It’s not disengagement, it’s distrust


It's not disengagement it's distrust

Earlier this year I read The Speed of Trust: the one thing that changes everything by Stephen M. R. Covey after a client asked me “how do you rebuild trust?” Trust is a complex topic and often comes up when working with leaders to help them shift from chaos to calm.

What I’ve discovered is that we confuse trust and engagement inside organisations. When we trust leaders, we are engaged. When we don’t trust them, we are less engaged. Importantly, behaviours are at the core of creating trust across hierarchies and across teams.

Disengagement is distrust. If people aren’t engaged in the work and the organisation, they aren’t engaged in the people who lead them or the people they work with. I always say that we have to remember organisations are made up of people. But when it comes to engagement, we seem to focus on arbitrary survey numbers rather than the relationships at work that would actually make a difference.

In his book, Covey shares 13 behaviours linked to trust. There is a small chapter on each behaviour to help you understand what that behaviour looks like through the words and phrases you share and also what you might be doing that demonstrates the opposite.  

The full list of behaviours is:

  1. Talk straight
  2. Demonstrate respect
  3. Create transparency
  4. Right wrongs
  5. Show loyalty
  6. Deliver results
  7. Get better
  8. Confront reality
  9. Clarify expectations
  10. Practice accountability
  11. Listen first
  12. Keep commitments
  13. Extend trust.

You can download a PDF showing the behaviours of a high-trust leader that shows you more detail around each as a quick reference, quick glance guide.

The three that I refer to the most when working with teams to help them be less chaotic are the importance of talking straight, clarifying expectations, and keeping commitments. In fact, I was chatting to a previous client just this week who was saying that talking straight and clarifying commitments is still the number one thing they think about when it comes to keeping things calm – without that, things rapidly decline.

In a recent workshop with a leadership team, we discussed these 13 behaviours to explore which ones everyone saw as a personal strength and where they could do with some support. This leadership team are going through significant business transformation, so spending time to look at behaviours and trust is important to help their teams navigate the change.

As a specialist in helping organisations bring calm to the chaos, the need to invest in behaviours and trust is always a conversation. Whether it’s linked to a culture of fear, people feeling secure in their role or questioning the credibility of leaders, behaviours need to be at the core of what you need to change to see something different.

I talk more about leadership and trust in the final episode of season three of my podcast where I help you explore whether leadership is for you. If you’d like to know more about rebuilding trust, read my blog about how long it takes to rebuild trust.


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