Leadership is a relationship between the leader and those who choose to follow. Trust is the foundation of that relationship. If you break trust, you damage your future as a leader. Trust is complex, but it can be broken down into four habits that, if practiced regularly, will raise your “trust meter” significantly whether you are the leader or the one who chooses to follow.
In a 2015 podcast interview, Rob Reindl and I talked in detail about the four key habits for building trust across an organization. Rob is the former head of HR for Edwards LifeSciences. Edwards is the global leader in the science of heart valves and hermodynamic monitoring. The company is known in the health care space for its outstanding culture of trust.
The Four Habits
1) Learn About One Another – This not only includes showing interest in others and being a good listener but also making yourself known to others. Rob believes letting people know more about you personally is a key to building trust professionally. For instance, do you know something recent about the personal lives of the people who report to you? Do you take time to just visit on a personal level?
2) Demonstrate Behaviors that Show You Care – Every day, leaders must think about their stakeholders and find ways to demonstrate personal care and support of them. A leader with this mindset demonstrates humility. You take the time to show you care. You can think of this as putting deposits in a person’s “emotional bank account.” One leader I know who does not take to this habit easily actually schedules time each week to visit with people in his office as well as write personal notes. Mike Mussallem, the CEO of Edwards, writes personal notes relentlessly. For leaders, demonstrating they have their team’s back and that they are in their team’s corner goes a long ways.
3) Follow Through on Your Commitments – Doing what you say you will do builds trust. The more a person follows through, the greater the likelihood the person will be trusted with more responsibility. Saying yes and then not performing is a sure way to put a dent in any relationship.
4) Be Openly Transparent – Tell the truth and don’t withhold information. Protecting your team from the full truth is a mistake. We’re all professionals, and teams are capable of handling more than you may think. In the same way, grabbing all the credit and not acknowledging others who also contributed is a sure way to erode trust.
Rob talked about the benefits that building trust brought to Edwards. Listen to the full interview to learn more about:
• How deepening trust increased engagement and financial results at Edwards.
• Edwards “challenge culture” – how the senior team encouraged subordinates to challenge them and measured how they drove fear out of the company.
• The power of “creative debates” and how they got there.