Both customers and employees need to feel that they can trust an organization’s leadership to make sound decisions, communicate clearly, and respond swiftly and appropriately to challenges and opportunities. Leadership carries many responsibilities, and the first and foremost of these responsibilities is trustworthiness. When trust breaks down, customers leave and employees disengage.
It’s commonly thought that once trust has been lost, it cannot be regained. Fortunately, that’s not true. These three steps can help increase trust in your organization, no matter where you and your leadership are on the relative scale of trustworthiness.
First, always take responsibility for what’s happened in the past. The leader who communicates clearly about mistakes, without laying blame, has taken a big step forward in the eyes of those watching.
Second, remember that how you behave is always far more important than what you say. Claims about ethics, principles, and values are always just that: claims. It’s far more powerful to say nothing and let your behavior be everything you most want your people to see – and follow.
Third, accept that trustworthiness requires vulnerability. Vulnerability is often difficult, especially for those in senior leadership roles who may feel that they’re supposed to be fearless and can never make a mistake. But it’s difficult to trust someone who seems so remote. On the other hand, when a leader shows up as a real human being, employees and customers can feel a personal connection.
And it’s that human connection that lays the groundwork for trust.
Recommended Training Resource: The 5 Waves of Trust explores the importance of trust in organizations, including the extraordinarily high cost incurred when trust breaks down. Five separate segments develop understanding of the five waves or levels of trust, starting with self-trust and extending throughout the organization and into society as a whole.
Additional reading: The recommended video above is a Franklin Covey production, based on Stephen M.R. Covey’s book The Speed of Trust: the one thing that changes everything. You can find the book on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/The-SPEED-Trust-Changes-Everything/dp/1416549005/