Awhile back I was coaching a leader who was trying too hard. He overcompensated and began to rub his colleagues wrong. He would try too hard to come across as confident and bold in team meetings and with the teachers he evaluated. The result was lost influence with his team, mistrust with the teachers he evaluated, and a loss of confidence for him. What was the foundation of his dysfunctional behavior?
As we dug in, it became clear that he behaved the way he did because he was afraid that people wouldn't see him as equal to the task, as good enough to be in the position he was in. And why was he afraid? Because he didn't trust that his teammates and teachers would respect him if he was simply himself.
Did you catch it? It was a trust thing.
Why don't people speak up? Or delegate? Or engage in healthy conflict? Or work together as a team?
The greatest investment you can make as a leader is to develop a tremendous amount of trust as quickly as possible.
Contrary to what most people believe, trust isn't only built over time and by getting results. This certainly helps. But trust can come from showing vulnerability, truly understanding one another, and investing in human relationships.
Not sure where to start? Start by getting clear about who you are -- your strengths and weaknesses -- and then share that with the people you lead. In particular, watch their faces as you own your weaknesses with humility and courage. Then invite them to do the same.
Next, take time to really understand each person's motivations and values. Why do they do what they do? What is their background? What drives them to work every day?
Last, invest significant time one-on-one over the next 6 months in getting to know your team as people. As humans.
Trust can't be built overnight, but it also doesn't take a decade. Investing in trust now will pay huge dividends over the long term.