When I look at public leadership, the view is dismal.
I’m reminded of it as I flip through an old essay by Jay Cost in the Wall Street Journal, The Politics of Distrust (10/17/15). I am reminded of it as I watch political leaders pontificate in front of a camera. I listen, and I do a gut check. Can I trust you?
I think about you and me. Our spheres of influence. Our daily interactions with folks. Colleagues, clients, friends, strangers. Our laboratory for everyday leadership.
Can they trust us?
Let’s assume competence, for a moment. Let’s assume we honor our commitments.
Beyond these 2 C’s, trust-building boils down to consistent behaviors that embody our character, doesn’t it? Behaviors that unambiguously signal that we can be trusted. These signals are transmitted in nanoseconds. The specific behaviors can be learned. They will, however, always inhibit trust the moment they become rehearsed.
Here are 4 of those signals. I think of them as Everyday Trust Builders.
You have your own bullshit meter. You keep your crap in check. The platitudes. The easy responses. Yeah, they often sound good. And folks can tell when you’re on automatic pilot and plain faking it. When there are things you can’t divulge, you don’t pretend to be transparent. You acknowledge that there are things you can’t talk about. You stay real even when you have to be strategic. That is speaking your truth.
You invite conversation. In conversation, you let others talk. You listen to the words they say. To the deeper meaning behind the words. You don’t fake-agree. You don’t fake-listen. You don’t fake-smile. You give evidence that you have listened AND understood. If you don’t understand, you ask for clarification. You engage with sincere curiosity.
You appreciate folks at EVERY organizational level. The attendant in the parking garage. The receptionist. The new hire. The accountant who is retiring after 30 years of service. The Head of the Board. Your competitor. Your appreciation doesn’t hide in your thoughts, it is actively expressed. It is expressed not with clichés and platitudes. Your every word and action explicitly show that you have noticed, and that your appreciation is heartfelt.
That means you show up on time. Show up mentally prepared. Undistracted. You show up with heart and mind intact. Yes, you show up undiminished, as the whole person that you truly are, beyond the confines of your job function. You bring all of you, all the time, not just the polished professional mask.
We don’t remember our Everyday Trust Builders only on a good day. We remember them on a tiring day, on a frustrating day, on the occasional day from hell. Yes, every day.
These behaviors aren’t gimmicks. They are our core non-negotiable behaviors. The more we remember, the sweeter our interactions become.
The day from hell becomes a sweeter day from hell.
The shift into trust happens nanosecond by nanosecond. We just need to remember.
Trust will come.