By Nguyen “Tom” Griggs
Well, friends, we've come to the end of our series on B.L.A.C.K. B.E.L.T. leadership! The last letter, “T,” stands for trust. This is arguably one of the most important concepts for effective leaders and teams.
The number of relationships that have been solidified or ruined by the degree of trust within is innumerable. We all have stories of being on the giving and receiving ends of both good and bad trust-related stories. But leaders and teams grow or fail based on how well trust is nurtured or withheld. Here’s a quick lesson on trust that I know you’ll find helpful.
I have an older cousin who worked for a big chemical plant in a rural town in southeast Texas. The workers there didn't have a union, so they were largely dependent on their supervisors to represent them and their interests.
One year, the workers’ contracts were up for discussion, and management was proposing some numbers that upset the workers. My cousin had recently been promoted to a supervisory position. Many of the workers didn't really know much about him, but one of his duties was to speak up for them.
Because he was new, they feared that perhaps he wouldn't represent them well. But he reassured them that his goal was to listen to them and to present management’s perspectives, all while fighting to get them a fair and profitable contract.
After several weeks of negotiations, things were finally settled. Neither management nor the workers were completely happy. But everyone got some of what they wanted, and my cousin gained a great deal of respect and admiration from the workers and managers alike. I asked my cousin about the actions and tools he used to develop trust and effective leadership in a difficult situation. He offered four pieces of simple, but essential, advice:
1) Be transparent. My cousin let everyone know what actions he was going to take and what the results were. He hid nothing and even discussed details that seemed miniscule.
Remember, leaders don’t always know the depth of their followers’ understanding or their desire for details. It’s better to overcommunicate. When you don't provide enough information and things don’t go well, you get blamed for hiding things and/or being incompetent.
2) Communicate purposefully. He shared information every Friday and made sure to cover only what was on that day’s agenda. This allowed his worker meetings to be concise and specific.
My cousin made sure that his people knew when he was going to share information with them so they had time to compose questions about their concerns beforehand. This also made it easier for the workers to effectively manage their schedules in advance.
3) Seek feedback and implement changes. My cousin wanted to know what the workers thought of the results and his efforts. He shared with me that in the beginning of the negotiations, he simply tried to take note of everyone’s concerns, but he’d gotten overwhelmed.
He eventually asked his people to give him their concerns in writing. This made his job much easier with regard to sharing concerns with management.
Likewise, he got managers to provide him with copies of the notes from the meetings to make it easier for his people to remain informed. He was willing to change his approach to accommodate his people.
4) Promise effort, not results. All sides knew that no one was going to get exactly what they wanted. But the workers felt reassured knowing that my cousin made his very best effort to follow through with details and clarity. The workers knew this because my cousin always followed the previously mentioned steps. When you are transparent, communicate with purpose, seek feedback and implement changes, people will believe in you and your efforts.
Results are hard to guarantee, but effort is not.
My cousin also let people know that he would be there to talk with anyone at any point. The fact that he was consistent in his actions and words also helped everyone see him as a trustworthy and authentic person.
If you’d like to read more about trust, Dr. Carol Kinsey Goman’s “How Leaders Build and Destroy Trust” is an amazing article. Dr. Goman provided data and feedback from 537 managers regarding how leaders affect trust. She received some very succinct, focused statements and outlined five very specific growth points. The article is a quick read — and well worth it.
Thanks as always for reading and leading. Keep earning those stripes, and I’ll see you soon!
Nguyen “Tom” Griggs is a professional consultant/speaker in the areas of Teams, Leadership and Conflict and can be reached at [email protected]
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