December 14, 2004      
Topics of Trust and Leadership, from the authors of The Trusted Leader



The authors of The Trusted Leader

This month we continue our new series of articles called Building Trust on the Way In with a discussion about taking it slow when you are on your way in to lead a new organization or project.

Sure, successful leaders are ones who act, but taking the time to do your homework first can help raise the balance in your "trust bank."

-Rob and Anne-


The Trusted Leader

Previous Issues:

Past Performance is no Guarantee of Future Results

What if You Flub It?

Surviving the Big Mistake


Next month's issue: Find Yourself a Guide


Before taking action with, or demanding anything from the new group that you’ll be leading, make sure you understood the whole situation you’re facing. Take it slow, whether the new situation involves a single individual or an entire group.

Now, rest assured, this is not a call for you to become the hesitant new leader. It's only to make sure that you do your homework first, and that you have your aspirations well-founded and well-grounded before you start taking action.

Successful leaders have a bias for action anyway, so this is really a pitch for you to make sure that before you act, you really do understand the landscape. A friend of ours often says that it takes six months to find your way to the water fountain. That may be a bit of hyperbole, but it does underscore the importance of not making moves too precipitously, or with a paucity of data. Do lots of listening first.

Lots of listening exposes you to people's attitudes, and to who they are. In a new leadership role, it is the first way in which caring could be demonstrated. Even in a rough and tumble work situation, making sure people know that you care is the absolute first step in trust-building.

Listening can take a number of forms; it is not restricted to nodding one's head appropriately during a conversation. It can take the form of spending time with people first, even in "remedial" situations, and not going too rapidly on the offensive to solve a problem, even if you're sure you know what the solution is.

Speaking of remedial situations, dealing with poor performers can, in fact, be a way to help establish trust. Rather than simply telling people to “shape up” and not do anything “bad,” you can be honest and up-front that you’re taking some time to observe. Be non-judgmental during the observation period. (And yes, you’re going to get some resistance, of course!) Later, after you’ve taken the time to watch, learn, and understand, review the behaviors and corrective actions, using phrasing such as "here's what we're going to have to work on…"

Part of listening and doing your homework is also not losing one's temper too quickly, or inappropriately. Losing one's temper early on is a sure way to impede one's traction in gaining trust. If you can’t control yourself, you blow your credibility. And if you get personal about it, it affects your ability to be a caring leader.

Jim Lawrence, EVP and CFO of General Mills, emphasized the importance of patience and listening, when he spoke with us about being the “new kid on the block.”

“I knew I had to make people feel that I was a trustworthy guy to make it work at General Mills,” he said. “After I was here for about a year, I got some pretty straight feedback. It said that I talked about the ‘outside’ a little too much, that I was probably not quite sufficiently appreciative of our in-house abilities. That I wasn’t listening enough to the slower-speaking Midwestern folks who populate this organization. In short, I probably wasn’t showing them enough respect. I learned to let the meetings take longer. To let the conversations go longer. There were certain things I wanted to do very quickly, but I learned that before I could go and do them, I had to build up the trust bank.”

Step back, listen, and learn to build up your own trust bank.

~ ~ ~

How about you? Have you found yourself in similar situations? Let us know.

Please forward this newsletter to your colleagues and friends who are interested in organizational and leadership issues. Your feedback is always welcome at


Contact us for information about having us work directly with you and your organization.

The Trusted Leader website.

Take The Trusted Leader self-assessment test.




If you received this newsletter from a colleague or associate and would like your own subscription, sign up below:


© 2004 Robert Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau   All Rights Reserved   Privacy Policy

Powered by Constant Contact        e-newsletter management by Minerva Solutions, Inc.