We all know intuitively that trust is important at work. But for many of us, it is difficult to articulate why that is or even have a sense of urgency around it.
In our work with leadership teams, we are starting to see a shift where leaders are truly understanding the real impact of how they interact and work together. How they act as role models.
Is this important? Yes, and more than you think.
Leadership teams act like amplifiers. Their behaviours set the cultural tone of an organisation all the way down to the front line. How much they trust each other to do the right thing dictates how employees treat each other.
Get it right and this power is more than just improved financial results – after all, organisations that have high-trust cultures have 2.5 times the revenue generation of low-trust cultures. And these results are long-term and sustainable.
But what happens at the commercial level is becoming increasingly important for society in general. It serves as the benchmark as to how people need to work together, accept each another and get along. Start at the micro and the impact can be felt at the macro level.
Leadership is a powerful gift that has the ability to transform lives and the health and wellbeing of employees. Yet, it is often not used to its full capability. But that is slowly changing.
Here are three emerging trends that we are seeing in businesses that will have a ripple effect on society at large, in the years to come.
1. Business is at the Zeitgeist of Improving Human Interactions
With all of the political turmoil in 2018 and the rise of the #metoo movement, employees around the world are ready for change. No longer are they prepared to sit on the sidelines and watch unfairness, injustice, environmental atrocities and violence be blindly tolerated
Instead, employees are relying on a critical relationship to lead the way – their employer. This means that CEOs are now expected to speak up about societal issues because government seems almost comically incompetent of doing what’s right.
According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, 76% of respondents say they want CEOs to take the lead on change instead of waiting for the government to impose it (up from 65 percent last year).
“CEOs must speak up directly on social issues, such as immigration, diversity, and inclusion. But they must do more than talk; they must demonstrate their personal commitment, inside and outside the company, ” says CEO and president Richard Edelman.
Speaking up about community issues and creating a voice for employees, presents a wonderful opportunity for businesses to not only improve societal trust but internal trust levels. The good news is that employees are willing to trust their employer. They also want to work for organisations that are there to make the world a better place and make a profit. It’s all about profit before purpose. Rather than the old concept of making profit in any manner possible.
Positively, improving society has the far-reaching ability to address the power imbalance between the front line and senior leadership. Expect to see more CEOs leading change and for it to become one of their standard practices. Just like doing a quarterly earnings call, addressing the board or holding a monthly town hall meeting, so will communicating about societal issues and taking a stand.
2. Collaboration Produces more than the Sum of its Parts
Over millennia, humans have believed that we live in a “dog eat dog” world. Battles between countries and companies have been a normal part of life. “Winner takes all” is the modus operandi in politics, business, education and how we even like to play sport.
In low trust workplaces, leaders pit employees against each other under the false belief that competitive pressures will lift performance. Unfortunately, all it does is create an environment where people are out for themselves; hoarding information and not supporting others. The sort of behaviours that are unsuited to solving tomorrow’s complex problems. These are costly issues (if you want to calculate the costs, have a go at our new Cost of Working in Silos Calculator).
Today, people are slowly rebelling against the whole concept of competing thought and vying for supremacy.
In the work that we do, we have seen a real shift where employees really want to see that their boss cares and supports them in their career goals. Employees are no longer tolerating bosses who are in it for themselves. Now, employees can voice their displeasure on employee review sites like Glassdoor.
Thankfully, businesses have started to recognise the high costs associated with having leaders who are all about individual results and not group results.
This issue highlights two problems – leaders who need to collaborate and figure out how to make it work, but also systems that need to change, in order to make it favourable to collaborate.
A good starting point is to look at improving how profit or credit for success is shared among internal collaborators. Incentives need to change so that a common yardstick of success is that teams win together, not individuals.
Of course, this is nothing new. And there are many companies that have been practising these behaviours for years. What is new is that it is dawning on people that the idea of unity or togetherness creates something far better than what we can create on our own. When people work together, it creates more than the sum of the whole. The more people pull together the better the quality of thinking and cooperation.
Expect to see companies training leaders to support and care for their direct reports and peers. The flow on effect will be employees who are empowered to think more for themselves, be accountable and speak up about issues. Rather than be bossed around by a leader who is fearful of rebellion or people being smarter than them.
3. Leadership Self-Reflection
We all know the importance of mindfulness, work/life balance, exercise, and healthy eating. But few of us are aware of the powerful benefits of journaling. While this is a practice of many high performing, people-centred CEOs, it will become a standard leadership tool to improve performance.
After all, to improve our work requires improving our thinking and having quiet time to think and reflect. The best CEOs and leaders I have ever worked with have always scheduled in blocks of time into their weekly calendar to contemplate and idly stare out the window. It might seem wasteful, after all, that is what teachers taught us at school, but it really does improve how we interact with others and make progress on our goals.
But not only that to become a trusted leader requires regularly reviewing our behaviours and habits. It requires considering how to improve our relationships and reflecting on what we did well and what we need to improve. Low trust leaders never consider what they are doing to cause people problems (in fact, they think everyone else is at fault). But a high trust leader vigilantly considers what they can do to improve the workplace environment and takes responsibility for their role in it.
Leadership really is a gift. And the world needs leaders who are careful stewards of their power to create a highly rewarding work environment. Workplaces where people understand the meaning of their work, feel connected to one another and know they are appreciated.
Expect to see the future trend of leaders embracing journalling and self-reflection. This will also include leadership teams spending more quality time thinking, planning and improving their interactions (a great technique for this is our proprietary SUCCEeD Together Leadership Team Assessment and Workshop). The good news is that savvy leadership teams are already on this path.
Improving the World, One Workplace at a Time
Leading with trust is not just important for a more productive workplace, but it’s also critical if we’re going to create a happier society with less mental illness, anxiety, anti-social behaviours, and isolation.
No matter what political turmoil, environmental disasters or economic uncertainty that the future throw at us, the truth is leaders have the power to create a caring work environment where people pull together, feel safe and support one another. No matter what is happening on the outside.
Let’s face it, if humans can improve how they get along with each other, that will go along way to stopping wars, political instability and improving how we use resources and take care of our planet. And it all starts with CEOs and their leadership teams who have the courage to do what’s right and lead the way. And guess what? It’s just what the people want.