Posted January 3, 2022 by Mark Perna
Leaders who are highly trusted are the greatest champion of their staff. Mark’s article, “4 Commitments To Help You Become An Authentically Trusted Leader In 2022,” published at Forbes.com on December 28, 2021.
On the eve of a new year that promises to brings its own challenges and opportunities, it’s a great time to evaluate the level of trust within your organization and team.
The past two years have been difficult for everyone. In our personal lives, many of us have experienced loss, depression, family changes and financial challenges, among other things. Professionally, how, where and even why we work have changed seemingly overnight. In the workplace, trust is ebbing as employees jump ship in record numbers in quest of a better fit elsewhere.
In the midst of all this upheaval, business leaders have an opportunity to re-establish trust between the organization and the people who power it. But to do this, warns Dr. Toby A. Travis, you’ll have to get past the “talk is cheap” cynicism that renders so many corporate communications ineffective—and commit to building authentic trust.
Dr. Travis, who founded the TrustED® framework for school improvement, compares trust to a bridge. What’s the purpose of a bridge? “It’s providing a more efficient and direct connection between two points—getting us from where we are to where we want to be,” he says.
Most of us travel over bridges without really thinking about whether or not the bridge is trustworthy; we simply assume it is. And that’s where companies are struggling today: that underlying, assumed foundation of trust between the employer and employee is no longer there.
And yet trust is crucial to organizational and personal success. When the bridge of trust has been damaged or broken, Dr. Travis points to four ongoing commitments to help you become an authentically trusted leader in 2022.
The only way to restore confidence is by making and keeping commitments. “Commit to small, consistent and repeated actions in line with beliefs and values,” says Dr. Travis. “Consistent repetition of trustworthy actions and behaviors will, in most cases, restore trust.”
Of course, this isn’t a magic bullet but rather an ongoing series of commitments made and faithfully carried out over time. “Each fulfilled commitment represents another actionable step toward restoring the bridge of trust,” says Dr. Travis. “Leaders who are highly trusted are the greatest champion of their staff.”
Authentic and sincere recognition of one’s mistakes is essential before trust can be rebuilt, says Dr. Travis. This takes humility—and that’s not all. “Once you have owned your mistakes, you must then re-establish a genuine focus on caring for others,” he says.
Real listening is also key when rebuilding or repairing a trusted relationship. “You have to know how to be quiet and attentively listen to others,” Dr. Travis says. “Ask questions that invite the speaker to tell you more. Do not rush conversations. The giving of one’s time to truly listen communicates that what staff has to say is valued.”
There’s nothing like leading by example. “Trusting others elicits trust in return,” says Dr. Travis. Hard as it may be, this may even include a level of forgiveness toward others who have violated your trust. That doesn’t mean you instantly trust that individual again, but you do let go of any residual anger over the incident.
After all, isn’t that how you would want someone to treat you if you broke their trust? “The Golden Rule’s premise to treat people the same way you want them to treat you is not just a platitude, but a life skill practiced by those who understand the power of extending to others the same level of compassion and care that they desire for themselves,” says Dr. Travis. “There is a restorative power of relationship and trust in extending forgiveness to others.”
Rebuilding trust requires endurance. “Just as initially building trust takes time, rebuilding trust takes even more time,” says Dr. Travis. Time and patience are non-negotiable for authentic trust to thrive.
Dr. Travis observes that often following a breach of trust by a leader, he or she seeks a quick fix. “A knee-jerk response is to revise a current policy statement to show responsiveness to whatever brought about the loss of trust, but authentically trusted leaders know that drafting a new policy will not fix trust issues,” he warns. “Leaders seeking to re-establish trust must recognize that the regaining of trust with company stakeholders won’t happen in a few days, weeks or even months. It will take a long-term commitment.”
What can authentically trusted leaders accomplish? In a word, everything—because it is no longer their accomplishment alone but that of the entire team, pulling together for a direction they believe in.
Maybe there are areas where trust has been broken among your team. If your organization has a trust gap, step into it in 2022—and become the authentically trusted leader that your team, your organization and your clients need.