It’s my birthday today. I’m 54, that’s old by some people’s standards (my 16 year old daughter, Alyssa), young by other’s standards (my very wise, 83 year-old Father-in-law, Ron). I don’t feel old. I don’t feel like most of my best is behind me. I actually feel like I might be on the cusp of entering the most creative and productive phase of my life. We’ll see, but that’s how I feel anyway.
I decided to draft a ‘birthday blog’ and I wanted to choose a subject that I’m super passionate about. The subject I chose is TRUST. Specifically, trust, as it applies to leadership. More specifically, I wanted to write briefly about how you actually earn trust in a leadership role. (Or any role, I guess!)
In earlier blogs, I’ve written about the difference between leadership by authority versus influence. Authority vs Influence, Becoming Inspired
This simple difference can best be exampled by somebody who is brand new in a leadership role, (or a misinformed veteran) thinking they can rule their kingdom based on the title printed on their business card. They go about their job as if their serfs must bow down to them at all costs. However, sooner or later, usually later, these empty leaders watch as their team falls apart. They cannot sustain their people, or their production, or lead effectively in this manner. They lose total leadership of their team and they either have to start over, or move their self-involved crap-show to another town. Most of them never become enlightened enough to learn that they can only truly lead by having influence over their team.
And what is the first and most important step to developing this sacred influence thing you ask…It is, of course, earning their trust. You have to earn their trust first before you can influence them in any positive or productive way.
So, in this, my birthday blog, let’s examine this challenge before you, earning the trust of the people you have chosen to lead. Let’s take a careful look at how you can begin to accomplish this task by discussing the three sure-fire methods that this trust can be earned.
First, you must be a reliable person. On the surface this sounds simple and I’m sure that all of you reading this may feel that you are reliable to a great extent. However, I have seen far too many examples of a leader that is reliable, but only when it’s convenient for them. In recent years I have observed sales managers do things such as promise to be available to assist a salesperson with a key client presentation only to no-show them, with less than an hour’s notice! In fact, I’ve seen promises repeatedly broken by supposed leaders with no communication as to why and worse, no apology. Sheesh!
If this is where you’re at, you may think of yourself as reliable, but the perception of the people on your team may differ greatly.
What your people need is someone that’s truly dependable regardless of what you consider as convenient. They want consistency in your messages to them and all of your communication. They want to be able to count on you to give them the same result on successive occasions.
Are you up to this? Can your team truly count on you to come through over and over again, whether it’s convenient or not, whether it’s easy or not?
I didn’t promise this blog article was going to be easy to read.
The second step in the process of earning the trust of your people is exhibiting loyalty. The word loyalty conjures up in my mind so many other words that I attach to this. Fidelity, allegiance and commitment come quickly to mind.
So let’s break this down. How do you become loyal to the people on your team? The first mindset that I would challenge you to adopt is the attitude that by the mere fact that you have accepted a person on your team you have, by default, made a commitment to them. Let’s take this just one step further…you have pledged an oath to them. You may not see it that way, but it’s true.
I doubt that your direct report put a gun to your head and told you that you had to accept this person on your team. You invited this person on to your team because you hoped and prayed that he or she would produce something so that you could earn an override. Period.
So, your acceptance of them implies that you now have acknowledged a sense of duty and devotion to them. You are now attached to them. Your obligation to them indicates that you must be faithful to what is in their best interests. You don’t have the privilege of caring for them and being faithful to them just when and if you feel like it. It’s your obligation to be loyal to them and defend them at every turn (as long as they are showing up and doing honest work). If they are not showing up, then you have a different type of conversation, or exit interview, with them. If they are not being honest with you (or clients), then you need to invite your hierarchy into the mix. It’s then time for a come to Jesus meeting! LOL!
Aside from someone being dishonest or not showing up, you need to be as loyal to them as the day is long!
If your team sees that you turn on people for no good reason—because you’re having a bad hair day—or worse, simply because their production is off, you’re toast. Your team will learn that they cannot trust you.
The third and last method of earning the trust of your team is you must keep confidences. What I mean by this is that they have to know that they’re going to a protected place when they come to you with their most intimate feelings, concerns and challenges. If a person you’re leading comes to you and tells you something that is sensitive or private, in other words, they tell you something in confidence, it must stay with you. You can’t tell anyone else, start rumors, gossip…none of that. They must know that whatever they’ve confided in you about is never going to be discussed with anybody else.
Even as important as that, they also need to know that you won’t form prejudices based on what they’ve told you. They need to be certain that you won’t immediately start treating them differently simply because they shared something personal with you.
You need to be their safe place to go.
Above are the three things I know that you need to practice to begin to earn the trust of your team. These three good habits will enable you to start to develop the influence you’ll need and want as an influential leader.
Okay, I’m almost done. Just one more thing…
We, as leaders, say that we want to attract a certain kind of person. We often say things like, “I wish my team was more reliable.” I know that I’ve heard a zillion leaders say, “Where did all the dependability go? How come my sales people aren’t more loyal?” Another common grumbling is, “It’s incredible how much gossiping and rumor spreading happens on my team! It’s like a soap opera around here.”
The bottom line is this, you get just about what you deserve as a leader. If your team doesn’t look or act like you want it to, you better run home real fast and look in the mirror.
You will attract what you are, not simply what you say you want.
Okay, now I’m finished. Hope you liked my birthday blog.
Can you do two favors for me?
1. SHARE IT with everyone that you know would benefit by reading it.
2. Leave a COMMENT…tell me how you plan to use this strategy in 2015?
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