Integrity & Trust (Integrity & Trust Leadership Competency)

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Integrity Trust Leadership Competency
Image Credit: shutterstock/jacoblund

Defined: Integrity means doing the right thing in the right way; it means adhering to values strongly held. Trust is a belief that someone is honest and credible; trust is earned by being honest, having a positive intent, having strong competencies, and a track record of results.

Trust is the new currency of our interdependent, collaborative world. – Stephen M.R. Covey

Employees want to work for leaders they trust. “Relationships of trust” are developed on a base of experience in which at least one individual comes to be trusted. The strongest relationships are built on mutual trust, which are built through experience of mutual reliability. Without strong trust, more interpersonal issues inevitably emerge, which become impediments to optimal team performance, and which naturally lead to increased staff and customer attrition. Operating with integrity fosters mutual goodwill and support, which lends to an improved sense of team spirit, mutual loyalty, cooperativeness, shared responsibility and team resilience. All of these team qualities lead to more mutually satisfying and enduring relationships between team members and between a company and its customers.

Leaders Skilled in Integrity & Trust

  • Keep their promises
  • Have a reputation for being honest and forthright
  • Do not present opinions as facts
  • Are consistent in words and actions
  • Trust and respect others
  • Do respond to pressure to act in conflict with their ethics
  • Understand that trust must be earned
  • Keep information shared in confidence private
  • Accept responsibility for their mistakes
  • Lead by example, not by dictates alone
  • Maintain transparency
  • Deliver amount and quality promised, or over deliver
  • Always try to do the right thing

What Prevents Ability in Integrity & Trust

  • Lack of actual commitment to keep promises
  • Making excuses or blame others for their mistakes
  • Inconsistency in following through
  • Dishonesty, especially for gain
  • Blunt, compassionless frankness
  • Takes responsibility for mistakes
  • Lack of transparency
  • Under-delivering on quantity or quality
  • Inconsistency between words and actions
  • Gossiping and divulging information shared in confidence
  • Making unrealistic promises
  • Demonstrated lack of faithfulness to stated values
  • Selfishness
  • Inclination to judge others negatively

Self-Coaching Questions

  • Do you consistently meet or exceed your commitments related deadlines? Quality targets?
  • Do your actions and words match?
  • Do your actions support or violate your organization’s values?
  • Are you competent in the technical knowledge of your profession?
  • Do you believe your colleagues trust you? At what level? Would they trust you with a big project? Would they trust you to watch their kids?

Tips for Integrity & Trust

  • Be reliable. Keep your word.
  • If you can't keep a promise, notify people that there's an issue preventing you from doing so.
  • Maintain a written schedule, and make necessary adaptations in your system, to ensure against failure to manage your obligations.
  • Subscribe to the world's greatest trust-building business tenet: “Under promise, and over deliver.”
  • Understand your own values and your company's values, ensure they're aligned, and live by them.
  • Be consistent in your words and actions.
  • If you don't know the answer, don't make one up. Just say you'll check to find out the information and get back to the inquirer.
  • Admit your mistake, and offer a genuine apology, and correct any problem created by it.
  • Be transparent about your professional and private life as much as is reasonable; avoid seeming mysterious and elusive.
  • When in doubt, don't repeat things you're told in private conversations.
  • Think in terms of the good of the team and customers, vs. prioritizing what is most expedient or advantageous for you personally.
  • Do not stand by and allow others to commit unethical acts that compromise your integrity or that of your organization. Advise of consequences, and follow through.

Developmental Action Plan for Integrity & Trust

  • LEARN: Read the article, “Integrity & Trust” in the LEADx library.
  • LEARN: Read the book (or LEADx Summary), The Speed of Trust, by Stephen M.R. Covey.
  • LEARN: Listen to the podcast, The Speed of Trust, with Stephen M.R. Covey in the LEADx library.
  • REFLECT: How well are you doing on the 4 elements of trust? Use the Leadership Self-Reflection: Building Trust worksheet in the LEADx Library.
  • REFLECT: How can you extend more trust to others? Use the Leadership Self-Reflection: Extending Trust To Others worksheet in the LEADx Library.
  • SCHEDULE: time to learn and keep your professional skills relevant. Enroll in a seminar, register for a conference, or subscribe to online learning as necessary.
  • APPLY: Breaking micro-commitments erodes trust. Be extra aware of arriving on time, returning emails/calls when promised, meet deadlines and budgets.
  • APPLY: Repair relationships where you've broken trust in the past. Take ownership for what happened, apologize, and vow to do better in the future.
  • APPLY: Ensure your language matches your caring for the team. Say “we” not “I”, “our” not “my”, and go out of your way to give credit to others.
  • APPLY: Be mindful of talking straight: be candid and direct (no spin!),  be transparent sharing risks along with opportunities, threats along with opportunities.
  • APPLY: Be respectful of colleagues at all times; give them your full attention when talking or in meetings. During stressful times modulate your emotional reactions.
  • MEASURE: Trigger an engagement pulse survey to measure trust levels, or list and count your trust-building actions in the prior week.

Additional Points for Thought

Understand the difference between honest, and being brutally honest. Brutal “honesty” has the opposite effect of building trust. Why? Because it smacks of ulterior motives in desire to equalize the self by degrading others. That's hardly a picture of integrity. Employees who feel excessively scrutinized, disrespected and insecure in their positions cannot be expected to develop a sense of belonging to an organization's mission or to perform their best to serve it.  A brand of honesty that nurtures an aspirational working environment keeps with the values of a company that understands that true integrity and trust are qualities of leadership that appreciates the team's members, not mistreats them.

Suggested Additional Resources

  • Marchica, J (2004, February) The Accountable Organization: Reclaiming Integrity, Restoring Trust, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, ISBN-10: 0891061851, ISBN-13: 978-0891061854.
  • Simons, T (2002, September) The High Cost of Lost Trust, Harvard Business Review, Retrieved on 4-23-19 from: https://hbr.org/2002/09/the-high-cost-of-lost-trust.
  • Paine, L, (1994, April) Managing for Organizational Integrity, Harvard Business Review, Retrieved on 4-23-19 from: https://hbr.org/1994/03/managing-for-organizational-integrity.
  • Hanson, T and Zacher Hanson, B (2007, January) Who Will Do What By When? How to Improve Performance  Accountability and Trust with Integrity, Power Publications, ISBN-13: 978-0972419444, ISBN-10: 0972419446.
  • Shaw, R (1997, March) Trust in the Balance: Building Successful Organizations on Results, Integrity, and Concern, Jossey-Bass, ISBN-13: 978-0787902865, ISBN-10: 9780787902865.
  • Mannis, T (2015, October) I Can H.I.T. Honesty-Integrity-Trust, Page Publishing, Inc., ISBN-10: 1682133362, ISBN-13: 978-1682133361.

Suggested Internet Search Terms

Building trust, how to build trust, leadership integrity, transparency, authenticity, accountability, competency, organizational trust