Ten Skills to Lead with Trust

I recently shared my point of view on The (R)evolution of Trust-based Leadership. In that post I concluded that new leadership requires versatility and depends more on influence and collaboration than hierarchical authority and procedures. And that requires trust.

Leadership is complex. Successful leaders master a range of functions, from finance and operations to strategic planning and negotiation. But, as with so many things in business, technical competency is necessary but insufficient for real leadership.

Here are ten trust skills and attitudes leaders (and aspiring leaders) should consider putting into practice to round out their leadership skills.

Trust-based Leadership: Top Ten

  1. Don’t Fake It. The best way to be trusted—by far–is simply to be trustworthy. Be authentic, accountable, honest, and transparent. Good PR comes from publicizing good things, not from hiding or putting a spin on the not-so-good things. So don’t put your marketing, PR, or communications in charge of trust; you are in charge of trust, 24×7, by your own thoughts and actions.
  2. Your Ego is Not Your Amigo. Being driven can be OK. So too can being impatient, customer-obsessed, product-obsessed, design-obsessed, or people-obsessed. What cannot be OK is being obsessed with yourself. It is Not About You. If you always think it is “About You,” you might be a bad leader.
  3. Collaborate, Don’t Compete. No one is the enemy. Not your customer, not your supply chain, your employees, the union, not even your competitors. If you are always competing against others, you’re turning business – and life – into a zero-sum game. If you are focused on gaining advantage over others, you are making yourself the center of things (See #2 above). Let others obsess with competing. You be the one to go think about what you can do for [customers, employees, your supply chain, even your competitor]. She who adds the most value lives best. And longest, at least in terms of client loyalty.
  4. Leading is Emotional. Think of the great leaders in your life. Not who other people tell you are great leaders, but the ones you most want to follow, to emulate. Now ask yourself: are they passionate? My guess is they are, and that their moments of passion are the source of much of their influence. Leaders lead, which means others follow them, and emotional passion is a big driver. A lot of people work for people who don’t show their emotions. Very few people follow them.
  5. Act with Real Integrity. Integrity in the sense of being whole and undivided. You can’t be all things to all people. The more you try, the less whole you are, and the less integrity you appear to have. What you can do is to be the same person, at all times, to all people. That makes you whole, entire, integral—one who has integrity. A leader is committed to being, and unafraid to show, his whole self.
  6. Be Transparent. Transparency is a form of honesty. Hiding information – or sharing only partial information – is not being truthful. Withholding information (except where injurious or illegal) leads to doubt and mistrust. If I can see what’s going on, I know that I am not being misled. Motives become clear. Credibility is affirmed.
  7. Be in It for the Long Run. You can’t be transactional and be trusted. Transactions can only be trusted in packages. Time is the key. Never cut a deal with someone: cut the 27th deal in a series of 132 deals you intend to cut with them. That way you build a relationship—reliability, connection, mutual obligations, and the business vocabulary to express them. A leader is always thinking and acting in the long term.
  8. It’s Personal. The line from the movie The Godfather, “It’s not personal; it’s business,” was precisely wrong. It is both. Business is transacted between people. Companies aren’t trusted; people are (don’t confuse reputation with trust). Trust can be engineered; but at the end of the day, all trust is experienced as personal.
  9. Trust is Relationship. Robinson Crusoe didn’t need trust (before Friday, anyway). Trust is like ballroom dancing—you need two to tango. One trusts, the other is trustworthy. Either act by itself isn’t even the sound of one hand clapping: there is no trust without both parties in relationship. A leader knows how to play both roles; by trusting, he becomes trusted. By being trustworthy, he invites trust.
  10. There is no Trust without Risk. Ronald Reagan’s ‘trust but verify’ was good politics, but bad trust. Verification is the absence of trust. Trust mitigates risk, and – more importantly – taking risk can create greater opportunity for trust. Trust is risk freely taken, for the greater advantage of both parties. A leader knows that, sometimes, she’s just gotta take a leap.

For decades, it seems, we took for granted that good leaders shared some unidentified quality that made them good leaders. The truth of it is, the best leaders are self-aware, self-actualizing, and work hard to develop all the qualities that make a good leader.

Focus on trust and free yourself to be a real leader — passionate, decisive and courageous.

The (R)evolution of Trust-based Leadership

It’s been (gulp) more than 20 years since I got my MBA.

At the time, just before the turn of this century, Gordon Gekko’s fictional speech in the movie Wall Street that “Greed is Good” resonated. Icons like Jack Welch, Michael Eisner, Albert (“Chainsaw Al”) Dunlap, and Lou Gerstner were heralded for their ruthless commitment to corporate profitability. “Cash is king” was the watchword of the time, and “corporate value” usually meant the value of a company’s stock. Trust rarely came up as a topic.

Today, business schools commonly have courses, if not whole curricula, dedicated to the topic of leadership, with trust being a core element. An internet search for “trust in business” returned almost two billion results, and a search on the same phrase in Amazon Books returned over 8,000 results. To say trust-based leadership is a current topic is a gross understatement.

So what changed?

Trust Didn’t Change

The dynamics of trust are the same. Trust is personal: it occurs when one person takes the risk of trusting someone, and that person proves themselves trustworthy.

Our core models for trustworthiness and building trust – the Trust Equation, the ELFEC process, and the Trust Principles – have evolved, but the fundamentals, and the dynamics between trustor and trustee, are unchanged.

That’s hardly surprising. Trust is a fundamental human relationship that’s been around since well before the written word.

The World Changed

Back then, cellular phones were still a rarity, and the internet was only just catching on. Google was a brand-new company, Bluetooth and HDTV were just barely commercially available, and Mark Zuckerberg was in middle school. We got our information primarily from print newspapers and on-air newscasts.

Technology, and the easy access to information it provided, catapulted us into the 21st century. The internet changed the way we do almost everything. Smart phones are ubiquitous, and news of events is practically instantaneous. Climate change went from a political debate to a grim reality, and social issues are in the spotlight.

In particular, the business world is now:

  • Flatter – more horizontally linked, less vertically integrated
  • More inter-connected – global teams and globally-available resources
  • More technological – IOT, AI, machine learning, smart devices
  • More collaborative ­– ecosystems, innovation networks, supply chain integration
  • More transparent – social media, business intelligence, digital everything
  • More networked – a competitor in one deal is a partner in another
  • More values-based – social responsibility, sustainability, corporate culture

Leadership Changed

Old-school “leadership” was a one-size-fits-all approach to getting things done. Founded in command-and-control corporate models, it dictated that the role of the leader was to set corporate direction, which relegated everyone else to carrying out orders. This approach emphasized the mentality that leadership is done the same way, all the time, and by only a very few people.

Today, just as everyone is a salesperson and everyone is in customer service – so too everyone is a leader.

That’s not corporate double-speak; it has meaning. Dictating execution of strategy from the top down worked in an industrialized economy, but the flatter organizations of today distribute the responsibility of executing strategy throughout the organization.

In this new environment, leadership also is about more than just strategy execution. Gallup’s latest State of the American Workplace Report finds that “employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers.”

The role of leading is no longer reserved exclusively for those at the top of the organization chart.

The leadership skills of today are persuasion, influence, collaboration, the ability to create alliances, to join forces, to create environments that encourage collaboration, the ability to play nicely together in the sandbox, to forge agreements, and to play long-term win-win rather than screw-your-customer to jack up the quarterly numbers.

Leadership Skills are Trust Skills

Those skills are trust skills. We don’t need fierce competitors; we need fierce collaborators. We don’t need to ‘win one for the Gipper;’ we need to win one for all of us. We don’t need vertical skills; we need horizontal skills.

Certain leadership skills are constant: the ability to inspire, to create and articulate visions and stories, for example. But others have been replaced. Being good at vicious infighting to gain the top job is – on balance, in most companies – a lot more dysfunctional these days than valuable. Making “tough decisions” isn’t the virtue it used to be; sometimes it just reflects a failure of imagination.

Today organizations are less about being led and more about cultures that foster leadership throughout. Such cultures are driven by what we call Virtues and Values.

New leadership requires versatility and depends more on influence and collaboration than hierarchical authority and procedures. And that requires trust.

Are you ready to be a trust-based leader?

Feeling Caught in the Middle? Lead with Trust

Countless studies and articles show that trust and high performing teams are interlinked. One such study by The Great Place to Work Institute shows that high-trust organizations beat the average annualized returns of the S&P 500 by a factor of three.

Even though it’s clear that fostering a high-trust team environment is the right strategy for improved morale, collaboration, innovation, AND financials, why do so many leaders struggle?

Leaders have many dynamics to navigate: direct reports, leadership teams, organizational metrics as well as their own personal goals. Matrix organizations can make things even more complicated. Add the stress of managing through the current pandemic, global events and world economic challenges, and it’s easy to see how leaders might feel caught in the middle.

Most leaders want to do right by their teams by creating a positive, flourishing environment. But when the stress is high, how we behave doesn’t always align with how we want to be seen as leaders.

The Trust Equation shows us how our actions and behaviours can increase (or decrease) the level of trust in our relationships. It also provides a simple framework to help leaders walk their talk and build trust with their teams.

  • Credibility is much more than the number of degrees hanging on a wall or awards sitting on a desk. As a leader, credibility becomes less about your technical capabilities and more about how you communicate. What message are you sending and to whom? Are you clear about your purpose and expectations?  Do you communicate intentionally and with full transparency so no one on the team feels “out of the loop”? Credibility is about communicating with honesty and integrity, even when the messages are hard, or you don’t have all the answers.
  • Reliability means being dependable and predictable; it’s how you show up to people day in and day out. If you’re friendly and at ease one day and a tyrant the next, your team will end up walking on eggshells, not really sure which version of you they might encounter. As a leader, your actions (and equally your lack of action) have impact.  Do your actions support and empower your team? How consistent is what you say with what you do? Your team members will take their cue from you—what messages do your actions send?
  • Intimacy is all about safety. It is created through empathy, discretion, and personal risk-taking. It must be built individually with team members and encourages among the team as a whole. How vulnerable and open are you with your team? Do you encourage others to share their thoughts and emotions, and are you open to hearing what they might say? How do you encourage discussion and healthy conflict? What happens when someone on the team makes a mistake? Your reactions as a leader will set the tone for the entire team.
  • Self-Orientation shows your team where your focus is and what motivates you. How are you showing your commitment and attention to your team and your joint goals, versus your own personal agenda?  Spotting a leader who only manages up is easy.  Less obvious is a leader who is doubtful, stressed or unsure – all triggers of high self-orientation.  When our “S” is high, we know we need to focus on the long term and think strategically, but we may find ourselves diving deep, nit-picking and second guessing team members.  Creating a high-trust environment requires trusting the team to do their work, even if they do the work differently than you. Build collaboration and trust by focusing on the big picture, seeking to understand others and elevating the contributions of the team.

Building a team with trust takes mindful practice, especially when you feel caught in the middle of competing pressures and priorities. The best leaders dedicate themselves to creating a culture where their people feel heard, respected, safe and appreciated. Frame your leadership around the Trust Equation and watch your culture flourish, even in the most stressful times.

For more on this topic, check out our eBook How To Create a Culture of Trust and watch my free webinar Caught in the Middle – Leading with Trust in Times of Stress.

When Leaders Act Like Managers

We’re all panicked. Agitated. There’s world-wide upheaval. No one knows what the future holds. For many of us, our so-called stress behaviours can start to become the norm.  If we’re honest, we’ve all probably found ourselves acting more like a manager than a leader at some point.

As our stress rises, it becomes harder to make sure what we say aligns with what we actually do. Sometimes the shift might be subtle—a sudden increase in the amount of data and frequency of reporting perhaps. Or it can be flagrant—we tell our teams to be sure to keep a healthy work/life balance…but then ask them to work the weekend so we can meet our deadline.  Over time, the inconsistency between words and actions, the second guessing and the micro-management can start to erode their trust in us as leaders.

If this sounds like a familiar problem, consider empathy as your antidote.

One-on-One Empathy

Imagine a conversation where a leader shows empathy for how an employee might be feeling: “At the risk of overstepping my boundaries, it occurred to me that I have no idea what your world is like right now. And I’m sure all these new processes to make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to are not easy on you. How do you feel about it, and are you getting what you need from me to help support you?”

An honest conversation goes a long way. The leader is taking a small risk by having a conversation that is out of the norm, which allows the employee to take a small risk in return by answering with honesty (if they choose to do so). Regardless of the employee’s answer, you’ve created a safe place for open feedback and a foundation of trust is being built.

Empathy in a Team Setting

Now let’s shift our perspective to the team. Consider the scenario where a team member has to share some challenging news: “You remember that assumption we made about (insert your favorite COVID assumption here) …we were wrong and now we’ve got a 6-week delay.” Responding in the moment with second-guessing, laying blame and micro-managing might help you feel better, but as a leader, it can actually diminish the sense of safety, discretion and trust within the team.

Consider a more empathetic and supportive approach.  Turn the conversation around: “I know that’s a hard one for the team, but we made the best decision we could at the time.  What do you want to do now and what support do you need from me?”  Being supportive and non-judgmental allows the team to communicate openly with full honesty and transparency.

 

Leading a team can be challenging, especially now.  As a leader, your actions speak louder than words and it’s important to be mindful of the messages your actions are sending.  If you think about your recent interactions with your team, as a group and one-on-one, did your actions send the message you wanted?  What might you do differently to make sure your team is hearing the message you’re trying to send?

Read more from Lisa McArthur on Trust & Leadership and/or join us on April 13 for our free webinar, Caught in the Middle – Leading with Trust in Times of Stress.

Selling Trust into the Sales Process (Episode 40) Trust Matters,The Podcast

Welcome to the newest episode of Trust Matters, The Podcast. Listeners submit their personal questions about professional relationships, trust, and business situations to our in-house expert Charles H. Green, CEO, Trusted Advisor Associates, and co-author of The Trusted Advisor.

Jennifer from a Telecommunications company writes in and asks, “I know you’ve written about Trust-based Selling. My question is not to ask you to explain Trust-based Selling, but instead how to SELL the Trust-based Selling approach into my sales training team?  What’s the hook? The business case? How can I get them to consider it seriously?”

Do you want to send your questions to Charlie & Trust Matters, The Podcast?

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues. Email us: podcast@trustedadvisor.com

Building Trust In A Crisis



Pandemic. Covid-19. Unprecedented. New normal…

… You can write the rest of this paragraph yourself – things have changed. Is there anything left to be written about it all?

Yes there is. It’s about trust. In particular – how do you manage interpersonal trust in professional relationships?  How have trust dynamics changed in working with and selling to clients? What about trust in management and leadership?

For over 20 years, Trusted Advisor Associates has helped professionals deepen trust with clients and colleagues. We built this page to share our most-relevant thinking on navigating trust in professional relationships during the current crisis.

Click on Areas of focus:



Emotional Components of Trust

In normal times, the emotional aspects of trustworthiness (Intimacy and Self orientation) are slightly more powerful than the non-emotional traits (Credibility & Reliability) See The Trust Equation to learn more.

Now, the importance of those emotional components is multiples more – since the overwhelming response to a crisis like this is an emotional one. Broadly speaking, we need to manage our Self-orientation and increase our Intimacy.

Self orientation

Your self-orientation is likely to be high right now, whether you realize it or not. On the other hand – so is everyone else’s.

We recognize – and will remember – those who are able to genuinely reach out beyond their own psyches and connect with others in such times.

Grant yourself the grace to realize that things are different . Recognize and acknowledge what you are experiencing, and manage your Self-orientation moving forward.

Resources

Intimacy & Empathy

Everyone deals with stress in their own way. You are unique – and so is everyone else.

Remember the acronym, N.A.P.A.L.M.: Not All People Are Like Me. Others’ experiences are likely to be different from yours, even if their circumstances appear to be similar.

In times of stress, empathy is rare: at the same time, it’s vastly more valuable.  The ability to truly understand (while not necessarily agreeing with) the other person’s situation creates emotional safety, or Intimacy, for the other person. And Intimacy was already the most important factor in the Trust Equation.

Resources



Virtual Communication & Leadership

The hallmark of the COVID-19 crisis is that it requires physical distancing. It raises to the forefront the question: How do you create trust at a distance? Those who figure that out now will be appreciated, effective, and successful going forward.

Resources

Above All Else…

Trust is personal. Organizations don’t build trust, people do.

Let us know what you’re experiencing, and how we can help the people in your organization build trust in these times of change. Please reach out. We look forward to the conversation.

Podcast Interview: The Importance of Trust in Remote Leadership

Richard Hsu, Director of the Partner Practice Group, interviews Charles H. Green, on the HSU Untied Podcast, for a deep dive discussion into how leaders can refine their trust and communication skills in this new, virtual business world.

Learn how to connect with and read your team better, virtually. Understand how Intimacy and Self orientation are more important than ever.

Applying Metrics to Immeasurable Services (Episode 39) Trust Matters,The Podcast

Welcome to the newest episode of Trust Matters, The Podcast. Listeners submit their personal questions about professional relationships, trust, and business situations to our in-house expert Charles H. Green, CEO, Trusted Advisor Associates and co-author of The Trusted Advisor.

A solo consultant writes in with this dilemma: “My core services are on the ‘softer’ side  – I help clients develop better internal interactions by focusing on the corporate environment and culture. The problem that arises in my area of work is, how do you demonstrate concrete, quantitative results?  I’m being asked questions by clients such as, “How do you know it’s working?” and “Can you project how this program will drive revenue?” I’m realizing I don’t have great answers. Any thoughts?”

Do you want to send your questions to Charlie & Trust Matters, The Podcast?

We’ll answer almost ANY question about confusing, complicated or awkward business situations with clients, management, and colleagues. Email us: podcast@trustedadvisor.com

Trust in a Coffee Cup – The Intimate Actuary

I’ve often wondered: is our real workplace office the coffee shop?

Many years ago, when I started work as a management consultant, the smoking area was the place where information was exchanged, relationships forged, and informal deals brokered. There’s an informality when people congregate without agendas; barriers are dropped, titles mean less, and deeper social connections get forged.

Is this ‘informality’ the key to the Trust Equation’s key component of Intimacy?

Coffee Shop Intimacy

Being a Brit, we often think they’re the same thing. The beers after work and the ‘Cheeky Nandos’ (see here for our befuddled American friends) is our default to creating intimacy; but perhaps we should think a bit more deeply.

Intimacy as a component of trustworthiness is actually more about security and a sense of empathy, a less boisterous and socially connected emotion. It’s individual and personal, and is expressed differently from person to person. One size definitely doesn’t fit all.

I learnt this the hard way over a series of weeks working in a large financial services client. My personal default style is always openness and candid sharing of the personal (full disclosure: I’m Irish). I’m always looking for that connection. So – what happens when that openness meets The Actuary?

Actuarial Intimacy

I’m not suggesting by any means that actuaries are not able to display intimacy, but by the very nature of their work they are not emotional risk takers. Instead, they must be able to be analytical and reflective. The profession tends to attract those who feel simpatico with those requirements.  Social settings are rarely the default home of The Actuary. And yet – for them, as for all of us, Intimacy is still key to trust.

Throughout the weeks we worked together my daily routine began with a visit to the inhouse Starbucks; and every day (maybe 2-3 times a day) I’d offer to buy a coffee for my actuarial friend and client. And (of course) every day he would decline, much to my frustration. I wanted nothing more than to sit down with him and understand what his passions were, his family situation – who he was as a person.

We worked together closely, and made great progress, but for me it was like wading through cement – no conversation, no social interaction. It was killing me. Worse still, I had no idea if I was even making an impact with the work. His only foray into ‘real’ communication was to starkly tell me one afternoon, after my third coffee of the day, “You spend on average £7 a day on coffee; that’s close to £2,000 a year.” (I suspect he even worked out my life expectancy on the back of that).

Yet I couldn’t have been more wrong. In hindsight, this was his conversation starter, though it took me until the project was finished to recognize it as such. We delivered on time and with (to my mind) a great result. His expressed view was that we had delivered what was expected.

On our final day working together, before I left for a new client, I was sitting with colleagues both client and peers. We were engaging in what we knew best, that snappy ‘cheeky Nandos’ social interaction, and of course I was comfortable again – back to normal.

Just before lunch my actuarial friend paid me a visit. And, he came with a gift – a very risky gift for him, a branded insulated coffee-mug. Initially I thought, “Yes! I’ve converted him, he’s a social coffee drinker now.” But again, I had misread him.

He looked me in the eye and said to me, “Johnny, I’ve really enjoyed working with you. I’ve brought you something to say thank-you for making this a success for me, and for my team.”

Suddenly I was the one without words. I defaulted to my informal social style, we exchanged some trivial social niceties, and we said our farewells.

You Can’t Buy Intimacy

It took me months to realize that for him intimacy wasn’t about being social. It wasn’t bonhomie or office banter. In fact, it was much deeper than that. For him it was about me understanding him, including what was important to him and how he felt about it. That then translated to what needed to be done, by when and with what outcome.

Success wasn’t beers and back slaps: it was me realizing how important it was to him that the job be done well, and him being comfortable that I had understood that about him.

We had created intimacy and we had built trust – slowly and painfully for me, measured and appropriately for him. Ultimately, he felt safe knowing that we would get where we were headed, together, and that he could trust me to share that commitment.

I still see him in the airport lounge on my regular commutes between Edinburgh and London, and every six months or so he’ll introduce me to a colleague. He’s always polite, measured and professional. As for me, well, I always have a coffee in my hand.

But we both know.

An Old Standby for a New Normal

To say there is no shortage of COVID-19-related “best advice” out there is an understatement. Which means one thing that’s in short supply is focus. This post aims to help fill that void as we manage our new normal while also tending to our relationships, both personal and at work.

Enter The Trust Equation—a time- and recession-tested framework for personal trustworthiness (from The Trusted Advisor, by Maister, Green and Galford).

Source: The Trusted Advisor by Maister, Green, and Galford, The Free Press, 2000

Here are a few pandemic-sensitive tips on what to pay attention to, in order of priority.

Self-orientation (S). The biggest trust de-railer for us all right now is also the biggest driver of high self-orientation: fear. When it comes to trust triage in a crisis, this factor deserves the bulk of our attention.

Low self-orientation, which is what we should strive for, equates to a focus on others by (1) putting our attention on them, and (2) making choices that are motivated by their best interests, not ours. Consider it icing on the cake if there’s mutual benefit to be found.

Pandemic-induced fear can trigger our basest instincts: we default to protecting ourselves, obsess about stuff, avoid relationship risks (or any risks, for that matter), and more. Yet true trusted advisorship demands that we find ways to lead from our higher selves instead.

Here’s a starter list of simple strategies for keeping our self-orientation as low as possible:

  • Reach out to people—clients and beyond—for one simple reason – to inquire how they are. Period.
  • Make generous offers. What’s something concrete that you can give away that would be helpful right now? Think in terms of ideas, resources, even work. Bring value at a time when it’s sorely needed because you can, and because you want to make a difference. No strings attached. No. Strings. Attached.
  • Get and stay grounded. If ever there were a time to stay centered, to keep stress levels as low as possible, and to maintain perspective, that time is now. Too many professionals were already wrung out before the you-know-what hit the global fan. Whatever helps you be your best, do it and do it regularly: exercise, meditation, music, dancing, reading, cooking, art, any form of play, a gratitude practice … the possibilities may not be endless right now, but they are numerous.

Things to avoid include anything that might smack of ambulance-chasing from where they sit (even if your intentions are noble), and conversations that focus only on the task at hand. It’s fine, even good, to channel our energy into productive work right now, but not at the expense of leading with genuine caring about the people in our lives.

Intimacy (I). Intimacy equates to safety, and there are many ways to achieve it in relationships. The first two S-lowering strategies above are really two-fers as they not only demonstrate caring, but also increase intimacy by building rapport and connectedness. Here are two additional tools:

  • Listen masterfully. Treat every conversation you have right now as an opportunity to hone your empathetic listening skills. It just may be the simplest and most powerful route to building intimacy quickly.
  • Let others get to know you. Our current circumstances are a forcing function when it comes to revealing our humanity. Who hasn’t been video-bombed by a small child or a needy pet in the past week? Even journalists broadcasting live from home are making news in unexpected ways. Embrace the opportunities to give others a little insight into your life. You might be surprised at how readily and voluntarily they reciprocate.

Reliability (R). The extent to which your actions are consistent and predictable determines how reliable others deem you to be. I’d normally call this trustworthiness dimension a distant third. Absent a crisis, reliability is table stakes, and generally far too heavily relied upon by services professionals at the expense of other variables. In a pandemic, though, its relative importance increases because of our basic human need for certainty. And while none of us holds the power to answer big questions such as, “When will we be able to go to a live concert again?” we can do things like:

  • Make small promises, then routinely follow through. And when plans get derailed, that’s OK, just get in touch immediately to reset expectations.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.Meetings and touch-points that occur at a regular cadence provide a sense of stability, even if you don’t have new information to share.

Credibility (C). Credibility is fundamentally about words: what you say, and how you say it. Knowing stuff might be helpful to others right now, but unless you’re Tony Fauci it’s not likely to set you apart. Zero in on being honest about your limitations and errorsinstead. For example, be willing to say, “I screwed up in how I handled that,” or “I don’t know”—straightforwardly and with a blend of ego strength and humility.

It’s my first pandemic, and there’s a lot I don’t know right now. One thing I do know is that the trust equation is a simple and profound framework that offers guidance in the best of times and the worst of times.

May we all use it well.