Recapturing Trust in Uncertain Times By Wayne Hastings
Uncertain Times Call for Greater Trust
Let’s face it; we live in uncertain times. We often don’t know what will happen next. As good as we create plans and strategies, pandemics, new government mandates, and cultural changes (desire to work from home instead of an office; deciding to quit working) can blow them up in a short time.
One of a leader’s most critical responsibilities during uncertainty is to be sure they are creating trust. Workplaces, in-office or mobile, rely on trust. Not much gets accomplished if the team doesn’t trust their leader or the leader doesn’t trust the team. Professor Paul Zak wrote:
“Compared with People at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13 percent fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their live, 40% less Burnout.” Paul J. Zak, “The Neuroscience of Trust,” Harvard Business Review, January-February 2017.
One is the Loneliest Number
The root word for “integrity” is “integer” – a whole, indivisible number. Leaders who focus on integrity choose to live a “whole” life.
Of course, they won’t do it perfectly, but a leader people trust strives to be whole and undivided despite normal and expected human frailties. They are “the real deal.”
William Pollard wrote in The Soul of the Firm,
“We must be people of integrity seeking to do that which is right even when no one is looking.”C. William Pollard, The Soul of the Firm, (New York, HarperBusiness, © 1996), p. 66
Barriers to Integrity
Becoming a “whole” leader of integrity is easier contemplated than accomplished. Before exploring the attitudes and actions that build a life of integrity, let’s examine several stumbling blocks that are not easily seen or surmounted on the journey.
When fear paralyzes leaders, they lose perspective and often make decisions or act in ways that do not support integrity. Fear also causes leaders to lose vision and hope. They vacillate, lose heart, and give up. A life of integrity sinks below their radar. People expect leaders to deliver results, but they lose their sense of direction, heart, and vision when fear binds them.
The compromising of values usually happens gradually and over time. A little lie or indiscretion adds to another until, almost imperceptibly, integrity and character erode. Finally, at some point, our integrity is overwhelmed. It is challenging to build trust when people don’t know where you stand or if you’ll remain committed to your values and mission.
The word hupokrisis was used in classical Greek as part of theatrical acting. It came to mean acting a part. In this sense, the great actors are hypocrites—they assume a role and act out a part. Their acting roles are separate from their real lives.
In leadership, integrity is about actions matching beliefs. Do leaders “act” the part, or are they genuine? Does their walk match their talk? Like fear and compromise, hypocrisy can destroy integrity and render leaders trustless.
A Life of Integrity
Living a “whole” life means consistently doing things that align with your values and vision. It means standing firm on challenging issues and making difficult choices. In a word, integrity. Here are some ways to reach that “whole life” goal and become a trusted leader.
Bold acts come from a person having unshakable assurance. That assurance comes from knowing the principles that guide your life and knowing they are principles that will instill integrity.
It is essential to know the values and principles that drive your behavior. Only then will you have the confidence to act boldly despite peer pressures or prevailing opinions.
Leaders who want a “whole life” seek to act boldly when faced with compromising decisions and actions. They have no fear because they fall back to their values and a deep need to have a life of integrity and trust.
Exhibit an Inspiring Attitude
Another path to integrity as a whole life existence is approaching all you do with a joyful, positive, uplifting mindset. Pursuit of integrity requires what is best and noble in your character. You can’t afford the defeating, polluting influence of a negative outlook.
Understandably it is hard to have a positive perspective when your character doubts weigh you down. There’s a problem when we’re one person in the mirror and another to employees. We are torn instead of undivided. When our integrity is in question, it is difficult not to allow personal doubt to overshadow our attitude and performance. Be careful. Stay focused on the positive and on the vision and values that scream integrity.
In the organizational setting trustworthiness is based on both character—what you are—and competence—how well you do what you do. It is quite possible to have one quality and not the other. If your team has confidence in your competence but not your character, they may like you but not trust you.
Building trust takes time. You can trust others and create trust for yourself when certain qualities are present, but you also need to remember that years of baggage associated with you, your leadership style, and how you do things can get in the way. Therefore, patience and understanding become necessary allies as you sort through your life and seek to gain trust from others.
Integrity, and the trust it births, is a leader’s most valuable asset, to be guarded at all costs. Without it, it is difficult to build an organization successfully—or a life. Trust me.
Wayne Hastings is the president of The Wayne Hastings Company. Wayne works directly with publishing and retail clients in the areas of leadership, product development, marketing and retailing effectiveness. His post was inspired by his book, Trust Me: developing a leadership style others will follow.
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