Business Bites: The power of trust

Nick Walsh
ABDO head of corporate development

“Leaders can no longer trust in power; instead, they must rely upon the power of trust,” Charles Green

Leaders don’t become trustworthy by accident. They learn the behaviours of trust and practice them over a period of time to the point where they become habits1. John Blakey, in his book about trust2, explains his theory on there being three pillars of trust that in turn produce nine habits of trustworthiness. Developing these nine habits will help you become the kind of leader your people not only desire but deserve.

Randy Conley, in his article1 summarises them as follows:

The Habits of Ability

1. Choosing to deliver. People trust you when you have a track record of success. That means you follow through on your commitments and deliver results. If you promise to do something, make sure you do it. Breaking a promise is one of the quickest ways to erode people’s trust.
2. Choosing to coach. When leaders develop the habit of acting like a coach, they put the needs of their people ahead of their own. Your job as a leader is plain and simple: help your people succeed.
3. Choosing to be consistent. Predictable and consistent behaviour is essential for being a trustworthy leader. Your people trust you when they can rely on you to act, and react, in a consistent manner. Wild swings of behaviour lead people to be on edge and behaving inconsistently will cause your people to hold back because they aren’t sure how you’ll react.

The Habits of Integrity

4. Choosing to be honest. Honesty is the foundation of integrity. It means you tell the truth, admit mistakes, and make ethical decisions. If people can’t trust your word they find it hard to trust anything else about you.
5. Choosing to be open. Trustworthy leaders share information in an open and transparent fashion. They keep their team members informed so they can make responsible decisions.
6. Choosing to be humble. Trustworthy leaders are humble leaders. Humbleness doesn’t mean meekness; humbleness is strength under control. Leading with humility means you consider the needs of your people more important than your own.

The Habits of Benevolence

7. Choosing to evangelise. Blakey advocates that leaders need to be evangelists who spread the good news of all the great things happening in their organisations. Bad news travels like wildfire and trustworthy leaders keep their people focused on the vision and goals of the organisation.
8. Choosing to be brave. Leaders have to make tough decisions, often in uncertain conditions with sparse information. Trustworthy leaders demonstrate bravery by making decisions in alignment with their values and those of the organisation.
9. Choosing to be kind. Kindness should not be underestimated when it comes to building trust. Extending common courtesies, praising and recognising team members, and building personal rapport are all ways leaders demonstrate kindness.

Trust is not just important between leaders and teams though. For true collaboration to take place, there needs to be trust between companies and between individuals within companies.

What does this look like?

  • Empathy: being open to other thoughts, ideas and points of view, even if they conflict with your own.
  • Equality: everyone contributing.
  • Acknowledgement: giving credit to other individuals and parties where credit is due.
  • Win-win: outcomes are reciprocal. Everyone gains.
  • Openness: individuals can share difficult information without fear of failure.

1. Conley R. 9 habits of trustworthy leaders. Leading with Trust. 7 August 2016.
2. Blakey J. The Trusted Executive: Nine Leadership Habits that Inspire Results, Relationships and Reputation. ISBN-13 : 978-0749474225.