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What Business School Can't Teach Your Leaders About Trust

Written by Rebecca Okamoto on Nov. 2, 2014

"To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful." Edward R. Murrow Twitter icon

Trust is earned.

Do you know how much is in your "trust" account?

You know, the account where our organization keeps score on how much they trust us. Many leaders don't realize that we don't get to decide the value of our account.

Our organization decides.

Our organization decides how much we trust we have in our account. Our organization decides IF the transactions we make are deposits or withdrawals, AND they determine how much the deposits or withdrawals are worth.

How do our people decide?

By watching what we do, listening to what we say, and ultimately, judging our actions.

I worked in a plant where the long standing leader, Steve, was moving on. Steve was hardworking, and passionate. He had built the organization from the ground up, and through it all, the good and the bad, he united them, and his people identified with him.

Then the new leader, Karen, was announced.

There was a lot of concern if Karen would be accepted by the organization. Acceptance is a valid concern no matter how skilled the new person is. In this case leaders from the head office took extra steps to prepare the plant.

Mandates were issued that we trust Karen.

Expectations of support were set.

On the transition day Karen was formally introduced to the plant in a big ceremony. She presented a long list of impressive accomplishments and reassured us she was trustworthy. Karen set up multiple formal and informal meetings to meet as many people as possible. We had offsites and strategy sessions, and after an intensive join up period, she officially took over.

In the entire transition, one thing was forgotten.

Trust is earned.

Our plant, still mourning the loss of our leader, scrutinized the little things. We compared Karen to Steve. Steve was a technical master and could work on every part of the line. Karen did not have an operations background. Karen tried to bridge the gap, but never quite connected. Results slumped, people complained and then started to exit the business.

Change ALWAYS breeds concerns, so take heed to Stephen Covey's advice,

Organizations move at the speed of trust

Listen to your organization. They'll tell you how fast you can move.

  • Listen for "buzz" and "concern." If concerns outweigh confidence, there is low trust.

  • If there's low trust: slow down. If there was a popular leader before you, acknowledge them. Ignoring your predecessor only highlights them.

  • Validate concerns BEFORE you enroll people. That way they know you heard them.

Do you want to make a big impact?

To go BIG, first go SMALL.

Trust doesn't come from mandates, a grand entrance and lots of promises. Trust doesn't come from what you say, but what you do and how well you listen. Twitter icon

It doesn't matter who you are or how great you are.

Trust is Earned.

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Photo/Rebecca Okamoto

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