In The 10 Laws of Trust, JetBlue Chairman and Stanford Professor Joel Peterson begins by reminding us that “when it comes to building great companies, a leader’s job isn’t to make it to the top of the mountain alone. Instead, the task is to help others reach peaks they want to climb but might not be able to without the help of the leader.” That leaves no room for distrust.
“Trust is a leap of faith rooted in optimism.” It means giving away some control.
Trust levels differ from organization to organization. While trust levels are not fixed, ‘what tends to motivate people within any organization tells you what level of trust you might realistically hope for.” So low-trust organizations rely on fear and high-trust organizations are motivated by duty and love.
The goal of a leader is to move their organization to the high-trust duty and love end of the spectrum.
Peterson offers 10 steps how to establish and maintain a culture of trust:
1. Start with personal integrity.
Doing what you say you will do. Promise less and do more. On and off the job. “Even if you’re not where you want to be, team members who see leaders working on shortcomings will tend to trust them, and enterprise-wide trust will grow.”
2. Invest in respect.
Respect is how trust is expressed. Listening well signals respect in others. “Honoring those who aren’t present is an ideal way to show respect for those who are.”
3. Empower others.
Trust is a choice. “Mistrustful organizations are preoccupied with keeping people from doing their worst, while high-trust organizations focus on empowering people to do their best.” People will make mistakes but accepting that fact comes with the decision to trust. After sharing a personal story from his childhood, Peterson said, “Being trusted after having failed was indelibly empowering.” That’s when it matters most.
4. Measure what you want to achieve.
What am I being trusted to do? “Trust comes with a scoreboard, with clarity around how results will be measured.”
5. Create a common dream.
Your mission statement should express unique ways people can be respected members of a winning team doing something meaningful. “When people can rally around a common goal, reaching for a summit that’s consistent with their values, they’ll sacrifice together, life each others’ burdens, and do their utmost not to let each other down.”
6. Keep everyone informed.
In low-trust cultures, communication is lacking. You are always communicating so be intentional. “Leaders should avoid the trust-destroying silence, secrecy, and doublespeak so damaging to organizations.”
7. Embrace respectful conflict.
Conflict is always with us. What separates low-trust from high-trust is how we deal with it. Create an environment where the best ideas win not the best presenters. Run toward the fire. “When you chose to ignore or run away from bad news, you’re only doing a disservice to yourself, your colleagues, and your family—and you’re violating their trust in you.”
8. Show humility.
“To be effective, high-trust leaders must see themselves as both vital and dispensable….If you want to be a high-trust leader, you’ve got to be in the center—without being the center.”
9. Strive for win-win negotiations.
Think long-term. It’s an ongoing conversation that either builds or diminishes your reputation. “You’re not obligated to make sure those on the other side get a great deal, but you do want them to walk away feeling respected.”
10. Proceed with care.
People do betray our trust. “But if one grants trust only after carefully evaluating Character, Competence, and Authority, betrayal is less likely.”
Building or rebuilding a high-trust culture is a “patient, one-person-at-a-time, conversation-by-conversation process.” And forgive.