by Dr. Andy Zawacki
Organizations thrive when an atmosphere of trust is established in the workplace. In these environments, followers trust leaders and leaders trust followers. This reciprocal relationship is initiated by the wise leader who understands what it takes to build lasting trust in the organization.
The following T-R-U-S-T acronym will help explain what is required to build trust in your organization.
Time--Trust requires an investment of time. Both leaders and followers must view the relationship as an investment. It is over time that people learn the values that others hold.
Trust is strengthened when, through the course of difficult circumstances, an individual exemplifies the same character they practice when things are going well. Integrity is the linchpin on which trust will be established. Time is the tool individuals need to decide if an individual can be trusted.
Exactly how a leader behaves when times are tough will determine how trustworthy he is in his followers’ minds.
Relationship—Every time an individual begins a new job, she would love to begin with maximum trust from both superiors and subordinates. This just isn’t the case, even in the best circumstances.
Past experiences cloud our view of the person or position. Though we try to provide a clean slate for the new individual, it is very difficult to let go of our past experiences and mental models of what previously happened in our lives. This is why is it important for the individual in a new position to build an effective relationship with superiors and subordinates as quickly as possible.
Building such relationships requires communication, the sharing of values, being appropriately vulnerable, and caring for the needs of others. The only way that trust is to be established in the organization is for followers to trust their leaders. This only happens when there is a strong relationship between them.
Understanding--Proverbs 4:7 instructs us, “Though it cost you all you have, get understanding.” God wants us to be students of Him, to gain wisdom and understanding of His ways, His views, His minds, His heart. When we understand His way, we can lean not on our own understanding and trust him (Proverbs 3:5-6).
As Christian leadership, we are called to seek to understand not only the processes and policies of the organizations we lead, but more importantly, the people that God has given us to shepherd. Understanding why an individual responds the way that he does in a circumstance is a relational tool to build incredible trust. The leader-follower dynamic is strengthened when the motivations and heart of each are mutually understood.
Sensitivity—Jesus provides multiple examples of sensitivity in dealing with people. Consider the story of the man born blind as recorded in John 9. There was much debate as to who had sinned that this man might be born blind. Jesus, having compassion on the beggar, cut through the pointless discussion of needless blame. That blind man must have heard the hurtful accusations of the people. Being sensitive to the man’s needs, Jesus healed the man and correcting the crowd of their distorted perspective.
Jesus exemplified empathy for those he influenced. He had the ability to sensitively relate to the situation that others found themselves in. Jesus felt what others felt, sensitively caring for those in his care. Leaders who practice empathy by being sensitive to others build trust with their followers. As followers also practice sensitivity with their leaders, the trust is reciprocally strengthened.
Tenacity—The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 6 instructs the believer to put on the full armor of God. He gives the instruction that we are do everything, to stand (vs. 13).
Outlasting the opposition simply by not quitting is a strategy that many believers have used to persevere through circumstances to ultimately get the victory. In context of building trust, tenacity means that both leaders and followers ask for forgiveness when mistakes are made, input and perspective can be mutually shared, and forgiveness and a willingness to keep at it is extended one to another.
Too often individuals quit when relational difficulties create stress. To establish a lasting trust, leaders and followers must be committed to the process. There will be difficulties to work through. Tenacity is a necessary component if long-lasting trust is to be built.
How do you build trust? Trust requires time, relationship, understanding, sensitivity, and tenacity. By strategically implementing these elements into your thinking as you relate to followers in your organization, the lasting impact can be an incredible trust that sets the groundwork for effectiveness.
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