Instill Trust

Leadership and Trust

Patrick Lencioni notes that trust is not about simple predictive trust and knowing how some will behave.  Real trust is all about vulnerability. Team members who trust one another learn to be comfortable in being open, even exposed, to one another around their failures, weaknesses, even fears.  

Vulnerability-based trust is predicated on the simple—and practical—idea that people who aren’t afraid to admit the truth about themselves are not going to engage in office politics that diminish results.

How leaders build trust

Stephen R. Covey, who wrote a seminal work on trust, defines it as having two components: character and competence.  It is not enough to be a good person to earn trust; one also needs to be competent and able to deliver on one’s promises.  In other words, trust has both a personal and a behavioral component. Central is the concept of credibility that Covey describes as the basis on which trust building behaviors occur. Covey defines four principles of credibility:

Integrity means “honesty.”  While integrity includes honesty, it is much more.  It is walking your talk, it’s being congruent, inside and out. It is having the courage to act in accordance with your values and beliefs.

Intent has to do with your motives, your agendas, and the resulting behaviour. Trust grows when your motives are straightforward and based on mutual benefit – in other words, when you genuinely care not only for yourself, but also for the people with whom you interact, lead, or serve.

Capabilities are the abilities we have that inspire confidence – our talents, attitudes, skills, knowledge, and style. They are the means we use to produce results.  For example, a family doctor might have integrity and his motives might be good but unless he’s trained and skilled to perform the task at hand (brain surgery, for example) he’ll be lacking in credibility in that area. Capabilities also deal with the ability to establish, grow, extend and restore trust.

Results. Refers to our track record, or performance, and getting the right things done. If we don’t accomplish what we are expected to do, it just diminishes our credibility. On the other hand, when we achieve the results we promised, we establish a positive reputation of performing, of being a producer… And our reputation precedes us.

Warren Bennis, a leadership guru is noted for ideas on how to build trust. The ideas are:

COMPETENCE. People must have confidence in the leader’s capacity to get the job done. This comes from a track record of success.

CONGRUITY. People must have confidence that the leader behaves in ways that are congruent with what they say; and what they say is congruent with how they feel, and that, in turn, is congruent with their vision. This is a distinction often made by Harvard business professor Chris Argyris in his discussion of an individual’s “espoused” theory of action—what we say we do—contrasted with our “theory in use”—how we actually act.23

CONSTANCY. People must have confidence that the leader is “on their side,” that they will be there for them when needed and will come through with whatever they need to get the job done.

CARE People must have confidence that the leader truly cares about them, empathizes with them, and concerns that the leader has about the implications of their actions and decisions about them.

Trust lies at the heart of effective relationships. Whether in or out of the workplace, trust generates feelings of goodwill. It enables successful collaboration and more productive outcomes. When there’s trust, things go more smoothly. People pull together, relying on each other to do their part. To build trust a skilled leader follows through on commitments, is seen as direct and truthful, keeps confidences, practices what they preach and show consistency between words and actions.


Creating a productive work climate

The fundamental building block upon which productive work relationships are built is TRUST, a characteristic that is difficult to develop — but very easy to destroy.

Trust has two basic and reciprocal dimen­sions: Trusting behaviour, and Trustworthy behaviour, both of which are under the control of the individual. Only when both components are present can trust be said to exist. The specific ways in which organi­zational leaders can pro­mote a more Trusting workplace can be dis­cussed in two areas:

  • Demonstrating behaviours which promote supportiveness rather than defensiveness; and,
  • Demonstrating behaviours which pro­mote collaboration (Win/Win) rather than compe­ti­tion (Win/Lose)

Defensive vs Supportive Climate

Work is fundamentally a “people” process. It there­fore follows that the quality of work depends on the quality of interactions between people, particularly between employee and manager. At work, many of our relationships, especially those with people in positions of power (relative to ourselves) are characterized by DEFENSIVENESS. By this, we mean that we expend a significant amount of our energy and attention on defending our self-esteem by…

  • Worrying about how we will appear to others;
  • How we can be seen more favourably;
  • How we can win, dominate, impress or escape punishment;
  • How to avoid or survive a perceived or anticipated criticism or opposition.

These concerns not only tend to divert or corrupt our attention from organizational goals, but the behaviour which results is likely to create similar postures in others, which per­petuates and intensifies non-pro­ductive com­munication and effort. In short, the result is a non-trusting, DEFENSIVE CLIMATE.

As managers, we must recognize that when we combine these natural concerns of human beings with traditionally power-based, hier­archical organizations, the potential for defen­siveness is magnified.

However, all is not lost. For when we under­stand and acknowledge the factors which contribute to defensiveness, we are provided with CHOICE: we can choose to conduct ourselves in ways which will increase defensive­ness, or we can choose to adopt approaches and behaviours which are more likely to create a trusting, SUPPORTIVE CLI­MATE.

Collaboration and Competition

Closely related to defensive and supportive climates is the issue of competition in organi­zations. The key issue is this:

Do we conduct ourselves in ways that reflect a collaborative effort toward mutual goals (Win/Win), or, do we display be­hav­iours that reflect a primary concern for self-interest and personal gain (Win/Lose)?

Win/Lose situations pervade our culture and organi­zations. In the law courts, we use the adversary system. Political parties strive to win elections and to win points in legisla­tures. Debates are common at schools, uni­versities, and in the media. The put-down is generally regarded as wit. Competing with and defeat­ing an opponent is the most wide­ly publicized aspect of a good deal of our sports and recre­ation.

In an environment that seems to stress win­ning, it is no wonder that competitive behav­iour persists where it is not appropriate. In organizations, individ­uals may strive for domin­ant position; battles can rage discretely, and otherwise, between depart­ments. For example, a policy group might develop a new approach to a particular program. When it is introduced, the “implementers” might resist, under­mining its effectiveness. It is easy to interpret the situation in Win/Lose terms. The policymakers are show­ing that they know more and can develop better policy than “front line” folks. If the new policy is effective they “win”. However, if it is ineffec­tive, the policy-makers “lose,” and, in a sense, the implementers “win” because their normal approach proved superior. In fact, all efforts to plan for others are plagued by Win/ Lose traps.

In some organizations, internal Win/Lose rivalries absorb more effort than the main production or service.

For workgroups, the implications of a real or perceived Win/Lose orientation are significant; they include…

  • Diverting time and energy from the main issues
  • Delaying decisions
  • Creating deadlocks
  • Driving unaggressive individuals to the side­lines (withholding partici­pa­tion)
  • Interfering with listening
  • Obstructing exploration of more alter­na­tives
  • Decreasing or destroying sensi­tivity
  • Causing individuals to drop out or resign
  • Arousing anger
  • Interfering with empathy
  • Leaving losers resentful
  • Inclining underdogs to sab­otage
  • Provoking personal abuse
  • Causing defensiveness

Adjusting to Win/Lose

Although it would be ideal to have all parties committed to avoiding Win/Lose situations, the efforts of a significant segment of a group can usually be effective. In a one-to-one conflict, one of the parties can often turn off a con­test. It takes two to fight. The more people in a Win/Lose situation who recognize the dangers in such a struggle and want to adjust the situation, the more likely they will suc­ceed. Some means of adjustment include:

  • Having clear goals, that are understood, and agreed upon. Using the goals to test whether issues are relevant or not.
  • Being on the lookout for Win/Lose. It can de­velop subtly. If you feel under attack, or feel your­self lining up support, you are likely in a Win/Lose.
  • Listening empathetically to others. Stopping your­self from working on counter-argu­ments while another person is speaking. Taking the risk of being persuaded; trying the other person’s reas­oning on for size.
  • Avoiding absolute statements that leave no room for modification. “I think this is the way”… is bet­ter than “This is THE ONLY way… “
  • If you are planning for others, provide some means for their involvement. The doers should feel that they can have an influence on decisions that affect them.
  • Trying to make decisions by consensus rather than by victory of the majority.
  • Testing to see that trade-offs and compro­mises are truly accepted by all.
  • Drawing a continuum line and having mem­bers place themselves on it regarding the issue. It often occurs that the differ­ent “sides” are not far apart.
  • Bing alert to selling or winning strategies in others, and avoiding using them yourself. “Any intelligent person can see the advan­tages… ” would be a danger signal.

This list is not exhaustive but may provide a begin­ning toward more productive relation­ships. The key idea in adjusting a Win/Lose situation is to strive for what is best for all rather than trying to get your way.

Infinite and Finite Games

Win-Win is the infinite game.  The idea is to keep the game going. In business, we are in the infinite game.  Simon Sinek famous business author,  describes the ideas of infinite and finite games in the video below.