The Three Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make that Destroy Trust

AdVance Leadership » The Three Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make that Destroy Trust

Welcome to Friday 411. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action,
you’ll advance your leadership to intentionally build trust with your team.

1 Insight

Developing trust is one of the most critical tasks of a leader, yet three common mistakes hold you back. Once you know the mistakes, you can proactively and intentionally build three types of trust. 

No one can deny that trust is crucial to teamwork. Stephen R. Covey said, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” This, of course, includes relationships with the people you lead.

Because trust is so critical, you must take the lead in building trust. We’ve seen three common mistakes that sabotage a leader’s efforts to build trust.

Mistake #1: Expecting People to Earn Trust

We’ve all heard leaders say, “You need to earn my trust.” This sentiment leaves people wondering how to earn trust and how long it will take to earn it. These questions cause people to lose trust in you.

As Lao Tzu said, “He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted.”

Correction: Give trust to others before they’ve earned it.

Mistake #2: Believing that Trust is One-Dimensional

Many leaders treat trust like a light switch: someone either has your trust or they don’t. But that is not how trust works.

In reality, your trust in a person is multi-dimensional. It fluctuates in different situations.

  • You might trust your CFO with your business’s financial decisions. But you don’t trust her to deliver an inspiring message to your employees.
  • You might trust your HR Director with private information about performance reviews. But you don’t trust him to develop a strategy for operational improvement.

You have degrees of trust for each person, depending on the situation. Certainly, a person can do something so terrible that you lose all trust in them. But in most cases, trust is situational.

Correction: Become aware of the varying degrees of trust you have in each member of your team.

Mistake #3: Expecting Trust to Happen Organically

Many leaders hope that trust will happen naturally through “organic growth.” But organic growth is a synonym for “unintentional.”

When we moved into our home, the only yard work the previous owners had done for 10 years was mow the lawn. One day, we started chopping down overgrown weeds in the backyard. We discovered an extra 300 square feet of land.

The previous owners allowed “organic growth,” and weeds overtook the property.

When you expect trust to organically occur, relational weeds grow instead.

Correction: Choose to build trust intentionally and proactively.

How to Intentionally and Proactively Build Trust

Proactive trust-building starts by developing three types of trust in every working relationship.

Type #1: Relational Trust

Relational trust needs to be present in any relationship — personal or professional. You build Relational Trust by getting to know a person as, well, a person — by taking an interest in that person’s family, hobbies, motives, and stories.

Executive Leaders frequently struggle with this type of trust. People are often promoted because of their ability to get stuff done. As a result, Executive Teams are often filled with task-oriented individuals who undervalue Relational Trust.

If that’s you, you must work to build Relational Trust with your team. If you don’t value them as individuals, they will lose trust in you.

Type #2: Integrity Trust

Integrity Trust is the confidence you have in a person’s character. It’s a belief that they will be honest and fulfill their promises. If you don’t trust a person’s integrity, you will never delegate important projects to them.

You develop Integrity Trust by believing that the person has the best interest of the team and company in mind.

Type #3: Skill Trust

Skill Trust is the confidence you have in the competencies of each person to do their job.

Skill Trust grows when (1) a person has the necessary skills and/or (2) the person has the ability to learn new skills.

You can have Relational and Integrity Trust with one of your coworkers. But if you don’t believe that they can do their job well, you lose trust in them.

Leaders must take responsibility to cultivate all three types of trust with each member of the team.

1 Action

Identify one team member who you’re struggling to trust. Ask yourself: “Do I have low Relational Trust, Integrity Trust, or Skill Trust (or some combination of them)?

Take one step this week to intentionally and proactively build trust with them.


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