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  • michela henke cilenti

4 Tips to Find Your Leadership 'Sweet Spot' to Build Trust Effortlessly

At the heart and soul of every leadership conversation that has taken place of recent in my practice is the quest for trust to be built, to flow and grow - in spite of the obstacles and differences real or perceived . More so than ever before trust has become the biggest driver and even the key responsibility of leadership. What we see is that some managers may be honest, straightforward and competent and yet, there are times when they are still clearly not trusted. What do we need to consider when building trust in a team?

Not to compare, but trust, is in my opinion is the best tool to use from your box- without a shadow of a doubt, carrying most occasions and relationships a good distance to a safer, clarified, productive and cooperative space. This blog shares recent observations from this months' leadership workshops that have been guiding leaders to find their sweet spot in their leadership style between their natural task and relationship orientations. That sweet spot we seek, is the most efficient authentic place, a sweet balance between task and relationship orientations.

I will share with you how to discover it (or keep finding it) in the most true and unmistakable way possible. Tapping in to the positive shadow, the power base that trust creates actually positively empowers leaders to pivot from a solid, true spot they own. Trust is synergetic and automatically builds more upon itself, bigger that the elements combined. With focus, 'trust consistency', becomes intuitive and builds to support each other to not drop the shared trust ball. Keeping it up in the air and restarting the union again when on occasion, it falls. The environment has never been so turbulent so the pushes and pulls will indeed challenge us, but as we know and have felt through reflection over the past few years, more things actually stay the same, than change. It's just the uncertainty that is distracting, if we let it be.

"Trust is a psychological state, a willingness to be vulnerable to each other."

Interpersonal trust isn't just a nice to have. We are living through an era of unparallel and unprecedented challenges on the one hand and commercial and personal opportunities on the other (read my this blog on building resilience in uncertain times). After 40 years of studying leadership trust it is generally accepted by experts, that trust is the main driver of many, many positive outcomes for teams and organizations. Still not convinced? Stay with me, let me expand.

Some of the most useful outcomes that spin off from having high levels of trust are - having a competitive advantage over your market and your competitors (remarkable, right?); being more effective in strategic implementation and change (we need that right now); in all forms of management coordination (we use that every day, helpful for sure) and the creation and sustainment of teamwork (a desirable and often the piece that's missing in group work).

In my client's workshop last month, Questioning Skills and Listening Skills to Lead Coach and Mentor we spent a lot of time talking about the peculiarities and the nuances of being a more task or more relationship oriented leader on all aspects of your work and organizational life but in particular in trust building. The complex nature of trust in a directly supervising manager/leader is not two but multi-dimensional. While both orientations are related to trust, competence and consistency are more strongly related to task-oriented trust and motivational intention is more strongly related to relationship-oriented trust. How does that align when navigating towards leading from your sweet spot in between the two? We found and it seemed to be really helpful to the workshop attendees, to talk about and gauge how much of a DISC behavioral flex and stretch would be required to reach the most authentic path to their sweet spot- right in between the two orientations of task and relationship to connect with all the team, in the teams' preferred orientation to authentically build trust.

Knowing where to start, mapping out and setting goals as a developing leader to change behaviors and habits seemed unattainable. What is considered to be the best approach? It was good to know the attendees were not alone with their questions. Have a peek at what we determined together in the workshop supported and underscored by the science of Leadership & Organizational Studies.

Trust levels can be higher of lower in different workers and each leader's sweet spot can be quite different from the next leader's with interpersonal, situational and industry/role specifics to take into consideration. We defined the ideal sweet spot as the place you can fluidly exchange the most trust, at the most times, using authentic, you behaviors, in your real leadership style.

Tip #1 - Determine what your default orientation is

Under pressure, default you- Do you typically head to the tasks or build the relationships, checking in a making a cup of tea for the whole tea before we get down to work ?

Tip #2 - Evaluate if there are situations or roles that use different orientations

Map out all elements of your role and roles and look for patterns in where they lean to, or where lean to. As with all self-awareness and self-knowledge, time spent reflecting and determining the 'whats' and 'whens' can direct impact positively growth and change.

Tip #3 - Be extra competent whilst in task orientation mode

If a team member perceives the leader or manager to be competent when on a task (such as, compiling time sheets or wages calculations) , trust is more likely to grow. For a relationship oriented leaders, moving and flexing to a task orientation to complete the task with accuracy to the expected level required will be perceived very positively. Ask yourself, how can I keep thinking of the importance of the relationship and trust I have with my team, to perform on task, at a higher level than my baseline capability. It's remarkable what we can achieve when we framing the focus and locus of concern ad priority. Use your team and people orientation to leverage your motivation.

When we build a high-performing leadership team they will always outperform the capabilities of the individuals in it – McKinsey & Company

Tip #4 - Refrain from activities that make followers question your intentions- in relationship orientation mode

The team will be more willing to rely upon the leader or manager in the relational orientated environment if the team member holds positive perceptions of the manager’s motivational intention. If the team perceive leaders to be out for themselves or willing to use information against a person, it is unlikely they will engage in open communication or personal revelation because they will be unwilling to make themselves vulnerable to the leader.

The most important thing is to guide yourself to become more aware of the ripple effect of your leadership and your behaviors onto the team. The impact you have on others. Sometimes, we have to get out of the way of ourselves to allow the intentional clarity and then impact of our true authentic selves on the culture and success of the team. Executive coaching can be a great place to kick start this process, click here for details.


I offer lively, impactful leadership workshops, executive and emerging leader coaching, (SME) subject matter expert in leadership learning and development content and program creation, and keynote on a variety of subjects all around the theme of why humans are possibly a bit of the problem but magical all at the same time and how we can get out of our way to be wildly successful. Let's connect.

I am also, as you already know, very comfortable talking about the unspoken and inspiring the team to notice and use the strengths that they have, and shift mindsets to remove the barriers to true purpose and performance.

Check out my website with more blogs and videos and book a time to connect through this link.


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