Do you trust people?
Do you think people trust you?
If you are a leader and your answer to the second question is no, or you are not sure, you have a big problem. A leader without the trust of the people he/she leads is doomed to failure.
Breaking Trust in Your Leadership Ability
The scary truth is we often damage and even break the trust people put in us as leaders. We break trust by making mistakes, being inconsiderate and well, just being human. If you think you never or seldom make serious leadership mistakes, damaging and breaking trust in your leadership ability, you are making a serious mistake.
Everyone makes mistakes at one time or another. What you need to assess is the impact of your mistakes on the trust of the people you lead.
When you exercise poor judgment or exhibit inconsiderate behaviour, it is called “Trustbusters” by Randy Conley, Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies.
Conley define Trustbusters as behaviours eroding trust, specifically in the following areas of our leadership.
Your ability is questioned when you do not deliver on your promised results. This normally happens when you do not show the required or expected expertise in a certain area.
Your believability is a very valuable asset. It comes into question when you break confidence or tell lies. One of the quickest ways to damage your believability is to get involved in or tolerate gossip.
People need to feel there is a connection between you and them. Connection is broken when people get the feeling they are not listened to. Not listening to people is a major trustbuster. This affects your connection with people and erodes the trust they have in you.
Not following through on commitments is another way of breaking trust with people. It creates a perception of you being unreliable. Dependability is an important part of leadership. People need to know they can depend on you when it counts. When people doubt your dependability it erodes the fundamental trust they need to have in you as a leader.
When Leadership Trust is Broken, Can It Be Repaired?
So now you have made a trust breaking mistake in one or more of these areas. Are you now doomed as leader to failure?
Luckily the answer is “No”.
Damaged trust relationships can be repaired and Conley highlights five key steps you must take in the process of rebuilding trust.
- Acknowledge. Trust repair begins with acknowledgement of the breach of trust. The very first thing is to acknowledge the problem and then take action to fix it.
- Admit. The second action you need to take lies in admitting your part in the breach of the trust. When you made a mistake breaking people’s trust, take responsibility and own up to whatever you did. This is not easy to do, but will go a long way in repairing trust with people.
- Apologize. The logical follow-up to admitting your mistake is to apologize for your mistake. It is normally the bigger person who owns up and apologizes.
- Assess. By accessing your mistake and the effect thereof you can identify the core elements of the trust you broke. When you identify these elements you can come up with ways to address the situation and to rebuild the trust in the particular areas.
- Agree. Have an open conversation with the person with whom you broke trust and agree to an action plan to remedy it. You have to agree with the person on what you are going to do differently moving forward to help rebuild the trust.
Trust is a very delicate thing. It takes a significant amount of time to build it, but it can be broken in an instant through one inconsiderate act or mistake. However it is possible to rebuild trust once broken.