In a fragmented and disrupted business world, one thing we can still rely on is people. Well, maybe. Can people rely on you? Do they trust you? How would you know? How can you be a little more intentional about creating trusting relationships?

Well, the consensus of the gurus is there are a small number of personal qualities which inspire trust. Ask yourself:

Am I believable? Stand in front of the mirror and practise saying “There are no plans for any redundancies” until you can do it without hearing back a resounding “Yeah, right.” This is about your personal credibility and integrity – the first gap between words and deeds will be pounced on by your insecure followers.

Am I dependable? Do you keep your word? Do you display consistency in the way you operate? A tricky one, you might think, if we’re focusing on a disrupted context where nothing can be relied on. But what you’re aiming for here is a sentiment which your followers might express as “We don’t know where we’re going, but we know with [insert your name here] in charge we don’t need to panic”.

Am I discreet? Can a follower confide in you and know it won’t go any further? Is your boss sure that she can brief you on a (for now) secret initiative and it won’t be quoted back at her by one of your team?

Am I competent? Ah, yes, it’s not just about your character. Can a colleague give you something to do and know it’ll be done well, by the deadline? Can followers take your advice seriously, knowing it comes from a place of expertise?

Some hard work involved putting the above into practice. Is it worth doing? Your call. But what you will gain is stakeholders who:

  • Reach for your advice
  • Share information
  • Accept and act on your recommendations
  • Listen to your instincts and judgments
  • Bring you in on more advanced issues
  • Give you the benefit of the doubt
  • Involve you early on
  • Recommend you to others
  • Warn you of dangers you might avoid

Beware, as with all leadership qualities, the danger of being time-poor, when you’re not sure you can invest the hours to bed these qualities in. That’s when you’ll end up telling people how trustworthy you are instead of actually being trustworthy. The minute you say “I want to be totally honest” or “Trust is a core value of mine” everyone will assume you’re after something – and the power of confirmation bias means they’ll be scanning for the moment you do something not completely honest or trustworthy when they will say “you see? Just like all the others.”

But you are not just like all the others. You are a principled leader who wants to future-proof yourself against the ravages of a fragmented and disrupted (post-conventional) business world. So can you build trusting relationships quickly? Yes, you can – if you are consistent from the word go, and if you apply the lessons of our previous piece on authenticity and impact.

Phil Lowe is a Holos Faculty Agent and the co-facilitator of Future-Proof Leadership, our dynamic programme that will take your leadership mindset, practice and toolkit to a whole new level. If you are interested in joining the next cohort that starts in October 2023, please contact Angela Dellar for more information.

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