…Then Hold Themselves Accountable To
Every leader wants these things, because if they can get them, it sets the stage for extraordinary achievement. If they cannot, it almost always leads to middling mediocrity or outright failure.
Establishing trust and credibility takes some time to do, but the process has to start (or re-start) with what I call a “declaration of principles” to those you are leading- a public statement of the things that YOU will do (or not do) in your dealings with them.
Here are the four principles:
- “I will always tell the truth”
- “I will not make promises I cannot keep”
- “If you ask me for something, and I say no, I will always explain why”
- “I will explain the context of all important policies that effect you, and why they are important’
And yes, you need to SAY these things, preferably in person, to as many teammates as possible.
Easy enough, right? Sure – but it’s only the beginning. Pay careful attention to the reactions of the team after you make your declaration. That will give you a very good idea of how much trust building work is ahead of you.
I remember making my declaration to a group in Wyoming who had just greeted their 4th new owner in the past 5 years, and was unionized, and had rarely, if ever, seen a senior executive at their office.
The looks on their faces spoke volumes- it was a collective “yeah, right“. This was a group whose trust level was zero, so words didn’t mean anything to them. But the fact that I was there, and I at least made an effort to declare that I wanted them, in effect, to trust me, at least moved the needle a little.
And then came the really hard part. Living up to what I declared.
That’s the cool thing about doing such a thing – it puts you on the spot. And consequently, it puts you in a position where you must then hold yourself accountable to what you said.
That’s how it worked for me. I set a high target, yes, but I was bound and determined to succeed. All I had to do was remember all of those “yeah, right” faces, and the doubts, and my desire to change their mindsets grew stronger.
It’s a bit of a high wire act, to be sure, but if you can stick to the principles as you move forward (and make amends if you occasionally don’t, since nobody’s perfect), amazing things can, and do, happen.
In my case, it was the satisfaction of returning to places where the “yeah, rights” became “thank yous” accompanied by smiles and a great “can do” morale. These folks were no longer in the dark. They trusted us, and what we were trying to accomplish as a company.
With trust established, we were able to achieve great things.
And it all started with a simple declaration.
Putting yourself “on the line” with your teams, and more importantly, with yourself, can be a scary proposition.
But you know trust is important – why not just say so, and then prove it?