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Archive for April, 2009

7 Ways to Earn Trust

In her post Change and the Credibility Factor, Gwyn Teatro pointed out that a synonym for credibility is trustworthiness. In reading her excellent list of things we can do to earn credibility, I started thinking about this question:

What simple, everyday actions can we take to earn trust?

This is not to say that I think earning a reputation as being trustworthy is a simple endeavor. The conditions for trusting can be very personal and we don’t always make rational assessments when it comes to trusting others.

We also don’t all take the same approach. Some of us grant trust and take it away when someone does not live up to our standards. Others believe trust must be earned. The rest of us fall somewhere in between.

Nonetheless, there are things we can do to give others reason to trust us.

Here are my top 7 recommended ways to develop a reputation for being trustworthy.

1. Be on time: Consider that being consistently late sends a very loud message, not just about your reliability, but about your lack of respect for and commitment to the other people who have to wait for you. If there is a pattern of people showing up late, you do not get a free pass from this one. Showing up consistently on time in an organization that has this costly habit is an opportunity to lead. Why not take advantage of the opportunity?

2. Prepare. We use the excuse of having to go to so many meetings or back to back meetings not only as a reason for being late, but for not preparing adequately. As one of my coaches, Gordon Star, used to say: failing to prepare is preparing to fail. It also wastes peoples’ time, including yours. If you waste my time, how likely am I to trust you with something else that matters to me?

3. Do not gossip: If you have an issue with someone, work it out with them. From what I have seen there is way too much gossip occurring under the guise of venting. What’s the difference? When you vent you actually have a commitment to working things out with the person with whom you have an issue. Venting is one thing you do to prepare to have what could be a difficult conversation. Gossiping is venting without commitment. Besides, what message are you sending to the person you are gossiping to? They may be left wondering if they will be next.

4. Keep confidential conversations confidential: Knowing something others are not supposed to know is a big responsibility. It can also be a bit intoxicating. If you have to mention to someone else that you shouldn’t be telling them this, do you really think that qualifies as keeping a confidence? You may experience a moment of power, but consider whether it is worth the risk to your reputation or to others.

5. Honor your promises. I use the word “honor” instead of “keep” your promises deliberately because no one keeps all of their promises. Stuff happens and we are, after all, human. So this means EITHER do what you said you would do OR tell someone in advance of the due date that you can’t deliver. When you can’t deliver and you tell someone in advance, you can figure out together how to deal with the potential breakdown. That doesn’t count as keeping your promise, but it does honor your commitment and your relationship.

6. Admit when you don’t know something. It is an illusion to think that if we hide what we don’t know we will protect the perception that we are competent. Reality is that the more competent we are the more aware we are of what we don’t know and the more confident we will be that we can find out. Admitting you don’t know something is a sign of strength, not weakness. Also consider that, as a manager, if I know you will admit when you don’t know, I am actually more likely to entrust you with something that may be a stretch for you.

7. Own your mistakes. Admitting your mistakes is a good start because it demonstrates honesty. Want to demonstrate reliability, too? Take full responsibility by dealing with the consequences of your mistakes and taking full advantage of the opportunity to learn.

These all fall into the “simple, but not easy” category for many of us. Yet if you do these things consistently you greatly increase your chances of being trusted with the things that really matter.

What else can we do to increase our trustworthiness in the eyes of others? Please add you ideas so we can all learn from your wisdom and experience.

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Fear of losing your job is certainly valid in this economy. But unfortunately that fear often provokes protectionist behavior that is likely to backfire for both employees and their companies.

The kind of behaviors I am referring to are things like: hoarding information or knowledge; shifting the blame for breakdowns to others; keeping your mouth shut hoping you’ll stay out of the line of fire; always agreeing with your boss so you stay on their good side; etc.

The list of things we might do, and perhaps have even done in the past, to protect our jobs is endless.

But will they actually work now?

These kinds of behaviors are certainly nothing new and are not unique to the current economy. However, I believe they are far more risky than ever before.

Why? Because while they MAY strengthen your individual position, consider that they WILL weaken your organization. And if your company goes down, saving your job becomes irrelevant.

The bottom line…your job is only as secure as the future of your company.

What is the Ultimate Job Protection Program?

I say it is being willing to act like a leader whether you are THE leader or not. It is speaking up, stepping up and standing up for the things that matter to the future success of your organization. You don’t have to be THE leader to be a leader in these difficult times.

Here are 5 ways you can start leading to help secure the future of your job by helping to secure the future of your organization.

1. STOP Blaming and START Offering Solutions

Blaming is a drain on precious time and energy. Want to be seen as indispensible? Be the person who always contributes to making things better.

2. STOP Hoarding Information and START Sharing It

Knowledge may be power for an individual, but sharing it powers successful organizations. Lead the way in sharing knowledge and you can be a catalyst for creating value and opportunity.

3. STOP Trying to Do It Alone and START Collaborating

No one person has all the answers. It is time to start find ways to tap the intelligence of your entire organization not just a limited few. Include new people in what seem like old conversations and you will gain fresh perspective. Find ways to engage the people who are less likely to speak up. You may be surprised at how much you learn.

4. STOP Reinforcing the “Status Quo” and START Challenging It

We can unwittingly reinforce the very things that are not working because it is uncomfortable to challenge the way things are done. But if your organization isn’t where it needs to be, chances are the ways things are being done are not working very well.

Remember to challenge the thinking not the person and you will increase the likelihood of both being heard and making a difference.

5. STOP Protecting Your Turf and START Acting Like One Organization

“Us vs Them” relationships are rampant in organizations. They are incredibly costly, too. Time to start acting like you are on the same team.

Assigning a shared (and meaningful) goal for two groups that have historically been at odds with each other is one way to create the opportunity to experience being on one team. This can be a very powerful way to start transforming an “us/Them” relationship into a “we”.

These are just a few examples of what we can do to support the companies we work for in being successful. Consider that if you start focusing your attention on how you can contribute to the success of your company, you will need to pay less attention to securing your job.

What can you do to make a difference in securing the future of where you work today?

If you are interested in learning more about how you can cost effectively increase leadership at all levels in your organization please contact Susan Mazza at susan@randomactsofleadership.com or (772)539-7003.

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