Tag Archive for humanness

9 #Leadership Actions That Build Trust



Building trust seems so cliche, which is unfortunate, because its importance simply cannot be overstated. Real trust is critical to a healthy team and organization, and any team or organization without it will find itself rotting away from the inside out.

Be Human

This one is foundational for many of the others. Leaders have to be human, and what I mean by that is that leaders have to be vulnerable and flawed with their teams. Instead of hiding faults and mistakes, leaders should own them, admit them, and apologize for them when appropriate. They should be quick to ask for and offer help. This cultivates trust on a team, and establishes this level of openness as a team norm. Soon, following their leader’s example, a team begins to be human as well, embracing their mutual humanness and vulnerability. This allows them to serve each other, help each other, engage in healthy conflict together, commit to each other, hold each other accountable, and much, much more. But leaders being human with their teams is the first step.

Be Humble

This goes hand in hand with being human, but being humble is huge. Now, there’s no human that’s humble all the time. We all have an ego, and it’s a constant struggle to keep that thing in check. But as leaders, we have to fight ego and work toward humility. It’s humility that will allow us to be open and human with our teams. It’s only humility that enables us to have any sort of self-awareness. Show me a boss without self-awareness and I’ll almost guarantee you that boss is about as arrogant as they come.

Ask Questions

Asking questions — and I’m not just talking about work-related questions — is important for so many reasons. It helps you get to know your team. It helps you better understand how and what they’re thinking. It lets them know you’re interested in them not only as professionals, but also as people. Asking questions continues to open the communication between you and your team, and the more you and the team communicate, the stronger that relationship has a chance to become.


Related to the above, of course, is listening. When people feel listened to — really, truly listened to — it matters. By the same token — and I can’t emphasize this enough — when people feel like a boss is going through the motions of “listening” to them, but isn’t really listening, it’s destructive. It’s so harmful, in fact, that I’d suggest not even faking it. If you’re not really going to listen, and if you’ve already made up your mind about something, don’t even bother.

Embrace Serving

People can tell when you’re in it for them. People can also tell when you’re primarily in it for yourself. The former builds trust. The latter destroys it. Servant leaders see leadership as a vehicle to serve others.

Be Honest

I wish this one went without saying, but like many of you, I’ve seen too much evidence to the contrary. Dishonest leaders destroy trust. They tear teams and organizations to shreds.

Give Away Power

Leaders who give away power instead of hoarding it inspire trust on their teams. Team members feel trusted when they’re empowered, and as a result, are far more likely to trust. Bosses who hoard power send the message that the only people they trust are themselves.


Somewhat akin to the previous point, hoarding information promotes distrust. Sharing information with your team and engaging in open and candid dialogue with them shows you trust them and that you are more likely to be worthy of their trust in return.

Let Them See You Learning

There’s something about seeing a leader learn that speaks volumes to a team. It tells them that you are self-aware enough to know that you don’t know everything, and further still, you’re not even trying to hide the fact that you don’t know everything. This, of course, is impossible without the very first item in this post: being human.

What do you think? What others leadership actions would you add to the list? What else have you seen leaders do that built trust?

Fit in. Or Don’t.

drseusswhyfitinYou can fit in, or you can stand out. You can’t have it both ways.

There are scores of people and groups out there who are more than willing to describe for you to a well-crossed T how you’re to act/look/think in any given situation or setting. Perhaps they’ve been there since you were a wee lad or lass, encouraging — and sometimes forcing — you to fit in to a given mold.

soldieryawnThink of all the books, scoldings, fringe religious zealots, co-workers, employees, school systems, etc, who took (and take) great pains to establish for you (or others) exactly — and often it really is a precise thing — who or what or how you’re supposed to be, whereas we’d say we want people to just…be.

It can be overwhelming. And paralyzing. And terrifying. When we feel the tug to step outside what’s expected of us, we can feel befuddled, bamboozled, baffled, and bewildered, especially if we’re berated for doing so. What becomes painfully obvious is that we’re really good at clinging to the way things are, and we’re often fiercely loyal to the way we’ve always done things around here.

But back to those folks — many of them well-intentioned — who will give you those subtle reminders that you need to be or look or talk like or believe a certain thing or things.

“This is what a corporate cog…er…individual looks like.”

“This is what an executive looks like.”

“This is what a [insert your follower-of-a-given-religion here] looks like.”

“This is what an affluent kid looks like.”

And so it goes.

But if you fit in too much, you won’t do anything. Think of people who do or have done things in any sphere. Amazing things that made or are making a real difference to different groups of folks. History is full of such people (Jesus of Nazareth, Ghandi, MLK, Michael Jordan, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Churchill, Richard Branson, etc).

weirdisradRarely do they “fit” anywhere. They do great things precisely because they’re willing to challenge conventional wisdom, think outside the box (though I still loathe that expression), innovate, and be, well, different. Isn’t that the very essence of the word extraordinary? Something outside the ordinary?

What groups, churches, organizations, and communities need is just those people, but sadly (though not unpredictably) they’re largely missing. As leaders, we’ve got to create environments where people can explore who they are and become the person they’re meant to be.

See Jack Assume


Perception can be a wonderful and awful thing, can’t it? It’s especially wonderful when accompanied by a good sense of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. It’s especially awful when it’s accompanied by neither.

You know what I’m talking about.

SI ExifIt’s that guy at the company Christmas party — we’ll call him Jack — who won’t shut up. Everyone in the room has his or her own individual perception of Jack, of course, and they vary a bit. The problem is that Jack assumes (see what I did there?) he’s the life of the party, the wittiest guy alive, and that he’s well-liked by all.

Unfortunately the reality is more along these lines…Everyone dreads at least one part of the Christmas party every year — Jack. Is he a terrible human being? No, he’s not. But he seems to be so full of himself. He never stops talking, acts like he’s smarter than he is, and is like that guy in high school who only thinks he’s the most popular kid in school.

So where’s the disconnect? Well, it goes back to what we mentioned in the first paragraph. Everybody perceives situations differently based on a number of factors, including their own self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

Another example. Say a local TV personality is eating at a casual restaurant. He happens to be sitting alone in a booth, and appears to be doing something on his computer. A woman approaches the booth and without hesitation slides onto the bench seat across the table from the now confused man.

He doesn’t lift his head, but looks up from his screen to see who his unexpected guest is. Not recognizing her, he assumes she’s mistakenly landed in his booth thinking it was her own. But she doesn’t move.

“You’re Nathan, right?” she asks, already knowing the answer.

“I’m sorry. Do we know each other?” he replies, taken off guard.

“No, but I follow you on Facebook and catch you on TV all the time. Love your show.”

“Thanks,” he says. “I appreciate it.”

Thinking that would be a sufficient amount of conversation for his guest to move along, he goes back to his work; but she doesn’t move.

“Mind if I join you and buy you a drink?”

Awwwwkwaaaarrrrrd, he thought to himself.

“Um, thanks but no. I’m not trying to embarrass you or read too much into this, but I’m together with someone and really do have some work I have to get done.”

“I just think we have so many things in common,” she replies, missing the cues.

He looks back at her, giving her that that’s-great-but-please-just-leave smile.

She was saying something as she scooted out of the booth, but he was determined not to hear or acknowledge it, and so continued to stare as intently as he possibly could into his computer as she walked away.

What happened there? Two people were involved in the same situation, but were perceiving it in different ways. One was lacking self-awareness and emotional intelligence to some degree, right? Mr. Nathan the TV Man was giving all the signs of not wanting her to be there, but yet she tarried. And talked. And offered to buy him a drink. And said how much they had in common. You know how those pesky stalkers get — all clingy and whatnot.

So as leaders and teammates we’ve got to do a better job with these things (perception, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence — not the stalking thing). We need to understand that regardless of our intent, others will always have perceptions about us; and they won’t always be right or fair or what we’d like them to be.

To stay with our recent and now tired example, maybe you just like wearing suits or dressing up for work, but someone else interprets that as you trying to appear powerful or better than them. Or maybe they assume that you must be super smart and successful since you don such dapper attire. And really, all it actually boils down to is that you like that style and so you wear what you like.

Or it could be the other way around and the jeans and shirt guy is deemed “less professional” and “doesn’t take his job as seriously.” And Mr. Jeans is certainly not as smart and successful, right? Because if he were, he’d be wearing a suit.

It’s amazing what people think they can “know” about others based on such random and arbitrary factors. But that’s the world in which we live. Everyone has perceptions about everything. Everything means something.

So we’ve got manage perceptions about ourselves and at the same time be aware of potentially misguided perceptions we have of others. And we need to be humble enough to wrestle with self-awareness, even when it’s not pretty.