Why Your Strategic Plans Will Not Work Without Trust (& Here’s How to Cultivate It)


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As leaders, we are responsible for ensuring performance by our team members. To help funnel their energies in the right direction, we put a lot of time and effort into developing a strategic plan. We like plans and steps, it’s helps the logical side of our brain, and strategic plans provide exactly that: clarity of who is doing what when.

What is not considered in the pursuit of our goals and targets, what is forgotten in the action plan, is the one thing that will significantly improve our chances for success. It doesn’t take any financial resources, yet affects every action step along the way.

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This one thing is trust. Without trust, your best laid strategic plans will fall short or not be quite what they could. Think about a time you were asked to give your boss feedback or contribute your ideas. If you trusted them, you gave your honest opinion, your wildest and best ideas. If you did not trust them, if you did not feel safe, you most likely held back. Without trust in place, we monitor our words, thoughts, and actions because we aren’t certain there will not be repercussions or judgement.

Amplify that amount of energy each person is holding back by all the actions in the strategic plan, then multiply that by all of your team members. The effort and contributions your team could be generating will be notably less without trust. It’s what separates good teams from great ones.

Trust is a feeling, an emotion, and is built over time. The good news is you can strengthen it everyday through your behavior and actions. Removing the barrier allows each person’s full potential to come forth, you’ve opened the door for creation, innovation, and success.
Once trust is established, as people come and go, it remains intact. It’s strong enough to encourage someone new to the team to take that leap of faith earlier, to trust you because there is a solid network of people who already uphold that trusting environment; they help the new person acclimate.

How can you cultivate trust? The 4-C’s.

Compassion: Compassion is not only for those times when someone is struggling in their personal life, it’s impacting their work, and we support them through that challenge. Those times come for all of us.

It’s not only when someone puts a lot of time and effort into something yet still falls short. We must recognize their efforts, share in their disappointment (a kind word does wonders) while using it as a reflective moment to decipher what they learned.

Compassion is also understanding that someone else simply doesn’t understand something (yet). Take a second to truly digest that. Rather than thinking, “they just don’t get it and never will,” you have compassion for their current state. You try a different approach, you put in some effort. At a minimum, you believe in their abilities to be able to learn and understand.

Caring: Show your team how important they are to you, that they aren’t just worker bees or that you’re too busy. Ask how they are, what they need, engage with them in professional and personal conversations. Offer a helping hand when one is needed.

Caring is doing whatever it takes to help keep them going. It’s why in the early days of business or during big projects, everyone is doing everything: packing and unpacking boxes, filing, moving furniture, building systems…it doesn’t matter if it’s in your job description. Showing you care about your team as people, as well as the work you all do, is what builds trust.

Consistency: Do the above on a regular basis and people will believe you. Caring and compassion cannot gain ground when they happen in isolated incidences. If you aren’t consistent with all of your behaviors, people will wonder who is going to show up each day. It’s a Dr. Jekkyl/Mr. Hyde scenario. When you are consistent with your behavior and actions, people trust that this is who you really are, not just an act for short term gain.

Capabilities: People like knowing they are in good hands, so yes, your skills come into play here. When you are excellent at what you do your team will believe you can get them where they need to be. They don’t need to know how you and they will do it, but they do know if anyone can, y’all can. They believe you have the capabilities to make sound decisions, take the right actions, and this inspires them to rally behind you.

If you doubt trust is important, think of how you behave when you don’t trust someone. Then go see how you can help cultivate trust for your team right that second.

Karyn Chylewski
I spent 20 years working in a diverse range of leadership roles before starting my leadership coaching practice. From working as a backcountry hut master to restaurant management, to leading a team in the intense pet care industry, I learned that the key to leadership success is all in relationships. I now help leaders build better connections with their team, navigate their relationships, and understand the human side of leadership so they can become better leaders, improve team morale, and achieve higher performance. I love spending time outdoors, with my family, great wine & conversations.


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