Ignite! Newsletter—May 2010 Article
With Trust, It’s a Leader’s Behavior That Counts Most
Trust has taken a hit lately in all facets of our life. Chalk it up to the combined effects of the economic meltdown, financial mismanagement, and an increasing sense that, in business at least, everyone seems to be in it only for themselves. The result has been dwindling levels of trust in organizations to a recent new low point where only seven percent of workers strongly agree that they trust their senior leaders to look out for their best interest.*
Leaders need to tackle these declining levels of trust head-on, according to Cynthia Olmstead, founder and president of TrustWorks Group, Inc., a San Diego-based consultancy that is partnering with The Ken Blanchard Companies to improve trust in organizations. To combat the decline, Olmstead recommends that leaders take the time to assess current trust levels in their organizations and if they find trust is lacking, immediately begin a process to resolve the issues.
To help with the process, Olmstead recommends thinking about four core elements represented in the ABCD Trust Model™ that people can use to evaluate whether someone is trustworthy or not. How would the people in your organization rate their leaders in these four areas?
- Able—demonstrates competence, expertise, experience, and capability in getting the desired results accomplished
- Believable—walks the talk of a core set of values, demonstrates honesty, and uses fair, equitable practices
- Connected—interacts with staff, communicates and shares relevant information, provides praise, and gives recognition
- Dependable—is accountable, takes responsibility for own actions, and consistently follows up
It’s What You Do That Counts
For Olmstead, the key is to exhibit the trust behaviors that people look for in their leaders. This is critical, because people need to see trust in action more than they need to hear about it.
“One example is the use of the word ‘transparency’ these days,” explains Olmstead. “Everyone agrees that leaders should be open and candid in sharing information. But when people look around, they don’t see the transparency they are hearing about.”
“The challenge with transparency then is to identify the behaviors that clearly define the concept. It's important to remember that trust is in the eyes of the beholder. What does transparency mean in your organization? Should employees be getting all of the information? Who should be included in meetings? And if you have been a very tight-lipped organization in the past, you are going to have to be open and candid about what you are going to do to become more ‘transparent’ in that transition before people are really going to trust the new behaviors.”
For leaders looking to be more upfront and authentic, Olmstead recommends three behaviors to get started.
- Be accessible. As a leader, particularly during tumultuous times, it’s important to be out in front of the organization sharing plans for the future. Don't hide behind closed doors or delegate the important task of communicating to others. As a leader, employees look to you for information on what’s going on. That means you have to be very clear about what the plan is. “What are we going to do?”, “When does it start?”, and “How does it get implemented?” are all questions that will have to be answered.
- Acknowledge that people have concerns. Once you’ve communicated the vision for the organization, you also need to take the time to listen for concerns and anxieties that people might have. Create opportunities for dialogue. This doesn’t mean coddling people, but it does mean making sure that you are listening.
- Follow-through. If you don't know the answer to a question immediately and say that you will get back to the employee, make sure that you do in the promised amount of time. Keeping your word on small things demonstrates dependability and reliability that people can count on when it comes to big things. It builds credibility that you, the leader, will continue to do what you say you will.
The Ripple Effect
Leaders demonstrating trustworthy behaviors set an example for others to follow. Employees who experience this concern for their well-being have an example of how they should be treating others. This creates a ripple effect of trust throughout the organization.
One additional benefit of taking the time to define trust in behavioral terms, such as within the ABCD Trust Model components, is that it allows everyone to talk about this potentially sensitive subject openly. Now, instead of pointing out people as “untrustworthy,” we can point to the behaviors that are leading to this conclusion instead.
As Olmstead explains, “We need to help people understand how to communicate about the issues of trust, and the only way we can do that is by understanding what trust means to each of us individually. That's why we believe it's important to have a common language, e.g., the ABCDs of Trust, to help us begin to do that.”
Great leaders personify trust. What are the behaviors that generate trustworthy feelings in others? Once leaders crack that code, they can begin to make sure that they are acting in ways consistent with trustworthiness. The result is an organization where people assume the best of each other, which, in turn, creates a more trusting atmosphere and ultimately greater performance and satisfaction at work.
*Managing in an Era of Mistrust: Maritz Poll Reveals Employees Lack Trust in Their Workplace. Available online at: http://www.maritz.com/Press-Releases/2010/Maritz-Poll-Reveals-Employees-Lack-Trust-in-their-Workplace.aspx?pdf=1
Would you like to learn more about building trust in your organization?
Then join us for a free webinar.
Trust: The Critical Link to a High Energy Workplace
Thursday, May 20, 2010
9:00–10:00 a.m. Pacific Time, 12:00–1:00 p.m. Eastern Time
5:00–6:00 p.m. UK Time, 4:00–5:00 p.m. GMT
Presenter: Cindy Olmstead, Founder and President, TrustWorks Group
Trust is a primary factor in how people work together, listen to one another, and build effective relationships. Yet many people are unaware of the actions that influence trust. While almost all employees consider trust in the workplace to be important, only 39% of employees say they trust the senior leaders at their firms. Only 20% of employees fully trust the organization they work for. Trust is a critical link to all good relationships, both personal and professional. Studies show that productivity, income, and profits are positively or negatively impacted depending on the level of trust in the work environment.
In this webinar, organizational change expert Cindy Olmstead will show you how to increase awareness and sensitivity for the behaviors which erode trust and teach you strategies which build and sustain trust. The result is an organization where:
- Leaders understand the impact of trust within the workplace and learn a language to create and enhance trusting relationships with direct reports.
- Employees are more trusting of leadership and respond with higher levels of commitment, creativity, and productivity.
- Customers are more trusting of the organization and reward the organization with increased loyalty.
Don't miss this opportunity to learn how to avoid the trust breakers that occur in most organizations and what actions you can take to create a work environment where people take risks, identify and solve problems, and work together to serve customers and each other