Trust… Do you Really Need It?

When it comes to leadership development strategies, in most circles, trust gets a bad rap- particularly with quantitative or technical people. Why is this the case? Simply because people tend to think trust is a soft and fluffy topic, with an impact that’s really more minimal than crazy consultants like myself make it.

Trust is the Driver Behind Discretionary Effort

When I discuss executive development issues with clients, I tell them there’s a pretty good reason for worrying about trust and its connection to discretionary effort.  Discretionary effort is that extra element that your people don’t have to give you, but do. It’s above and beyond the requirements for keeping a job and anything greater than that minimum is solely the purview of the employee. The bottom line is they’re either going to give it to you or they’re not and that is almost entirely based on whether or not they trust you.

Three Parameters of Trust

The good news is, trust is a technical skill and can be taught and learned. Where to start? There are basically three parameters people use when deciding whether or not to trust – competence, integrity and compassion.

Competence – Competence is simply a matter of your demonstrated ability to do your job. It can be your technical job, or your leadership acumen; it depends on your position and the organization.

Integrity – Do you do what you say you’re going to do? If you’re not going to do what you say you’re going to do, an employee is probably not going to be willing to give you that discretionary effort you’re looking for. If I can’t even trust you to keep your word, how the heck can I trust you to do the other things I need in a leader?

Compassion – The area most people tend to be the weakest in is compassion, some form of empathy.  Can you convince your employees that you care about them as much as you care about yourself? Because believe me, someone is going to care for them, even if it’s not you.  As leaders, if we don’t look out for our employees they will find it elsewhere- a disgruntled co-worker, a union, another company or something/someone completely unexpected. Either way, it won’t be good.  Employees need to be convinced that we care about them as much as we care about ourselves.

As leaders, understanding the importance of trust–and embracing it–is the key to getting the discretionary effort you need to stay ahead of the curve. There’s a method to the madness for sure, and a little trust never hurts.