What Trust Gets You

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Recently, I wrote a post on The Law of Trust, in which I shared the five necessary conditions I use before I’ll invest my time, energy, and – most important, my heart – in a leader. That post focuses on establishing trust in the first place, to get others to follow your lead. But once you have a follower (or a company-sized group of them for that matter) then what?

Why is trust so important for a leader in the long run?

In a word, faith.

A leader whose people trust her, who have faith in her, will give her the benefit of the doubt when things go wrong. They’ll stick with her when she stumbles, or when the group fails as a unit. That faith, that trust, is like money in the bank saved for a rainy day. Without it, a leader’s people will desert her at the first time of trouble.

 

How do you measure sales that don’t happen, or talent that doesn’t come aboard?

 

This could be physically, as in quitting the team, the business unit, or the company. It could also be emotional, and this may actually be worse. When people come to work disgruntled, they won’t put in their best effort. They’ll infect newcomers with their negative attitudes. Their customers will catch the vibe. So will potential customers, and potential employees. How do you measure sales that don’t happen, or talent that doesn’t come aboard? Yet these unmeasurables can spell the slow, painful death of an organization.

 

Lincoln kept choosing ineffective generals before finally selecting Grant; enough Americans trusted Lincoln that he was not thrown out of office before he could make that final, winning choice.

 

On the other hand, it is trust that provides the opportunity to lead the team out of danger when trouble strikes – as it always will, no matter how amazing a leader one is. For instance…

  • Lincoln kept choosing ineffective generals before finally selecting Grant; enough Americans trusted Lincoln that he was not thrown out of office before he could make that final, winning choice
  • Edison resisted moving from Direct Current to Alternating Current for far too long; had his investors not trusted him, he would have lost control of his company and might have died a failure
  • The people of South Africa trusted Nelson Mandela to lead them out of white rule and into democracy peacefully, rather than through bloody revolution; trust made all the difference to the entire nation
  • Oprah Winfrey has moved markets and changed lives through only one thing: the trust of her fans; there is a world full of entertainers, but only one Oprah (Does every show she films, every article she writes, every product she endorses, delight and amaze? Hardly… yet because she has built an immense reservoir of trust, she survives these stumbles with hardly a second’s thought)

How about you, Mr. or Ms Leader?

Do your people trust you? When you stumble, do they forgive you and remain by your side, or do they roll your eyes at each other and say, “Here he goes again?”

 

The higher we get on the org chart, the less in-touch most of us are with our people

 

Chances are very high you cannot answer this question properly yourself.

The higher we get on the org chart, the less in-touch most of us* are with our people – and most leaders compound this tendency, of isolation-through-position, by surrounding themselves with yes-men or with like-minded individuals. That means few leaders can trust someone to tell them when their people have lost trust in them.

Who tells you when your baby is ugly? And what is the price of not knowing?

 

*Most of us, but not all of us. See for yourself how this enterprise CEO stays in touch with his frontline staff. If he can do it… Need I go on?

Photo by  Lucien

Ted Coiné is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership and Management Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership put him in a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, which he co-authored with Mark Babbitt. An inspirational speaker and popular blogger, Ted is a pioneer of the Human Side of Business (#humanbiz) movement. He is also a serial business founder and three-time CEO. When not speaking at conferences and corporate functions, Ted advises CEOs on how to become Truly Social Leaders, or “Blue Unicorns” as they put it in A World Gone Social, in order to bring their companies into the Social Age. Ted’s advice: “Change is only scary if it’s happening to you. Instead, bring the change your competitors dread. That is something only a Social Age business leader can accomplish.”

  • Keep it going, Ted, you are asking all the right questions. For me, faith is an outcome of trust. Faith is most important when you and your team enter unchartered terroritory. During times of ambiguity, it’s critical for leaders to distinguish between the difference between desperation and aspiration. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to “frame” faith by making sure it is clear why the future is built on opportunity and not fear. @RonRicciCisco

  • I am a new author of a children’s book. I am also a lowly worker at a hotel as a room attendant. This is what bothers me, my boss is always pointing out little details of mistakes and criticizes. I just wish she would put as much effort into praising a job well done. There is an old saying “you can catch more bees with with honey than vinegar” in other words I’d feel better about my job if I got a pat on the back once in a while. I take pride in my work and it would be good for morale and in turn it would be good for business. Leaders in business and politics should remember to praise as well as criticize but I think praise goes a long way in benefitting everyone. I liked your post and it inspires me to think about ways to improve myself. Thank you.

  • Great to see more dialogue on the value/importance of trust. Your readers may [also] benefit from Covey’s new look at trust. He calls it one of the most fundamental elements in relationships and societies and tackles the subject in five “waves”. More here… http://bit.ly/NmtrcB

  • Really good post Ted! Trust is such an important value. In our fast-paced and constantly changing times, leaders need to bring their whole person to the table. I refer to this as “being authentic” and “in the now”. Leaders can easily get derailed and they do! Standing firm and tall, not surrounded by fog, helps but this requires to get out of comfort zones and be vulnerable. Not always easy, but letting go of the ego is so needed. Leaders don’t need titles. Without respect, trust is hard to obtain. Google studied this at length. People leave orgs because of bad managers/leaders. But we can’t use this excuse for not being thruthful and honest as well! g8 connexion!

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  • Mic

    Great post, Ted! My favorite part was this line, which I have seen all too many times from “leaders” I’ve worked with and for…. “The higher we get on the org chart, the less in-touch most of us* are with our people – and most leaders compound this tendency, of isolation-through-position, by surrounding themselves with yes-men or with like-minded individuals. That means few leaders can trust someone to tell them when their people have lost trust in them.”

  • Kathy Nicklaus

    Hey Ted!
    Fun to find you after the few years that have passed since we last spoke!
    Knowing my past, would you give me a few “pointers” on how to get over when leadership that you trusted and had full faith in not only lets you down but crushes you?
    I am getting back on the horse and trotting but would love to be in that “full gallop” mode!
    Great job on the blog! All the best to you!
    Kathy

  • Pingback: The Power of Trust in Business | Switch and Shift()

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