By: Marcel Schwantes
Organizations far and wide have for years attempted to crack the code on what makes for a healthy and profitable work culture.
Well, let me save you time and money and simply break it to you here: It is trust.
We already know this to be true from several studies. For example, Great Place to Work — the global research consultancy that partners with Fortune to conduct the annual study of those “best companies” — confirms that trust is the human behavior you cannot afford not to have.
The research on those companies (Google, to no surprise, being No. 1 on the list seven out of the last 10 years) says that 92 percent of employees surveyed believe that management is transparent in its business practices. And transparency begets trust.
Author and thought-leader Stephen M.R. Covey makes his living on this. In his book, “The Speed of Trust,” Covey says that a team with high trust will produce results faster and at lower cost (not to mention it’s free).
In all my years working with HR and executive teams, I have often found that these five leadership habits are difference-makers in building trust.
1. Are willing to give up power.
You will find that many successful leaders give up power and entrust it to their team. They do this because they are confident in their team’s ability, since trust is freely given as a gift even before it’s earned. By giving up their power and pushing their authority down, they empower others to own decisions, thus creating a proactive leader-leader culture of success, rather than a reactive leader-follower culture.
2. Show remarkable resilience in the face of adversity.
Thomas Edison once said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Such leaders are the ones who bounce back from setbacks by self-diagnosing why the same issues keep coming up over and over. They will recover and be open to change much quicker — changing what’s holding them back, and changing what no longer serves the company. This is someone you can trust.
3. Are willing to trust and believe in the people they lead.
Bringing Stephen M.R. Covey and “The Speed Of Trust” back to the discussion, he says that a team with high trust will produce results faster and at lower cost. But should you first earn the trust of your people? Or does trust develop from having a belief in your people first — their strengths, abilities, and commitment? In other words, which of these two statements would you agree with?
A. Trust is something that people must earn.
B. Trust is something that should be given as a gift.
If you chose A, you’re in the majority. Conventional thinking says that people have to earn trust first, and if they violate that trust, it becomes difficult to earn it back, right? But if you selected B, pat yourself on the back. It has been found that, in healthy organizations, leaders are willing to give trust to their followers first, and they give it as a gift even before it’s earned.
4. Display humility as a leadership strength.
I’ve heard a few times from people in positions of power that humility is weak. Yet this core virtue drives against the inner strongholds that make a bad leader: pride, self-centeredness, judgmentalism, control, and impulsiveness.
Author and thought-leader Jim Collins has probably dedicated more time to researching and writing about humble leaders than any other topic in his landmark study of Level 5 Leadership. He states:
“Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious — but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.”
5. Are willing to seek input from peers.
Wondering how you are doing on your leadership path? Ask. It takes humility to say “How am I doing?” And even more humility to consider the answer.
Any company with a leadership team committed to developing a culture of trust will eventually realize that it starts with them. That is, if they’re willing to change and set the wheels in motion.
There is an absolute ROI when organizations invest in creating a high-trust culture. Great workplaces have significantly less turnover and attract employees who have a vested interest in their companies.
These factors ultimately lead to a competitive edge and enable companies to quickly bounce back from challenging situations.