I’ve been exploring what builds high leadership trust (here and here). Maister, Green and Galford write about the elements that build trust in their book The Trusted Advisor (Free Press, 2001). Trustworthy leaders practice and master five key abilities:
- Listen Well
Most leaders use their listening skills to gather information. But listening is a critical tool for connecting with others, building relationships and strengthening influence. You must pay attention, be empathic and let others know you understand them.
Partnership involves collaborating (not competing), committing to fairness, balancing assertiveness and cooperation, dealing with disagreements, and sharing responsibility for successes and failures.
Things don’t always go as planned. Glitches and challenges can be “moments of truth” that require rational and emotional flexibility. Leaders are stretched at times, but your ability to handle moments of truth determines your trustworthiness.
- Take Risks
Trust cannot exist without taking risks and leaving your comfort zone. Every risk you take builds trust. Leaders must be courageous enough to overcome their fears and confront challenging situations with curiosity and authenticity. Work toward boosting your tolerance of ambiguity and exposure. Learn to take the right risks at the right time.
- Know Yourself
Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence and trustworthiness. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses allows you to delegate and collaborate more effectively. Work with a trusted mentor or executive coach to identify blind spots that impede self-knowledge.
3 Common Blind Spots
“When employees are given honest feedback, even if the feedback suggests they have room to improve or change, the conversation can have a powerful impact, energizing them and motivating them to access new skills and talents. When handled well, honest feedback triggers growth, and employees will trust this feedback in the future.” ~ Judith Glaser in Conversational Intelligence
Well-meaning leaders often overlook barriers to trustworthiness. The traits that make you a strong leader may inadvertently interfere with building self-awareness and trusting relationships. Consider these common blind spots:
- You don’t realize the extent of your need to be liked. How often do you avoid saying or doing something because it might be unpopular? While this may sometimes be wise, it lowers your credibility, effectiveness and overall trustworthiness.
- You’ve underestimated the intensity of your internal drive to achieve. Results-oriented leaders habitually move too quickly from fully listening to pushing for commitments.
- You overlook your discomfort with feeling unprepared. Leaders aren’t clairvoyant and don’t have all the answers. This uneasiness may prevent you from engaging in collaboration and depending on others.
These three traits are fairly common among high-achieving leaders. You must take off your blinders and identify barriers to trust. Without self-knowledge, you risk damaging relationships.