LifeXchange

Trust in Leadership: 6 Elements That Make People Trust a Leader (Plus: Get to Know Your Team Better)

Champions of integrity: Why you need trust in leadership and how to build trust with your team

Higher profits. An engaged team. And people that will drive your dream forward. Building trust in leadership is one of the most important investments any company, manager or organisation can ever make.

High-trust companies have over 74% less stressed employees who are 76% more engaged and brought 106% more energy to work while taking 13% fewer sick days and helping boost profits by 50% according to decades-long research by Paul J Zak. And one of the most vital components to this is trust in leadership.

WHY DO YOU NEED TRUST IN LEADERSHIP?

Trust is the crucial first step that unlocks all the positive behaviours we want in our employees: Trust leads to industry (hard work and dedication), independent thinking (problem-solving and finding solutions on your own), self-management (championing your cause/work without having to be led/asked) etc.

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And trust is the foundation of leadership. You’re actually not a leader until someone trusts you. And here’s the proof: 

WATCH: WHAT IS LEADERSHIP, REALLY?

In his 2010 TED Talk, How to start a movement, writer and entrepreneur Derek Sivers shows us that what really makes a leader is not the leader themself, but that crucial moment when the “first follower” accepts the leader and shows others the value of their leadership and “how to be led”.

Notice where the trust comes in? There’s a moment when the leader has to embrace the follower as an equal. And that’s only possible through mutual trust.

So, with that in mind, we bring you some of the most exciting ideas on creating trust in your company’s leaders, managers and the overall company leadership.

6 WAYS TO BUILD TRUST IN LEADERSHIP

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THE THREE ELEMENTS OF TRUST

After reviewing hundreds of assessments of over 87,000 leaders, researchers Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman found 3 recurring elements of trust that drive employees’ trust in leaders:

1. THE ABILITY TO BUILD POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS

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There’s a lot of research that shows that one of the main drivers of trust is a leader who’s skilled at building and maintaining good relationships. Managing people is a specialised skill. And there’s a particular mistake many companies today make: We promote good workers into management positions.

It seems to make sense: A good engineer seems like the ideal candidate to promote to a management position, where they will manage other engineers, for example. But it’s not always the case. Managing people requires a whole different skill set, and building relationships is one of them.

So, what happens? The engineer (now manager) gets frustrated and resorts to what they know best: engineering. And that’s when managers start doing all the work and carrying their teams. Trust gets broken both ways, and obviously, productivity suffers and your managers get stressed and tend to burnout.

At LifeXchange Solutions, we’ve seen huge success with instilling a culture of mentoring in your company instead – it helps equip leaders with the skill to build and manage relationships. Check out our mentoring training.

2. SHOWING EXPERTISE

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At the same time, people don’t trust a manager who’s not clued up on the day-to-day technical aspects of the job, even if they’re good at managing people. A new hospital manager, for example, hired for their ability to streamline operations might start cutting costs on what they deem “wasteful” expenses on sanitising and equipment. And you’ll only see the effect once patients start contracting infections and end up with life-threatening diseases due to improper hygiene.

Striking the right balance between people skills and workplace know-how is a vital step towards building trust – making a good case for robust in-house training and investing in the continuous development and upskilling of your employees. See the importance of when we talk “Mastery” in the Circle of Courage method and “Competency” in the Human Development Cycle.

3. BEING CONSISTENT

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There’s also a lot of evidence that suggests consistency is vital for building and keeping trust. Leaders who lead by example, keep their promises and honour their commitments are easier to trust. It seems like an obvious one: If you keep moving the goalposts, people get confused and frustrated. And, more importantly, it makes them question your integrity.

And, in the world of trust and business, integrity is everything. 

MORE WAYS TO BUILD TRUST IN LEADERSHIP

One of the first things you’ll learn about being a really progressive leader (and company) is that you can’t think the way we’re used to anymore. Just look at the weird science behind what motivates employees.

Now, with that mind, let’s look at some of the more progressive ways you can build trust in leadership.

4. BECOME A CHAMPION OF INTEGRITY

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There’s reason to believe that all trust really stems from our perception of someone or something’s integrity. When Erik Erikson talks about trust, he literally means a baby testing the integrity of the world around it: If I cry, will mom be here to soothe me? – see Erikson’s Theory

And the key to unlocking all the positive behaviours you want from your team is in anticipating their perception of their managers and leadership (and the company’s) integrity.

Quite frankly, it’s the leader’s responsibility to champion integrity. People struggle to trust something if they can see a lack of integrity – the “green” company that dumps toxic waste in the river, the company that “wants people to grow” but doesn’t want to pay for courses to upskill their staff, the “people-orientated company” who still only gives employees 3 days of compassionate leave per year.

If you really want to be a leader people can trust, do the hard work: Look at your company’s policies, practices, systems, values, and if you spot something you know doesn’t sit right with you and your teams, be brave and become the champion who’ll change it. Ask us how.

5. FOCUS ON AGILE LEADERSHIP

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Since the early 2000s, the agile movement, with it’s “stand-up meetings”, “scrums” and “interactions over processes” ethos made huge strides in reintroducing real collaboration in the “dog eat dog” world of business – especially among the software companies where the movement originated. And, of course, other industries have seen how these tech giants are performing and want to implement some of the agile practices themselves.

Agile leadership moves you away from the old-school ways of thinking in business and into a fast-paced, way more efficient and – most importantly – more collaborative way of working. (Collaborative meaning everyone gives value and input – so everyone really feels they contribute, which is vital for trust and connections).

And, if you haven’t done so yet, look into the agile way of doing things. See our Agile Excellence.

6. CREATE A COMPANY-WIDE CULTURE OF TRUST

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Remember, it’s a leader’s role to champion trust. It’s your best interest because having your people’s trust reinforces your leadership role and ability. And, we’ve found, trust works best when you focus on creating a culture of trust in your entire company.

We’ll add more posts on trust in the next few days. But in the meantime, have a look at how to build trust in a team, 7 ways to foster trust in your company and the vital science behind workplace trust.

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BONUS: ENGAGE YOUR PEOPLE WITH INDIVIDUAL AND TEAM STRENGTHS

Trust is very effective at boosting productivity and performance, mainly because it engages your employees. And another way to boost trust, understanding and engagement is to develop your people based on their strengths – it helps teams bond, build trust and get to know each other’s way of thinking by knowing each person’s strengths.

DYNAMIC AND CUSTOM-MADE MANAGEMENT TRAINING

Discover it for yourself and your team: See our strengths-based development.


Also, ask yourself: what are strengths? And see the full list of strengths.

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Get awesome leadership insights from this top SA entrepreneur from the Cape Union Mart Agile Excellence sessions.

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See our #NeuroscienceForBusiness in action at the Feedem Neuro Workshop and Goede Hoop Citrus strengths workshop.

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Get the best out of all our training and workshops with a 90-day take-home book with even more info and neuro exercises to explore: Order your own copy of our new Growth Journal.

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And see these 8 SA businesspeople’s top highlights from our recent Neuro HR Workshop.

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Also discover #HowYourMindsWorks with our look at neurons and neural pathways.

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