When it comes to being a leader, trust has to be earned. In fact, I've talked about it before on the TalentSpace Blog because the ability to build trust is essential to being an effective leader. Gaining someone's trust takes time; unfortunately, it's much easier to lose someone's trust. The question is: Can you regain someone's trust once it's lost?
Some would argue that once trust is lost it is gone forever. However, I believe trust can not only be regained, but also fortified in the process.
When someone decides to put their trust in you, they choose to believe in your sincerity, ability and integrity. If you lose their trust, you must correct your behavior and demonstrate that you still embody those three traits.
Regaining someone's trust is never simple, and it can take some time. However, here are three ways that will help you get on the road to restoring trust:
1. Acknowledge your missteps
When you have done something to undermine your team's trust in you, your sincerity in caring about them and their future is likely to be called into question.
It's not enough to say you are sorry. You must demonstrate that you truly understand the impact of your misstep, and that you are sincere in making things right.
This requires you to ask questions and really listen to the other person's answers. Show that you fully understand the impact you had on the other person. Only then can you determine what you can do to repair the damage – or at least make sure you correct your course going forward.
Most people recognize that it takes great courage to acknowledge mistakes or missteps, especially publicly. Your willingness to go a step farther and listen to the pain you caused will go a long way toward regaining trust. Sincerely asserting your desire to do better going forward, also shows that you're willing to follow through and make an effort to change.
2. Demonstrate that you learned something valuable
When you do something to cause distrust, people will often question your competency as a leader. You have to prove your worth all over again – this time with an even stronger focus on transparency and truth.
However, if you are willing to learn from your mistakes, you'll find that people do have room for forgiveness. By demonstrating that you have learned something valuable, and are trying to incorporate that knowledge into your daily routine, others will slowly regain their confidence in your ability to lead.
Ask for feedback, and when you get it, act on it. The key here, of course, is to follow through.
3. Make a new promise and keep it. Repeat.
One of the fastest ways to lose trust is to make a promise and fail to keep it. The good news is that one of the fastest ways to gain trust is to make a promise and then make it happen.
It is important to note that people don't really care about the reasons why you didn't keep a promise. By making a new promise and keeping it you will slowly begin to regain their trust in your integrity.
You will likely be up against some skepticism. You'll need to keep repeating this until people start expecting you to deliver as promised, rather than wonder if you will.
The long road to regaining trust
Trust that has been broken can be restored if you are willing to take these steps. The even better news: trust that has been regained is often stronger in the long run because you will have earned people's respect from your courage, your honesty and willingness to learn and grow.
Commit to regaining your team's trust, be honest and open, admit your mistakes and work doggedly to correct them, and you'll be on the road back to a relationship of trust and respect. It may take time and patience, but it can be done, and you'll be a better leader for it.