TRUST: A LEADERSHIP ROADMAP

 

Executives usually have a strong sense of who they are and how they want to behave. It has been developed and tested over their professional and personal life; leading to a ‘road-map’ that informs how they operate.

Mutual trust is one of the key components of that leadership ‘road-map’ and requires constant nurturing. It often comes down to whether there is mutual respect, that people feel safe and whether they can count on and rely on actions and motives.

Impressions of managerial leaders are formed from present and past interactions, fairness in policies and decisions, communication that is open and consultative, control levels that are appropriate, the values and ethics that guide the difficult decisions and consistency of actions.

In many ways, the power balance is not out of kilter.

In my coaching conversations with executives a key question I ask is: “what type of leader do you want to be?” followed by “How will you make this happen?” The discussion that unfolds explores what needs to be in play for mutual trust and what gets derailed when trust is lacking.

Here is a snapshot of those discussions:

Strong views and opinions are part of what gets an executive into the leadership suite. In fact, some disagreement is valuable and even healthy. To execute strategy there needs a fine balance ofconstructive competitionbetween some functions and aligned cooperationconnecting others.

In high-trust cultures, people may debate rigorously, but they also cooperate with each other easily, viewing others as equal partners who readily commit to the best overall future. Intellectual depth, breadth and ingenuity are fostered. If divisional power-interests or turf wars dominate, then directive clout stifles collegiality and heightens combativeness.

The difficulty is to shape an environment that is safe enough to promote difference and give a voice to silent questions and change agents, but intense enough to create high-performance. One of robust decision-making, with unified decision taking. Where the silos and boundaries don’t work against the organisation.

We feel more comfortable with people we know and like. Stakeholder maps reveal where a trusted relationship needs to be built and maintained, particularly as networks, teams and collaboration are key to business.

The critical relationships are the Board with the CEO; the CEO with the executive team that makes up the C-Suite, Director to Director trust, the Board with shareholders or members; and the myriad of connections and collaborations that exist within and across teams, with colleagues, with providers and, of course, clients.

While it is important not be naive, a lack of mutual trust derails a business. Sustainable trust is an ongoing process that relies on maturity, perspective, empowerment, engagement, ethical behaviour and respectful relationships.

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