Lipstick on your teeth. Little green spinach bits between your teeth. Missed belt loops. Toilet paper stuck to your shoe. If you are like me, I want someone to quietly point out that there is something amiss with my appearance. If you are also like me, at times, you are reluctant to share this secretive information with a stranger. Recently I was attending the National Speakers Association National Convention and overcame this reluctance when I discretely pointed out the speaker’s unzipped pants before he went on stage. He quickly corrected the oversight and walked front and center without a hesitation. A real professional! And yet, there are times I’m not telling a friend because I don’t want to hear the uncomfortable sigh or watch embarrassment change face color to bright red. Often these small observations bring on intense emotional feelings in both parties. Add to the equation that the relationship between the two parties may be unequal, such as a boss and subordinate, and the “fur will fly” as my mother says. Telling associates, “You missed a belt loop,” or “Your shirt is on inside out,” can wreak havoc on your rapport. On the other hand, if you don’t tell him, you may waste an opportunity to develop trust by caring enough to “watch his back”.
If those small, seeming inconsequential comments can create a grain of trust, then working in a coaching relationship would offer amazing insight into personal development of the concept of trust. Recently, one of my clients was making a career change and she abruptly shared with me that trusting people was just too risky. Her reality originated in the career path of law enforcement. Makes sense, right? Annual weapons qualifying, learning riot baton techniques and practicing self-defense kept her in a low level state of cortisol release at all times. It didn’t take long for us to recognize that trust and vulnerability were lacking in her vocabulary and her life. Through coaching, avid reading and applying various concepts in her work and home life, she coined her own phrase to describe her new style, “strong vulnerable.” She will be the first to tell you her career transition hasn’t been easy. However, today she draws from her personal experience to help others develop understanding of trust and integrity in this new light.
You are probably thinking, “What does this stuff have to do with being a great leader?” Maybe you’re not asking that question because you know great leadership is strong, vulnerable and builds relationships founded in trust. To build trust we start with the small things that show we care then add competence, reliability, and service so a deep relationship is established over time. Trust is essential to all relationships whether professional or personal. As a leader, you must create and sustain trust with everyone you come in contact with – be it peers, direct reports, customer, vendor or boss.
Emotional conversations are incredibly memorable. Uncomfortable, maybe embarrassing but always working toward building relationships. What do your relationships feel like? Do they feel right, open, strong AND vulnerable? Are they SAFE? How do you decide who you trust?
“Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.”