I wrote on the subject of trust not too long ago (https://dwbracken.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/a-matter-of-trust/), and, trust me, the subject isn’t going away. Since then, I have been accumulating a few more treatments of the topic of “trust;” it is another of those “know it when I see it” type of subjects, which makes it even more important that we compare our mental models to ensure we are thinking (and therefore acting) in the same way when we propose actions to address it.
One that caught my eye was posted in TD (http://goo.gl/8KXx5) (the ASTD, now ATD, magazine) by Doug Conant, who I recognize from his days at CEO of Campbell Soup Company and now Chair of Avon . In there he notes:
I think leaders have to have three traits. They have to be a person of great character, and in that spirit they have to do what they say they’re going to do… it’s a combination of character and competence. If the organization doesn’t trust you, you’re toast.
Erika Garms just posted a blog (that was referenced on LinkedIn) on the interaction of Accountability and Trust (http://goo.gl/eEmwWZ). Her main point is that a focus on Accountability is not going to be effective if it is not preceded (or grounded in) the establishment of Trust. This is an extremely important piece of advice (or warning) that speaks to the potential power of Trust to be a barrier to successful leadership when it is absent.
Marshall Goldsmith (see marshallgoldsmith.com) lists 20 behaviors that leaders need to fix; call them bad habits or derailers if you want, and they form the basis for his fantastic book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” I have referenced this list before in the context of listening (https://dwbracken.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/just-shut-up-and-listen/), but let’s looks at it through this lens of a subset of those behaviors (in this case negative) that can damage trust:
Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations – when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point.
Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound witty.
Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts, even when we aren’t asked.
Withholding information: The refusal to share information to gain or maintain an advantage over others.
Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
Playing favorites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.
Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect.
Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners.
Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocents who are only trying to help us.
Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves.
Trust is an elusive construct. My earlier Trust blog took a lead from the ATD study that honed in on integrity and honesty. Mr. Conant throws in competence and character. Goldsmith’s list has a core message that it is created by the respect shown to others.
I would add to this list “Being Inconsistent”, i.e., arbitrarily changing your basis for decisions and actions both across time and across individuals to the point where it creates uncertainty and perceived unfairness. Of course, the other end of this continuum is rigidity, which is also bad. In this context, “inconsistency” equates to unpredictability and capriciousness when the leader does not sufficiently explain the basis for his/her actions.
The good news is that it can be defined by behaviors (also see my earlier blog referenced above on this topic) and that behaviors can be changed. As I noted, behaviors begin as a choice. Many are not difficult to do, and, once accepted as needing change, can be honed to be even more impactful.
Based on this review, a Trust dimension on an upward (manager) feedback instrument might include:
- My manager has the skills and abilities to perform his/her job well.
- My manager is honest at all times.
- My manager treats all people with respect.
- My manager follows through on promises and commitments.
- My manager treats others with consistency and fairness.
- My manager listens to and acknowledges the viewpoints of others.
- My manager takes responsibility for his/her actions and decisions.
- My manager is willing to share his/her shortcomings and development needs.
Trust may well be the “sine qua non” of leadership effectiveness, whether at the organizational level or the individual leader (manager) level. If you’re not acknowledging and measuring Trust in yourself and your leaders, you are probably setting a ceiling on leadership and followership effectiveness.
©2014 David W. Bracken