Friday, November 22, 2013

How Leaders Build Trust: Do What You Say

In many large organizations and institutions most leaders know the right things to say.  The leader development programs in these places are long standing and well developed and provide leaders with a good sense of what and how to communicate with staff.

When I was a battalion commander in the Army I used to tell new lieutenants that what they did was more important than what they said.  Most new lieutenants know the right things to say as a result of their
pre-commissioning training....and soldiers know it.  When a new officer arrives soldiers will shrug at what the new lieutenant says....and defer judgment about their trustworthiness until they see if their actions honor their words.

I found the same thing to be true in the private sector.  Here are some examples of how leaders can lose trust when their actions don't honor their words.

  • If you say you care about people..... and do nothing to develop others
  • If you say you value challenge and disagreement....and admonish those who disagree with you
  • If you say you value work-life balance....and send email or text messages at night or on weekends or during your holiday
  • If you say you value multiple cultures....and schedule meetings or require travel on holidays of other countries/cultures
  • If you are running a global organization and say you don't favor one region over another....and then all the most favorable actions are directed toward one country or region
  • If you say you value feedback....and then react angrily to any feedback that isn't favorable.
There are of course, many other examples I could give where leaders actions that don't honor their words erode trust.  The point of this blog entry is that actions is generated when there is fidelity....consistency....between what a leader says and what they do.

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