How to Build Trust in Leadership

Pretend you don’t know this song: 

“He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. 

You better watch out. 

You better not cry. 

You better not pout, I’m telling you why…

Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Based on these lyrics, does Santa Claus sound more like a jolly good fellow or a horror movie villain? I’d wager the latter! 

Without proper context, Santa Claus sounds like somebody that comes around once a year and makes you behave out of fear. Not exactly jolly! 

As silly as the Santa Claus example sounds, this is exactly how employees and managers view their leaders when there isn’t proper trust in the organization. At Pattern, we call this “Chemistry.” When leaders don’t foster chemistry with their employees, it can lead to an environment built on fear rather than trust. 

A recent Gallup survey found that only 23% of managers say they “strongly agree” with this statement: “I trust the leadership of this organization.” Less than a quarter managers feel sure that they trust the leadership of their organizations. Why? The same research points to a lack of direct and timely communication leading to a culture of fear. It would appear that we have a Santa Claus problem. 

The most important piece here is that as trust lowers, intent to leave rises:

In short, our people are absolutely desperate for chemistry. If people can’t trust the leadership in your organization, they will find somewhere that they can. 

So what do we do? Of all the solutions I’ve heard, in our experience at Pattern I see one big idea that rises above the others: 

As a leader, see yourself as a coach more than a “boss.”

A boss simply delegates. A coach delegates and collaborates. A boss does an annual review. A coach does an annual review and a regular check in. A boss who’s not a coach is feared, but a coach who’s also the boss is trusted. 

Don’t get me wrong, you should be both! We’ve talked before about how leadership is both influence and authority (insert link). But if you’re simply a boss and never a coach, you’ll create a “Santa Claus” culture. If your employees live in fear of the annual review, chemistry and trust will plummet. But if they see you as a coach instead, they’ll feel much more comfortable coming to you with the good and the bad, because it’s normal.

Would you rather be a Santa Claus or a Confidant? Culture is what we come to see as normal without having to think about it. In a “Santa Claus” Culture, fear is the norm. But in a “Confidant” Culture, trust is the norm. Chemistry blooms in a Confidant Culture. 

Coaching is in our DNA at Pattern Talent. Not only can Pattern coach you, we can teach you how to see yourself as a coach as well. When you work with Pattern, not only will you see yourself as a coach, but even better, you’ll be perceived as one as well. 

Be a confidant for your people. Schedule a call with Brad or check out to start fostering chemistry and trust in your organization today. 

January 17, 2024


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