By Dr. Ray Benedetto, DM, LFACHE, Colonel, USAF, MSC (Ret), Co-founder of GuideStar, Inc. and Co-author of It’s My Company Too! How Entangled Companies Move Beyond Employee Engagement for Remarkable Results

Recall from the last post, I stated that building trust is the most important responsibility of any leader.  Many factors contribute to business success.  Some believe that having the right CEO in place is the key, but many examples exist where CEOs lost their positions even when companies were on solid financial footing. What did these leaders fail to do that caused them to lost trust of others or more importantly, what actions do effective leaders employ that build trust in their work?

The first question every leader must ask on a frequent basis is, “How do I purposely work to earn the trust of others?” The best leaders are those who have developed relationships built on trust over time, and to do that, they have consistently practiced specific actions and developed solid traits that have built confidence in their ability to lead others.

The second question a leader should ask is, “Am I working to build a great company or one that is mediocre at best?”  Hopefully, you want to build the best company possible, but doing so takes strong leadership as well as an effective design.  We’ll focus first on building strong leadership before we attack the challenge of building a great company through an effective design. Whether you are leading a company or a smaller team, five specific actions exist that should be the core to being a more effective leader.  This article of a series addresses the first two of several practices for building trust as a leader.

First, model the way.  This begins with your personal character in setting a standard for others to follow. Before hiring for character, you must be a person of character yourself. What character qualities are necessary for business success? The Six Pillars of the Character Counts® is a good starting point since these values appear in numerous codes of ethics in government and business.  Trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship should be paramount. By modeling these traits, you set a standard as well as expectation for others to follow, and if you embed them within your company via shared core values, you will begin to observe ethical and supportive behaviors that can set your company apart from others.

Second, inspire a shared vision, which reflects your commitment to the organization for the long haul and for setting a strategic direction that can guide for years ahead. The vision should be a Big Hairy Audacious Goal or BHAG, to quote Jim Collins in his book Good to Great. The BHAG can include the dream or VISION of what your company can be in the future, e.g., the world’s top service company, which is not to be confused with your MISSION, which should be about what you can be the best in the world at doing. Both vision and mission require you and your immediate circle of trusted company leaders to think critically and strategically about over-the-horizon opportunities.  Your vision has to be externally focused while your mission looks at both your external customers as well as your internal processes for achieving it.

Questions for the Week: Do we have a clearly defined vision that inspires everyone to do their best every day?  Do my employees have a clear line of sight (LOS) between their daily work and the company’s vision?  Does every employee understand how her work contributes to the mission and moves us closer to achieving our vision?     

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