I may not be writing these articles much longer. You see, I’ve apparently hit the financial trifecta and am about to become extremely wealthy. On the same day last week I was informed that I had won the European lottery, a Nigerian prince was giving me several tens of millions of dollars, and a United Nations official was going to give me a considerable sum for helping distribute some foreign money to people here in the U.S.
I’m sure all of you have seen emails like these, and you probably do the same thing I do: hit delete and move on because you know the claims are too good to be true. Unfortunately, leaders sometimes make wild claims too. You’ve probably experienced leaders who tell their team that if they will only follow that leader’s plan, no matter how crazy it may seem, everyone will be better off and the team will quickly reach amazing new heights. The claim seems too good to be true and in the end, it’s only the leader who benefits, often at the expense of the entire team.
Trust is crucial. A leader only has to violate the team’s trust once, and their effectiveness will be compromised; probably forever. Just as you probably don’t open those emails promising amazing wealth, your team won’t listen either when they are promised results too good to be true.
It’s essential to be completely honest with your team. If there are roadblocks ahead, say so. If the project will require some extraordinary effort, tell them up front. If you’re unsure of the outcome, let them know. When your team trusts you and they know the risks and difficulties ahead, they will often find ways to overcome those problems.
There are several steps you can take as a leader to begin building trust. It’s not difficult, but it may take some time.
– Seek feedback to ensure what you meant to say is what your team hears.
– Be as open as possible with your team. If you don’t know the answer, admit it. Never tell them something you don’t know to be true.
– On those rare occasions when you do have to keep information confidential, be honest about that. Tell your team that you can’t release that information now, but you’ll let them know as soon as you can.
– Listen. Your team is more likely to trust a leader who they know really listens to them. That means carefully considering their concerns, ideas and suggestions.
Trust is like fine china. Once it’s broken, even if it can be repaired, there will always be a crack.