Despite all the social media surrounding us today, the math still says that word of mouth is the most efficient way to gain trust. It may take some time, but the math still supports it.
However, the math also says that it only takes a moment to destroy that trust. Only a few sentences, a broken promise, a lack of empathy, a knee-jerk text or email, and the bridge between you and not one, but many others, is broken, sometimes forever.
Many leaders believe that overcoming significant operational barriers will magically fix most problems with their people. They don’t realize that the breakdown didn’t occur operationally. It occurred because they not only decided not to care, they didn’t act like they cared.
The reason doesn’t matter; whether it was being tired after a long day, afraid to show vulnerability, or just hiding out in the bureaucracy. Whatever the reason, they just decided not to care. By not caring, or not expressing empathy, a leader denies their own humanity. By not caring, they isolate themselves. By not caring, they work so hard not to engage (leaning on the tried and true ‘this too shall pass’ philosophy), they remove any hope for receiving the benefit of the doubt, and recovery (especially by word of mouth) is impossible.
While people do like to have their problems fixed, what they most want is to be cared about. What they want most is for their leaders to extend beyond themselves, especially in crisis or when things just fall apart. ‘
Leaders beware! There’s no statute of limitations on ‘I don’t care’, whether spoken or not.
Truth be told, it’s the only crime of leadership for which there’s no need for a trial because no one will care enough to show up.