How to build trust with others in your church

Kara Powell Image Kara Powell | Mar 29, 2012

I’m more and more convinced of the role of trust in leadership. If people don’t trust us, they won’t follow us.

That’s why I was intrigued by this recent Harvard Business Review blog showing the role of competence in building trust. I often hear youth leaders bemoan that the parents of their students don’t trust them, or that their pastoral colleagues don’t seem to respect them. Maybe part of that is because we as youth leaders have acted such that others’ trust in us has eroded.

The HBR authors (one of whom is a Harvard faculty member, the other of whom is a long-time marketplace leader) recommend the following in building trust:

Talk about the why and how of decisions you make and actions you take. Don’t be mysterious. Be open in your choices. That way, people will see your knowledge and understanding even before any results come in. In other words, adopt a practice of explaining yourself. It lets others see what you know and how you think.

Involve others in the way you manage. Invite people’s participation in decisions and the resolution of group issues. Use their technical and operational knowledge. You retain ultimate responsibility, of course, but giving people a say allows you to incorporate their competence into your own. They will worry less about what you yourself know if they’re confident you will take advantgage of what they know.

Ask good questions that reflect real understanding of the work and its purposes.

Don’t try to fake knowledge. If you claim or assume knowledge you don’t really possess, those who truly know will see through you instantly. Ask for clarification. Admit ignorance and ask questions that will help you learn. Admit mistakes, as well, and talk about what you learned from them. Demonstrate a willingness, even an eagerness, to learn.

Of these four tips, which do you already do well? Which could you further develop?

For me, I’m pretty good at not faking knowledge. Just ask our FYI team.

But I could definitely work on better explaining the “why” and “how” of decisions that I make. Often I’ve been thinking about them for so long, or even been talking to a few team members about them, but I forget that the rest of the team hasn’t been in the loop. That’s definitely something I want to work on.

Kara Powell Image
Kara Powell

Kara Powell, PhD, is the chief of leadership formation and executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) at Fuller Theological Seminary. Named by Christianity Today as one of "50 Women to Watch," Kara serves as a youth and family strategist for Orange and speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara has authored or coauthored numerous books, including Faith Beyond Youth Group, 3 Big Questions That Shape Your Future, 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Growing With, Growing Young, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family and the entire Sticky Faith series. Kara and her husband, Dave, are regularly inspired by the learning and laughter that comes from their three teenage and young adult children.

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