November 17, 2011 CEO, Culture, Leadership, Management

Trust and Service

Two elements of leadership,” trust” and “service” unfortunately, aren’t always obvious to analytical types whose focus is primarily on metrics and results.

A leader however isn’t the person with all the answers. Rather, a leader is the catalyst for influencing others to overcome obstacles, find solutions, and seize and create opportunities. Leadership begins with trust, and leaders are most successful when they combine trust with a challenge to look outward.

People will not remain motivated, growing and achieving at high levels of performance if they are insecure about their place on your team. As leaders, we can create greater levels of creativity when we build an environment where employees and teams are encouraged to share ideas and where courage and risk-taking are complemented with both reward and safety.

Encourage vulnerability. Ideas that are proposed today may not work today. However, experimentation will develop a culture of creativity and lead to better ideas in the future. When employees can count on your support, it creates an environment where there is honest and proactive conversation about what’s working and what’s not. People become comfortable with risk, which, in turn, encourages them to move into uncharted territory, expect problems along the way and find ways around obstacles. It becomes natural to learn from mistakes.

Continually looking for the perfect employee can be an ineffective and exhausting exercise. Experience has taught me that bringing in the next “great guy or gal” often exposes me to a different set of weaknesses. A better approach is to know your people — what motivates them and makes them tick. You’ll find great success and earn tremendous loyalty and trust when you leverage employee strengths by putting them in the right role rather than painfully focusing on their weaknesses.

As the leader, you are responsible for a healthy team. As a role model, you owe your team consistency between your walk and talk. And you owe them an environment that is free of politics, backbiting and ill will. You need to be fair, consistent and diligent about how you treat, respect and encourage each other. What you value will get done.

You are creating a culture — whether deliberate or not. Your employees have to feel safe, appreciated and encouraged if you expect them to make your customers feel that way.