Are Your Leaders Trustworthy?

Trust is a challenge in today’s organizations. Even though trustworthiness is generally recognized as an important managerial attribute, the reality is that leaders are falling short in this area. According to Tolero Solutions, 45 percent of employees say lack of trust in leadership is the biggest issue impacting work performance.

Two new research reports just published by The Ken Blanchard Companies point to strategies that learning and development leaders can use to improve the level of trust in their organizations. Drawing on an 1,800-person survey, the study looked at the connections between coaching and trust behaviors and employee intentions to:

  1. Remain with an organization;
  2. Apply discretionary effort;
  3. Be a good organizational citizen;
  4. Perform work at high levels; and
  5. Endorse the organization as a good place to work.  

Results of the survey show that trust in one’s leader has a large degree of correlation to the five intentions as a distinct unit.

The research also looked at the impact coaching behaviors had on trust as well as the positive or negative emotion experienced by followers. There was a strong relationship between the coaching behaviors of facilitating, inspiring, and guiding—and it was found that individuals are more likely to trust their leader when they perceive the leader exhibiting these coaching behaviors.

Despite the strong connection between coaching behaviors, positive intentions, and trust, organizations sometimes have trouble getting managers to use coaching behaviors. In a Harvard Business Review article entitled “You Can’t Be a Great Manager If You’re Not a Good Coach,” management coach and consultant Monique Valcour states “…Coaching isn’t part of what managers are formally expected to do. …Managers think they don’t have the time to have these conversations, and many lack the skill. Yet 70 percent of employee learning and development happens on the job, not through formal training programs. If line managers aren’t supportive and actively involved, employee growth is stunted.”

Madeleine Blanchard and Linda Miller, co-creators of The Ken Blanchard Companies newly redesigned Coaching Essentials program, believe that to be successful, managers must move away from traditional assumptions about leading others. Instead, they must adopt a coaching mindset of asking, not telling, and of helping others identify ways to solve problems instead of solving problems for them.

To help develop this mindset and skill set, Blanchard and Miller teach four essential coaching skills along with a four-step coaching process.

The first skill, Listening to Learn, requires a shift in mindset.

“This skill includes listening for different perspectives, new ideas, or insights, and—most important—listening with the intention of having your mind possibly changed,” says Blanchard.

The second skill is Inquiring for Insight.

“Great managers ask questions that allow their people to share insights and ideas that can benefit projects, tasks, and performance in general,” explains Miller. “With this skill, managers ask open-ended questions, emphasize what and how rather than why, and focus on moving forward.”

The third and fourth skills are Telling Your Truth and Expressing Confidence.

Telling your truth is about sharing observations or giving feedback that will help the employee accomplish a goal or task. Expressing confidence means acknowledging a direct report and maintaining a respectful, positive regard regardless of the type of conversation being held. It’s important to separate the subject matter from the person, say the two authors. Their favorite quote on this topic is “People are always okay; it’s just their behavior that’s a problem sometimes.”

In addition to the four essential coaching skills, Blanchard and Miller outline a four-step coaching process managers can use to conduct structured conversations. Even though the process is not always linear, managers should strive to carry out each conversation by Connecting—asking questions and listening to demonstrate attentiveness and interest; Focusing—identifying topics to be discussed; Activating—drawing out ideas and collaborating on a plan of action, and Reviewing—ensuring clear agreements and accountabilities.

“This is a process that provides some structure for conversations so managers are more effective and efficient,” explains Miller.

Randy Conley, Blanchard’s trust practice leader and content advisor for the newly redesigned Building Trust program, believes that effective communication skills create a high trust environment. In Conley’s experience, better conversation leads to higher levels of trust and transparency, which benefits the individual as well as the organization.

“The way we communicate with others is the primary way we build trust. What we say, how we say it, and how we respond to what others communicate can make or break trust.”

You can learn more about Blanchard’s research into trust and coaching by visiting the Research section of the Blanchard website. The two research papers, Trust: An Essential Ingredient for Leadership Success, and Coaching Skills: The Missing Link for Leaders are available for immediate download.