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Mar 7, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Jeff decided to ask the Compensation Committee to forgo his annual equity grant, and to instead put those shares back in the pool for LinkedIn employees.

Apparently, we may be seeing something here.

After Twitter’s stock plummeted in October, CEO Jack Dorsey announced that he would give a third of his stock award —worth about $200 million — to employees. Plum Creek Timber Co. CEO Rick Holley also gave back his $2 million bonus in 2014. I also wrote a while back about a college president who would donate his yearly bonus to the colleges scholarship fund.

A true Captain exhibits leadership

Lots of time our employees see leadership as the captain of the ship, but when the ship runs aground it seems the employees  are the ones thrown overboard. Since the decimation of the banking crisis, this has become the mindset of so many people.

In all honesty, you can’t blame them. Nobody trusts anyone anymore. Trust has been shattered.

When I read this article about the LinkedIn CEO, my thought was that for whatever reason, Jack Dorsey showed a caring side that we need to see more from our leaders.

He could just have easily taken those funds and moved on with his life.

How does trust affect our lives?

Trust is something lots of organizations take for granted. It takes years sometimes to build it, but with one dumb move, in the blink of an eye — poof! — it is gone.

Have you ever noticed how we award trust to individuals?  We always take them at their word. If they said it, you do not waiver as you take them at what they said.

Even when they are not in our presence, we continue to speak well of them. I have heard people say, “no one has ever said a bad word against them.”  We always seem to give them the benefit of the doubt.

However, the flip side is another story completely. We tend to distrust what they say. We distrust every comment, every email as just another opportunity for us to mistrust. In other words, we are always suspicious of their motives.

Organizational trust and what it means

This translates to organizations as well. Every email, every conversation, town hall, or other form of communication with the leader is looked at with a side glance or eye roll. Why is this done?

It happens because you, as an organization, have dropped the ball at every opportunity.

Leaders are given countless opportunities to build the connectivity with their most important asset. However, we hear of stories, like employees being informed of layoffs by email, and wonder __ how could someone be so tone deaf?

As difficult as it is to build and maintain trust within organizations, it’s critical to do so. If people trust each other and their leaders, they’ll be able to work through disagreements, miscommunications, and other issues. They’ll work harder, stay with the company longer, contribute better ideas, and dig deeper than anyone has a right to ask.

Trust can be destructive

If they don’t trust the organization and its leaders, though, they’ll disengage from their work and focus instead on rumors, politics, and updating their résumés.

However just like in our families, there are certain virtues that have hold fast on the span of time: consistency, clear communication, and a willingness to tackle tough questions. This is probably baked into your organization mission and values.

The problem is that in lots of cases we do not use those statements as our guiding light.

Are we making decisions based on our mission, values and culture? If not, you are basically saying one thing and doing another, which goes back to the most overused statement in the business world: “People are our greatest asset.”

If you were to go back to the graveyard of failed enterprises, you will see that somewhere along the line they became disconnected. Think of Enron, Arthur Anderson, and a host of others. They said one thing but acted totally opposite.

We have to live, eat, and breath what we are about as an organization. If not, our people will see it and the erosion of trust will begin to spout like grass growing through cement in an unused parking lot

3 leadership “musts”

Here are three leadership “musts” to remember:

  1. Be truthful. If it were only that easy. It’s easy to round the numbers up, spin the facts, or conveniently leave out the evidence that doesn’t support our position, but in the end you will lose if you are not truthful.
  2. Make “trust” deposits at every opportunity. Always interact without expecting anything in return. The more you give, the more it builds trust. This is true in our individual lives as well as corporate speak. In other words, live by the mantra “How can I help” and “what do you need from me”
  3. Keep your word. People have to learn that they can count on you to deliver on your promises. If you commit to following up on something, do it. No excuses. If you can’t do it, proactively let the other person know.

The level of leadership mistrust that has been built up over the years can be rebuilt. It takes doing the right thing regardless of the consequences, and if you do that, eventually the tide will turn and the pendulum will swing back in your favor.

However, remember that once you get it back, guard it with your life because the gradual erosion can begin again with one clueless move.

So never take the easy way out. Do what’s right by your team or organization. And as a leader, be a true captain.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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