I was asked a very important question today during a presentation to a group of senior finance executives from a wide array of Fortune 500 companies. One person asked, "How does a leader build trust? What are the most important and effective ways to do so?" I offered three suggestions.
1. Acknowledge your own mistakes. Be transparent about those situations in which you stumbled, and talk about how you learned from those incidents. They will come to trust you and be willing to come forward to talk about their concerns and failures if you acknowledge ways in which you struggled during your career.
2. Avoid engaging in the charade of consultation (a phrase coined by my friend and best-selling author Michael Watkins). In other words, if you have already made up your mind about a decision, don't engage the team in a lengthy analysis and dialogue, all the while steering them to your preordained decision. You're wasting their time and insulting their intelligence. They recognize that the decision has already been made, and their trust in you will erode if you engage in this charade.
3. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, "“People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." In other words, they won't trust you simply because of your competence. You have to show them that you care about them as individuals. If they believe that, then they will trust and follow you.