Since the publication of my most recent book, Indispensable: Build and Lead A Company Can’t Live Without, last month, I have had the marvelous opportunity to discuss several of the key questions covered in the book with several fellow thought leaders.
This 5-part article series captures the essence of those discussions. Each piece is organized around one unique and important question. Along with mine, each article delivers perspectives from two other leadership luminaries.
For this article, I invited John Baldoni, a best-selling author of 14 books and a member of the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches and Terry Earthwind Nichols, self-help author and president of Earthwind Academy, to tackle this key question with me:
“What’s your best advice to leaders who want to build trust into their organizations?”
Here are our best thoughts on the subject:
Terry: First, stop doing what you’ve always done.
The standard business practice of closing units, laying-off talent, and so on, might help with immediate cash-flow. But, it quickly becomes expensive to replace. Working from hime has changed your workforce and their trust level.
Baldoni: I would say that trust is the bedrock of a successful organization. With it, you can mobilize people for common cause. Without it, you are shouting into the wind. Executives with whom I work never take it for granted. They seek to deliver on it every day.
Jim: I agree and let me offer that trust is a fragile thing. It takes a great amount of time to build; it takes only moments to bust apart.
Incomplete feedback loops and a lack of clarity in decision-making authority, in delegation and empowerment, and, in employee engagement and transparency all have the potential to cause breakdowns in trust within an organization.
In my latest book, I quote a Harvard Business Review article, which suggests that trust can make a huge difference in the way a company executes its mission:
“Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.” 
That said, leaders of indispensable companies must be diligent about building AND maintaining trust – top to bottom and across the business.
Baldoni: I think that’s right. In fact, I’ve learned from some of the executives whom I coach that it’s important to not overthink it. Trust is based on a simple proposition. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In modern parlance, do what you say you will do. Don’t say one thing and do another. Follow through on promises. Set clear expectations and hold yourself accountable first, and then everyone else.
Trust erodes when employees see a disconnect between what’s said and what’s done. And finally be visible, be listening, and be accessible and available.
Terry: To borrow from some of your work, Jim, I believe leaders must seek to create a new “vision” for their companies that are people-centric and achievement-based.
Creating a vision that encourages full employee buy-in will produce an environment of high trust and high achievement. High achievers can help leaders to create even more revenue streams – all while keeping everyone focused and engaged.
Remember, people who are achieving don’t get sick, don’t burn-out and don’t leave the company.
Jim: Great point, Terry! It reminds me of a recent client engagement focused on establishing a trust-building program. Together with a small work team comprised of client personnel, we delivered a powerful set of personal action reminders that were promulgated throughout the firm via its intranet. These trust prompts, as we called them, would stream to staffer’s screens throughout the workday, reminding them to practice good trust-building behaviors. Here are just a few of the prompts:
- Keep promises – If you said it, do it!
- Listen up – Be sure to understand before responding.
- Talk straight – Do not mislead.
- Address the tough stuff – Don’t avoid what must be confronted.
- Fix it – Don’t let misunderstandings fester.
Not only did trust rise, but the client gained a productivity boost, too.
To close, it’s important for leaders to recognize that trust-building is an essential part of their responsibilities. With all that has transpired in the world of late, it’s safe to assume that blind trust in those that lead is dwindling and staffers don’t always feel all that engaged or empowered. Undoubtedly, morale and productivity are affected when staffers feel anxious about their future. Therefore, a leader must clearly and consistently become the living example of high integrity through their words and actions.
Look for the next installment of this series on Thursday, where I explore authentic leadership with two more influential thought leaders.
James Kerr‘s “Thought leadership” column series at the CEOWORLD magazine.
1. Do You Want A Thought Leader’s Perspective on Leadership?.
2. Thought Leadership Series Part II: Perspectives on Vision.
3. On Culture: A Thought Leader’s Perspective.
4. Trust: Part IV of Thought Leader’s Perspective Series.
5. Final Installment: Thoughts Leader’s on Authenticity.
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