I grew up in the video game boom of the 80s and 90s. My brother and I wore out our old NES console playing games like TECMO Bowl, Contra, Excitebike, and of course Super Mario Brothers. We played until our thumbs were too sore to go on or until we fell asleep, controller in hand. But Mario? He never got tired. He never slowed down. No matter how many bricks he hit with his head he never collapsed from a concussion. No matter how many coins he collected his pockets never filled up. Mario was one rich and tough plumber. As for us, we were experts. 10,000 hours? Oh man, I’m sure we blew past that mark!
Honestly, it’s kind of silly how fanatical we were about these games. When it came time to release a new iteration of the Super Mario franchise, we literally begged our parents for it. We broke open our piggy banks and did extra chores to save up the money to buy a game about two overall-wearing Italian plumbers and their various adventures.
Why in the world would a ten-year-old boy do this? Because we trusted Mario. We knew before the game even hit the market that it was going to be awesome! The Super Mario Brothers had lived up to their name every time.
Companies spend unbelievable amounts of money and go to great lengths to gain one thing: trust. They know that gaining trust is the best way to ensure the consumer will buy a product—not just once—but over and over again. Trust is the holy grail of marketing.
In leadership, it’s no different. There’s nothing more powerful than trust. A leader can have a compelling vision and a contagious passion, but if there’s no trust people will soon stop following. It is the one thing that holds a team together. It is the framework of commitment.
Position and authority will give you followers, but trust will make you a leader.
If we underestimate the value of cultivating it, we are setting ourselves up for leadership failure. We must learn to skillfully build and maintain trust if we are going to be long-term leaders.
We all know that building trust takes time to develop. It doesn’t happen over night, but it takes more than that. One of our biggest temptations as leaders is to focus on getting the project done while forgetting about the people. We can invest all of our time in the task and lose because we didn’t invest in our team.
So, here’s the question that’s always burning in my mind.
In the busy life of a leader, how do you build trust when it seems like there is little or no time to invest in the people you are leading?
As I’ve thought about this over the years, here are a few things I have learned about how to collect coins in the game of trust building.
To build trust a leader must be…
T – Teachable
People will trust you more if you remain teachable. Don’t pretend to be an expert on everything. Just because you are the leader doesn’t mean you are the smartest person in the room. Learn your strengths and those of your team members, then leverage them to make the team successful. Give people the opportunity to teach you and they will trust you.
R – Repetitive
Trust comes through repetition. Your team needs to know that they can count on you for consistent communication. They need you to show up when you say you are going to show up. They need you to come to meetings prepared. They need you to do these things more than once. Show people they can count on you and they will trust you.
U – Unselfish
There is probably nothing more caustic to a team than a selfish leader. On the flip side, there is nothing more nurturing to a team than an unselfish one. People will follow you all day long if they can see that you are in it because you care about them and that you are passionate about the vision. Lead people by serving, and they will trust you.
S – Strategic
In our busy culture, we have to have a strategy for building our teams. Don’t feel like you have to develop a school of leadership or an internship program. Just start with a simple strategy like reading a leadership book with your team and discussing it together. Making small investments consistently over time is the best way to grow your team members as leaders. Strategically invest in people and they will trust you.
T – Together
This is the most powerful secret for building trust and investing in leaders. As a leader, try to never do anything alone. In everything you do, no matter how mundane, take someone along. We could spend our whole lives as leaders frustrated that we don’t have enough time to develop trust or invest in our team members, but we don’t need extra time. We just need to use the time we already have more wisely. This is what Jesus modeled with the “come follow me” method. Let people into the process. Let them see you deliberating. Let them see you creating and brainstorming. Let them see you struggling. Let people see you leading and they will trust you.
Invest in the people you lead and I promise you will have an account full of trust. Then, when you are ready to take the next big step, you can draw from that account and they will follow wherever you lead them.