Building Trust During Times of Uncertainty

Mistakes do not erode trust. The way we face mistakes erodes trust. In the Dimensional Leadership™ model, increased self-awareness helps us recognize how the way we show up to our mistakes affects ourselves, as well as others.

The responsibility of the role you are in, regardless of title, has a certain expectation that builds up between your ears. It’s a combination of what you think, what others tell you, and what you adopted as true about what actions are vital. And then you hold yourself to it.

Just recently, I was able to notice that I’m eroding trust in myself. I write “able to notice” because the signs have been there for almost two months:

  • I didn’t plan enough.
  • What if… 
  • I could have done that.
  • If I’d only known…

Two major things in my life recently were smashed with a brand new role handed to me – that wasn’t my choice. I found myself reeling. Concerned. A bit excited. These life roles smashed together and everything was in pieces around me. Reflecting back, turns out my feelings of failure are directly related to:

How well can I navigate these roles? How well can I be all-in and focus quickly when I switch from one to the next?

I hit bottom … twice. The first time I bounced I was relieved. 

I remember thinking that I’ve got this even though everything is difficult right now. Thinking how awesome it was to bounce – and know I was bouncing back, my confidence increased. 

The difficulty didn’t change though. In my confidence I tried to do too much in each role each day. I started missing deadlines, and wasn’t getting done the tasks I’d decided to complete each day – action or planning. Doubt never was prominent, but in hindsight it was there.

I was being inconsistent. I was setting myself up for failure, and I wasn’t getting anything done. I hit the bottom. I crashed. Everything stopped.

The timeliness of these podcast interviews, when going into production (and the research I did) aligned to the problem I am grappling with most right now: How do I rebuild trust in myself? How do I fortify the trust others have in me?

Your questions may look different. Join me in owning where you are right now and make the decision to move forward.

When you are  honest with yourself and (finally) accept what really is happening … that is the start of vulnerability. George Papadeas, COO at The HOTH, talked with me about the importance of transparency, which requires vulnerability.

“We show our team that level of vulnerability as well, because we’re going to expect that from them at some point when they become leaders, or if they leave the organization to go somewhere else that that’s going to be expected of them as a manager or leader. Vulnerability is a huge part of transparency. If you don’t have it, you’re going to be light years behind everyone else, in my opinion.” – George Papadeas, COO The HOTH

Everything we do stems from how willing we are to feel unprotected in situations. When there is only black and white, only in or out, only certain ways to do things we bring armor with us to each situation. And not only for ourselves – we also readily give that armor to others. Which increases the chances that we show up inconsistently; that the clarity of expectations is murky at best; and that the results of our actions decrease. 

Inconsistent Leadership impacts everything … especially trust!

Starting with yourself. I couldn’t do three – just three things each day. Interruptions, topic switching, deadlines … all these factor weren’t letting me move forward.

With everything in pieces, first I paused and just noticed what was around me. Before any systems could be evaluated we must know what we want to assess.

  1. The state of things. How does our organizational infrastructure hold up during times of rapid change and uncertainty?
  2. The necessary things. What do we focus on and how are we focusing on it?
  3. Lean in to your team. How much can I ask of my team? Are they dealing with the same or even more difficult situations?
  4. The strength of our sales pipeline and current trends. What must we do to keep our sales pipeline healthy? How can we adapt to fortify and strengthen our relationships right now?
  5. The opportunity. What must we do right now even though we don’t want to? (Or, what we think it isn’t as important … yet really is?)

Even in a state of panic or despair, having practices with which to focus our attention matters. The five areas and questions shared above are part of my weekly Present Retreat. My protected time. Because of the upset and figuring things out for myself, I let that go. I began to wonder what to do and how all those priorities were going to get done. Insert Present Retreat, and almost immediately it was clear that everything I was feeling was real and was amplified because I’d let my discipline slide.

The way to change inconsistent behavior is to have a commitment to what you must do to get to where you want to go.

Letting yourself off the hook models to your team that they can let themselves off the hook too. It’s the moments when we don’t want to – or think we can’t – that shows everyone how much personal responsibility we are taking.

Dominic Rufran, former NFL and Net Worth Risk Manager shared that if you don’t follow through, then your goals really don’t matter. You know what you need to do. I know what I need to do. How much we want it is clear in our actions. The more focused our actions, the more results we get.


“Discipline is doing the hard things when you specifically don’t want to do them. You can wake up in the morning and know that you have to do certain things. But, if you don’t do them then it doesn’t really matter. Like, I know that I need to wake up and I need to meditate, I need to read, I need to take a cold shower. But those are all necessary things that I don’t want to do, yet I know that they’re going to get me to where I want to go when I do them anyway.” – Dominic Rufran, Former NLF and Net Worth Risk Manager

I’ll take more results anyday, even if they are the wrong results … because that information is out in the open, and knowable. Assessment can move into prioritized action. 

Clear expectations allow for moving at the speed of light and slowing deliberately.

“Slowing down” is starting to acquire the same connotation as “stop.” Here’s the thing: STOP has to come before drop and role whenever you find yourself on fire; air fuels fire, and stopping slows down the fuel that keeps the fire going. Sometimes full-stop fires happen in business, and we face them. We keep going.

What is harder is knowing when to slow down a little, or a lot, without stopping. This is what is necessary to keep moving forward and adjusting at each juncture. There is a place for long-term vision, and without a vision that looks out five or ten years we don’t know what is important. Many of the businesses who thought their company vision was big enough and strong enough are now in a dire place, finding out … they weren’t. 

Expectations are set by what is said, what is done, and the way work is done by the leader. You. I was recently reminded of that when reading John Maxwell’s book Leadershift. He talked about leopards being good hunters not because of their well-known speed but because of their ability to time when to slow down.

We are encouraged to create processes, to automate business, to take out as much thinking as possible to get the work done. What I find with the companies I work with is that the ones who also incorporate timing and creative thinking outperform their competition. Such outperforming will look different company to company. Performance is indicated by your mission – delivering a solution your customers need.

Another part of Present Retreat is to look forward. During times of uncertainty – especially now – the discipline of looking forward involves identifying possible opportunities and making decisions about how to leverage the resources you have in a way that aligns you to your mission.

Present Retreats allow for a safe place to slow down. To practice the discipline of finding, evaluating, and deciding what to do. That single action each week sets a precedent for you to have confidence slowing down to assess as you show up to each month, week, day, and even each interaction with others.

The more we practice slowing down purposefully between Present Retreats, the more we build the capacity to sense when it is beneficial to slow down, just a bit, to not only to keep going, but to…

…keep going in the right direction.

The complexity of the rules and ways we do things build up. Build up so much that regardless of how adept we are, we’re not moving as fast as we can.

  1. Communicate the five to ten year vision. The vision must be clear enough to be the guiding star in everything you / your business considers and acts upon. It also must be vague enough that the details may emerge as you lead your team forward.
  2. Be ruthless in what you choose to pursue. Even in times with low uncertainty, ideas that are even slightly unaligned with the vision take you off course. The outliers that you include – but really shouldn’t – usually come from decisions decided with emotion, even when data indicates higher risk.
  3. Prioritize constantly. The work you choose to do and the work you allow impacts how fast the company can go forward.

Being willing to set emotions aside, and still let them be present without leading the way can be hard. There are many articles to approach rational decision-making. That’s indicative of how much emotions slyly get in the way. Gut and heart can get you going, but it’s how all three – gut, heart, and brain – come together to make decisions.

“People try to be rational. But at the end of the day, we’re human beings. And so anything we can use to try and take the emotion out of decisions is a good thing. If there is data on something, you should use it. And that’s not to say, don’t go with your gut, but make sure that you’re as educated on decision as you can be before you make that decision.” – Paul Birkett, CEO of Automation Finance

In the conversation I had with Paul Birkett, CEO of Automation Finance, we talked about how sometimes we see what we want and we make decisions from the way we want the world to be. That can be mismatched to what really is happening.

The more mistakes we make, the more we can learn.

Choosing to learn is what ties our experiences together in a meaningful way. Whether listening to the BOLD Business Podcast to learn from other’s experiences or reflecting on what’s happened with you, you can help yourself. This is important for your team too.

Admitting our mistakes is a show of self-compassion. When things don’t work, starting with what you are in control of is the way to anchor what comes next: clarification and adjustment. Leading by example matters most. Since we are each our own worst critic, that self-compassion will ease any fear others have of sharing their mistakes – because they know you make mistakes too.

What’s out of our control is important to know and to have be part of the conversations when planning, evaluating, assessing, and celebrating. The necessary discipline helps when we find ourselves at rock-bottom. The more you do those things the less inconsistency, lack of clarity, and less-than-desired results will occur.

Go get to work!

For more tips on growth, leadership, and business strategy check out our previous articles.

Additional Resources:

How Inconsistent Leadership Decays Trust

The Pitfalls of Inconsistent Leadership Behavior

4 Mistakes Leaders Keep Making

10 Common Leadership and Management Mistakes

Leadershift by John Maxwell

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