“You must trust and believe in people, or life becomes impossible.”– Anton Chekhov
Opening a Trust Account
The most valuable tool in your leadership toolbox is integrity. Zig Ziglar said, “Ability can take you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” Isn’t it true that if people trust you, they’ll work with you? It’s always a good character that gets the buy-in from people, and your commitment to a high standard of ethics sustains those relationships.
We’ve all seen the results of scandalous behavior among leaders, whether governmental, business, or sports; no matter the issue, you can trace their failures to a breakdown in trust. Some leaders provide excuses to cover up simple mistakes or, worse, unethical behavior; in such cases, credibility is damaged, and with many, trust is irreparably compromised.
John C. Maxwell notes, “Trust is the foundation of leadership. How does a leader build trust? By consistently exemplifying competence, connection, and character. People will forgive occasional mistakes based on ability, especially if they can see that you’re still growing as a leader. And they will give you some time to connect. But they won’t trust someone who has slips in character. In that area, even occasional lapses are lethal.” (1)
Being a conscientious person with high moral standards breeds trust, and that places relationships on solid ground. Whether you’re leading a family, a team, an organization, or a nation, your level of integrity will determine the quality and strength of your leadership. Your relationships and the stability of your family, team, and organization are resting on the strength of your character.
Ulterior motives will always undermine trust. Good working relationships will eventually erode and collapse when mistrust is present—things you say and do affect everyone who knows you. By your honesty or the lack of it, you’re either strengthening or undermining your relationships.
Honesty builds trust; it’s like money in the bank; call it your trust account. In all our interactions with others, we are either making deposits or withdrawals. The higher our trust balance, the greater the tolerance and forgiveness will be for our missteps. Unfortunately, the trust account has no overdraft protection in the absence of integrity.
Deposits and Withdrawals
The point of building trust is for others to believe what you say. Keep in mind, however, that building trust requires not only keeping the promises you make but also not making promises you’re unable to make good. Keeping your word shows others what they can expect from you, and in turn, they’ll be more likely to treat you with respect, developing further trust in the process. Every buy-in, promise kept, and agreement honored, are deposits in your trust account.
Douglas Adams remarks, “To give real service, you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.” What you and I think, say, and do affect everyone who relates to us.
By our integrity or the lack of it, we’re either gradually building or undermining our relationships. Every lie, promise broken, and agreement not kept are withdrawals in our trust account. If you find it increasingly challenging to get buy-ins, it’s a good indication your account is overdrawn.
Honesty is the Best Policy
For better or worse, let your yes be yes, and your no be no; truth builds trust. If you lie, own it immediately and apologize, or your trust account balance will diminish. The immediate sting for your honesty will boost relational confidence in the long run.
Going out of your way for others when there’s nothing in it for you engenders trust. Going the extra mile may be inconvenient, but it always provides more than it cost you to go out of your way in the first place.
Be Open About Your Feelings
Whether you’re encouraged or feeling uncertain, express it; who hasn’t felt that way? That’s the kind of honesty to which everyone can relate. What if a team member uses your uncertainly against you? That kind of behavior comes from someone holding an anti-trust account in your name; remove them from your team – corporate confidence restored. When people understand you and relate to you, they will trust you. Stephen Covey says, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
(1) The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: by John C. Maxwell “The Law of Solid Ground”