Can You Be Trusted?

It’s hard not to notice all the Star Wars hype building up, given the movie is coming out soon and the buzz has begun—again. I expect some of you reading this are die-hard fans so, to be clear, please note I’m no expert on the series—nor am I pretending to be one. But thanks to a MAP colleague who brought it to my attention, I watched Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer and I couldn’t help but notice a particular line that had to do with leadership. The line is directed at Jyn Erso, who, although imprisoned at the beginning of the plot, is freed by her captors because they need her leadership bravery, wisdom and talents to accomplish a tough mission. She’s a rebel, however, and upon being released, her captors ask, “Can you be trusted without your shackles?"

No doubt, trust is fundamental to effective leadership, or everything that a leader does from attracting and retaining the right talent to making executive-level decisions to inspiring and motivating others to perform or undertake a covert operation such as in the case of this soon-to-be-released thriller. But what’s also interesting about this trailer—and I’m assuming is intentional on the part of the movie’s marketers—is that because trust is such a big deal to us all, the theme around whether it can be maintained is strategically raised in the first few seconds of the trailer. Again, trust is a big deal…it gets people’s attention, time and time again. Unfortunately, as we know, leaders sometimes break the trust of their people. When this happens, it’s problematic in countless ways, and yet the only silver lining is that it provides the critical reminder that without the trust of your people, as well as your customers/clients, you really have nothing.

Here are three things to keep in mind:

  1. Trust must be earned. You can’t just snap your fingers and expect the people you have hired (or acquired) to believe in you 100%. This kind of trust takes time as you come to prove you are fair, ethical and honest while also demonstrating other core leadership traits. Notably, trust also grows the more you walk your talk, particularly in regard to holding yourself and your people accountable to the organization’s values, mission and goals. It sometimes requires sacrifice, too, and all this (and more) is what creates believers, be they the people who work for you or the clients/customers who have come to respect your organization and its brand.

  2. Trust is hard to regain. We are all human, no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. But sometimes leaders get sloppy or sideways in their decision-making, perhaps taking their people’s trust for granted. When leaders do make mistakes, people can be surprisingly forgiving—but in today’s age, you really can’t count on it. To make sure you’re maintaining a culture of trust, check in periodically and find out how things are going. If you sense people have changed their tune toward you, if morale is low, or if productivity is mysteriously suffering, these are all indicators that trust issues could be at fault. Use your accountability meetings—both your Vital Factors meetings and daily huddles with your team—to get to the bottom of any issues. If you’re the problem, own it and humbly take corrective action to demonstrate you’re not afraid to admit mistakes and do what it takes to make things right with your people.

  3. Trust is a two-way street. You won’t earn the trust of your people if you don’t trust them, too. So make sure you’re sending them messages of trust. For example, don’t question the everyday minutia of your people’s jobs. If they make mistakes, give them the opportunity to fix them rather than meddling in their trouble-shooting, supplying them with all the answers or, worse, taking over and doing the “right thing” for them. As we talk about in MAP’s recent book, “The Disciplined Leader,” this boils down to letting go of control and inspiring your people to take matters into their own hands. Train them if necessary, even if it takes a bit more time than you’d like. If you don’t empower employees in such ways, they’ll eventually feel you don’t believe in them or don’t really want them to excel. What happens then? They’ll spend more of their time keeping you off their precious back instead of getting work done. And that’s the last thing you want when it comes to your efforts to establish and nurture a culture of trust.

In today’s world, what’s the biggest challenge you face with building your people’s trust?


​ The Disciplined Leader

What do the best leaders have in common? The answer is one word: Discipline. A disciplined leader is one who identifies and focuses on the Vital Few: the 20% of activities that will drive 80% of the results. Learn More

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