Although there are many tricks and buzz words thrown around to help people become great leaders, the single most important attribute is trust. A recent article on the Psychology Today website, Why Trust is Foundational to Sound Management, provided the evidence to support my claim. It also provides evidence that although trust is incorporated into many (if not all) companies’ mission statements, it is not showing up in practice. A recent
Gallup workforce survey asserted approximately 70 percent of employees are disengaged. For those who do not think this is an important statistic, Gallup points out that work units in the top 25 percent of engagement have significantly higher productivity, profitability, and customer ratings while suffering lower turnover and absenteeism.
Achieving trust with your team is one of many things easier said than done. When things are going well for your group or company, it is much easier to act trustworthy. Last year I wrote about how someone reacts to difficult times is the true measure of that person
and the same principle applies to leadership, your team will judge you by how trustworthy you are in trying situations.
The article highlights three themes where trust can be broken:
- Disingenuous communication. This situation often results from trying to soften the blow of bad news. Your company may have had to lay off a team or downsize but rather than explaining it to your employees, you say something to the effect that the employees and management decided to mutually part ways. The same could be said with individuals, when people clearly know an employee was fired and you deny it. It also related to unsuccessful products; if your game is not performing (e.g., everyone sees that you have two downloads but you try to paint it as a success), you will lose credibility with your team. In these times, people are very sophisticated in seeing through spin, be it from advertisers, politicians or executives. Rather than trying to better at spinning, it is best to be honest with your team.
- Leading by example. If you do not act honorably with people outside your organization, your employees or team are going to question your integrity. While they may laugh when you sell that used car that was just in a wreck to a customer, they are also going to realize that when you are speaking with them you also may be selling a used car.
- Financial pressures. As I mentioned, how a leader acts in difficult times determines how much trust you deserve from your team. At some point, almost any business has to reduce staff, trim benefits, cut bonuses, etc. Having to carry out these actions do not make you a bad person or a bad leader. Future trust, however, will be determined by how things are done (e.g., with transparency and candid explanation, as opposed to minimal or dubious communication).
In my experience, there is nothing as powerful as trust in building a great team and a great company. It starts with being honest with all your employees but should extend to being honest with all stakeholders, business partners, vendors and customers. With a foundation of trust, you are well positioned for success.