According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Trust is defined as: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.
In the process of launching new companies, it's a safe bet that the product or service provided is highly acclaimed as trustworthy. The amount of passion, energy and devotion required to create a business fundamentally requires a belief that others will find they can trust in the produce or service...trust is at the core of entrepreneurial endeavors.
In Patrick Lencioni's, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, he states that if an absence of trust exists in an organization, then fear of conflict will breed, which will create a lack of commitment leading to an avoidance of accountability and, ultimately, resulting in an inattention to results. It's easy to see and reasonable to assume that he's correct. However, achieving a solid foundation of trust is one of the most difficult challenges leaders face every day.
The late Stephen Covey wrote about trust throughout all of his timeless leadership books. In his book, Principle-Centered Leadership, he described the four levels of principle-centered leadership beginning with Personal Trustworthiness at it's core. According to his model, if you have authentic personal trustworthiness it will enable you to build Interpersonal Trust which will create Managerial Empowerment rippling out to result in Organizational Alignment.
Two of the most influential thought leaders on leadership and teams agree that without trustworthy leadership, organizations are at risk for failure. So, if they are correct, what are the catalysts for building and sustaining trust?
- First and foremost, integrity must be embedded . If the actions of a leader do not mirror the leader's message, employees will lose faith. For employees to feel safe and secure in an organization, they must be able to rely on what is communicated from those at the top. If employees lose faith, turnover escalates.
- Treatment of people is the unspoken metric of how leaders are measured by their employees. If leaders allow the hierarchy to dictate the way they treat people, not only will they find they have no followers (something required to lead), they run the risk of creating a fear-based culture. If leaders are distant, don't make time for employee input from every level of the organization, cut people off, talk over people, treat people with disrespect...trust will dissipate very quickly. Leaders are dependent on input and feedback throughout the organization in order to make high quality decisions and forecast problems before they raise their ugly heads. If employees fear their leaders, the input and feedback will never be authentic, which will compromise decisions and negatively impact productivity, quality and profitability.
- Focus on shared, rather than personal goals. When employees feel everyone is pulling together to accomplish a shared vision, rather than a series of personal agendas, trust results. When a team really works, the players trust one another.
- Do what's right, regardless of personal risk. We all know intuitively what's "right" in nearly every situation. Following this instinctive sense, and ignoring any personal consequences will nearly always create respect from those around us. From this respect will come trust.
When we look at the truly successful organizations of both today and yesterday, we find their leaders fostered these four principles of creating trust. You can lead in your role, regardless of where you reside in the organization. Modeling the behaviors that cultivate trust is something all employees can do to systemically change for the better.