Leading with Trust

We Don’t Have a Crisis of Trust – We Have a Crisis of Untrustworthy Leaders

“An Implosion of Trust”—That’s the headline of the executive summary of Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer. Their annual trust survey and report goes on to cite grim statistics about the state of trust in the world:

  • Trust in government, business, media, and NGOs declined broadly over the last year, the first time this has happened with all four institutions in the 17 years Edelman has been tracking trust.
  • Only 29% of respondents say government officials are credible and just 39% say the same about CEOs.
  • The media is distrusted in 82% of the world’s countries, and in only five (Singapore, China, India, Indonesia, and the Netherlands ) is it above 50%.
  • 85% of people lack belief in the system.

It’s enough bad news to make you want to stay in bed and pull the covers over your head, isn’t it? (Note: These statistics are measuring generalized trust in a social and institutional context. For an excellent treatment on the importance and challenge of defining trust, read this and this from trust expert Charlie Green.)

We don’t have a crisis of trust so much as we have a crisis of untrustworthy leaders. Just take a look at Fortune’s list of the world’s 19 most disappointing leaders to get a feel for how many suffered trust-related gaffes. An institution is simply a collection of individuals who act in such a way that causes their constituents to trust or distrust the organization. Leadership sets the tone for an organization’s culture and performance and it’s there we need greater accountability for leading in trustworthy ways.

But what makes a leader trustworthy? There are four key elements to being trustworthy. You can easily remember them as the ABCDs of Trust:

A is for AbleDemonstrating Competence. Leaders who possess the skills, knowledge, and expertise for their roles earn trust. Able leaders demonstrate their competence by having a track record of success. They consistently achieve their goals and can be counted on to solve problems and make good decisions.

B is BelievableActing with Integrity. Integrity is at the heart of trustworthiness and it’s impossible to be fully trusted without it. High integrity leaders are honest, tell the truth, admit their mistakes, and act in alignment with their values and those of the organization. They walk the talk.

C is for ConnectedCaring about Others. Trustworthy leaders value relationships. They care about their people and act in ways that nurture those relationships. Connected leaders establish rapport with people by finding common ground and mutual interests. They share information about themselves and the organization in a transparent fashion, trusting others to use information wisely. Most of all, connected leaders are others-focused. They place the needs of others ahead of their own.

D is for DependableHonoring Commitments. Fulfilling promises, maintaining reliability, and being accountable are critical aspects of being dependable. Trustworthy leaders do what they say they’re going to do. They don’t shirk their responsibilities or hold themselves to a different (i.e., lower) standard than their team.

Think of the ABCDs as the language of trust. The more leaders focus on learning the language of trust, the more trustworthy they will become, the more trust they will earn from others, and the more our organizations will embody the ideals of trust. Download this free e-book to see if your leaders are building or eroding trust.

5 Leadership Lessons From Being a Dad

Being a dad has been, and continues to be, one of the greatest joys of my life. I’ve experienced tremendous highs, suffered through some lows, doubted myself, learned much, and have been stretched to grow in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I first started this journey twenty-five years ago. The same could be said for my journey as a leader!

As I reflect on the lessons that have taught me to be a better father, I realize that many of the same principles apply to being a trusted and successful leader. Here are five leadership lessons I’ve learned from being a dad:

  1. There’s no substitute for time — I’ve learned that “quality” time is just a convenient rationalization to justify our busyness and to ease our guilt from not spending “quantity” time with our kids. The “quality” happens in those unexpected moments during the “quantity.” Being a leader requires spending large amounts of time with your people and not isolating yourself in your own little world. Devote yourself to investing in the growth and development of your people and you’ll reap the rewards.
  2. Set clear expectations — Part of being a good dad is setting clear expectations for his kids. They should know what’s expected in terms of their behavior and attitudes, and what the consequences will be (either positive or negative) for meeting or not meeting those expectations. Your people at work need the same clear expectations regarding their performance. They need clear targets with identifiable rewards or consequences. It’s not fair to judge your people (or kids) for their actions if they weren’t clear on the goal in the first place.
  3. Be the example — Being a dad means setting the right example for his kids and the same is true in being a leader. Your attitudes, the tone of voice you use in speaking to others, your work ethic, and the way you treat people are just a few of the ways you will influence your people. Just as a child will observe and often imitate every move of his dad, your people are always taking their cue from the actions of their leader. Make sure you’re leading well!
  4. Have fun — It’s easy to get bogged down in all the stress and anxiety that comes with being a dad, but I’ve learned to have fun and enjoy the journey as much as possible. Leaders need to remember to take work seriously, but not take themselves too seriously. Laugh at yourself, keep the mood light, and don’t be afraid to have fun with your staff. When the stressful times come, your people will be more willing to put in the extra effort that’s necessary.
  5. Validate them — One of the primary roles of a father is to validate his children. A father’s approval imparts a tremendous amount of psychological and emotional confidence in a child that empowers him to grow in confidence and faith in his own abilities. Your staff needs your approval as well. When your people know that you accept them, desire the best for them, and will do whatever you can to help them succeed, you will have their loyalty and commitment in following your lead.

Leading and managing adults at work is obviously not the same as parenting children, although some days it can certainly feel that way! However, the principles one uses to be a successful father (or mother) can be equally beneficial for success as a leader. Just like being a father, the key is being consistent in your approach and having the best interests of your people in mind.

By no means are these five principles a definitive list. I’m curious to know what lessons you’ve learned from being a parent that apply to leadership. Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment. Happy Father’s Day!

What’s Your Leadership Yelp Rating?

Imagine for a minute that Yelp allowed your people to rate every one of their interactions with you. What would your star rating be? What would the comments say about you?

I started thinking about this in regards to leadership over the last several weeks as I’ve used Yelp. I’ve had a number of occasions where I’ve referenced Yelp to help me choose a restaurant or let me read customer feedback about a business service I was considering purchasing. From a consumer perspective I’ve always found it a helpful source of information, and from a business perspective I know many organizations take their Yelp ratings seriously and are active in monitoring and responding to customer feedback.

Of course leadership surveys are nothing new. We’re all familiar with 360° feedback surveys, leadership satisfaction, engagement, or other types of surveys that allow for some sort of assessment of leadership performance. These kinds of surveys tend to only be snapshots in time because they are deployed once a year or less. This limitation has led to the development of “pulse” surveys, which are shorter and more frequent in nature. But back to my original question—What if your team members could provide a Yelp-like rating every time they interacted with you?

Why is that important? Because whether or not you realize or appreciate it, your people make mental and emotional appraisals of their interactions with you. Those appraisals lead team members to act in either positive ways that benefit the organization or in negative ways that harm it. Hmm…have you ever considered that you have that much influence over people?

Next time you’re having a one-on-one conversation with an employee, facilitating a team meeting, or even sending an email to the whole group, think about how team members would rate that interaction. Would they give you five stars and post raving comments about your leadership, or would they give you one star and post negative comments urging people to avoid you at all costs?

Being a person that people trust is the foundation of successful leadership…they kind of leadership that would earn 5 out of 5 stars on Yelp. Download a report of our recent research findings that show having trust in one’s leader is tied to positive outcomes such as satisfaction, retention, commitment, organizational citizenship behavior, and performance.

Never Trust Anyone Over 30 – Bridging the Generational Trust Gap at Work

Who do YOU trust?  The phrase, “Never trust anyone over 30,” was coined by Jack Weinberg, a political activist at Cal-Berkeley in the 1960s. Now on the other side of the fence, Boomers are more likely to say you shouldn’t trust anyone under 30. In return, Millennials just give Boomers the side-eye (whatever that means).

The reality is that trust – as a general idea – is seemingly non-existent in society. Today, people don’t trust politicians, public schools, the media, banks, big business, or even the police. And then there is the very common distrust that exists inside the workplace between generations AND between managers and employees.

Bottom line? Millennials and Boomers don’t trust each other, and it is wreaking havoc in the office.

Join me, Kelly Riggs and Robby Riggs as we discuss the importance of trust in leadership and what Boomer managers can do differently to build trust with Millennials.

6 Ways Leaders Should Be Like Mothers

rosie the riveterMother’s Day 2017

Dear Leaders,

Today is a time we set aside to celebrate our mothers. Motherhood is often a thankless and tiring endeavor. It’s easy to take for granted the hard work, sacrifice, and love that moms contribute to our lives. So today we pause to appreciate the countless ways our mothers have positively influenced us and shaped us into the people we are today.

In many ways, moms are the ultimate picture of servant leadership in action. They always have the best interests of their children in mind and will go to great lengths to help them grow, develop, and succeed in life. They are able to harmonize the polarities of unconditional love and tough love, and do so in such a way that their children always know that mom has their back. Mothers are simply amazing leaders.

Using the acronym MOTHER, here are six ways leaders can improve their effectiveness by embodying the characteristics and behaviors of great mothers:

Mentor — What does a mentor do? A mentor shares the wisdom that has been gleaned from life experiences. Mentors offer advice, perspective, and guidance to help their mentee navigate their life or career journey. Sometimes that comes in the form of encouragement and other times as correction. Moms, and great leaders, are trusted mentors.

Objective — Moms have a unique ability to be objective in the way they treat their kids, and leaders should use the same approach with their team members. Moms love all of their children completely, yet uniquely. If love were able to be measured, a mom’s love would be complete, 100% for each child. And if love came in different colors, each child’s color would be unique: blue, red, purple, etc. Leaders should be completely objective with their followers, yet treat each one uniquely according to their needs and situation.

Trustworthy — It goes without saying that moms are trustworthy. Leaders should be no different. Trustworthiness is the foundation upon which successful leadership is built. Leaders should embody the four elements of trust: ability, believability, connectedness, and dependability. Above all else, team members should never have to doubt the trustworthiness of their leader. If you’re not sure if you’re building or eroding trust, check out this free e-book.

Helpful — Who stays up late to help their child complete a school project the night before it’s due? Who drives the team carpool all day on Saturdays to shuttle the kids between matches? Who does the laundry, cooks the meals, cleans the house, packs lunches, and plays nurse when the kids are sick? Mom, that’s who! (Yes, sometimes Dad too, but I’ll save that for a Father’s Day article.) Mom is always there to help, no matter how big or small the need. The best leaders do the same. Their team members know they can approach the leader with any question or need, no matter how trivial, and the leader will welcome the opportunity to provide assistance.

Encouraging — Moms are awesome cheerleaders. They are always looking for opportunities to cheer on their kids to be the best they can be. Excellent leaders are constantly looking for ways to bring out the best in their people. It can be as simple as spending a few minutes to build rapport with a team member by talking about their mutual interests outside of work, or it could be something as big as publicly recognizing a team member in front of his/her peers. Regardless of the action, great leaders look for ways to encourage their followers.

Responsible — Moms are the role models of dependable and responsible leadership. If moms say they are going to do something, they do it. They can always be counted on to fulfill their end of the bargain. Shouldn’t workplace leaders do the same? Employees crave leaders who demonstrate responsibility. They want to know their leader takes their obligations seriously and will follow through on their commitments. If leaders want responsible team members, they need to walk the talk and show what responsibility looks like.

Not everyone’s mother has been a great role model of leadership. Mothers, just like all other kinds of leaders, aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. They fail. They disappoint. We can learn from those experiences too, even if it’s as basic as what not to do as a leader.

The best mothers illustrate what great leadership looks like. They act as mentors, are objective in dealing with people, are trustworthy, helpful, encouraging, and responsible. Anyone in a leadership role would be wise to lead a little more like mom.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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