#1 Honesty - Tell the truth and nothing but the truth. Honesty is negated in lies, exaggerations, partial truth, deception, and cover up. Shaping a story with partial truth to protect yourself or to mislead others eventually backfires at inopportune times. Leaders can choose to withhold part of the truth because they do not trust followers with the whole story. If something less than total honesty is descriptive of your company then you may not have the right people leading or following. When team members can count on words to be accurate and complete they will be engaged followers even if they are not in full agreement with the final decisions.
#2 Commitments - Future promises can be made in order to get what is needed at the moment. Breaking those commitments in the future contributes to the deterioration of trust. Before making a promise be certain it can be fulfilled. Sometimes the fulfillment needs to be re-negotiated but never forgotten. The "promisor" needs to initiate the reminders not the "promisee." Set a completion date. Write it down. Remind the person to whom the promise was made. Take the lead and initiative in planning for the fulfillment of each promise. If you know a commitment cannot be kept then don't offer it as a bargaining chip. Negotiate the need without a pledge, vow, oath, or guarantee of what will be given in exchange. People trust leaders who always follow through with their side of an agreement.
#3 Transparency- If leaders work with a hidden agenda, a predetermined conclusion, or decisions orchestrated behind closed doors, then trust is a fleeting ideal. In making decisions, leaders become deceptive when they manufacture the appearance that everyone has an equal voice. When not really true trust erodes even further. Decisions can be made in various ways: Leaders decide. Consensus decides. Majority decides. Decisions are delegated to the end user.
If a leader needs to make a final decision, then own it, explain why, make the decision, and take responsibility for the outcomes. In any of these approaches to deciding put all the information on the table allowing any questions to be asked. People who know the ground rules and the facts involved can accept final decisions even if they did not have ownership or influence in the process.
#4 Clarity - Leaders who communicate clearly avoid spin, confusing answers, and long explanations. Less verbiage allows time for more questions to clarify what is not yet understood. It accelerates the trusting process. When team members are reading between the lines and see the loopholes in carefully crafted rhetoric that is open to interpretation, they are already on the slippery slope of mistrust. Clarity speaks truth very simply. Clarity is enhanced by using word pictures, examples, stories, and visuals to unpack the complexity of big ideas. Clarity is the hard work of leadership communication. It is always easier to ramble for 30 minutes than to get to the point in five. Leading communicators write out the main point (only one), and then look for creative ways to reinforce what it means with brevity.
#5 Consistency – Trust is reinforced when every audience, stakeholder, and team member hears the same message. With six degrees of relational separation, followers have all the avenues of social communication to find out who heard what. Inconsistency breeds distrust. It's all about reputation. When the leader's public self matches the private self there is no hypocrisy. Hypocrites are literally play actors who pretend to be someone they are not. Those with an exemplary reputation are trusted regardless of what opponents may try to portray.
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