What Every Leader Needs to Know

What can take 10 minutes to build, 10 seconds to destroy and 10 years to rebuild? The answer is trust.

Fellows talk with each other at the Jackson, Mississippi WKKF Community Leadership Network fellows gathering.

Trust is foundational to effective relationships which, in turn, is foundational to effective leadership. At the all-class gathering in Jackson, Mississippi, W.K. Kellogg Foundation Chief Leadership and Human Capital Strategist Paul Martinez shared his research and perspectives on the critical role of trust in leadership.

Q: How did you get interested in trust work?

A: My genesis of wanting to understand leadership and trust goes back to my time in the United States Army. I remember the amount of time my drill sergeant spent with me in supporting my development as a soldier. He said, ‘All I need from you is a can-do, will-do attitude.’ He provided me the knowledge and skills to be a great soldier and showed care and concern that created a solid bond of trust.

I started to see this pattern that leadership is really about creating conditions for people to do their best work. And, you can’t fully create those conditions unless you have trust.

After a 10-year career as a claims adjuster, manager, and regional director for USAA, and then starting my own leadership and organizational development consulting practice, Dynamic Solutions, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. to take a deeper dive into leadership and organizational development. I quickly came to focus on employee engagement, which was at an all-time low across the country.

Q: So what did you find out about employee engagement?

A: Through my doctoral research, it became evident that effective leadership drives employee engagement. Effective leaders are able to inspire and motivate teams. Effective leaders know how to leverage people’s strengths and foster an atmosphere of employee well-being. But, I was curious what drives effective leadership? It turns out trust is the foundational construct to effective leadership and relationships.

Q: What are the building blocks of trust?

A: I’ve found there are three key elements of trust: integrity, capability, and care and concern. Integrity is acting in congruence with your personal values and beliefs. It’s being consistent and reliable in what you say and do. Capability is really about having the requisite knowledge and skills to effectively and efficiently carry out your work. Care and concern means you seek genuine and meaningful connections with people. You take time to truly see people and recognize their inherent value.

Q: What is the Trust Dynamic © Model and 360?

A: The Trust Dynamic © Model and 360 came out of my doctoral research, “The Relationships between Employee Engagement, Trust and Intrinsic Motivation.” The TTD360 is an assessment tool to understand how your day-to-day interactions are building, sustaining or deteriorating trust. Through a 360 assessment of yourself and by your boss, direct and indirect reports, peers and others you can understand how you are perceived in the key elements of trust: integrity, capability and care and concern, as well as in the profound catalysts: communication and vulnerability. Based on the 360 feedback, you can then develop an action plan to intentionally build, sustain, or rebuild trust in your personal and professional relationships.

Q: What’s your advice for people outside the fellowship who want to assess themselves and get better at trust?

A: The middle letter of trust is “u.” And, I often say trust starts with “you.” It’s being honest with yourself and building and sustaining self-trust. How can you trust others, if you can’t trust yourself? To grow as a leader requires self-reflection. On its face, people can discern whether or not they are living from a place of integrity. They can look at whether they are maximizing their capability, and they can assess how they are showing care and concern for themselves and for others.

After inventorying where you are, then map out where you want to go. Develop an action plan for how you want to develop in each of the elements and profound catalysts of trust.

I also encourage people to have an accountability partner. Find someone you trust outside of your normal circle who can be a sounding board and a mirror for assessing strengths and opportunities for growth. Having someone to check in about your progress can help you stay on track.

Q: If there’s one or two things you want people to remember about trust, what would they be?

A: Of the three elements, care and concern most significantly predict employee engagement. And, my experience has been that most leaders struggle in demonstrating care and concern. Think about it? Was care and concern taught in any of your leadership or management courses? Most people say “no.” However, most people agree with what President Teddy Roosevelt said many years ago, “People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.”

The other thing I would encourage people to do is to step into their vulnerability. Accepting and showing your vulnerabilities is fundamental to building deeper trust. Are you willing to be vulnerable in ways that demonstrate your humanness, expose a weakness or learn about yourself? In doing so, you create the space that allows others to help you grow. Seth Godin once said, “If you are not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you are not reaching your potential as a leader.”

Paul Martinez serves as chief leadership and human capital strategist at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. He previously was senior faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, where he supported the growth and development of leaders at organizations around the globe, including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Read More

WKKF Community Leadership Network