Mar 6, 2011

Easy Ways to Keep Your Leadership Strong, part 1 - How (Not) to Lose Trust of Your People

When you think about anyone who has a positive influence on your life, it is most probably someone you like, admire, and someone you trust. Translate this to business world and conclusion will be similar, if not the same. You like to like a business partner, customer, supplier, member of your team, employee, or a boss.

We don't all have to be best friends. Maybe that is not basis of a healthy business, but it helps enjoy work more, or try harder to serve, impress and help. People in sales know that people buy from people they

a) like and

b) trust.

You ''buy'' ideas from people you like and trust. Good attitude and feelings can even make us spend more, or stay with a company longer.


Thinking of leadership, I can not imagine any of us would follow a person we don't like or we do not trust. Does anyone have different opinion?

I just thought of few easy ways/examples you can earn and keep trust of your people, and make it easier for them to follow you as a leader. And there are few ways to reduce your leadership credibility too.

If you want to lose trust of your people

1. Promise things, then do not deliver

This is the easiest way to quickly lose trust, even after one mistake. If you promised something to employee, and did not deliver - you can hope they'll forget about it. Only, they never do. Don't think if you behave like nothing have happened, they will forget what you've said.

They will remember every single time you said something and it did not materialize. At best it will disappoint them. At worst they will see you as someone they can not trust, also known as - a lier.

Who wants to follow a lier?

If you like to blow it big time, just do this more than once. News travel fast and soon everyone else will know about unreliable person/boss you are. People from your department make friends with people from other departments and they do complain and tell them about your broken promises.

You could have promised to employee

  • promotion

  • raise

  • company car

  • a (particular) model of the phone

  • travelling, or particular training course abroad

  • appartment paid by a company

  • company shares

  • flexible working hours....etc.etc.

Although it might not look as a big deal to you, if they don't get it - it will be big deal/disappointment for everyone you promised, or even mentioned anything to. Above listed items were promised to me in the past, and then conveniently forgotten. Is there a need to say I was frustrated, angry, demotivated, and looking to leave the place and such a boss? I did so, and made sure I told everyone.

What do you do if/when broken promise is not your fault?

Sure, your hands are tied more often that you would have liked it. I recommend you do not ignore whatever was due to employee, and do not expect employees should understand what is happening in business/company/market. They probably do. They still prefer you to tell them. To acknowledge them. To acknowledge their ambitions, hopes and wishes. Besides it wasyour word on the line. I believe good leader remembers his/her words and they are very serious about them. Their words mean something to their people and first of all to themselves. By remembering your promises, you prove your words mean something, and your people mean a lot, too.

Your intentions were good, but they are not what counts

I believe you had just best intentions. Your intentions were good, you really did want those things for your employee, but good intentions are not enough in the eye of your employee, especially if your intentions become all they get on a regular basis.

Say it, at least. These might not be the news you are looking forward to deliver, but they show you really meant what you said/promised. You will show that you care about your people caring about your words. They like their leaders to care!

Two main options you have when you break promises/can't keep your word

Often, your people will not wait for you to tell them they can forget about something you promised, before they call you on that. You always have two options:

  1. Tell them to find a better job if they don't like it here (it does get said this way in real world) and you can count on it to happen as soon as they get lucky on the job market.

  2. Set aside some time to let them know what happened/changed, why you can not keep the promise and what they might expect instead. If there is a deadline by which you can evaluate a possibility again, try to propose that, and make sure you don't miss that appointment.

Most of my blog visitors are not going to opt for the first approach, but I might be wrong, of course, so just let me know what you would really do, or recommend.

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