Monday, July 25, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Christ's work both in the church and in the hearts of Christians, often goeth backward that it may go the better forward."

Richard Sibbes,  The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, p.85

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Regaining Trust When Trust is Lost

 Trust – it’s a necessary ingredient to any fruitful relationship but it’s of particular importance to a leader.   The essence of leadership is about influence, not authority. You can make someone comply by force of authority, but to lead, you must have influence – and influence requires trust between the parties.  

Unfortunately, in this broken world we live in, trust is often compromised.   Spouses betray each other, politicians lie, public figures disappoint.  

As leaders, we may find ourselves in a place where trust has been compromised.  Perhaps we’ve disappointed others by our behavior or words.   What can we do to restore trust when trust is broken?   
Before we get to that, let’s explore what it means to trust.   There are two dimensions of trust – character and competence.  

Character speaks to the attributes, values and motivations of the person or institution.    It raises questions like the following -

“Is the leader humble?”
“Is she kind?”
“Is he a man of integrity?”
“Does the institution pursue truth?

It surprises some to hear this but character alone is not enough to secure trust.   You also have to be competent.   When you trust someone, you are confident, not simply in their intentions and motivations toward you, but also in their advice and their ability to help you.   For example – when you invest trust in your car mechanic, you’re counting on his character - that he will not cheat you by billing you excessively – and on his competence – that he will be able to fix the problem at hand.

So back to our question – what can you do to restore trust when trust is lost?  Here are 4 things to consider:   (Disclaimer: nothing original here – it’s a combination of things I’ve learned from reading, observing and painfully experiencing)

Talk straight – speak honestly and openly.   No spinning the message, no sweeping under the rug.   Invite others to do the same.   Trust cannot be restored when we’re afraid of expressing ourselves to each other.  A leader can facilitate straight talk is by being vulnerable.  Lead the way by letting your guard down.  This is step one in the road to restoring trust.

Confront the brutal truth - acknowledging the truth about a situation is essential to fixing the fundamental problem of mistrust.   That’s why a common complaint about politicians that have lost the trust of the public is that they “just don’t get it”.  One way to face the truth is to let those you’ve wronged to openly give you feedback without retribution or correction.   I’ve been in situations where I’ve lost the trust of individuals even though I haven’t explicitly wronged them.   Yet, in both humility and care for others, I needed to put aside the temptation to defend myself but focus instead on how they have been affected by my leadership.  

Make It Right (as best you can) - Making it right starts with bearing the burdens of others.  Understanding how our leadership (or lack thereof) has affected them.   Sometimes when trust is lost, it’s due to an irreversible situation but if possible, you need to make amends and offer reparations.  It also means proactive mitigation - making the kind of changes that prevent the same situation from occurring again.   Regaining trust requires us answering the question – “what assurances can you offer me that this won’t happen again?“.

Follow Through - Actions speak louder than words.   Those whom you may have wronged - your constituents, followers and friends are looking for results.   Placating them but not following through with actual results will compromise everything else.   It will further disillusion them.    This means both fulfilling commitments made to them and continuing to be accountable to them.   Here’s what I mean - it’s not enough to simply address the problem in the current moment but to continue to humbly inquire if you’re on the right track.   Leaders that restore trust willingly make themselves accountable to those they lead on an ongoing basis.

Final word on this - I've seen good leaders demonstrate this in many different settings and I've tried to practice the same.  I don't know they do it but for me, the impetus and strength to do so is rooted firmly in gospel truth.   

Speaking openly and honestly comes from knowing that there is such a thing as objective truth and that it proceeds from a God of truth for our good. ( Psalm 119:160 , John 17:17 )

Confronting the truth in any situation is easier once you've confronted the cosmic truth that you're a sinner before a holy God.   ( Romans 3:23 ).   

Having the strength to act humbly and courageously emanates from the gospel - that God humbled himself by sending his Son in human form to bear our sins.   ( Philippians 2: 5-8 )

We become motivated to bear the burdens of others when we consider the burden Christ bore for us on the cross and walk in love toward them.   ( Galatians 6:2 )

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Quote of the Week

We have had to learn.. that in all the world there are only two sources of real wealth: the fruit of the earth and the labor of men; and to estimate work not by the money it brings to the producer, but by the worth of the thing that is made.

Dorothy Sayers,  Why Work?

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves, and, under a just God, cannot long retain it."

Abraham Lincoln,  Letter to H.L. Pierce, April 6, 1859