Raising Your Trust Quotient

A consistent outcome from many large employee surveys tells us that business leaders are among the least trusted professions in today’s culture. Overall, trust in leadership is the main employee concern in the workplace.

Gallup’s research further confirms this by showing that leaders who don’t focus on their people have the trust of only 9% of their staff. Leaders who make people their priority foster a 73% trust level from their employees. This is a stunning statistic that exposes a marked difference in leadership mindsets.

Trust has long been considered a powerful trait that enables leaders to succeed. People who trust their leader are willing to follow them. They are more willing to engage their duties, make strong efforts to benefit their organization, prize the quality of their work, and feel like their efforts have value. Conversely, a leader who is not trusted can never overcome large, inevitable pitfalls.

Trust is a decisive difference maker in personal and collective prosperity, so it makes sense for leaders to raise their trust quotient as high as possible. You may ask where you should start. Gallup’s work indicates that the primary leadership mindset needed to establish and build trust is a genuine focus on people. Why don’t more leaders pursue this? They may not grasp its gravity or they may not understand the four basic elements.

A Helping Hand

Employees generally want to succeed by doing good work. They want to know what’s expected of them, how to complete their tasks, and have the ability to get them done well. Due to many complexities and volatilities, your people almost always need help from you.

People simply want to be provided what they need to succeed. Being in the trenches, most people accurately know what it takes to get their work done, and often better than their leader.

As a leader, you have the responsibility to provide the resources your people need to complete assignments. Adequate funding, supplies, or equipment may be required. More manpower and/or time might be necessary. Effective decision-making is a resource people also feel they need.

Sometimes the softer management skills meet the biggest needs. Your people may require further training or coaching. They may hope to be mentored to grow and develop their skills. Sometimes a positive attitude is what people want most when times get tough. Being observant and engaging will allow you to see the needs.

All of these are ways you can help. Remember that if your people fail, so do you. Helping them is thus one of your top imperatives. People will know they’re being taken care of when they are consistently helped. This fosters security and confidence, which builds their trust in you.

A Spirit of Appreciation

Everyone needs to know they matter somehow, that their work has value to someone. Each of your people seeks purpose, whether they recognize it or not.

Being valued for who they are and what they do is critical to self-worth and self-esteem. Without these no one is motivated about his or her duties, let alone succeeding at them.

If you show your people that you appreciate them, you are telling them they are worth valuing. You show them they are important to the organization, and they’re important to you as their leader. Your employees will respond by valuing their relationship with you, and in turn offer you their trust.

You can demonstrate that you value someone simply by showing an interest in them and their lives. Most people generally respond well to this, but only if it’s sincere. Faking it will be spotted eventually, and the outcome will be worse than not attempting at all.

Get to know your employees, their interests and aspirations. You can value people by understanding what they need, and caring enough to provide it if possible. You’re telling them that they are important enough to step up and offer the kind of help only someone at your level can provide.

Another important way to value people is to acknowledge their successes and celebrate with them. In the Entrepreneur Magazine article 9 Tests Every Leader Must Pass, Alan Zimmerman describes the importance of not only highlighting your peoples’ success but also rewarding it appropriately. These are powerful ways to value people that help them feel needed. Their trust in you will grow.

A Life of Integrity

Trustworthiness is strongly portrayed when a leader behaves, speaks, and responds with integrity. Leaders who act honestly and genuinely are trusted to do the right thing. When you are beyond reproach, people know your actions and decisions are not selfishly motivated and thus don’t need to be suspected. If you live out truth and transparency, holding yourself accountable to everyone, your people offer you their trust.

Integrity also means giving of yourself for the benefit of your people. Trustworthy leaders place a higher priority on the welfare of those they lead. People know they are in good hands, with a noble cause underlying their efforts. Often that requires courage, and this is another trustworthy trait.

A Heart of Humility

Leaders who treat their people as more important than themselves earn much trust. They give credit for successes rather than take it. They bear the heat for the disappointments rather than blame their staff. Humble leaders also praise their people for their accomplishments, and allow them their chance in the spotlight.

If you seek feedback and ideas from your staff, and allow them to partner with you rather than be ruled by you, you will earn their trust. Your people will feel they contribute, and have the freedom to use their skills. This practice builds teamwork and unity; two themes people yearn for, yet statistically, rarely experience.

Leaders who admit they can always learn from others show their openness to value and trust their people. This generates trust in return. In the American Management Association article 5 Ways A Leader can Build A Culture Of Trust, Rich Eich points out that a leader who admits their mistakes displays humility. Employees are further encouraged to trust you if you also show how you’re learning from your mistakes. Your genuineness is displayed, and people sense a greater connection with you.

In essence, the level of trust you earn from your people is a measure of the connection they feel they have with you. By making your people top priority, you’ll build higher levels of trust in your organization and find more ways to succeed, over and over. Best of all, implementing them costs you very little, yet gains you very much. It’s the best ROI you’ll ever have!

The Power of Perseverance

The rigors of today’s competitive business climate push even the most seasoned leaders to their limits. No organization is immune to setbacks. Many top business leaders agree that life is a constant string of adversities—the new normal. Some, however, are ill-suited for it and pay a dear price.

Leaders achieve success through their talent, intelligence, flexibility and wisdom. Those who overcome the odds often point to an even more powerful trait: perseverance. Many of today’s top captains of commerce believe it’s the key to winning the race—more important than skill, more vital than past experience, notes management consultant Steve Tobak in What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur? Perseverance (Entrepreneur.com, January 25, 2016).

But what about leaders who lack the necessary stamina? What happens to those who don’t know how they’re going to manage, day in and day out, under the heaviest of loads? Are they simply destined to fail in a cruel world?

The answer is no, according to Dr. Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (Scribner, 2016). Perseverance can be developed from within. If you’re a leader who’s gained a foothold on stamina, you can forge a culture with it.

What Is Perseverance?

More than simply trying hard, perseverance is a gut-generated determination to not give in and never give up. It comes from a spirit that refuses to accept the failure of quitting. A leader who perseveres stands ready to endure for the long haul.

Successful accomplishers are always chasing something greater: goals that are difficult to achieve. They feel they have something to prove—to themselves and/or others. They have direction, know what they want and hate falling short of it.

Leaders with perseverance strive to excel. As Duckworth puts it, perseverance is a satisfaction with being unsatisfied. Dogged leaders continually measure how far they’re willing to push themselves and how much they want to win.

Do you find yourself frequently changing course midstream, altering your goals as you go? Are you prone to disillusionment when things go awry? Do you lose interest in long-term projects? If so, you may lack perseverance. Your organization may consequently lose money, people and direction when situations get tough.

Alternatively, persevering leaders grow their interests and remain focused on them. Their consistent pursuit of gains moves them through the roadblocks that stymie more passive leaders. When you persevere, you’re not as bothered by setbacks or letdowns. You’re motivated to embrace and overcome them.

There are myriad business success stories about leaders who had a persevering spirit and led their companies through crisis, bankruptcy or startup hardship. Steve Jobs and Lee Iacocca had the stamina to save Apple and Chrysler, respectively, from bankruptcy. Jeff Bezos endured the long startup struggle at Amazon. Dan Hesse led Sprint out of the gaping jaws of killer competitors. Not all stories are this dramatic, but the principles of perseverance equally apply. Every company faces trials that call for persevering leaders.

Which Leaders Persevere?

Persevering leaders stand out from the rest and have a significant impact, usually without commanding the limelight or fanfare. Their energy and attitude are distinct—sometimes refreshing, sometimes demanding. They fall into several categories, each one a vital part of an organization’s path through challenging times.

The mature, seasoned leader

Older leaders are generally wiser, steadier, more focused and more familiar with the causes of success or failure. With age comes wisdom, clarity and more discernment over what corrections need to be made at the corporate level.

Mature leaders have greater self-awareness. They know their weaknesses and strengths, and how to fine-tune them for specific circumstances. They’re more diligent about making solid commitments and strive for the highest levels of accountability. They act responsibly and do what’s expected of them. They recognize the need for perseverance.

The leader who loves his/her work

Passion is another key ingredient for success. Blend passion with perseverance, and you’ll reap optimal rewards, Duckworth says. Loving what you do makes you more determined and creative. You’ll experience greater curiosity and challenge yourself to make improvements. If you fuel your passion, you’ll enjoy a stable career, with an even greater platform to contribute.

Leaders with passion for their work generate many ideas, and they’re likely to see them take shape. They persevere through many attempts at achieving success, adjusting along the way.

The disciplined leader

Disciplined leaders are driven to persevere and always apply their best effort, day in and day out. They achieve a great deal, even in tumultuous times. Duckworth’s research on leadership shows effort to be a driving force that’s even more critical than skill. Many people have considerable skills but fail to persevere. The literature is rife with stories of successful leaders who didn’t have the greatest skills, but accomplished the seemingly impossible through valiant effort.

Disciplined leaders want to continuously improve and develop a skill until they’ve mastered it. They’ve learned to withstand defeats because giving up is unacceptable to them. They persevere instead.

The purpose-driven leader

Leaders who establish a purpose for their work experience a calling for what they do. They feel the need to contribute to something bigger than themselves. When their company improves because of their efforts, the results fulfill them. They benefit others, add value and enjoy the outcome.

Leaders driven by purpose don’t view failure as the larger culture does. Failure isn’t to be avoided at all costs, but is a part of learning, with no cause for fear. Perseverance is more attainable when setbacks have no effect on one’s calling. Circumstances may change, but a purpose-driven leader’s calling doesn’t.

The positive leader

Positive leaders know they can improve their circumstances. They envision a better future and wholeheartedly pursue it. They embrace challenges, knowing they’ll learn something significant.

Positive leaders see a benefit in each step taken, even when some are backward. They’re confident that diligent effort pays off, and they persevere through storms because they know there’s sunshine on the other side.

Developing Perseverance

If you’re a leader who struggles with perseverance, you can adjust your mindset and behavior. Perseverance can be learned and mastered if you make the commitment and accept the challenge. Learning means taking one small step to become proficient in the next one. No one can change his or her character in one leap.

Harness wisdom

If you’re a seasoned leader, take stock of your experiences and draw upon what you’ve learned. Try to be more patient with long-term projects, and reject a rapid-reward mentality. Look back over your career and note what has worked and what hasn’t. Learn from past mistakes, and avoid any plans that resemble past failures.

By reflecting on past setbacks, you can see how your worst fears were probably unjustified. Likewise, future setbacks won’t be fatal, and they offer an opportunity to learn and be better prepared.

You’re better positioned to persevere when you rely on what you know to be true, rather than succumbing to feelings that throw you off course. Focus on facts substantiated by your past.

Enjoy your work

Seek work that makes use of your interests and personality traits. If you have a vivid imagination, find a position that permits you to be creative. If you love people, assume a role that allows you to foster strong relationships. If you’re analytical, take a job solving complex problems. Duties that align with your interests and values will fulfill you.

You can persevere when you love what you do. Not every aspect of your job may be gratifying, but if you enjoy your work, you’re more likely to push yourself when circumstances get tough.

Develop discipline

If you lack the discipline to stick to plans, you’ve probably encountered difficulties at work. Failing to stay the course disadvantages you and your people, who depend on you to do what’s best.

Develop a contempt for complacency. Leading people is hard work. There are plenty of needs to address, even in highly effective organizations. Maintaining a well-run company takes discipline, and trying to correct a struggling one takes even more. You can persevere with a disciplined approach to your duties. Keep yourself accountable, perhaps with a trusted colleague who holds you to your tasks, to stay on course. Don’t let yourself give up.

Find your purpose

Many leaders lack purpose and fail to persevere in tough times. Maybe their focus is too narrow. Are you more concerned about your own well-being or the organization as a whole? Are you a limited decision-maker or a grand vision-maker? You have the opportunity to make a significant impact on many levels. Find your purpose there.

If you can’t find a way to love your work, seek ways to love the results. There’s purpose in adding value, making improvements and growing people. By deciding to be the best at something, you can have a calling with great purpose. Fuel your perseverance with this kind of thinking.

Be positive

A leader with a critical or pessimistic view will never muster the determination to plow through a crisis. If you lack positivity, you probably feel a force dragging you down, without understanding why. Fortunately, this can be addressed.

Become more self-aware, and catch yourself having negative thoughts or moods. Try to determine why you have these feelings, and create positive alternatives. A seasoned leadership coach can be of great benefit. Coaching accentuates the positive and leans toward it. Focus on the ways a situation can work instead of getting mired in negatives.

Foster Perseverance in Others

The best way to help your people persevere is to model optimal behavior. Develop grit and build on it. Use your authority wisely to instill organizational toughness. Developing a culture of perseverance maximizes people’s strengths and pushes them to achieve peak performance. An authoritarian approach is unhelpful, while a coaching, encouraging manner is powerful. Grasp how your leadership style comes across, and adjust to your people’s needs.

Leaders make great strides by helping their people understand that success is an accumulation of many ordinary jobs done well. They push people out of their comfort zones, giving them challenging assignments and timely feedback. Letting staff devise solutions ultimately engages them.

Organizations become persevering machines that weather the strongest storms when leaders build relationships and foster a good work ethic.