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  • Malar Villi

Talking your way into trust



In my previous post, “Safety is Essential to Trust”, the conclusion was left with the readers, and it would have depended on their experience or perception of the situation. The team members will conclude based on their experience of the leader's Credibility and Reliability. The opportunity for dialogues would help to gain a better understanding of the situation.


In the TRUST Equation, we start by assessing the Credibility and Reliability factors, which are the easiest to build and sustain.


In my recent leadership sessions, I found this topic most exciting to facilitate. I was encouraged that the leaders in my classes felt sensitive about it. This shows that Trust mattered to them.


Now consider the impact on trust in the following situations:

  • Leaders who refuse to have conversations with their staff; where they do not allow questions or only allow controlled questions to be raised during press conferences, town halls and meetings.

  • Leaders who wants to execute a decision made in the past without taking into consideration new changes which will now impacts a wider audience.

  • Leaders who keep their promise to their nation because it is the right thing to do and voice out their opinions and make assertive stands.

  • Leaders who do not entertain questions during performance appraisals but instead expect employees to justify their actions. These leaders later use their veto power to achieve acceptance of their outcome.

  • A leader who when faced with complaints regarding a senior manager, does not reply his email but instead forwards it to another person to manage it.

  • A Leader who chooses to be politically correct instead of asserting his position or values.

  • Leaders who rate you lower to justify your exit from the organisation instead of acknowledging they have a mandate to exercise cost cutting measures.


Imagine, in all of the above examples; a leader having the courage to communicate honestly and the skills and maturity to be open to dialogues. What would be the impact on the people, their morale and hope for the future?


Tan Sri Tony Fernandez, had initially rejected a USD1 Million investment in belt loaders. He changed his mind after he was put on duty to carry baggage on the Indonesian flight. This was his way of having his dialogue. He was open to being challenged, to influence and to be influenced. Did his credibility and reliability factors increase or decrease when he changed his mind?


In my sessions, I meet experienced leaders who were promoted for their technical expertise but their team members just don’t trust them. These leaders think they can gain trust based on their technical skills. However it takes more than technical expertise to be a reliable leader. Trust is a feeling. So, what makes a leader credible?


We trust people at different levels and intensity. We perceive others based on our experience, more unconscious than conscious. Personally I have experienced more trust in some newer relationships compared to some older relationships. While time is essential, the experience of trust builds confidence in people.


I remember when I was cornered at a meeting, a senior manager came to my rescue by stating the objectives and asking her team to be fair to me. I trusted her instantly.


On the other hand, I have been in meetings with leaders whom I have worked with for years and they have remained silent during the challenging situations. While I understand their need for safety, they may have lacked courage and did not come across as being reliable to me.


I also learnt that we operate at different levels of trust with our stakeholders. If trust scores are higher with my superior or people in power, I feel safe. This level of confidence is of greater importance to me compared to with my subordinates or peers. Perhaps it is because less dialogue time is allocated to them as majority of communication with this group centres around performance issues and operational matters.


Leaders who are well respected ensure trust levels are consistent across all stakeholder levels especially those they work with directly . They make a conscious effort to keep these stakeholders satisfied, and every opportunity for dialogue counts as it builds their credibility, reliability and intimacy. Their choice of language with these stakeholders can also leave an impression on their self-orientation.


Now have a bit of fun assessing your leaders using this Trust Equation.

Now imagine your team mates doing it for you. What would you scores look like?

I look forward to your thoughts and questions as I work on my next write up, EQ in building your trustworthiness.

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