Leadership, Mentoring and Trust

Everything happens for a reason or at least it does for me. I had two occasions this past week where the topic of leadership and trust came up. In both situations I was involved in mentoring relationships and the people that I was spending time with struggled with the aspect of “trust”.

In one situation the person was in a leadership role and had wondered why the majority of his team had departed and he was now re-building. There was also the question about why he appeared to have to do the bulk of the work. Team members would appear to wait to the last minute to have something done as they knew that their “leader” would just do it himself. In fact it had got to the stage where he preferred to do just that – do it himself.

When questioned during our mentoring discussion he related that his leadership style was one of control and needing to be in charge. The only good ideas were his ideas. He struggled with understanding why he was having to rebuild his team with new players. He was concerned that history may repeat itself and he would accomplish very little unless he did it and he would be back to the beginning once again.

In the second situation there was an element of lack of trust across the board with everyone that was part of the team. It had ingrained itself in the culture of the organization. Communication if it existed was always carefully guarded or very confrontational. Defensive mechanisms kicked in the majority of the time with people going on the attack rather than trying to work things out. My concern was that trust could end up being a primary reason for this team to not be successful and as a result the organization may no longer exist.

Before I offer some suggestions as to what we might want to do, let’s take a look at some very good information that came out of my research.

“In such a world, vertical power-based leadership becomes less relevant. The key success factor becomes the ability to persuade someone over whom you have no power to collaborate with you in pursuit of a common mission.

Leaders can no longer trust in power; instead, they rely on the power of trust.

New Leaders. Those who can successfully persuade others to trust them will evidence certain behaviors:

• They themselves will be skilled at trusting, because trusting and trustworthiness enhance each other
• They will be good at collaboration and the tools of influence
• They will operate from a clear set of values and principles, because opportunistic or selfish motives are clearly seen and rejected
• They are likely to be more intrinsically than extrinsically motivated, and more likely to use intrinsic motivations with others
• They will not be dependent on direct authority or political power.

In short, leaders in the new business world will be skilled at the art and science of trust.

Trust is a relationship established between a trustor and a trustee. It takes two to tango, and two to trust.

The scale is different, for one thing; the new world needs many more leadership-capable people than did the old world. And the teaching of trust needs to be defined.”

In the first situation we need to look at the leadership style and skill level and formulate an approach to addressing the challenges. As a leader we need to focus on the people we serve (our team) to ensure that we provide them with learning and development opportunities. Our job is to coach and mentor them to success. We must not “just do it myself as no one does it better!” Building trust can take time but it has to start with the leader.

In the second situation we invoked the “circle of safety” or a version of what Simon Sinek refers to. Creating that safe place to have those tough conversations but doing so in a respectful manner and with shared or mutual trust. Without that being in place the culture would continue to become encased in negativity and toxicity and silos would develop. Trust is key moving forward and the comments provided above certainly fit this situation.

In mentoring we encourage people to develop a two way trusted relationship. In leadership we need to do the very same thing. I have seen examples of where trust was not evident and relationships eroded and the organization struggled to be productive and efficient. What typically can happen is that employees become complacent and disengaged as no one trusts anyone in the organization. We sit and wait to be told what to do as the perception is that no one trusts or empowers us to do anything. We are far better served to sit and wait to be told what to do – we then become that mindless robot that goes through the motions.

Developing trusting and trusted leaders is paramount to the future of most organizations today. There is a global shortage of leadership talent and there is a global shortage of trusted/trusting leaders. It is time to embrace the “gift of mentoring” as a means to help develop those skills within us and to make the world a better place to live and work. “Can we afford not to?”

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1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesleadershipforum/2012/10/24/you-cant-be-a-great-leader-without-trust-heres-how-you-build-it/#6931d22c7a48
2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/trustedadvisor/2012/04/03/why-trust-is-the-new-core-of-leadership/#26d3f8525e12
3. Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek https://www.amazon.ca/Leaders-Eat-Last-Together-Others/dp/1591845327/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484327027&sr=8-1&keywords=leaders+eat+last
4. https://hbr.org/2010/06/5-steps-to-addressing-the-lead

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