David Horsager, MA, CSP, CPAE, is the CEO of Trust Edge Leadership Institute, as well as the Trust Expert in Residence at High Point University. David has advised leaders and delivered life-changing presentations on six continents, with audiences ranging from FedEx, Toyota, MIT and global governments to the New York Yankees and the Department of Homeland Security. His new book, “Trusted Leader: 8 Pillars that Drive Results” follows his Wall Street Journal bestselling book, “The Trust Edge“.
Horsager recently spoke with YoungUpstarts and shared his insights on creating a companywide foundation of trust.
Here is some of our conversation:
Describe your professional background and how it led you to create the Trust Edge Leadership Institute.
Well, it all started with my grad research centering on trust. As I studied a wide range of leaders of all ages and across many industries, it became very clear that there are eight pillars of trust that we can look for, measure, and best of all, improve! I founded Trust Edge Leadership Institute to continue the research and help leaders develop the single, greatest advantage of all time — The Trust Edge. My work centering around trust is so gratifying because it gets at the root of most every issue, both professional and personal. I get to see firsthand how lives are changed when leaders strengthen the pillars of trust.
How is it that trust is at the core of every leadership and organizational challenge?
In business, leaders want to find out what is the leading indicator, but we have found that a lack of trust is always the root issue. I can say that with research, life experience, and total certainty! At the core, the reason we follow a leader or not is trust. It’s not ultimately a sales issue. It’s a trust issue. It’s not ultimately a marketing issue. It’s a trust issue.
Let’s just talk about the diversity issues of our day. They are pitting people against each other, there is no doubt, but let me tell you, when trust is present, that’s when we make progress and enjoy all the great advantages of diversity. When we solve for trust, we solve for the root issue. We can all contribute to progress by doing our part to increase trust in all of our relationships with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.
The number one question people are asking is not, “Do I like you” but, “Can I trust you?”
In your new book, “Trusted Leader”, you describe 8 Pillars of Trust. What are they?
No leader is perfect. The more we can strengthen each of these eight pillars, the more we will gain the trust of our teams, our families, and everyone we meet.
PILLAR #1: CLARITY. People trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous. Clarity requires honesty. Once people have a good understanding of what you stand for, where you want to go, and the role they play in your vision, it’s easier for them to trust in your leadership.
PILLAR #2: COMPASSION. People put faith in those who care beyond themselves. Trust and the ability to show empathy go hand in hand.
PILLAR #3: CHARACTER. People notice those who do what’s right over what’s easy. With integrity, you are being consistent with your thoughts, words and actions. Add that to a strong moral compass and you are giving people someone they can trust.
PILLAR #4: COMPETENCY. People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant and capable. Knowing how to do your job well matters. If you want people to trust you, make competency a priority.
PILLAR #5: COMMITMENT. People believe in those who stand through adversity. In this instance, actions definitely speak louder than words. Demonstrate tenacity and stubbornness and make it clear you will see things through to the end.
PILLAR #6: CONNECTION. People want to follow, buy from and be around friends. It’s easier to trust a friend than a stranger, so look for ways to engage with people and build relationships.
PILLAR #7: CONTRIBUTION. People immediately respond to results. By giving of yourself and your talents, you are investing in others. And if you are serious about making a difference, you need to invest in the actions that will make your vision a reality.
PILLAR #8: CONSISTENCY. People love to see the little things done consistently. While all the pillars are important for building trust, failing to be consistent can undermine your efforts. When you respond consistently, you will see the results build up over time.
Can you give an example of how a breakdown in trust can be the root of a communication problem?
The bulk of conflict is due to a lack of clarity, actually. When people increase clarity, they increase communication, which in turn increases trust. Clarity is trusted, while someone who is unclear stirs up unnecessary conflict and is rarely trusted. Find me a leader who takes the time to communicate priorities and expectations, and I will find you a trusted leader.
What, for example, does the pillar called “Clarity” look like in a team that has instilled trust?
Everyone can use the eight pillars to inform their greatest leadership decisions and challenges. Out of the eight pillars, most people have two pillars that are extremely strong and two pillars that could be bolstered with a little effort. The need for clarity plays out in all different types of leadership positions. Leaders who are clear about their vision tend to be more trusted. Managers who are clear about their expectations tend to be more trusted. Salespeople who are clear about how the product or service will help the customer tend to be more trusted. Teachers who are competent in their subject area but lack clarity will find it harder to earn the trust of their students. When a team has instilled a culture of trust, it takes less time to communicate. The more pillars we have standing strong, the easier it is to hold up the others as well.
Why is it important for leaders to ask “How?”
The reason the How is important is that it actually takes an idea, and the reason for the idea (often called the Why), to an action. So, many people don’t get to a final action step that they can apply today or tomorrow, and then their task is either late or poorly done. Be sure you ask How as many times as it takes to get to a precise action step that will be taken at a certain time the very next day.
Take this as an example:
A company leader says to me: “We want a better culture.”
My response: “How should we start working on that?”
Company leader: “Maybe we could be nicer.”
My response: “How will you be nicer?”
Company leader: “We will appreciate people more.”
My response: “How will you appreciate more.”
Company leader: “We will write thank you notes.”
My response (The final How has to include the Who, What, When and How:) How will you write the thank you notes.”
Company leader: “I will write five thank you notes tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.”
Finally, something that will be done today or tomorrow!