Spotlight on Leadership: Three Steps for Establishing Trust


As I write to you on this beautiful April day, I find myself reflecting on the newness of Spring. And on the hopefulness and opportunity represented in the opening of buds and blooming of Spring flowers.

As a leader, you know that consistent renewal and growth are vital for your own progress and for the continued success of your organization. At the root of all this (forgive the pun) is trust.

In today's newsletter, you'll find my latest leadership video, in which I answer the question, "How does a leader build trust?"

Take a few minutes to check it out or simply read the transcript below. And then get back to me with your own thoughts, reflections and experiences on trust. I'd love to hear from you!

Interview transcript:

Why do we talk abut trust? Is it just a catchphrase? I mean, we talk about trust all the time, is it really meaningful and relevant?

And I think it absolutely is. It's actually foundational to getting the work done as a leader. So, if you're in a leadership role, you're really there primarily to get things accomplished through the collective efforts of others.

Of course, you contribute. You set direction and you inspire and you motivate and do all the good things leaders do. [Inspiring] a whole lot of people, working collectively to accomplish something bigger and better than anyone could do on his or her own, that's really what your job is as a leader.

I don't think you can do that unless you develop trust with the people who work for and with you. If people don't feel safe and if they don't feel that you're authentic, and if they don't believe what you say, maybe people will do some of the work they need to do because it's their job, but I don't think people will do it whole-heartedly. And I think there's a lot of negativity, and almost toxicity, that can develop in an environment that doesn't feel trusting and trustworthy.

So then the question you asked is, how do you even begin to develop trust, you know, how do we start that process? I think the beginning of that really lies in forming relationships.

So you establish, who am I in this relationship? Who are you? What are we here to accomplish together? What are the parameters around that relationship? How do we work best together? Are there some mutual goals that we can accomplish with one another, with our teams working together, within our immediate team?

And you really start to understand and get to know one another, and that's the bottom line of trust, that's the foundation. Having a good, positive relationship, I think that's really Step 1.

Step 2, I would say, is getting clear on what are the accountabilities? Who is responsible and accountable for what, to whom, and by when? What am I promising to do, what are you promising to do? And then you have to do it! If you're consistent, if you're reliable, if you follow through on your promises, if you're clear, people start to trust you.

When people fail to be clear and consistent and reliable, when they don't let people know that they won't be present for an important meeting or discussion or they won't have a key project complete in the proper amount of time, when they take people by surprise, those things all erode trust and it makes it very difficult to work productively with one another. And sometimes damage gets done that is almost impossible to undo.

So, I think, number one, establishing the relationship and parameters of the relationship; number two, getting clear on accountabilities; and I think the third thing, once you've got all those things accomplished, is to make sure the communication remains clear and open and honest and authentic.

And that's really foundational as well. Because you can start off with a strong relationship with positive intent and hopefulness, but if communication begins to wear away, or if it's not transparent, people become very wary and untrusting and that can be the end of a positive relationship as well.

The flipside is that positive communication can improve and enhance a relationship that maybe has started to go south, so to really focus on that, and to put good effort into continuing to develop and enhance trust, is very important for good leadership.

All the best,  


Liz Bywater, PhD 
President, Bywater Consulting Group 
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Copyright 2015. Liz Bywater, PhD. Bywater Consulting Group, LLC. All rights reserved.