We have all been shocked at the rioting and destruction in one of America’s great cities- Baltimore, Maryland. The full extent of the damage done by the violence in Baltimore will not be known for months. But we do know this – probably 100 shops, businesses, and gas stations were burned and ransacked. Parts of this grand city were turned into a War Zone. Shopkeepers fled in fear of their lives as looters, seeking a Five-finger discount, stole everything. A family of four, living in an apartment above the liquor store they owned, fled to save their lives when their store was set ablaze beneath their feet by the rioters.
But suddenly, a week after the riots started, calm has returned to that City. The city lifted its curfew, the National Guard is exiting and a mall that was the center-point of the riots has reopened.
One huge lesson that Executives can learn from the situation in Baltimore is this: Distrust leads to Chaos. Unless, you have trust, nothing is going to happen positively in your organization. When trust is absent, everything deteriorates.
I have been sickened by the chaos that has ensued in so many places in the United States — locations like Ferguson County, Philadelphia, New York, and Florida. Yes- the trigger that lit these flames of chaos was alleged police misconduct targeting minorities but the reason these matters get out of hand and continue for months on end is the direct result of a lack of TRUST.
Until now . . . Marilyn J. Mosby took decisive action. She is the Baltimore State Attorney who announced on Friday that 6 police officers have been charged in the death of Freddie Gray, a young man who died a couple of weeks ago after suffering a severe spinal injury while in police custody.
I have never met Ms. Mosby and I am quite sure that she and I differ politically but she did something very positive that all Executives can learn from. She established Trust.
She reestablished Trust with the people of Baltimore and as a result, the chaos has been quelled.
Let me be upfront – I don’t know whether those 3 black and 3 white police officers in Baltimore are guilty as charged. I am naturally sympathetic with them as they undoubtedly have put their lives on the line everyday to protect their fellow citizens of Baltimore.
But someone had to stand up and move forward aggressively. Ms. Mosby has done that. It should be noted that Marilyn is the daughter and granddaughter of police officers. I am confident that she has not taken this matter of filing charges against the law enforcement personnel lightly.
Critics will accuse Ms. Mosby of playing politics and say she moved forward too quickly with insufficient proof. But given her strong family history in law enforcement combined with the fact that prosecutors do not like to bring cases they cannot win, I suspect this prosecutor has a strong case.
But regardless of how this prosecution plays out, my point today is simply this. Trust is essential to any organization whether it is the City of Baltimore or IBM. Here are five ways leaders can engender Trust:
1. Deliver on your Promises
Be a person of integrity- Be the one who is known for delivering on commitments.
2. Be Transparent in your Communications
When the opportunity to be vague arises, don’t do it!
3. Be Decisive
People hate fence-sitters. I would rather make a good decision today than a great decision 30 days from now.
4. Speak from your Heart
The easiest thing to do is to just state facts. But you need to show your compassion. Be willing to trust others by expressing your personal emotions. You will find your followers will reciprocate that Trust.
Follow up with a sense of Urgency – get the news out quickly – whether it be bad or good. When information is known, share it.
Remember this as a leader: Trust does not come automatically. It is the direct result of honest, open, and frequent communications.
Back in January, Mosby acknowledged the long-standing problems between residents and the police. She spoke passionately about her hope to help bridge that “trust gap.” She even stated: “There are barriers of distrust within the community and law enforcement.” She knew there was a problem, attacked it decisively, communicated openly and from her heart and good things happened.
I recently wrote in my book “Up Your Game,” that the reality of today’s leadership demands individuals who will develop deep and trusting relationships. When trust exists in an organization, everything accelerates. When trust doesn’t exist, things slow down because people will always be trying, from the CEO down, to cover their own tracks. When trust is lacking, people are afraid to take bold action.
So whether you run the City of Baltimore or International Business Machines, Trust is essential to your success. In fact, Thomas J. Watson, IBM’s Founder, once said: “The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy.”
Trust, for now, has been restored to the City of Baltimore. May each Executive recognize that powerful need for Trust and the amazing power for good it can have on accelerating the accomplishments of your organization.
– David Bradford