By LIM KWAN-LYN
Do you find it difficult to trust others? Chances are, you’re not alone and so this leads us to the next question – are you a leader who is highly trusted?
The idea that you can’t be a great leader without trust is not a secret. Therefore, what can you do to build and gain trust?
Trust is a big word. Some people are even of the opinion that it is more difficult and more powerful to say “I trust you” in comparison to “I love you.”
Think back to a romantic relationship gone bad that you have personally experienced, maybe a story unfolded by a friend–or perhaps a scene from one of your favourite drama series.
First, it begins with plenty of excitement and bliss, building up to the point where two people finally find the courage to utter the three words, “I love you.” The sound of it escaping from the tip of their lips is a major milestone.
Fast forward the relationship to when trials and tribulations present themselves and the going gets tough. Insecurity, followed by jealousy, seep in and suspicion begins to invite itself into one’s thoughts.
Trust has been broken. Unfortunately, many relationships don’t survive when they are not build on a foundation of trust.
Why is trust in leadership important?
Trust is proving to be increasingly popular and important in organisations today. Companies are introducing new policies such as flexible working hours and, not for the faint-hearted, unlimited annual leave.
All this revolves around the idea that if a leader trusts his or her employees, the employees will perform well, and often reciprocate the trust.
First, it was Netflix who led the way with the idea of unlimited annual leave. Sir Richard Branson then followed suit by letting Virgin employees take as much holiday as they want.
In his book, The Virgin Way, Branson explains that his daughter was the one who brought this policy to his attention.
She then went on to say, “I have a friend whose company has done the same thing and they’ve apparently experienced a marked upward spike in everything – morale, creativity and productivity have all gone through the roof.”
But why do we find it hard to trust?
David DeSteno gives an insightful explanation in his book The Truth about Trust:
“Trust implies a seeming unknowable—a bet of sorts, if you will. At its base is a delicate problem centred on the balance between two dynamic and often opposing desires – a desire for someone else to meet your needs and his desire to meet his own.”
Do you struggle to pinpoint the reason why you can’t seem to trust others, or the reason why your employees don’t trust you? You’re not alone. Many people find themselves grappling with the decision on whether or not to trust someone else, only when the choice presents itself.
As adults, your experiences, personality, values and beliefs, culture and self-awareness would have moulded your propensity to trust.
In comparison, children are a lot more trusting than adults and research has shown that at the age of three, children are very believing and unquestioning, accepting most things that they are told.
Scepticism only comes along later in life.
Three common reasons for why trusting can be difficult:
1. Trusting has hurt us in the past – Painful past experiences wire us put up defence mechanisms to avoid future hurt.
2. Trust is hard to gain and easy to lose – Once a relationship is tainted by broken trust, there is no going back.
3. Rules have taken the place of trust – Today’s society is bombarded with contracts, rules and regulations that have simply taken the place of a good old-fashioned handshake.
What can we do to build and gain trust?
Like any good relationship, building trust takes effort, and is earned over time. As a starting point, here are three action points that I hope you find helpful:
1. Live up to your word and stay consistent – People remember what you say and notice if you follow through with your promises, even in the small things. Great leaders build credibility in both the minor and the major.
2. Create real connection – People appreciate genuine relationships. Great leaders are able to build great relationships.
3. Trust yourself – People struggle to trust leaders who lack clarity and confidence in themselves. Great leaders listen and trust in themselves wholeheartedly.
Before I conclude, I’ll leave you with some wise words aptly put together by Stephen M.R. Covey:
Trust is equal parts character and competence. . .You can look at any leadership failure, and it’s always a failure of one or the other.
Lim Kwan-Lyn loves helping people connect the dots, be it in the business world, or by empowering others. A year ago, she left her corporate job, went on an OE where she was part of Leaderonomics and is now working at St John New Zealand managing products with a social cause.