Today I had the awesome privilege of sitting under the teaching of Curt Liesveld, Advanced Learning & Development Consultant at Gallup and co-auther of Living Your Strengths. In our session Curt reminded us of the importance of trust in a strong relationship and the impact it can have on the performance of those around us. According to Donald Clifton, former Founder and CEO of Gallup, “Relationships help us to define who we are and what we can become. Most of us can trace our successes to pivotal relationships.”
When I think about the leaders that made the greatest impact in my life, it was definitely the ones I knew I could trust. I could count on them for support and feedback, and I was confident I would be treated fairly if I simply did the right thing. And in that place of trust and confidence, my performance excelled.
According to Tom Rath, author of Strengths-Based Leadership, the chances of employees being engaged at work when they do not trust the company’s leaders are just 1 in 12. In stark contrast, the chances of employees being engaged at work are better than 1 in 2 if they trust the organization’s leadership — a more than six-fold increase.
Trust is the cornerstone of any relationship and, in leadership, relationships matter. Without trust in a relationship, what do you have? Distrust. And distrust on a team creates emotional barriers that result in conflict, resistance, skepticism, self-serving motives and self-centered goals. It’s like starting from zero each time.
There is no shortage of books, blogs, and other resources that teach you how to build trust with your team over time. But for those of you who understand the importance and urgency, here are three simple strategies you can implement today, even within the hour. They’re possible, practical, and powerful!
How do we build trust?
- Go first. Barry Posner writes in Leadership Challenge, as a leader, when it comes to building trust you must “go first” — you must model the way. It is important that you say what you do and do what you say. You must be reliable. You must be credible. You must be trustworthy if you want others to follow you. You must go first!
- Be a good listener. The 5th habit from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says we are to Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Listen to your team of peers or direct reports. Really listen. Don’t act as if you’re listening and let it go in one ear and out the other. Faking it is worse than not doing it at all. When a leader is a good listener, people feel respected and trust can grow.
- Be consistent. Leadership is a practice of behaviors. The crux of leading is doing the right things, doing them well and doing them consistently, to the point where it is predictable. Your team can count on it. According to John Hamm, author of Unusually Excellent, “then, and only then, are they freed up and fired up to do their best work.”
Trust can’t be built overnight. It requires commitment and diligence. But highly effective leaders and high-performing teams cannot function without it. The good news … all three strategies only require the buy-in and effort of one person. You. So I challenge you to be intentional. Start today.