16 Ways Leaders Kill Trust

Cracked cement symbolizing broken trust between people or parties
This is a guest post by friend, executive and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor. Follow him on Twitter.

 

How to Kill Trust

Trust—so hard to gain, yet so easy to lose! Trust is an important part of any relationship, but it is the foundation for successful leadership. Without trust, leadership is simply hollow. There has been a lot written about the importance of trust and how to build trust with others. However, what many leaders do not realize is that trust is often undermined, or even lost, through simple behaviors. After paying so much attention to ways to gain trust, it is often lost inadvertently.

There are many ways that a leader can kill trust. Most are behaviors or actions and not overt statements. It is rare that a leader simply states, “I do not trust you” to someone. Yet, it is quite common that a leader will kill trust with one or more of the following behaviors.

 

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.” –Warren Buffett

 

16 Trust-killing Behaviors to Avoid

 

Delegate tasks, not problems:  When delegating, provide a strict framework and task list while telling them exactly what needs to be done and how to do it. By not providing others with the opportunity to help solve a problem or shape an initiative, it sends a message that they are not trusted and do not have the confidence of the leader.

 

Leadership Tip: Delegate the problem and let the team shape the initiative.

 

Micromanage:  Constantly ask for updates, status and progress while dictating more about how to do the task. React strongly if there is any issue or problem. Second-guess any decisions or actions during the project. Constantly ask if they remembered to do something or if they are working on something. If something needs to be corrected, say, “I’ll take care of that” or have some else do it. By not demonstrating any confidence in a team member to complete an assignment, trust will be damaged.

 

“The ability to influence a leader is at the heart of feeling trusted.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Never ask their opinion:  Do not ask for input on an assignment; just dictate what to do. Discount what team members are saying, especially while they are talking. Require more justification with greater detail than expected of others – especially in public. Do not allow them to influence you. The ability to influence a leader is at the heart of feeling trusted. When influence is denied, trust is eroded.

 

Criticize in public:  Point out mistakes and/or belittle others in public. Constantly point out mistakes and never tell them what they are doing right. Bring up past mistakes often. Public criticism not only belittles the team member, but it makes the leader look small-minded. Others on the team will also begin to wonder if the leader can be trusted.

Consider: Harness the Power of Reflective Thinking

Breathe. Reflect. Consider.

Not a day goes by when I don’t hear, “I’m so busy!” or, “I don’t have any time.” It seems that in our overconnected, overscheduled, overcommitted world we have lost all sense of margin. Time to breathe?  Maybe, if it’s a scheduled yoga class or meditation session. Otherwise, on to the next task!

What happens when we don’t have time to reflect? Why is it so critical to spend time on reflective thinking?

 

“$650 billion is lost each year because we don’t give ourselves time for reflection.” -DP Forrester

 

Daniel Patrick Forrester is the founder and CEO of THRUUE. He’s a management consultant who has worked with some of the biggest organizations ranging from Verizon to Xerox.  His work on reflection and its power had me doing some reflecting of my own.  I recently had the opportunity to ask him some questions about his book Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization.

 

3 Benefits of Reflection 

What are the top 3 benefits of reflection and reflective thinking?

 

1. Getting the big ideas right

CEOs, COOs, business leaders, and leadership boards have no shortage of ideas that must get done. They drive high-performing teams and cultures to implement their best ideas. Now, more than ever, organizations are in the midst of a tumultuous business market, facing questions of relevancy and sustainability. Only through reflective thinking can leaders know if their big ideas will work and if the organizational culture can support idea implementation. Reflective leaders embrace the questions: What would make this idea fail, what could we do differently, and how can we solve this problem?

 

2. Finding meaning

We live in a world where data and meaning fight for our attention all day. Emails, text messages, social media updates, and other information are constantly bombarding us. We can’t process one piece of data before we are confronted with another. There’s simply no way to comprehend the meaning of all of this data unless we make time to think.

This Basex study breaks down how the typical leader spends his or her time each day:

  • 28% — Interruptions by things that aren’t urgent or important, like unnecessary email messages and the time it takes to get back on track
  • 25% — Productive content creation, including writing email messages
  • 20% — Meetings (in person, by phone, by video, and online)
  • 15% — Searching through content, like the Web, digital communications, and paperwork
  • ONLY 5% — Reflecting on all of the information

Nearly a third of the time is spent in interruptions, while a mere 5% is left for think time. How can leaders make effective decisions with such a balance?  The answer is simple: they can’t.

Leaders must understand the meaning behind information and the implications of their decisions before they act.  Meaning is what leaders bring to their organizations. When meaning is found, intention is found.

 

“When meaning is found, intention is found.” -Daniel Patrick Forrester

 

3. Reconnecting with control and intention

When we take time to think and reflect, we find ourselves in control rather than subservient to the Pavlovian urges that so often drive us to choose technology and connectedness rather than reflection.  This past September, I spoke at a conference called BoardSource in Washington, D.C. BoardSource is the nation’s largest annual convening of nonprofit leaders, board members, and chief executives.  In my speech to the 850 executive leaders in attendance, I explained why boards and leadership teams should act with intention and focus on becoming greater than the sum of their individual parts, which can only be achieved through continuous reflection.

 

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” –Mark Twain

 

Today’s Frenzied Pace

Often it seems we think that the frenzied pace is simply required in today’s society.  Is it?