Answering Tough Questions #12



Question:  As a leader, I would like to know how we can increase the trust that our team members have of us as leaders and also among our own team of leaders?


I have said on many occasions that if I could only get one perfect score on an employee survey on leadership from my direct reports it would be on the question of trust.  The question is:  Do you trust your Leader?


I am happy to say that I did receive a 7.0 on a 7.0 scale from 100 percent of my direct reports on that question when I was at Disney.


One thing you have to do to be trusted is to be trustworthy.  What this means is that you really have to be careful about everything you say and do as they are watching you and judging you.


Being open to feedback and being open to changing your mind helps.  Being totally honest with others helps.


Taking the blame for mistakes helps.  Not being defensive helps.  Admitting right away when you make a mistake helps.  Saying you are sorry helps. Doing what you say you are going to do helps.  This falls into the area of keeping your promises, which means you need to be organized with a good planning system so you never have to say, “I forgot.”


You, as a leader, must create a healthy environment that is respectful of all individuals; you must learn how to make your fellow Cast Members feel special; you must treat them as individuals; you must show total respect to them; and you must help develop them, educate them, and know their jobs.


Make sure that you know them on a personal level. Know about their family, their aspirations, their dreams and goals in life, and then use your position and influence as a Leader to help them as much as you can.


Learn to give coaching and feedback in a way that does not damage self-esteem or self-confidence.


Tell your people often how much you appreciate them.  Tell them what they are doing great . . . and what they need to improve on . . . and tell them how you will help them.


As far as improving the trust of fellow leaders, I would say that you need to get to know one another as well and to agree on how as a team you are going to run the business to be consistent for your front-line team members—even if you have to get into a room a few days a year and build the team into a consistent force . . . then do this.  If the team is not being consistent, it will break down trust among not only the leadership team but the front-line team as well.


Explain “Why” to everyone each time you are making a decision or giving a directive so that everyone understands your thinking.  Include your team members in your thinking.  Ask them for their solutions to a problem you are dealing with.  Involving others, asking their opinion, and listening well are all great ways to improve trust at work or at home.


The main thing to remember as a leader is that you have a reputation, and you are the one mainly responsible for it. 


If you have a great reputation, you can lose it in a second.  If you have a bad reputation, it may take forever to improve it, if you can.


If you use your authority to make people do things versus bringing them along so they want to do things, then you will not be trusted.


Dr. Stephen Covey in his  book, The 8th Habit, points out that between stimulus and action there is a space—and that space is there for you to do one simple thing . . . and that is to THINK before you act.  Great Leaders work on making that space bigger and bigger so that when they act they have made the right decision; and when they do that, they will be trusted.


How many people do you know that go from stimulus to action without thinking and do a lot of damage to relationships and trust at home and at work?


How much people trust you has a lot to do with how effective you can really be in all parts of your life.


I hope that this begins to answer the question.  Just remember again, that to be trusted, you have to be trustworthy.   . . . Lee

PS: I just had a great morning. I spoke to a group of students at Southlake High School in Lake County, Florida. We discussed leadership, management and service excellence for 90 minutes. I was very impressed by how the whole class paid attention and had great questions. One girl cried and one gave me a hug so I know I did well. My main message to them was to go out into the world and believe in yourself. If you are in an environment that has hurt your self esteem and self confidence then get out of that environment as soon as you can. Believing in yourself is half the battle to a good life and it is never to last to get better. If you want to see a photo of the group and me then go to my Facebook and see all of our smiling faces….What are you doing to help young people believe in themselves. Do what you can….This is how you can really be creating magic. Have a great weekend everyone.

 Great Leaders Look forthe Better Way Every Day!!!!!


  1. I agree with you 100% to invite your team into the decision process and let them see the vision and capture it to run with it autonomously. I would like to add, that you also lead by example in a consistent manner over time so they know what to expect.

    To many leaders change direction every time the wind blows that the employees become fearful simply because they lack a firm foundation to stand on. When in the past I helped turnaround organizations, I found that when money (or lack there of) became the motivating factor leadership became wishy-washy when they needed to instill courage and hope. The team picked up the silent vibes and lost faith and trust in their leaders and began jumping ship. At that point, the breakdown occurred way before the exodus.

    Good word and alot of depth and wisdom in what you covered today.
    God bless you Lee.

  2. Lee – Great blog. Taking the blame for mistakes by myself or my team has been one of the most important traits that I’ve had. Back in the Navy when I was on my first ship, I was an up and coming Leading Seaman. I was put in that supervisory position partially because of my trustworthiness and being able to say, “hey, I (we) messed up.” To showcase that felling of trust, I had gone home on leave and was stuck at Dulles on the way back because of snow. I called the ship to let them know and was told, “we’ll see you when you get here.” Upon my return I heard many “comments” from petty officers in the department like, “if that was one of us, we would have had to bring back a container of snow to prove it.” Taking responsibility for your actions and those of your team is definately one way to increase trust.

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