Leadership Expectation: Be AccountableMany of us have participated in some sort of “trust building” activity. We’ve done trust falls, ice breaker questions designed for us to show vulnerability, and even attended workshops and seminars on trust. There are countless lists of ways we can show up in a relationship to help build trust with our peers, coworkers, friends, congregants, and family members. I have found that most of them center on integrity and communication: accountability for our actions in speech and deed.
We extend trust to those we “deem worthy” as we observe their behaviors. Did they complete the task they were assigned/agreed to by the due date? Did they listen when concerns were raised about something they were working on? Did they answer questions with honesty to the best of their ability, including saying, “I don’t know” when they reached the limits of their knowledge? All of these are examples of opportunities to build or to tear down trust.
Here is a useful list of behaviors that aid in building trust with others:
- Recognize that building trust takes hard work. Trust is something we must earn, and earning trust is borne from an investment of time and effort.
- Be honest and supportive. Especially when the answer is no, honesty is always the best policy. Learning to deliver bad news with a foundation of support, EVEN WHEN someone has made a mistake, builds trust quickly after the ego-moment fades.
- Be quiet sometimes. Listening to truly understand is one of the best gifts we can give to someone confiding in us. Check back frequently to ensure you are understanding what the speaker wishes to convey by paraphrasing what you just heard them say.
- Be consistent. Show up the same until the same needs adjusted, and then show up better. Sounds easy, right? Now, show up the same with the person who made the mistake and the one who did not.
- Model the behavior you seek. “Nothing speaks more loudly about the culture of an organization than the leader’s behavior, which influences employee action and has the potential to drive results” (Grossman, 2019). Be the employee you want your employees to be, including the words you use to talk about those who are not present. Finish your tasks on time, give others the opportunity to speak, speak up with firm kindness when mistakes are made, and be a part of the solution. Only then will you see these behaviors in others.
- Build in accountability. Acknowledge your mistakes and work on correcting them yourself instead of leaving them for someone else to handle.
As leaders, the shadow we cast is much larger than we think. It is what we do when we make a mistake that measures our success in building trust. It is easy to display integrity when everything is going well. What about when it is not? Addressing something that needs repaired is the most crucial moment in building trust.
Tip #3: Building trust is more about what you do with a mistake than what you do with perfection.
Grossman, D. (2019). Trust in the workplace: 6 steps to building trust with employees. The Grossman Group.