Give the benefit of the doubt
Big stick leaders must trust those on their team. Now, there’s a large debate in the leadership world around trust. Is it best to unconditionally give it up front or make people earn your trust? People often speak like those are the only two choices, all or nothing. I don’t know you but I will give you all of my trust or I don’t know you, so I don’t have any trust in you.
I’ve heard it too many times. The speak loudly leader usually says something like, “Trust is earned. You must earn my trust. I don’t trust anyone until they show me they can be trusted.” This is a way to lead but as someone who has always been a man of my word, this technique pissed me off. I’d think to myself, “Who are YOU to make this type of assessment on my character without knowing me?” I tend to not get along well with these types of leaders.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the speak softly leaders may be totally trusting of everyone at the beginning of a relationship. They may give everyone all of their trust until proven otherwise. This is more effective than starting everyone with zero trust but if the leader isn’t careful, he can easily be manipulated and taken advantage of. For giving all trust up front, if you pair the speak softly leader with carrying a small stick, people with ill intent will walk all over this guy. Trust can be a game changer or a game breaker.
There is another way.
Think of a time when you were a new member to a team or began working for a new boss. Was how he trusted you in line with either of the ideologies mentioned above? The speak softly and carry a big stick method of trust is this: start everyone with a baseline level of trust and adjust as necessary.
If you equate trust to a number with 100 being up front, unconditional trust and 0 being you will earn all of my trust, we start everyone at 50. A trust level of 50 is a baseline where everyone begins. Regardless of who they are, what they’ve done working with others and everything that’s happened in the past, they start smack dab in the middle. We give them the benefit of the doubt but not too much.
Every interaction we have with them either adds or subtracts from the 50 that they began with. This enables you to build trust with new relationships and decreases the chance that you will get taken advantage of. Here’s an example:
When have you done this to someone or have they done this to you?