What Trust Gets You
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