General Colin Powell has said “Trust is the essence of leadership.” This is something I think most of us can agree upon. We want leaders that we trust are looking out for our best interests. My last post about inspiring purpose within your team introduced the notion there are two major issues within the military (and society, in general) today and they are lack of purpose and lack of trust.
Purpose is what pushes us to buy-in to the mission. Trust in our leaders and our team is what keeps us there. However, trust is the most important quality in leadership and yet it is such a fragile thing. Here are some snippets I have found online about trust:
“I do not trust easily. So when I tell you ‘I trust you’ please, don’t make me regret it.”
“I am a good enough person to forgive you, but not stupid enough to trust you again.”
“TRUST: It takes years to build and seconds to break.”
These statements make me relate trust to dating. We are pretty careful who we give our hearts to and who we choose to spend our lives with. Trust is the equivalent to this in the workplace. We can demand or earn respect based on our position or rank. However, we can only earn trust; it can’t be forced. So, I ask: Are WE leaders others can trust?
There are 3 ways to identify if you’re trusted:
- People are not afraid to bring problems to you. “This whole building burned down and you never even told me it was on fire.” We see something like this play out all of the time. There are issues all over the unit that should be taken to the boss, but people are afraid of the fallout from him or her. It gets to the point of no return and something major happens. As the inspectors start to dig, they discover people knew about the issues all along. They didn’t trust their leaders enough to bring them bad news.
- People confide in you. “Sir, do you have a minute?” These are words that precede something very personal and never only take ‘a minute.’ Imagine the person you would take a deep-rooted issue to. You have to trust them. No one expects you to be Dr. Phil or Oprah, but if members on our teams are struggling with something, they are not going to be productive. When we are trusted, people will come to us seeking assistance.
- Peers, subordinates and even superiors ask you “dumb” questions. “You have been a Crew Chief for this long and you don’t know the answer to that?!” Well, “clearly I don’t or I wouldn’t be asking, Richard.” We have all experienced something like this before. We go to certain people with our “dumb” questions, because we can trust them. If people are afraid to ask you questions, they will never trust you.
All of us can think of a leader who we would follow into battle without question. Also, we can think of numerous leaders we would not follow to the break room. It is all centered on trust. The challenge for leaders is trust is something we have to earn and it takes time and effort on our part. Step one is to ask ourselves where we are in regards to the three indicators explained above.