In its 2016 global CEO survey, Price Waterhouse Coopers reported that fifty-five percent of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth.
Stephen M. R. Covey, in his book: “The Speed of Trust,” asserts, "The ability to establish, extend, and restore trust with all stakeholders – customers, business partners, investors and coworkers – is the key leadership competency of the new, global economy."
Paul Zak, in the January/February 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review and the feature article: “The Neuroscience of Trust,” states that employees in high trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate with colleagues and stay with their employers longer than in low trust cultures. Regardless of industry, your job as a leader is to create a culture of trust.
In our work with clients, we coach them around the following five behaviors which are scientifically proven to promote trust:
- Model transparency and vulnerability: While it may seem ironic, there is great power in admitting when we’ve made mistakes. In healthcare, we strive to create just accountability cultures. The most powerful and impactful leaders are those who stand up in front of their organizations and tell stories about their mistakes and the critical learning from those mistakes.
- Leverage inquiry AND advocacy: Judith Glaser, in her book: “Conversational Intelligence,” describes three levels of conversation. All are necessary in certain circumstances, yet we tend to overuse the first two: telling, and trying to convert others to our perspective (levels I and II), and we underuse the last: transformational discussions (level III) with a mutual sharing of perspectives and an attitude of curiosity. This sharing stimulates our pre-frontal cortex which allows for our most creative thinking. “Imposing our perspective: telling behavior” can trigger another’s primitive brain (amygdala) and can result in fight, flight, or freeze reactions. Through coaching, one of my clients re-defined the 80/20 rule where it now means that she talks only twenty percent of the time and listens eighty percent of the time. The impact on her engaging with others, her talent selection success, and her ability to make strategic decisions has been powerful.
- Identify and honor your values: What do you stand for? As I coached a physician client, she discovered that her words and actions were not honoring what she said she held as most important. She was torn between caregiving needs for her aging mother and her work demands. Through coaching, she transformed her thinking from reactionary: worrying what others might think, to purpose-driven: honoring private time AND work responsibilities.
- Make it easy for others to provide you constructive feedback: the higher you go in organizations, the fewer people there are who feel comfortable providing you constructive feedback. My clients expect that I will offer observations of their behaviors and/or thinking that is interfering with their leadership effectiveness. One simple question you can ask on a routine basis is: “What can I do differently that would support my being a more impactful leader?” And then do it.
- Deliver on promises and do NOT promise anything you cannot deliver: Sometimes as leaders we believe we must respond immediately to a request. In doing so, we risk promising something that we later determine is less of a priority or can’t be done. Trust means following through with commitments.
While not always easy, leaders who are committed to creating a culture of trust will continue to be disciplined around these 5 behaviors- especially in hard situations. As employees become more emotionally engaged with leadership, productivity and retention will naturally increase.
Joy W. Goldman RN, MS, PCC, PDC
Executive Director, Leadership Coaching
Wiederhold & Associates