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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #21: Establishing and Maintaining Trust

December 12, 2018
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #21: Establishing and Maintaining Trust

As you might already know, trust is the foundation of leadership. Have you ever met a leader that wanted to break trust with their team members? Probably not. In Episode #21 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Perry Holley and Chris Goede will explore how leaders can build and maintain trust with their teams with actionable tips that can be applied today.

Listen to all podcasts in this series and subscribe to new episodes on iTunes or Google Play.

Read the transcript below:

Welcome to the John Maxwell Company Executive Leadership Podcast where our goal is to help you increase your level of influence, increase your reputation as a leader, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to drive remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell Company facilitator and coach and I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of The John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining.

So Chris, the last few episodes, we talked about driving engagement and this time I was looking at sustaining engagement and the title today is Establishing and Maintaining Trust. I’m guessing most of our listeners would agree that establishing trust is pretty important for every leader. Why are we really dedicating a podcast to this topic?

Well, I think it’s the foundation of all leadership and we will talk a little bit more about that as we get into it. I don’t think you and I have ever met a leader that wanted to break trust with their team members are yet even those of the ones that they influence and at the root of it, and if you heard John speak or write in any of his books without a doubt, you’ve probably seen the fact that he always says that your team members are going to ask you or they’re going to ask themselves about you three questions and at the root of all that is trust. And those three questions that they’re going to ask themselves about you as their leader is, can he or she helped me? Does he or she care about me? And can I trust them?

Obviously, the third one, it’s funny that we were in a leadership meeting yesterday and our CEO and I and a couple of our team members, were talking about different things and we were talking about at The John Maxwell Company, how we really high around the three C’s. And you may have seen this or heard this before, and we’ve kind of adopted it to where we hire around competence, culture, and character. And for the first time we actually related those three words back to those three questions and specifically today we’re talking about trust. And that’s really about the character. That’s the character question of a leader is can I trust them? And really what they’re saying is, what type of character does my leader have?

Right? Well, I know have always, when I review those three questions, I used to think those are the kind of soft side of leadership. But if you think about it, if you’re helping people and if you’re a caring for people and if you’re building trust with people, you’ve got a highly engaged team within likely the interests of those three are yes, but you have to think about it, which was if the answer to two of those is yes, but the one on trust is no, it really doesn’t matter that the other two. And so I always said that trust is the linchpin of leadership. I made a joke in a class one time, now you can tweet that and I guess a bunch of people did. I like that, trust is really the linchpin of leadership to me. I always have to be looking at what my level trust is with them. But tell me how you define trust? seems kind of obvious to most people, but I’m finding most people don’t really know what that is, what that looks like.

Well, good friend of our organizations. You know, Stephen Covey has a definition or, and some of them may even heard some of this content about the speed of trust. He defines it this way. He says, trust means confidence and the opposite of trust. Distrust trust is suspicion. And when I see that, when I see the word suspicion to me, you know, we talk a lot about the fact that influence is a very fine line and it’s really driven by your motive. And some people say that if you have the right motive, it’s pure influence and if you have the wrong motive, it’s manipulation. And so when I go that place, I think about that word suspicion and if I find myself suspicious about the leader that I’m working for automatically, I’d know right away that I must not have complete trust in that leader. And so I think it aligns directly with this definition and you know, we talk about this in regards to the 5 Levels of Leadership and we talk about Level 2 being that foundation and your ability to connect and relate with your team members or your leader with you is where that trust is built in and we talk about it’s the currency of all leadership is trust.

Well, it’s funny you say that about the manipulation. I was doing a 5 Levels in London a few weeks ago and was talking about health care and trust and a gentleman in there says, wow, sounds like manipulation to me. I thought I’ve heard that before. So John talks about that. Let’s, let’s be motivating not manipulating. So it’s a really fine line is that are you being genuine in what you’re trying to do to help people to care for people to build trust with people or you’re doing it for your own selfish motives? Yeah. I’ve been reading Brené Brown’s latest book and it just really has touched me on a number of levels that she speaks about building trust, building empathy. Some things we’ll probably talk about in another podcast, but she gives an example of her daughter having a marble jar and that at school they would put marbles in if you did trustworthy things and you’d take marbles out if you break the trust and the obvious answer you just said you have change in your pocket, you have marbles in your jar. Is that what you’re referencing? That’s exactly right. She lists a number of things that I’ve been putting together a list of things I would think what is, what would we actually encourage our listeners to do to build trust? And one of them that I came up with, I think number one for me, was listening with empathy. I think we’re going to talk more about empathy, but just go there with me for a moment about where does empathy have a role and why would that be trustworthiness?

Well, so I think there are two things in that statement, two keywords that we probably need to unpack. The first one is listen and the second one is empathy. And so what I thought I’d do real quickly is just start with the word listen. And, and John says at Level 2 and this is purely a skillset to be developed in order to increase your influence with people to a Level 2 influence. And John says, if you’ll do these, these three things, he says, if you’ll listen, learn, then lead, you will then increase your level to influence. And I think it’s funny because as leaders, I know specifically as leader of my home, I do a little bit of opposite of those. What I do is I hear what’s going on. I don’t learn anything about what I’m hearing and then I lead, I wanted to anyway. Right, right. So, I think really when we get down to this, empathy is the only way for you to be empathetic or successful is to truly understand how to listen.

I was on a phone call just this morning with a guy who’s a very successful hockey coach and so I was just talking to him about different things and I said, what is the number one attribute about the greatest coach that had the most impact on you as a player and then as a coach? And he literally said, some of the greatest coaches I’ve ever had knew how to listen and you don’t really hear athletes and slash or coaches at that level, use the word listening. And he said without a shadow of a doubt. So I think the first step for us in order to have empathy with our team, with those that we’re connecting with is to make sure that we listen well, learn what they’re saying to us, and then be able to lead them through that. Fantastic.

Number two and Brené Brown’s research, she asked a bunch of leader think a thousand liters, she asked, actions that put marbles in the jar, which actually build trust. And, I was fascinated by the answer. The number one answer most common answer was asking for help. Why would asking for help increasing trust?

So real quick thought about Brené example, did you say this was in elementary school or Middle School? It was early grade school. Let’s be glad they didn’t have that jar of marbles. When you and I are going through school, we’d be in trouble. We may not have any more marbles in there. We definitely lost her marbles. That’s exactly right. You know, when you get to a point where you’re vulnerable enough and that’s the word I kind of pulled out of when we talk about this asking for help. I think as a leader, when you begin to become transparent and show vulnerability, it allows the other team members, those that are on your team, those are part of the journey that are with you to begin to trust you because you don’t have this facade up of, you know, all the answers. You know, John tells some funny stories about men. They already know what you don’t know. So why don’t you go ahead and admit what it’s like to know that, you know, they just want to know it. So I think the biggest thing with you doing that is you’re just, you’re just so in some transparency, you’re showing vulnerability that you don’t have all the answers and then they begin to build that trust with you. Number three, I took from when I asked in 5 Levels class, I say, what are the things we do as leaders to build trust? And probably the number one answer I get is: do what you say you will do. I often I’d add to that if you can’t do what you say you will do, then address that upfront, that you can’t do it. I’m surprised by the number of leaders to just say I couldn’t do it and don’t circle back. And I was wondering what you thought about, do what you say you can do.

Yeah. You know, as leaders, I think part of our responsibility is to remove obstacles and when you begin to build trust and you listen, and when you begin to ask questions and ask for help, and ask what is it that you can do for them and then you don’t do it, then you completely ruin that trust. We talk about the 5 Levels. It takes a while to build trust and move up the levels of influence. But man, also quickly can you go down those levels and, so by not following through to your point here, you allow your influence to drop pretty quickly. This is interesting because I was with one of our executive facilitators last week, Rick Van Dermyden, who you know very well and we were going through some character discussions and questions and he gave me these two definitions that I thought were appropriate right here when we’re talking about doing what we say we’re going to do.

He said, let’s talk about the difference between integrity and honesty and let’s unpack it. Like let’s really kind of get into the weeds of it. It’s like, okay, great. Because a lot of people will just make some assumptions, especially when we’re doing the values cards, science, if you were like, these are the same, can we roll them up? And we’re like, oh yeah, yeah, and I might not let them ever do that again after this conversation. And he said, leaders listen to me, and we were talking about. And he’s like, look, integrity is this, integrity is your words come first. Your actions follow and they are the same. Honesty is your actions come first. Your words follow and they are the same. And we’re not going to take any time to unpack this, but you could really unpack those two and how many times I think leaders and slash or people mix those two up and you can take a sentence from each one and swap it and completely have lack of integrity and the number one thing, at least for me, probably many others may be listening in order to ruin trust would be to have a lack of integrity.

That’s very good. Thank you. That’s a good one. Number four I just noticed the tendency of someone when, if someone asked you for help, the tendency of me to judge and I said so my number four was don’t judge me. Help me. Yeah. Do you have any thoughts there?

I think the opposite of wanting to help somebody as you judge somebody. And so I think it’s the exact opposite of what we’re, what we’re seeking here. And so how can you say, Hey, I want to help remove obstacles and I want to help you be the best you can be. But yet at the same point in time, you’re judging them. I think it goes back to the motive behind why you’re doing what you’re doing. Right. And I think the pure motive would show that you’re there to help and if you’re judging, you’re just going to completely destroy their trust. We’ve talked about this topic before in the past about how we judge others by their actions, but we judge ourselves by our intentions and until we get to a point where we understand the intent behind their need for help or what they’re asking help of, we’ll never really truly have that trust. And so we have to make sure is it to close that intent versus perception gap and know that they know that we’re there to help.

Yeah. Good. Number five. And the last one that I was thinking, we’re just taking off your mask and being authentic is that I notice in the vein of trust, trying to be who you’re not. It doesn’t really go far.

Yeah. Authenticity is a huge word. It’s probably the number one attribute. As a matter of fact, a study done by Harvard Business Review of some of the most successful leaders around the world is authenticity, and we’re not all going to lead the same and we don’t want anybody leave the same because we’re not all the same, but we need to truly be authentic and lead who and how we were created to lead. And if we do that, our people will be attracted to that and they’ll know that we’re just, we’re listening. We put our pants on just like you did, right? And, this is kind of who we are and it goes back to John’s illustration, right? Like they already know what you don’t know and they know that they’re better at it than you. So just go ahead and let them know that.

Yeah, I think it speaks a bit to being vulnerable and in looking into that a lot lately and leadership. And what does it mean? And you know, if you read Brené Brown, it does come out a lot about vulnerability and leadership is you can either armor up or you can armor down and just business me and I think it’s a big word when it comes to those high trust relationships. So, we’ve covered the five there. Tell me, I guess for me, a bunch of small acts daily over time is really what builds trust and go back to the marble jar and they kind of go in one of the time. They can come out in handfuls. Why don’t you give our listeners a couple of action items and thoughts before we close?

So here’s the deal. I think this is pretty simple, but I want to challenge you to do it in your next team meeting, maybe your next one on one or someone that you have influence with, I want you to verbalize and communicate your desire to be authentic and to say, listen, I’m going to lead how I was created the lead. It’s not perfect. I want you to know that and I’m going to be authentic through this process with you and then I want you to ask them to candidly think through the three questions that you brought up, right? And then we’re talking about earlier that John asked, you know, they’re going to ask, can he or she or my leader helped me, you know, can I trust them and do they care about me? Pose those three questions to them and say, I need your candid feedback. And in our next meeting, I’d love to listen to you. I want to hear your perspective. I want you to be honest with me and I think if you will, on the front end, go first by modeling the fact that you do want to be authentic with them and then ask them to come back and answer those three questions in your next one and wanting to be a powerful conversation. Man, that’s a great tip. I hope you guys will follow that.

Just as a reminder to our listeners, if you’d like to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership or perhaps bring a 5 Levels workshop to your organization, please go to a You can leave a comment for us there. You can ask for materials. We’d be glad to hear from you. We also welcome any questions about leadership and we’ll address them here.

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