Tips for Effective Leadership
Tip #5: Trust all the People all the Time
by Wolf Rinke

Effective leaders have the guts to look at what others do …
and do something different.

“Trust all people all of the time, until they prove you wrong” is the advice I provide in my seminars and consulting activities. The typical response: “You don’t understand the people who work for me” or “You sure have no clue who our customers are.”

In one way I understand. After all, trust has become a vanishing act in corporate America. According to a study of 1,800 employees by Aon’s Loyalty Institute of Ann Arbor, MI, 13 percent of US workers distrust their employers on the most basic level --- they don’t feel free from fear, intimidation or harassment at work. Aon also found that less than half of employees trust the leaders of their organizations overall.

What does this lack of trust mean? According to Watson Wyatt Worldwide of Bethesda, MD “...companies where employees trusted top executives posted shareholder returns 42 percentage points higher than companies where distrust was the rule.

Here are eight effective ways for leaders build trust in their organizations:

  1. Invoke the law of reciprocity, which says, “Whatever you give is what you’re going to get.” To get more trust you have to give it first.

  2. Make sure your word is always as good as gold. Team members should never have to second-guess anything leaders tell them, and they need to be able to count on their leaders to do right by them, their customers, and their organization.

  3. Hold everyone accountable. Team members need to be held accountable for all their actions. One way to do this is to have them commit to this powerful axiom: If it’s to be, it’s up to me!

  4. Establish boundaries. Trust works when people know they can count on each other to do a certain thing a certain way. Once the boundaries are in place leaders must then discipline themselves to expect that their team members are going to operate within those boundaries. Why? Because over the long term you will get what you expect!

  5. Build a learning organization. Trust requires lifelong learning because it can only come about if people can count on each other to perform at peak performance. For this, they need to have the resources to engage in lifelong learning, constant renewal and change --- and must be allowed to make mistakes.

  6. Practice tough love. Highly effective leaders love their team members the way they are, not the way they ought to be. The paradox of course is that all of us are like red wine, which means we have the opportunity to get better all of the time. And Contrarian Leaders help their team members get better all of the time. Which of course requires love. And love is not possible without trust.

  7. Walk your talk. Trust will only come alive if leaders reinforce their words with actions. They must be the role model of everything that they want to have happen in their organization.

  8. Practice high-touch. High-tech will increasingly be the norm as we move toward virtual organizations. Without high touch, however, in the form of meetings, organizational retreats and conferences, trust will wither on the vine. There simply is no shortcut to developing trust with another human being. It can’t be done via the Internet, voice mail, faxes, or other electronic media. It requires personal contact.


Dr. Wolf J. Rinke is a management consultant, executive coach and keynote speaker dedicated to helping organizations and individuals maximize their potential. In addition to his new book Don't Oil the Squeaky Wheel … and 19 Other Contrarian Ways to Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness (McGraw-Hill, May 2004), he is the author of several other best-selling books including Winning Management: 6 Fail-Safe Strategies for Building High-Performance Organizations. Rinke can be reached at 800-828-9653, WolfRinke@aol.com or www.WolfRinke.com .

Don't Oil the Squeaky Wheel:
And 19 Other Contrarian Ways to Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness
by Wolf J. Rinke
McGraw-Hill
May 2004

Media Contact: Cindy Kazan: 414.352.3535; cindy@communik-pr.com .

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Copyright 2004 by Wolf J. Rinke. All rights reserved.

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