity by sharing information about yourself, and intentionally making the time and effort to connect with people as much as possible, you can develop rapport with your employees that leads to high trust and loyalty.

The Number 1 Way You Erode Trust Without Even Knowing It

Trust DissolvingBetrayal. Cheating. Embezzlement. Dishonesty. These kinds of extreme behaviors are what most people think about when it comes to breaking trust. There’s no doubt those will do the trick, but for the vast majority of people, these types of incidents will be few and far between, if they even happen at all.

No, the ways you lose trust with other people is more like the way soil erodes a hillside. Little by little, slow and steady over a long period of time, the soil breaks down and falls away. Then seemingly out of nowhere, we’re surprised with a major landslide when the ground finally gives way.

That’s the way it works with trust. We erode it over a period of time through careless and thoughtless behaviors. Those behaviors seem innocuous to us, but others may perceive them as being trust busters. Chief among those irresponsible behaviors is being late. Arguably, it’s the number one way we erode trust without even knowing it.

Why does being habitually late erode trust?

  1. It can cause people to question your dependability—Trustworthy people are reliable. They honor their commitments by doing what they say they’re going to do. Being on time shows you’re accountable and can be counted on to follow-through on a commitment.
  2. It can cause people to question your integrity—If you repeatedly commit to being somewhere at a particular time and then show up late, it plants seeds of doubt in the minds of others that you likely won’t uphold other commitments you make. Being on time demonstrates you are a person of your word.
  3. It causes people to feel disrespected—Habitual lateness sends the message to others that their time isn’t as valuable as yours. Others are inconvenienced while they sit around waiting for you to show up, and once you finally arrive, everyone has to work harder and faster in the remaining time.

Occasionally being late is no big deal. It happens to all of us and usually our friends and colleagues understand and react graciously. But as this video illustrates, your colleagues may be depending on you to be on time, and if you’re late, it just might cost them big time.

3 Truths About Trust

Virtually everyone agrees that trust is a vital ingredient for healthy and successful relationships. Unfortunately, most people don’t think about trust until it’s been broken. That’s the worse time to realize its importance because by then it may be too late to fix the damage that’s been done. Instead of leaving trust to chance, we need to have an intentional focus on proactively building it. When our attention is focused on a specific goal, our energy will flow in that direction to help us accomplish it. There are three truths about trust we should keep in mind as we strive to build high-trust relationships.

abcd-model-newTrust is a skill—Trust doesn’t “just happen.” It’s a skill that can be learned and developed through intentional effort. In order to do so, it’s helpful to have a framework of what comprises trust in a relationship. In our Building Trust training program, the ABCD Trust Model is used to represent the four elements of trust. Trust is built in a relationship when you are Able, Believable, Connected, and Dependable. Able people are trusted because they are competent in what they do. They have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform well in their roles. The second element of trust is Believable, which is acting with integrity. You are Believable when you behave in alignment with your values and those of the organization, are honest, ethical, and fair in your dealings with others. Connected people build trust because they develop rapport with others, are good communicators, and have the best interests of others in mind. Finally, Dependable people do what they say they will do, are accountable, and responsive to others.

Trust drives results—Trust isn’t just a “soft” interpersonal skill that fills our relationships with warm fuzzies, unicorns, and rainbows. Trust drives bottom-line results in organizations. The Great Place to Work Institute has shown that high-trust organizations have 50% lower turnover than low-trust organizations, and employees who trust their leaders perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organization. Our own research has shown that people who trust their leaders intend to perform at higher levels, use their discretionary energy to benefit the organization, remain with the organization, endorse the organization as a good place to work, and be a good organizational citizen.

Trust begins with you—Without risk, there’s no need for trust. Trust and risk go hand in hand. In order for trust to develop, someone has to be the first to extend it. It’s been said that the best way to see if someone is trustworthy is to trust them. Someone has to make the first move and I advocate that each of us needs to take the responsibility to extend trust to others. When we do so, we open the door for others to prove themselves trustworthy and reciprocate by extending trust to us. It’s a virtuous cycle that reinforces itself.

Building trust is like raising plants in a garden. You have to plant the seeds, feed them, nurture their development, and regularly tend the garden. The same is true in our relationships. You have to plant the seeds of trust, feed them, and nurture their development. You may not see results immediately, but over time you’ll see the level of trust grow and one day will reap the rewards of having high-trust relationships.

Do Your Managers Build or Erode Trust? Free e-Book

do-your-managers-build-or-erode-trust-thumbnailDo you consider yourself trustworthy? Chances are you answered yes, just like the vast majority of people do when I pose that question in training sessions on how to build trust.

If we are all so trustworthy, how do we explain that 82% of people don’t trust their boss to tell the truth? Or that research has shown that people are more likely to trust a stranger than their boss? Obviously, we aren’t as trusted as we may think.

Unfortunately, most people don’t think about trust until it has been broken, and by that time it may be too late to do anything about it. Instead of waiting until you find yourself experiencing a crisis of trust, why not be intentional about building trust in your relationships?

They key is to understand that trust is comprised of four key elements. Using behaviors that align with the four elements of trust will cause others to perceive you as being trustworthy and result in the development of trust in the relationship.

Download the free e-Book, Do Your Managers Build or Erode Trust?, to learn more about the four elements of trust, their associated behaviors, and the business results high-trust organizations achieve. Feel free to leave a comment to share your thoughts.

The Strategy Every Leader Can Use to Develop High-Performing Employees

man-flipchart-groupThe performance of your employees is a reflection of your leadership. What does your team’s performance say about you?

For many leaders, their team’s performance doesn’t say much. Gallup surveys show nearly 70% of the workforce is “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.” These employees have quit and stayed—they show up for work but do the bare minimum to get by, don’t put in any extra effort to care for customers, and are a drain on organizational resources and productivity. According to Tolero Solutions, 45% of employees say lack of trust in leadership is the biggest issue impacting work performance.

Two new research reports just published by The Ken Blanchard Companies point to strategies that learning and development leaders can use to improve the level of trust in their organizations.

Drawing on an 1,800-person survey, the study looked at the connections between coaching and trust behaviors and employee intentions to:

  1. Remain with an organization;
  2. Apply discretionary effort;
  3. Be a good organizational citizen;
  4. Perform work at high levels; and
  5. Endorse the organization as a good place to work.

Results of the survey show that trust in one’s leader has a large degree of correlation to the five intentions as a distinct unit.

The research also looked at the impact coaching behaviors had on trust. There was a strong relationship between trust and the coaching behaviors of facilitating, inspiring, and guiding—and it was found that individuals are more likely to trust their leader when they perceive the leader exhibiting these coaching behaviors.

Building trust with other people doesn’t just happen. It’s a skill that leaders need to develop just like any other leadership competency. If you want to have a team of high-performing employees who are engaged, loyal, and vocal supporters of your organization, focus on building trust. The results will speak for themselves.

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