Trust is a value that occurs in ourselves, our teams, and our organizations. Creating and maintaining trust is paramount for leadership, yet unfortunately many do not see the need for giving attention to it. Leaders can make the mistake of assuming that their title and the ability to say, because I said so's, binds people to their decision. But how does one define trust and what does it look like?
Sometimes trust is having confidence in one’s self:
As a leader do you create training opportunities for others to gain more confidence in their skill set? Do you help motivate them to train or perform when they, or even you, don't feel like it? Do you seek to close the gap between what they think they know and the reality of what they actually do? Leadership has an imperative to help people find their strengths and weaknesses. People who do not know their jobs and lack confidence will act hesitantly, offer excuses, and seek the lowest acceptable level of performance permissible. These people are more rampant in our organizations than we would like to admit. They often stand in opposition to leadership, undermining efforts to create buy-in to our mission and place their interests before others. Leaders must have the courage to persistently pursue rooting out complacency in our organizations and teams.
Complacency stands in the way of knowing your job, yourself, and what you are capable of. Complacency is an enemy of trust.
Sometimes trust is the ability to rely on others:
Individuality thrives in our society. Entitlement and bad attitudes can manifest at any time in our organizations, regardless of tenure. Lone wolf thinking can produce disastrous results, especially when good advice from teammates goes unheeded. But leadership's mission is built upon the construct of putting them before us—we before I. Our team affords us the collective brain trust in which any problem can quickly, efficiently, and correctly be addressed. So, if leaders never create training situations which require the synergy and problem solving of teamwork then how do individuals ever learn the value of it? Also, if we don't create these opportunities for teamwork do we inadvertently condone a culture where the perception of self could become more valuable than the group? But this has to start with leaders who are willing to admit they don’t know it all. Healthy teams have leaders who consistently demonstrate ownership in their mistakes and humility in their knowledge. Toxic leaders refuse to hold themselves accountable and suppress the ideas of their teams because their insecurities won’t allow for others to receive credit.
Humility builds trust. Bravado and self-promotion leads to a deterioration of our team's strength and ability to perform our mission. Selfish thinking and a lack of humility are enemies of trust.
Sometimes trust is acting as good stewards in the faithful execution of our mission:
The public trust is the strongest leverage tool we possess to accomplish tasks others see as impossible. And yet this formidable tool is also incredibly fragile and susceptible to damage—often at our own doing. Perhaps it is a social media post in which someone declares publicly the perceived shortcomings of his or her organization, which negatively influences the public’s perception of our ability to do our job. Maybe it’s the illegal activity or the headline grabbing antics of cheating, lying, or stealing that puts us in the spotlight? Does it also occur if we allow leadership's narrative to turn from excellence to good enough--allowing complacency to take root in our organizations. We will all have moments in which we choose the harder right over the easier wrong. In this moment we have an opportunity to continue to maintain the trust bestowed to leadership, and inspire others to follow.
Treat risk with respect and regard, but do not abandon your duty as leaders based on this simple and single construct: Them before us. Any action to the contrary is an enemy of trust.
Call to action:
There is no secret ingredient to creating trust. People both feel and lose trust in others for different reasons. An action that may endear you to your team, may simultaneously destroy your credibility in the eyes of another. For this reason, self-awareness and empathy are two powerful tools in a leader’s arsenal. Too often leaders become complacent and expect that regardless of our performance or attitude trust will continue to exist. Check in with your team often, and look for areas that might be generating hard feelings. Push your people for their benefit and not selfish gains, and they will trust and respect you more.
Benjamin Martin provides leadership training and keynotes throughout the country. He has over 15 years in public safety and administration, serving as a Lieutenant in the Fire Service. He has experience with project management, curriculum development, and adult learning. He is a member of the National Speakers Association and International Association of Fire Service Instructors. He has many published articles on leadership including emotional intelligence, culture, and leadership resiliency. You can find a sample of his presentations and other leadership training featured at www.ETRLeadershipSolutions.com