Intuitive and emotionally intelligent leaders are aware that there’s been a definitive shift in the corporate environment. We used to say: time is money and it used to be true. But with individuals requiring a level of autonomy in the workplace, we now realise that trust is money.
The shift from time to trust does make sense. We’ve been conditioned to believe that time is the most valuable commodity in business, but goods and services can’t be exchanged without a strong foundation of trust. Trust is often described as the oil in the machinery of an organisation that keeps things running smoothly.
Why does trust matter?
Consider the main benefits of a high trust work environment:
- Boosts morale and motivation
- Makes teamwork and collaboration easy
- Increases speed and efficiency
- Increases loyalty
- Decreases stress
- Is the key to coaching and improving employee performance
“Think about it this way: When trust is low, in a company or in a relationship, it places a hidden “tax” on every transaction: every communication, every interaction, every strategy, every decision is taxed, bringing speed down and sending costs up. My experience is that significant distrust doubles the cost of doing business and triples the time it takes to get things done.” -Stephen M Covey
It starts with leadership
There are 5 cognitive capacities and personality traits that every leader must have: self-awareness, empathy, critical thinking, self-control and trust. This means that a leader must be able to inspire trust as well as have the capacity to trust others.
The trustworthiness of a leader relies on his/her competence and character. While competency is the first conscious judgement employees will make when looking at a new leader, it’s the leader’s character that will ensure the longevity and stability of the trust relationship in the workplace. Here, character traits such as honesty, reliability, openness and commitment are essential.
The second facet of trust is rooted in a leader lending trust to others. Human relationships are two-way streets, so as much as employees should trust a leader, the leader, in turn, must consistently demonstrate his/her trust in others. The leader lacking in trust is unable to form effective relationships and functional teams.
Effective leaders build and show trust by listening to others, keeping promises and confidences, remaining loyal, rights wrongs and has a high level of transparency while actively practising accountability. A leader should keep his followers informed, be fair and objective, share his feelings, be honest, allow the followers to constantly direct their decisions, maintain their promises, and earn the respect of the followers.
When a leader achieves genuine trust, the payoff for the organisation is substantial.
The capacity to trust others and be trusted means that:
- There’s a shared understanding which is necessary for organised and strategic action.
- One can count on members of a team to fulfil expectations.
- Proper delegation can occur.
- Confidentiality can be maintained throughout the organisation.
- Morale is high and stable.
- The process of feedback, acknowledgement of errors and corrections flow.
- One can grow and develop leadership skills in individuals.
- There is a climate of respect and fairness.
The job of a leader is to go first, to extend trust first. Not a blind trust without expectations and accountability, but rather a “smart trust” with clear expectations and strong accountability built into the process.
As Craig Weatherup, former CEO of PepsiCo said, “Trust cannot become a performance multiplier unless the leader is prepared to go first.”