A Watson Wyatt Worldwide study of 12,750 U.S. workers in all major industries found that companies with high trust levels outperform their low-trust counterparts by 186 percent.
In a 2011 Maritz survey, only seven percent of more than 90,000 employees worldwide said they trust their senior leaders to look out for their best interests. It’s not just a problem for rank-and-file employees. Roughly half of all managers distrust their leaders, according to a Golin Harris survey of 450 executives at 30 global companies.
Despite the importance of trust, few leaders give it the focus it deserves. Misunderstood as a nebulous “feeling,” trust is earned through consistent, positive behaviors practiced over time, making it an indispensable leadership skill.
Two of the best books on this important topic are:
Their authors offer several key truths:
5 Trust-Building Skills
Trustworthy leaders practice and master five key abilities:
1. Listen Well
Most leaders use their listening skills to gather information. But listening is a critical tool for connecting with others, building relationships and strengthening influence. You must pay attention, be empathic and let others know you understand them.
Partnership involves collaborating (not competing), committing to fairness, balancing assertiveness and cooperation, dealing with disagreements, and sharing responsibility for successes and failures.
Things don’t always go as planned. Glitches and challenges can be “moments of truth” that require rational and emotional flexibility. Leaders are stretched at times, but your ability to handle moments of truth determines your trustworthiness.
4. Take Risks
Trust cannot exist without taking risks and leaving your comfort zone. Every risk you take builds trust. Leaders must be courageous enough to overcome their fears and confront challenging situations with curiosity and authenticity
5. Know Yourself
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses allows you to delegate and collaborate more effectively. Work with a trusted mentor or executive coach to identify blind spots that impede self-knowledge.
3 Common Blind Spots
The traits that make you a strong leader may inadvertently interfere with building self-awareness and trusting relationships. Consider these common blind spots:
4 Components of Trust
Four key components contribute to your overall trustworthiness.
1. Credibility (the realm of words): Our level of expertise and how we present our knowledge determine our credibility. When we study facts and complete analytical research, we build up our credibility. We boost credibility in our business conversations by:
2. Reliability (the realm of actions): Do you fulfill the promises you make? Do you deliver on your commitments? Reliability is built over time, but it can be destroyed in a second. Boost your reliability with consistency, predictability and certainty:
3. Intimacy (the realm of emotions): It’s easy to keep a professional distance in our interactions, but the “all-business” leader rarely gets ahead. The problem with intimacy is that the word carries a connotation of closeness that isnt appropriate at work. In reality, intimacy refers to your willingness to share appropriate information about the things that truly matter.
Boost intimacy by sharing personal experiences and values. Learn to:
4. Self-Orientation (the realm of motives): Without doubt, we are all self-motivated to a degree. But we also want what’s best for others, the company or the team. How often do you speak about yourself: your wants, needs, goals and priorities? Are you oriented toward finding win-win solutions that take others’ needs into account?
When trust breaks down, excess self-orientation is usually to blame. You can lower your level of self-orientation in relationships by:
Understanding your quirks and weaknesses allows you to rein in your ego and increase your trustworthiness. I invite you to work together to identify your blind spots that impede self-knowledge.
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