Trust is the dark matter of leadership. Of course, nothing holds together without trust, but “gaining trust” is often used so vague that one could doubt what it is really about. So let’s look at some practical ways to create trust.
Step 1: trust yourself. Trust radiates from the center - you - outwards. Only if you are confident with your own leadership will your team trust you. Nobody can be inspired by a leader who second-guesses everything they do. Then we continue forward: the same happens with the team, the squad (group of teams), function, products, entire company. Trust cannot be created without first getting to it at the preceding level. I think about it like the ripples in the pond - it all starts at the center.
So the first step, always, is to get self-confidence under control. Deliver on any promises made for yourself. Acknowledge uncertainties, but then proceed with decisiveness. Put that impostor syndrome to rest. Everyone, to some extent, has it! Work it up to the level that you can entirely depend on yourself, before proceeding further.
Now it’s time to move on to the essence. And every manager, regardless of area, will repeat the mantra that “results speak for themselves”. But everyone tries to achieve great results anyway, and you still have problems with trust. So what’s the secret?
Make sure to deeply understand what great results mean for your manager and your organization. Not you. Ask many probing questions and learn what defines success in the next project. And for the time being, laser focus on delivering those. And nothing else. This proof you can deliver is of absolute importance.
Naturally, what about other things you care about, like technical debt? You’ll have the chance to get back to this once the trust is restored. Patience and long-term strategic thinking will pay their dividends.
Contrary to somewhat common belief, your intent does matter. But it only matters if it is well communicated to the people you work with. Just imagine the difference when you’re trying to improve the efficiency of the way of work, but for a reason unknown to you at the beginning, you fail and temporarily reduce it. How does this look like when people around you know exactly what you are trying to achieve and why? And when they are just observing outcomes without any prior context? If the latter, are you trying to sabotage your team?
Integrity is another fundamental stone on the foundations of trust. The most significant danger of losing your integrity is trying to appease too many parties simultaneously, taking this as your ultimate priority. So staying honest to yourself first is a must - only then can you apply this outwards. But generally, responsibility, accountability, and dependability go hand in hand with anybody who has been ranked as having high integrity.
Credit of Trust
Clearly, you need to know somebody rather well before you can trust them. How else can you see how they achieve results and has a chance to display their intent and integrity? But in fast-moving organizations, this time lost for such a ramp-up period can be too much. I also noticed such an approach doesn’t help newcomers feel welcome and empowered right from the start. Therefore I invite everyone to give a credit of trust for the kickoff of your new work relationship. Agree (or trick) with yourself to put the best belief that this new colleague in front of you will perform amazingly, and you can lean on them even today. What a difference this makes!
Regaining, or simply creating, trust is never addressing just one aspect mentioned above. It’s always a combination. And it’s almost always lengthy, demanding periods of work. So if you’re really in the game and eager to prove your trustworthiness, be patient. Unfortunately, trust can be lost in a blink of an eye but regained in weeks or months only. But such re-forged relationships are then the true achievements: deep and satisfying.
Photo by Savvas Stavrinos