Do Your People Trust You?

Why is establishing trust essential for a servant leader?


Dr. Henry Cloud asserts that all influence is built upon the foundation of trust. For you to have an influence that goes beyond yourself, the people you are leading must trust you. That trust is only built to the degree that the people you lead feel you are connected to them and truly understand them.

Watch the video to learn more from Dr. Henry Cloud about building trust to be a leader with influence. 

If you're going to have influence that goes past yourself, then it's pretty good to have some influence. Remember Steve Martin when he said, "How to get a million dollars and don't pay taxes. First get a million dollars. Then, don't pay taxes." So you've got to get some influence, but here is what I see over and over with leaders. Is that they are trying to get influence without building it upon the foundation that all influence is driven by, and that is the word trust. The word trust. For you to have an influence that goes past yourself, the people that you're leading must at a very systemic level, trust you.

What we know about from neuroscience about the brain and even all the way down into your guts, in your spinal-cord, that at the billionth of milliseconds people are scanning. Their brain is scanning all the time to find out if somebody is for them or against them, and worse than that leaders fall a lot of time in between. They're not showing that they're for somebody, they're not against them. They're just in that middle-ground of about the work and for themselves. I want to talk for a second about one of the main dynamics that will build trust, and that is this. You will build trust to the degree that the people that you lead feel like you are connected to them.

We know a lot about connection, but let me tell you what connection means in this sense. Is the connection that builds trust, which comes basically from one thing and that is the human heart above all else wants to be known and understood. So to begin with this question. Do your people know that you understand them and what they are trying to do, and how it all relates? Do they think that you know what it's like for them in what you are asking them to do?

I was working with a merger situation, not too many years ago with a healthcare company. Two companies had come together and they chose the CEO for the new entity, and it was that morning where they bring the new CEO in to talk to the new leadership. All the upper level leadership. So they've got this room full of people, the upper level leaders from the merged companies. He presents the vision and the strategy and I'm telling you, talk about influence. It was wowing. I was ready to go work for the guy.

The place was electric, because people had, had all these questions. He got up there and he made it so clear how they were going to win, and I thought this going to sail. Then he opens it up to questions, a woman raises her hand. Calls on her and she says, "Yeah. I lead a team of about 3,000 people, and we have a product line that's very similar to the other company's product line in this space. For the last three years we've thrown all of our efforts into this product line. I have moved families, I have uprooted lives. We've put all of our resource, and it's all about this. The other company has one too, and my people are just scared to death about what's going to happen to them."

He turns to her and he says, "It's not going to be a problem." He says, "The reason is..." He goes and explains to her why he understands that that's not going to be a problem, and he gives her his reality. That's great, he's probably right. But I'm a shrink, so I'm watching her and she's nodding but the lights are dimming in her eyes, and you can feel the energy leaving the room. Another man raises his hand, he says, "I'm the head of sales, and our sales force is always called on hospitals and doctors and clinics. This model is much more a third party payer and institutions. What are your thoughts about morphing the sales army over to the new model?" To which the new CEO says, "It's not going to be a problem, it's going to be great."

He explains to him why he doesn't have to worry about it and why it's just all going to be fine. So he does this three or four times, and in that moment I felt in the room, you could just feel that energy and that influence starting to diminish because he had not connected one time with where they were and what it was like for them. It was all about him and his ideas. We walked out through the door and in classic, leader style he turns to me and goes, "Wasn't that fantastic?" I turned to him and I said, "No. It's like the worst thing I've ever sat through." He said, "What are you talking about?" I said, "You didn't connect with one thing that they tried to tell you." He said, "Of course I did." I said, "No, you didn't. In fact everything they tried to tell you, you immediately tried to invalidate it. He said, "I didn't do that." I said, "Shut up, you just did it to me."

Here is a question. Do your people know that you understand them? Here is when you understand and you can write this one down. That you understand your people not when you understand them, but when they understand that you understand. When they understand that you understand.

Dr. Henry Cloud

Dr. Henry Cloud is an acclaimed leadership expert and psychologist who draws on his extensive experience in business, leadership consulting, clinical psychology, and church ministry to impart practical and effective wisdom for growing...

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