I recently finished the book Strengths Based Leadership, which gives case studies of successful leaders and how they use their natural talents to build successful teams. I devoured these stories! However, what especially interested me is the research that identified four basic needs that a team looks for in a leader: Trust, compassion, stability, and hope. Trust is one of those needs that is so important to me personally and in the business setting — so let’s talk about it!
Side note: If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say “Strengths” you can take the online assessment on Gallup’s website here to join the 17 million people around the world who have already learned their Top Five. You will also receive a code when you purchase the Strengths Based Leadership book (or you can call me and I’ll include your assessment with my coaching packages!).
Ok, back to the first of these attributes that people need to see in a leader: TRUST. In this article by Brian Brim, he breaks down some really important questions about how to create trust. He talks about a formula that defines trust as [(credibility + reliability + intimacy) / self-orientation]. I like this formula, but I also like to think about things from the bigger picture.
To me, trust is created through two major outlets: experiences and character.
I may trust you when I’ve had multiple experiences with you and you have been reliable each time. In other words, you have built long-term accountability. Let’s look at that through a Strengths lens. I have Responsibility in my top Talent Themes, meaning that it comes naturally to me to act on my promises. I tend to value being reliable, wholly accountable, and loyal. I can deny this trait about as much as I can make myself grow to six feet tall. Once people learn this about me, the trust for my leadership starts to build.
Here’s another example: A friend of mine is high in Adaptability – her teammates constantly draw up her to provide quick solutions in stressful situations. They trust her because time and time again she draws on her ability to adapt to the circumstances to matter what is needed. This repeated interaction has proven her as a good leader in the sense that they know ahead of time they can rely on her.
I also know that I tend to trust people more when they seem transparent. You know you can take their word at face-value, and their intentions are stated clearly. I like to draw upon my Individualization talent for this one when I’m in a leadership position. Individualization means that I am naturally curious about others and I value their uniqueness. This is one of my favorite traits – If you know me well, this may make sense as to the career path I’ve had. I can use this talent to build trust because people can sense the value I place on them. The relationships build naturally and easily.
Alternately, old coworker of mine showed others they could trust her by using her Relator talent. She naturally connects with people and authentically wants to dig deeper with them. Because she bridges a connection on a more personal level, she makes herself more vulnerable and open. This level of transparency is a great start to building trust in someone’s character.
I talk a lot to others about reputation. I think about my reputation in the same way I think about my life: I only have one, so I better take good care of it. Although not impossible, it’s hard to re-build a tarnished reputation – and lack of trust from your followers is something that can so easily affect that. I recommend making decisions with two things in mind: (1) how will this build up my personal brand/reputation and (2) how will this demonstrate to others they can place their trust in my leadership?
What is important to you when building trust, both as a leader and as a follower? How can you use your Strengths to build up your reputation as credible and transparent? What do you do to create long-term experiences where people know your personal brand to be a reliable one?