“Trust cements relationships by allowing people to live and work together, feel safe and belong to a group”
Trust is a tricky thing to define, but we all know when it’s not there. Trust in our current environment is critical. If people see us behaving in a manner that is not linked to our purpose – it could lead to mistrust and eventually disengagement. We can tell people that we are honest, but if we keep lying, they will start doubting us, our integrity and eventually they will disengage. The same goes for organisations and teams. If we promote our companies to be truthful and transparent, but we don’t share with our people and teams what is happening, people will start mistrusting leaders and soon you will have a workforce working against you and not for you. We need to keep in mind and understand the balance between oversharing and being transparent, but this is where we need leaders skilled at engagement and relationships.
The role of trust in leadership and strategic resilience
There are few elemental forces that hold our world together like trust. It cements relationships by allowing people to live and work together, feel safe and belong to a group. It allows organisations and communities to flourish, while the absence of trust can cause fragmentation and conflict. Trust is hard to define, but we do know when it’s lost. When that happens, we withdraw our energy and level of engagement. While no one can deny the role of leaders during this time, what is it that makes them trustworthy?
While getting to know our people is a good start, understanding and respecting their values and beliefs is critical when building trust. In the Simon Sinek’s approach to leadership, “Start with Why” he talks about the golden circle which puts the beliefs of people in the centre of any organisation. If you as a leader don’t understand why you do what you do, it will be very difficult for people to follow you, much less trust you. If you are unable to lead in a manner that is true to your values and beliefs, the people in your organisation will start to disengage.
During times of crisis, the biggest impact could well be on mental illness due to elevated stress or anxiety. This could lead to increased loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use, and self-harm or suicidal behaviour as the crisis impacts and affects people’s usual activities, routines or livelihoods.
You can build trust by creating a support network within your organisation that is focused on mental and emotional well-being. A safe environment must be created where mistakes are allowed, frustrations are voiced and key decisions and changes to business process are communicated transparently.
In times of uncertainty, you need to be clear on your purpose and your values. Lead in a manner that is aligned to your purpose and values. But as a leader, you don’t have to have all the answers – people look at you to set the example in being vulnerable, open and honest.
For more on using trust in building organisational resilience, please see Lencioni Trust Pyramid.