Covid-19 and the Nine Habits of Trust: A Leadership Checklist

Delighted to feature this timely and passionate guest blog from Steve McCann who is one of our leadership partners. Thank you, Steve, for capturing your thoughts on how the Nine Habits of Trust can help leaders at a practical level during this crisis:-

Here at The Trusted Executive Foundation we are ready, prepared and willing to support you and your business through these extra-ordinary times. Despite our extensive business experience, we have not seen such an acute, far-reaching and extraordinary situation before so we fully appreciate the challenges other leaders face just trying to make some sense of current developments. To help you, we have put together the following framework that uses our Nine Habits of Trust model and gives you a simple, practical and powerful checklist to help you navigate these uncharted waters.

Nine Habits of Trust Model

To build our leadership and organisational trust, especially now, we must focus on the three supporting pillars of Ability, Integrity and Benevolence. Firstly, lets deal with Ability which build trust by reassuring and reflecting our competence and reliability and it is based upon looking at the following three habits:

  • #1:        Deliver – In the current crisis are we able to deliver on our promises? In other words, can our business meet its obligations to its stakeholders? Obviously, Covid-19 has made a significant impact to ‘business as usual’ so of primary concern are the practicalities of cashflow, income, payments and all the other financial implications that this situation brings. There is no silver bullet, just a data-driven, practical and systematic analysis of the impacts and the options available to deal with them. The key question to consider is: Who are the best people in your organisation to be dealing with this analysis? Let them get on with it. Who are the best people to carry on delivering on your business promises as best as possible? Let them get on with it also.
  • #2.        Coach – In extraordinary times, you as the leader will not have all the answers, none of us have, so this is the time to really empower your people by becoming the best coach you can be. The questions that occupy your mind, get them out to your team, let them work the problems you face and help them feel engaged, empowered and valued. We all work better with a clear purpose so don’t feel you have to have all the answers, just make sure you have lots of questions and coach your people to solve them.
  • #3.        Be Consistent – This is where your values, both personal and organisational, really help your decision making as they act as your ‘North Star’ to ensure you are consistent in your actions, behaviours and reactions. Now is the time to focus on your values and use them as your key decision-making tool. It may also be helpful to think about what priority order they should be considered as there are sure to be dilemmas along the way.

Once we have considered the practicalities and tasks that require our immediate attention, we can make sure we are modelling the habits of Integrity. In these extraordinary times, where the change is overwhelming, far-reaching and emotionally charged your integrity will be under scrutiny by everyone, especially your team and other stakeholders who will be looking for cues to see what the future could hold. This is a great opportunity to reassure everyone within your network which in turn will allow people to focus on what ‘needs to be done’ rather than ‘ what might happen’

  • #4.        Be Honest – Of course we are all honest all the time….right? Now is the time to ensure that we are scrupulously honest in all aspects of our life. We are not helping anybody or anything by withholding the truth, gamesmanship or ‘white lies’. People want, and deserve, the truth. If you don’t know then its best to say exactly that. If you need to take tough action to preserve the business and most of your team but will impact individuals, then it is imperative you are honest about this. It also feels good to be honest as you will not drain energy managing multiple scenarios or relationships – you will offer a single, consistent ‘truth’ that may be tough but it is reassuring so everyone knows ‘where they stand’ How do you want to be remembered once this crisis has passed, as it surely will?
  • #5.        Be Open – This crisis will affect us all on an emotional, personal and business level so lets just be open about it. As a coach I fear for my coaching business, I fear for the clients and friends I have built great relationships with who have put their heart and souls into their businesses. I fear for the economy and how this will impact the more vulnerable in our society. I fear for my 80-year-old parents and what this could mean for them in terms of their health. Being open about this fear allows me to process it, share it so people understand where my head is at and then allow me to focus on other things and get on with the job in hand. Just because you are a leader does not mean you have to be a superhero – we are all just human after all (sorry!)
  • #6.        Be Humble – Humility is one of the most powerful trust building habits and is as important in a crisis as during ‘Business As Usual’ – accept you don’t have the answers, seek others input and know that we are all in this together. It may be worth looking at how you present as a leader in challenging times – do your words, actions, appearance and behaviour demonstrate that we are ‘all in this together’ or is it more ‘I’m alright, Jack!’ Remember, the smallest cues are picked up by people who are looking for reassurance and the opportunity to trust you. Don’t miss this opportunity.

So we have looked at our Ability and Integrity so now we turn to the third pillar of building trust; Benevolence which can be the most challenging pillar of trust to grasp, especially in a business context. Essentially benevolence is from the Latin to ‘wish well’ and in our current climate is a very powerful way of guiding our actions and responses by considering whether we are ‘doing well’ for the people within our area of influence.

  • #7.        Evangelise! – At the moment I am finding this the hardest thing to do because ‘spreading the good news’ is so difficult when good news is hard to find and there is so much disruption. In the good times we have the capacity and motivation to put energy into positive communication to ensure we build and maintain momentum. In these times of crisis most of our energy is consumed just trying to cope and deal with the avalanche of ‘stuff’ that we need to do. So perhaps its worth considering how you can make time to evangelise, spread the good news – even if the good news is that you have made it through another day and are resourceful and resilient enough to go again tomorrow! Your energy and efforts will be magnified by others and help you and your people maintain resilience and fluidity to be able to respond better over the coming weeks.
  • #8.        Be Brave – To be a leader is to be brave anyway, but our moral bravery will be tested like never before, so now is the time to really think how this could be developed and used as a force for good. Some businesses will take the opportunity to make changes that perhaps in ‘normal times’ they would not have made but know are the best for the long-term. Alternatively, others may take the opportunity to exploit the situation for their own ends. What does it mean for you to be brave in this situation and how does this remain congruent with all the habits above? Great uncertainty presents great moral dilemmas – how do you want to be remembered?
  • #9.        Be Kind. And finally, last but certainly not least is the trust building habit of being kind. It is great to see as much attention being given to people stepping up their kindness to others during this time as there are stories about panic buying, empty shelves and the great ‘bog roll escape’. We all know that basic human kindness is essential to support everyone in our community. However, in a specific business context, I would ask you to consider how kind you are being to yourself. You will be experiencing all the emotional stresses as everyone else with the added pressure of running, owning or protecting your business so please be kind to yourself. Take a break, give yourself time, do what you like to do (if possible) as this is a longer-term challenge and pulling 16-hour days will not fix it. Helping yourself remain resourceful will no doubt influence how much you can support your teams and be kind to them and their families.

I hope that this quick run through the Nine Habits model has helped you frame and consider your responses and reactions to this current challenge. If you and/or your team require an immediate shot in the arm, we are offering a FREE  ‘Nine Leadership Habits for Navigating the Crisis‘ virtual team coaching session where we can apply this model to your current reality to generate focus and action plans. If this could have value for you right now, please contact us via the website contact form. We’re here to help!

For more information on the Trusted Executive Foundation please refer to this short introductory video. 


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