If They Don’t Trust You

Two incidents occurred in the past week that reinforces a critical factor in every leader’s effectiveness: The impact of mistrust.

The first incident: President Barrack Obama made this comment in a speech to campaign workers in Las Vegas on September 12, 2012:

“And obviously

[our] hearts are broken for the families but I wanted to encourage those folks at the State Department that they were making a difference. The sacrifices that our troops and our diplomats make are obviously very different from the challenges that we face here domestically but like them, you guys are Americans who sense that we can do better than we’re doing … I’m just really proud of you.”

The President’s opponents went nuts and hit the airwaves with allegations that he was demeaning the sacrifice of those killed in the U.S. Embassy attacks by comparing it to the challenges of campaigning for the President.

The second incident: Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney released the following statement just after news of attacks on U.S. Embassies in Egypt and Libya:

 “The Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”  

The next day, Romney supported his statements by saying that the U.S. State Department’s response “appeared to be an apology for American principles.”

Governor Romney’s opponents went nuts and hit the airwaves with criticism that he was both inappropriate and wrong to make a statement that did not support the President in a time of foreign policy crisis.

Both incidents prove this truth about the ability to influence others:

If they don’t trust you, everything you say will be twisted against you and nothing you say will be given the benefit of the doubt.

Make no mistake – both statements were off target to one degree or another. And, I’m betting that both the President and Governor Romney wish their words had been chosen more carefully.

But, the fact is that neither man has generated enough trust for his opponents to give him the benefit of the doubt when his words where less than the best. The respective opponents refuse to believe anything but the worst about both candidates.

Here’s the lesson for you:

There will always be people who don’t like you or believe that you are correct if you are in a leadership position for any length of time. And sooner or later, you will say something that doesn’t come out exactly as you would hope.

When that happens, you must rely on their trust that you are a person of the best intentions to create the space that they will give you the benefit of the doubt. You do that by investing time in open communication and dialogue; being truthful and honest in your interactions; and admitting your mistakes.

Those things, of course, will not happen in a hotly contested Presidential campaign that is two months from its conclusion. Fortunately, you aren’t running for President. You are, however, earning the right to be trusted every day in your role as a leader.

About the Author:

Randy Pennington

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author and a leading authority on helping organizations deliver positive results in a world of accelerating change. To learn more or to hire Randy for your next meeting, visit www.penningtongroup.com or call 972-980-9857.

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