Earning Trust – Part One

Trust is essential for leadership. Whether you’re attempting to lead people who work for you, or across from you or even above you in your organization you must have their trust in order to lead them.

You earn, or not, the level of trust other people place in you. There are some people who have a default mindset that says to trust everyone until they show themselves to be untrustworthy. But most people are more skeptical and don’t trust someone until they have proven themselves trustworthy.

The contradiction there is that the best way to know whether someone is trustworthy is to trust them.

The trust you need to lead, or even to build a strong relationship requires time to build, sometimes a very long time. But you can lose that trust very quickly and you can lose it in several ways. You can lose it by not following through on your commitments. You can lose it by lying. You can lose it by sharing information that was given to you in confidence.

I’m good with those first two…not always so good with that last one. I can’t honestly recall ever sharing something told to me when I was specifically asked not to. When I’ve been told that something was being shared with me in confidence I’ve closely held that information.

It’s when I wasn’t specifically told that something was being shared in confidence that I’ve gotten myself in trouble. I would love to say that’s okay because I wasn’t told not to tell anyone else but it’s not okay. Unless you’re a complete idiot you know, or you should know, what’s appropriate to share and what’s not. You shouldn’t have to be told. Neither should I.

Failing to protect information shared with you in confidence, whether implied or stated, is one of the fastest ways to lose trust. Even if you only tell one other person you’ve broken the trust of the person who originally shared that information with you. If the person you told tells other people then you’re responsible for all those people knowing too. It’s a pretty big screw up.

Benjamin Franklin said “Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” You might want to keep that quote in mind if you’re ever tempted to share something that was told to you in confidence.

The good news is that trust can be rebuilt. It isn’t easy but if you’re interested it is possible. In my next post I’ll share several steps you can take to build trust and rebuild trust if you’ve lost it. There won’t be any secrets there, if fact I’ll bet you’ve heard them all before…the question is, are you doing them?

“They” Do Have a Choice

At the conclusion of a presentation I was giving on Leadership a while back a person raised their hand to ask a question. I had started the presentation the way many of my Leadership presentations begin and that was by saying “your title or position does not make you a leader.” I usually go on to say that only followers can make you a leader.

The presentation then most often talks about how to be the type of person someone would want to follow.

The person with the question didn’t really have a question; he wanted to make a statement. He said that in fact his title DID make him a leader. He said that the people who worked for him “had no choice” but to follow him because he was “the boss.”

The started me off on the longest response I’ve ever given to someone in the audience at one of my presentations.

I told the person that while being the boss may force someone to comply with his “commands” it absolutely didn’t make him a leader. A leader is someone who is able to earn the willing commitment of their people. They have no need to “boss” because their committed people will do what needs to be done in order to assist their leader.

Committed people outperform compliant people every time. They do more, they do it better and they do it faster.

A “boss” may hold a position of leadership but that has nothing to do with leading. A person who holds a position of leadership and doesn’t lead actually is the cause of most of an organization’s personnel issues. A person in a leadership position who doesn’t lead creates turmoil in the organization and demoralizes it’s people.

Assuming your position or title makes you a leader is about the biggest mistake a person occupying a leadership position can make. It makes them look arrogant and sends a message to their people that they are somehow inferior to their “leader.”

To lead another human being requires their permission. It also requires their commitment. People do not commit to titles or positions, they only commit to other people. That commitment must be earned and it must be earned by showing the people you would lead that you care about them as human beings.

Your title can’t care and your position can’t care. Only you can care.

I finished up my response by saying that if someone doesn’t have the willingness and desire to care for other people then they may hold a position of leadership but they do not hold the hearts and the minds of the people they hope to lead.

That could make them many things but it doesn’t make them a leader.

He didn’t have any other questions.

Who Are You?

Are you who you think you are? Are you who other people think you are? Are you basically the compilation of the five people you spend the most time with?

The answer to all of those questions is yes….sort of. I say “sort of” because you’re likely not exactly who you think you are. You’re also almost certainly not who other people think you are although they might be closer to the real you than you want to admit.

You are definitely influenced by the handful of people you spend the majority of your time with. You likely think and act a lot like them. You believe much the same as they do and you’re most comfortable being “real” when you’re with them.

So the better question is are you who you want to be?

Think of the people you know well that you respect and admire the most. These are not people you read about in the news or see in the movies. These are people you actually know. You know their good side and their not so good side. What are the qualities and characteristics they possess that cause you to admire them?

Think hard, invest some time in this. What is it really that sets them apart from the crowd?

How close are you to possessing these same qualities and characteristics. Notice there is no question mark at the end of that sentence. That’s because it’s not a question for you. It’s a question that you should be asking other people. It’s a question that you should be asking, on a regular basis, your coach or mentor.

The reason I’m not suggesting that you ask yourself is that if you’re like most people you won’t be completely honest with yourself. You’ll cut yourself too much slack and provide yourself with excuses you wouldn’t give anyone else. That’s nice to do for yourself but it isn’t helpful if your goal is to better yourself.

Once you have some sincere and honest input from people who know you well then you can decide if the you they see is the you that you want to be. There are a lot of “yous” in that sentence but this post is after all about you.

You’ll likely hear about a few shortcomings but that’s okay. Nobody’s perfect, not even the people you admire the most. You have to decide if the good qualities and characteristics you possess outweigh those shortcomings. If you have a weakness that you think is holding you back then you know what to work on.

I’m okay with being imperfect. I’m okay with not being liked by everyone. I’m okay with not being understood by everyone. I’m even okay with some people thinking I’m downright stupid.

Sometimes I disappoint people, sometimes I disappoint myself. I could make a pretty strong case that if you’re never disappointed with yourself, either with something you’ve said or done, then you’ve set your expectations for yourself way too low.

But that doesn’t make you a bad person and it certainly doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human. And you are everything that comes with that, good and bad. That is who you really are!