This past week I was interviewed by David Witt for the December edition of Blanchard’s Ignite! newsletter. The article appears below.
Trust as a managerial competency? Yes, says Randy Conley, Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies®, but only as an outward extension of core beliefs held deeply inside. Otherwise you are just going through the motions, attempting to appear trustworthy instead of being trustworthy.
As Conley explains, “People know who they can trust and it’s based on a variety of signals that they pick up. Managers demonstrate trust in their people by the small things they do on a day-to-day basis. It can range from offering praise, increasing responsibility by giving additional tasks, or increasing an employee’s level of autonomy in their role.
“That’s why any skill development has to be built upon a foundation of authenticity. You have to have it right on the inside first. That’s when these tools work best. They help you identify blind spots that might be holding you back as a leader. But it should never be a substitute for genuinely trusting other people.
“This means the person I am with you in the office and at work is the person that I am at home. It’s an alignment of your values. Basically it’s being who you really are. John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach described it best, ‘Character is what you do when no one is watching.’ There needs to be alignment between who you are at work and who you are outside of work.
“There is a fine line between manipulation and authenticity. That’s the shadow aspect of any model or behavioral prescription. For example, if you just approach it as a set of behaviors to influence people, you’re not going to get the traction and results you want. You have to be careful and not treat it from a public relations or spin perspective.”
How do managers get off track?
Everyone knows that trust is important, so how do so many well-meaning managers get off-track when it comes to building trusting relationships?
According to Conley, trust gets off-track when we forget about people and focus only on the product or the result. We get so wrapped up in meeting deadlines, hitting the numbers, or whatever goals we are pursuing that we forget about the relationship aspect.
Of course, goal accomplishment is vital, Conley reminds us, but it’s important to pursue it as a common goal. It’s a “give to get” process. If we neglect that relationship and the human element of it, trust suffers. That results in direct reports thinking to themselves, “All my boss really cares about is whether I get the work done.” That sets up a transactional relationship where everyone is focused on meeting their own needs. You’ll never get the level of performance that a deep commitment to a common goal will produce.
To reverse the process, Conley recommends asking yourself a key leadership question: “Are you here to serve—or be served?” Trusting relationships begin with leaders who are “others focused” instead of “self focused.”
“You can put whatever label you want on it, but it comes from a deeply held belief that my value and role as a leader is to bring out the best in you. It’s not about me, it’s about you. I think that’s the first and foremost core value that people recognize and respond to.” It’s seeing leadership as a higher calling. It’s a lofty aspiration, but that’s a good thing, according to Conley.
“Leaders would be well served to tap into a greater vision of what leadership is, or could be. It’s a noble profession. When you see it that way you recognize that you have to be a trustworthy individual. There’s no room for not being up-front with people, not being competent, or not being dependable and following through on your commitments. It is about having a different vision about what leadership is and what a leader does.”
The benefits of trust
When trust is present in a work relationship there are several benefits. Both sides understand the relationship and are committed to it. Good trustful relationships also create freedom for failure—within limits of course. We’re not talking about permission to fail continuously without consequences, but you are permitted and have a freedom for risk-taking. There’s a level of maturity and acceptance among the manager and direct report that it’s okay to make mistakes because they’ll be viewed as learning opportunities and a chance for us to grow and deepen our relationship.
Trust also builds an atmosphere of open communication that leads to better and more frequent checking in with each other. There’s also a level of confidence in each other’s ability and dependability.
Become a better leader
Conley believes that building trust is the number one leadership competency of the 21st century. But it’s important to remember that it starts on the inside first. In some ways, trust is just an extension of other good management skills and should be woven together with the other things a leader does on a day-to-day basis.
“Trust is a byproduct of all of the other managerial and leadership aspects and activities, duties, and responsibilities that you employ on a day-to-day basis. You become a more trustworthy leader by becoming a better leader.”
Would you like to learn more about trust and its impact on leadership? Then join us for a free webinar!
Building Trust: 3 Keys to Becoming a More Trustworthy Leader
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 9:00–10:00 a.m. Pacific, 12:00–1:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00–6:00 p.m. UK & GMT
Trust continues to be identified as a missing ingredient in today’s workplace. Surveys show that only a small percentage of today’s workers agree that they truly trust their leaders. To ensure high levels of organizational performance, leaders need to tackle trust head-on. The key is to learn how to build trusting relationships that bring out the best in people.
In this webinar, Blanchard Trust Practice Leader Randy Conley will show you how leaders can improve the levels of trust in their organization by identifying potential gaps that trip up even the best of leaders.
Participants will learn how to:
- Get it right on the inside. Becoming a more trustful person.
- The four leadership behaviors that build or destroy trust.
- Three keys to creating trusting relationships.
Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how to raise the level of trust in your organization by increasing the “trust-ability” of your leaders.