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Leaning to People

How is Your Leadership Trust Fund?

According to Professor Bruce Lloyd of London’s South Bank University, “The critical issue is, not change, but trust.”

Professor Bruce Lloyd

Bruce Lloyd

This is consistent with research by Patrick Lencioni’s Table Group, San Francisco. In his, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Lencioni illustrates how in an executive team trust is a fundamental platform for a co-ordinated effort forward.

It is interesting how little attention is given to the matter of trust in so much of the literature and training about Leadership and Change Management. Perhaps this is because academics and methodologists look for clues in the wrong places, in ‘objectives’ and other less ‘emotional’ areas. Perhaps it is because many in senior management still subscribe to situational ethics in dealing with people, and look to quick, expedient remedies.

However, evidence has been there for some time now that trust is necessary for leading change, and it is built up over a period of time. I believe that trust is the oxygen of change. Where there is no trust, you might see change through, but as one of my American friends would say, “You leave a lot of blood on the trail.”

The Relational Bank Account

One of the most powerful relational metaphors is the relational bank account, the idea that in any relationship we have, there is a kind of bank account. We can do things to top up that account – such as serving people, going out of our way to be kind to them – as well as do things that make withdrawals. Once the account is empty, you can’t make any further withdrawals. You can’t ask favours that will be looked upon kindly. Trust is similar, but damage someone’s trust and the account can be emptied quite suddenly. On the other hand, always delivering on your promises, for example, builds trust.

Relational Boundaries

Danny Silk, in his book, Keep Your Love On, explains this in terms of boundaries. Healthy relationships are created, grow and are maintained with clear boundaries. We all have these boundaries. These might be illustrated thus:

Concentric Relational Boundaries
After Danny Silk, Keep Your Love On

We don’t allow most of the world into our intimate spaces, nor should we. By the same token, we should not expect the people we are trying to influence, our stakeholders, to allow us in all the way. Just because I’m interested in your product doesn’t make us best buddies. Healthy relationships are built on these graduated boundaries in our lives. These boundaries are not walls but are permeable. Most of us are scanning the people around us to decide whether we let people through into the next level. Managing these boundaries is not uncaring but is healthy social behaviour.

So, we may want to consider an influencing strategy with some key stakeholders that take us at least from the outside of the circles, where they regard us a one of their tribe. 

If you have a Stakeholder Engagement Strategy, is there any measure of how you are doing in terms of trust from your key stakeholders?

Are you measuring trust among your stakeholders? If so, how are you doing this? Let me know in the comments below.


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