Coaching, global Leadership

Developing Trust—and Leading in Uncertain Times

I’ve combined content from the two posts that have attracted the most interest during COVID 19—and added a link to a third related post you might find helpful.

The first included my comments on a Harvard Business Review article “The 3 Elements of Trust”, which presented a study finding that how people rate business leaders’ overall effectiveness is highly correlated with the level of trust they have in those leaders. The study also identified the three most important elements that generate trust:

  • Positive relationships
  • Good judgement/expertise
  • Consistency

The authors had expected consistency to be the single most influential factor in generating trust, but it turned out that positive relationships topped the list.

This aligns with what I’ve seen in my work with leaders. Most were able to weather poor decisions and major miss-steps when they had built a reservoir of trust founded on strong relationships.  (For more on how to build strong relationships and trust, go here.

Approaches to Building Tolerance for Ambiguity

The other post that has generated a high level of interest recently was on how leaders can develop a higher tolerance for ambiguity.

Especially during these uncertain times, a low tolerance for ambiguity can undercut leaders by complicating their business relationships, limiting their receptivity to new approaches, delaying their implementation of essential programs, and making them unduly disturbed by temporary setbacks.

To strengthen one’s tolerance for ambiguity, I offered some common approaches (such as active listening, examining assumptions, and withholding judgment when solutions are offered).

But I also noted three others that I rarely see mentioned:

Developing contingency plans Work out what you’ll do if your plans don’t work, and then communicate these backup plans to your subordinates. It keeps the new plan from being labeled as “your” plan. Instead it’s just one you came up with, and you’ve already come up with others, just in case.

Maintaining work/life balance A satisfying life outside of work helps you deal with uncertainties on the job. And if things fail to work out the way you planned, you have something to fall back on.

Building your confidence When you’re in uncharted territory and you become anxious, ask yourself what information, expert guidance, or other resources you need to be able to move forward with the same confidence you have in more familiar territory.

It’s important. During this current period of high uncertainty and rapidly changing conditions, leaders’ faith that things will eventually work out can be a key factor in strengthening relationships, building trust, and enabling teams to forge ahead.