Trust-building is the most underrated and misunderstood leadership ability. Leaders can boost performance of their teams by understanding exactly why we do (or don’t) trust the people we work with.
Many leaders put an awful lot of effort into meeting the diverse needs of their stakeholders (internal and external) and their employees. But they’re not paying enough attention to one crucial maintenance function that provides with the most return on investment: Trust.
Trust is defined as our willingness to be vulnerable in relationships with others and this vulnerability is rooted in our belief that our colleagues, teammates, supervisors have good intentions and will behave well toward us. We let them have power over us believing these people will not hurt us. However, trust is a two-way street. We extend trust to others, we are willing to be vulnerable but our trust can be betrayed. It is not a rare phenomenon.
So, what do we do to ensure that we are operating in a high-trust environment? I always suggest to begin with self-trust and becoming aware our own relations with trust:
- Do we trust ourselves to act on our own decisions?
- How often do we betray ourselves and act in detriment to our own interests?
- Are we behaving in a way that instills trust or destroys it?
These are first key questions every leader has to ask as she/he/they engage in a trust-building process. We can never overestimate the relationship between self-trust and trusting others. As Maya Angelou said, “I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
Trust-building is a vulnerable and courageous process. You can gain more self-awareness through individual selections combined with a conversation with a person you can open up to. I would encourage you to walk through this process from a place of curiosity, learning and, ultimately, trust-building.