What is the Big Deal About Trust?

By: David A. Reeves, Director of Human Resources

At a conference I attended in mid-June, I heard more than one speaker address the subject of leadership and trust. We all know we are experiencing a current crisis with this subject, both socially and politically, in American society today. Everyone seems to be screaming and no one seems to be listening regardless of the subject. Why? In part because we do not trust one another.

In business, the climate is no different. One consultant stated: “A lack of trust is your biggest expense. It may take years for a manager or an executive to develop the trust of his or her employees, but only moments to lose. Without trust, transactions cannot occur. Without trust, influence is destroyed. Without trust, leaders lose teams. Without trust, people lose sales. Without trust, organizations lose productivity, relationships, reputation, talent, customer loyalty, creativity, morale, revenue and results. Indeed trust, not money, is the currency of business.” David Horsager

All of us know intuitively we will not follow someone we do not trust. We understand that real relationships and communication are impossible without some level of trust. At some point in our work, we have experienced being a part of a team that is devoid of trust and we know what the negative outcome will be every time.

What can we as leaders do to change this situation? There is no easy, quick solution, but over time trust will blossom if we are willing to:

Be emotionally self-aware.

This is the starting place for becoming a leader. Being honest with ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses; about our individual quirks and prejudices frees us to be transparent with others and to lead with honesty. We must know ourselves.

Manage ourselves.

No one expects perfection, but we all expect our leaders to honestly follow their expressed values. We must learn to be adaptable, self-controlled, positive in the middle of challenges, reliable and exhibiting consistent behavior.

Be aware of others.

If we expect people to trust us and follow our lead, we must demonstrate genuine interest in them. Here we take the risk of relationship and learn to appreciate our differences as well as our similarities. Here we understand that credibility and influence are  functions of really listening and not talking. Here we learn that leading is not always having the answers ourselves.  Coaching and positive management become possible when we care and as others feel comfortable enough in our presence to be honest with their feelings, solutions and aspirations.

As leaders, these guiding principles will result in the conviction that we have the best interests at heart of those we are trying to lead. Once we start building trust, our results will increase, our influence will grow and our relationships will thrive. I truly believe that leaders who become the most trusted have the respect of their co-workers, team members and peers and are the most successful.