Coaching & Development Solutions

How Leaders Can Build Trust And Improve Performance



In a recent blog post the leadership guru, and author of The One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard writes:

Building trusting relationships is one of the most important elements of being an effective leader. The good news is that turning around a low-trust environment isn't rocket science. It starts with performance evaluation.

I worked with one leader who was honest, down to earth, and respectful. Even when he was pushing for a big change everyone trusted him, and it was amazing how committed and motivated we were. However, when leaders create a very low trust environment there is more conflict and lower levels of productivity. Everyone is too busy fighting the leader, or each other, to really achieve something special.

Blanchard contrasts two different styles of performance evaluation:

  • Evaluation with a judgemental mindset
  • Goal setting and continuous coaching

Blanchard says the former leads to low trust, and the latter improves trust and performance. This resonated with me because I'm currently preparing to deliver performance management training to a global electronics company and one of the key ideas is that feedback and coaching should be 24/7. Hearing about improvement areas only once a year in a formal appraisal doesn't really help someone's development. This information is communicated so late that there are lots of missed chances to make changes, and the feedback recipient might not even remember the details of the situation. Managers who coach their people will gain their trust because they are demonstrating commitment to them as individuals not just tools to complete jobs.

Feedback Combined with Coach

A well-publicised feedback model is Situation-Behaviour-Impact (SBI), which certainly shares the views of the leader, and avoids being judgemental in favour of describing what the leader saw or heard. However, it does not involve the perspective of the individual so it misses a rich source of insight from the person who should have a lot to offer. By enhancing it with elements of coaching I created the four-step method which begins with the reflections of the colleague:

In the last step as a leader you can choose whether to be directive or non-directive depending on how well you feel the colleague has come up with a good plan based on the discussion. As a leader, if the individual was confident and capable of taking a positive action then I knew that they would have a greater sense of ownership to do that than if I just told them what to do. So I simply asked what they will do next. If they were uncertain what was the best path forward, or nervous of trying something new, then I found that they might welcome some direction.

About The Author

Alasdair Graham is the founder of Apex Discovery and a coach who helps leaders and businesses grow. If you found this blog post useful then please share it.

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