Am I trustworthy?

Written by: Leaders Posted: 15/04/2021

Phil EyrePhil Eyre, Founder of Leaders, considers the five principles of trust and how to challenge yourself on whether you hold them

Trust is a powerful thing. It’s essential for sustainable high performance. Trust is the basis on which true empowerment happens within any organisation, the foundation for exceptional customer relationships and fundamental to investor confidence.

Trust can be hard won and is always easily lost. It can’t be bought, yet can come at a cost and, right now, it seems that this valuable commodity is increasingly scarce.
The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reports that trust has evaporated; there is “widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world”.  

The research flags a crisis of leadership, with leaders of institutions deemed largely “not credible”. CEO credibility has dropped in some countries to all-time lows.

This creates a huge challenge as we seek to navigate the pandemic, just one of a number of massive global issues – population ageing, climate change and extreme inequality, to name but a few. 

While it is clear we are in a “crisis of trust”, this situation brings an opportunity for leaders who are attuned to the importance of transparency and integrity to stand up, and stand out. 

Building trust is central to our work with leaders in any setting. Not the falling-blindly-into-someone’s-arms type, but fostering authentic relationships marked by high integrity. Simply start by asking yourself: “Am I trustworthy?”

Trust is characterised within five core principles. Like the spokes of a wheel, all five need to be felt by others in order for trust to exist; a deficiency in one will undermine the impact of all the others. 

The five principles are as follows – how do you think you fare in each?  

1) Transparency Transparent leaders communicate clearly and often, including the purpose of initiatives, their reasoning and their expectations. They communicate, also, with their ears, listening to learn and not just to respond. Transparent leaders tell the truth quickly, even – and especially – when the news is bad, refusing to invent excuses or soundbites that sound good 
but aren’t true. 

Challenge: What news – information, perspectives, opinions – are you holding back and from whom? 

2) Relatability Trustworthy leaders are relatable, in that they understand where their people are coming from. Relatable leaders recognise that one size does not fit all, and they also make the effort to draw out individual team strengths. They actively seek out diverse experiences and perspectives, seeking to understand differences so as to respect them. In doing so, they become even better informed and make higher quality choices. They are interactive: genuinely interested and interesting. Ergo, they don’t talk that much about themselves. 

Challenge: How much of your conversation and thinking centres around you and your needs? 

3) Consistency If you have worked with someone who doesn’t do what they promised, you’ll be well aware of the impact that this has on trust. Being consistent with promises, true to your word, and living what you preach and require of others, is crucial if trust is to be established and maintained. 

Challenge: Do you excuse yourself from policies that you expect other people to respect? 

(Hint: I often observe this in leaders who work excessive hours yet tell their colleagues to take better care of themselves.) 

4) Feasibility I enjoy being around “blue-sky” thinkers and dreamers. They can be exciting and thought-provoking. But for trust to be built, leaders need to be more than dreamers; they need to do the right homework to create a feasible plan. There’s a difference between taking a risk and taking a considered risk. Feasibility skill is marked by a willingness to learn from mistakes rather than simply dismiss them. 

Challenge: Are you running so fast dealing with immediate issues that you’re not asking the more important questions? 

5) Empowerment Trust is all about power. Low-trust leaders hoard power and wield it over others. Trustworthy leaders actively share power, using a “power-with” rather than “power-over” mindset. Team members have autonomy to pursue objectives and are not dependent on the leader. There will be high accountability in such a team – calling out problems and supporting in solving them. There will be high levels of encouragement, praising other people’s successes rather than seeking self-glory. 

Challenge: What proportion of your typical fortnight is spent doing work that others in your team could and should be performing? 

Solving the crisis of trust in leadership begins with each of us. Creating a workplace that is built on trust will bring long-term benefits to every business, but this must start from the top. So, start today by asking yourself: “Am I trustworthy?” 

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• This advertising feature was first published in the March/April 2021 edition of Businesslife magazine

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