Four Leadership Trust Busters


Team of climbers reaching the summit.Trust.

Your ability to lead is severely hampered without it, and the more of it you have, the easier leadership becomes. Plus, with greater trust comes greater speed of implementation, clearer communication and much more.

It is certainly something that leaders must spend time creating and working intently to maintain.

There are many things that you could immediately and obviously identify as trust busters, so I won’t spend time talking about those. Rather, I want to identify four that you have seen, and perhaps have done, that without thinking and perhaps with no intended malice, are reducing, busting or perhaps even eliminating trust in your working relationships.

Have I gotten your attention?

I hope so! Here we go . . .

The one-upped story. Someone tells a story, and then you tell your story that it reminds you of. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this – in fact it can be the stuff of great conversation. But if your story is just a little (or a lot) better, more exciting, more painful, or whatever, it may well be seen as you trying to “one up” the other person with your story. The risks associated with this approach as the leader/manager/boss are higher than in regular conversation.

Getting the “last word.” A cousin to the one-upped story, but where no story is required. You know this behavior. A conversation about any topic is taking place and even when the topic seems to be finished, this person needs to say one more thing. It’s the last word in a discussion or argument, that last word about a problem or solution, or in any other situation. As a leader you want to engage others (see the next trust buster), and not speaking early in the conversation is one way to do that. It doesn’t mean you always have to say the last thing, especially if it belittles or overrides what has been said by others.

Not asking for opinions or ideas. Do you trust a boss who never asks for your opinion, expertise, experience or ideas? Do I even need to say more here?

The Blind CC. Imagine this . . . Someone sends an email to a group and bcc’s someone. Then the bcc’er replies to all, not noticing that they were blind-copied. If you were on the To: or CC: lines, wouldn’t you immediately wonder why the other person was bcc’d to start with? And more importantly, wouldn’t you start to wonder how many times the original person sends emails to you and they are bcc’ing someone else? We all want leaders who are transparent, authentic and genuine – and it seems to me that using the bcc flies in the face of that goal. There might be a time to email something separately to someone and give them additional information or perspective, but why make it a blind copy leaving everyone at risk for miscommunication and misunderstanding?

What all of these (and many other things we could think of) have in common is that they raise the question of intention. When we think people’s intentions are self-serving, and not at all focused on us and our needs, trust is weakened or compromised. It is possible that you are doing one or more of these things and that isn’t your intention, but if it is viewed as such by others in that way, that is all that matters.

In the end, the other person decides if you are worthy of their trust based on their view of your intent, not your actual intent. (Tweet that).

One way to read this would be to nod your head and agree, thinking about the people these behaviors remind you of.

A much better way to read this would be to reflect on how those behaviors impacted your trust and relationship with those people and then ask yourself the harder question – how often am I compromising trust by doing these things or things like them?

As always, I welcome your comments below as well as your reactions via social media. It is my hope that you, like me, will work to reduce or eliminate these trust-busting behaviors from your life.

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