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In just about every conversation I have with people in the leadership space, trust is the single value which almost always comes up and it always appears early in the conversation. And with good reason. Trust is a leading indicator of whether others evaluate leaders positively or negatively. But creating that trust or, perhaps more importantly, reestablishing it when you’ve lost it isn’t always that straightforward. By looking at looking at data from the 360 assessments of 87,000 leaders, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman were able to identify three key clusters of items that are often the foundation for trust. They looked for correlations between the trust rating and all other items in the assessment and after selecting the 15 highest correlations, performed a factor analysis that revealed these three elements. Further analysis showed that the majority of the variability in trust ratings could be explained by these three elements.

The Three Elements of Trust

By understanding the behaviors that underlie trust, leaders are better able to elevate the level of trust that others feel toward them. Here are the three elements. Positive Relationships. Trust is in part based on the extent to which a leader is able to create positive relationships with other people and groups. To instill trust a leader must:
  • Stay in touch on the issues and concerns of others.
  • Balance results with concern for others.
  • Generate cooperation between others.
  • Resolve conflict with others.
  • Give honest feedback in a helpful way.
Good Judgement/Expertise. Another factor in whether people trust a leader is the extent to which a leader is well-informed and knowledgeable. They must understand the technical aspects of the work as well as have a depth of experience. This means:
  • They use good judgement when making decisions.
  • Others trust their ideas and opinions.
  • Others seek after their opinions.
  • Their knowledge and expertise make an important contribution to achieving results.
  • Can anticipate and respond quickly to problems.
Consistency. The final element of trust is the extent to which leaders walk their talk and do what they say they will do. People rate a leader high in trust if they:
  • Are a role model and set a good example.
  • Walk the talk.
  • Honor commitments and keep promises.
  • Follow through on commitments.
  • Are willing to go above and beyond what needs to be done.
  You don’t need to be perfect to be an excellent leader but when it comes to trust, the analysis shows that all three of these elements need to be above average to avoid the level of trust dropping to a sub-optimal level.   Think about which of these 3 elements of trust you have a stronger preference for, or in which you would consider yourself as having greater skill – and which you prefer least. Remembering you need to be above average on each, it is probably worth your time to focus on improving the latter – at least to bring it up to a level where it is no longer mission critical.   –

In the following video, Tim Roberts from Enthuse Coaching discusses building trust…

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