9 Habits of Trustworthiness

This is a guest post by John Blakey. His new book, The Trusted Executive: Nine Leadership Habits That Inspire Results, Relationships, and Reputation, is a must read for leaders who want to inspire trust and achieve results.

 

9 Habits of Trustworthiness

As a coach, I am interested in helping leaders be more effective rather than more knowledgeable. Sometimes gaining new knowledge is part of the formula that gets us from A to B, but it is rarely the full answer. As Einstein quipped, ‘In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not’. Consider how many great books you have read and how many excellent training courses you have attended. How many of them entertained you rather than changed you? If we wish to go beyond corporate entertainment, then we have to commit to the hard yards of executive practice. However, even more than this, we have first to believe that it is possible to change at all.

Trusted Executive JacketAll the CEOs I interviewed for my book, The Trusted Executive: Nine Leadership Habits That Inspire Results, Relationships, and Reputation, were asked the question, ‘How do you build trustworthiness?’ One of them replied, ‘I am not sure this is the right question because I don’t think you can build trustworthiness in people. You either have it or you don’t, and so we test for it when we recruit people into the business.’ I am sure other executive leaders would have a similar perspective. Can you really build integrity into someone or is it a fixed trait of character that defies further development? This argument reminds me of Churchill’s famous words about optimism: ‘I suppose I am an optimist; there seems little point in being anything else’. So my glib answer to those who believe that trustworthiness is a fixed character trait would be to say, ‘I suppose I believe that anyone can grow and change in profound ways; as a leader there seems little point in believing anything else.’

 

“It is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” -Paul of Tarsus

 

Dr. Carole Dweck of Stanford University provides a more rigorous assessment of this question in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dr. Dweck has spent decades studying achievement and success in students. She has concluded that we have one of two mind-sets at any point in time: growth or fixed. Someone with a fixed mind-set believes that talents and traits are fixed and unchangeable. They believe that if someone is not good at something, there is no point in trying harder as their ability will not change. This mind-set gets in the way of learning, since challenges are seen as threatening. In contrast, people with a growth mind-set believe that abilities and talents are cultivated through effort. People with this attitude welcome a challenge and they create an inner resilience in the face of obstacles. Dr. Dweck concludes that, ‘the more we know that basic human abilities can be grown, the more it becomes a basic human right for all kids and all adults to live in environments that create that growth’.

Used by permission. Used by permission.

I assume a growth mind-set. This does not mean it is easy to build trustworthiness, in the same way that it is not easy to run a marathon, but it does mean it is possible. It also reveals that the key to success is not innate ability but superlative motivation. If you know someone who has given up smoking then you know that it is often hard to change a habit, but it is not impossible. New habits come from repetition and practice. And just as Covey had his seven habits of effectiveness, I will shamelessly follow his lead and propose the nine leadership habits that inspire results, relationships and reputation: three habits of ability, three habits of integrity and three habits of benevolence.

A habit is an accumulation of choices. If you want to change a habit, then you have to start making different choices. To change a habit is an act of pure will, which is why it relies upon superlative motivation.

 

“If you want to change a habit, then start making different choices.” -John Blakey

 

9 Leadership habits that inspire results, relationships and reputation

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?