In our work with leaders around the globe we continually emphasize how crucial it is for leaders to build trust with their followers. Without trust, leaders are unable to build strong relationships, keep followers engaged, or establish a shared vision for the future. In a recent employee survey we conducted for one of our clients, a full one-third (33%!) of employees reported that they did not trust what their superiors were telling them. It will come as no surprise to you that this company has been struggling financially for a number of years. Yes, poor financial performance for your company is also a consequence of a lack of trust between leaders and follows.
So, how trustworthy are you? A simple formula we use during our training sessions might help you to answer that question:
Trust = Competence + Integrity + Empathy
Let’s take a closer look at this formula, beginning with Competence. Simply put, your followers need to know that you know what you are doing! This applies not only to the technical aspects of your business, but also to your skills as a visionary, a strategist, and a leader of people. Are you keeping up-to-date in your field? Are you reading all the books and journals? Are you continually thinking about how you can better position your company and its products in the marketplace? Your followers trust you to be paying attention to these key business drivers. And when was the last time you invested in your own leadership or personal development? For that matter, when was the last time you had a conversation with one of your followers about their hopes and dreams for the future of your business?
Your followers also need to know if you are a person of Integrity. Are you honest? Do you follow through on the commitments you make? Do your behaviors match your words? Do you “walk the talk” in all that you do or do you suffer from the “Do as I say and not as I do?” disease? Actions speak louder than words. The truth is, the troops are watching and they want to see if you are a person of integrity.
Empathy..In business? Here is what empathy looks like in the business setting: You care about your people as human beings and not merely as tools to get work completed. Each of your followers is a person with hopes and dreams for their work and their lives as well as fears and insecurities that hold them back. Do you take the time to listen to and understand your followers? Do you attempt to connect with them on the “human” level in addition to coaching them on business performance? People need to know you care before they will care about what you know.
A final note: To develop the highest levels of trust, all three of the elements of the trust formula – Competence, Integrity, & Empathy – must also be high. If any is lagging, the level of trust drops accordingly. Most of us have firsthand experience of the fear, frustration, and anger that accompanies a lack of trust in our leaders.
How do you measure up using the trust formula?