In our coaching with leaders, we often see that trust is a leading indicator of whether others evaluate them positively or negatively. But creating that trust or, perhaps more importantly, reestablishing it when you’ve lost it isn’t always that straightforward.
Fortunately, by looking at data from the 360 assessments of 87,000 leaders, we were able to identify three key clusters of items that are often the foundation for trust. By understanding the behaviors that underlie trust, leaders are better able to elevate the level of trust that others feel toward them. Here are the three elements.
1. Positive Relationships
Trust is in part based on the extent to which a leader is able to create positive relationships with other people and groups. To instill trust a leader must:
- Stay in touch on the issues and concerns of others.
- Balance results with concern for others.
- Generate cooperation between others.
- Resolve conflict with others.
- Give honest feedback in a helpful way.
2. Good Judgement/Expertise
Another factor in whether people trust a leader is the extent to which a leader is well-informed and knowledgeable. They must understand the technical aspects of the work as well as have a depth of experience. This means:
- They use good judgement when making decisions.
- Others trust their ideas and opinions.
- Others seek after their opinions.
- Their knowledge and expertise make an important contribution to achieving results.
- Can anticipate and respond quickly to problems.
The final element of trust is the extent to which leaders walk their talk and do what they say they will do. People rate a leader high in trust if they:
- Are a role model and set a good example.
- Walk the talk.
- Honor commitments and keep promises.
- Follow through on commitments.
- Are willing to go above and beyond what needs to be done.
We have regularly found in our research that if a leader has a preference for a particular skill, they are more likely to perform better at it. Think about which of these elements of trust you have a stronger preference for — and which you prefer least. Because you need to be above average on each, it is probably worth your time to focus on improving the latter.