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Trust Leadership: Engage Employees and Skyrocket Performance

By Bob Prosen    


“Good-bye, 2010!”

For a year that was supposed to hold such economic promise, it certainly didn’t deliver.

TrustLoyaltyGrowth imageIn fact, most small business leaders I talk to still feel the heavy weight of uncertainty and question their ability for growth in this economic recovery.

The way I see it, we have two options:  become paralyzed by circumstances or adapt.

Like you, I’m also a small business owner and entrepreneur so I know the “sit and wait” approach is not even an option!

While there is much to consider in a down economy, let’s boil it down to basics.

Before you do anything else, you need to gauge your trust leadership by asking yourself, “Do my employees trust me and the company’s leaders?”  To assume the answer is “yes” does you no good, so be honest.  Want the truth?  Look closely at your company’s culture.

So how do you know if you’ve developed leadership trust?

Well, do you live by the Golden Rule:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?

More important, would your employees agree?  Because guess what?  To inspire loyalty and trust in others, you have to be trustworthy and loyal!

Seems simple enough, right?  With hidden political agendas lurking everywhere, it’s often easier said than done.

Our culture screams, “Win at all costs!”  But if you look at the 100 Best Companies to Work For, you find people-focused cultures, and it’s these environments that promote positive bottom lines.  In fact, I recently read Corporate Culture and Performance by Kotter and Heskett, and it revealed the following:

Over an eleven-year period, companies that emphasized all stakeholders – employees, customers and stockholders, and focused on leadership development grew four times faster than companies that did not.  They also found that these companies had job creation rates seven times higher, had stock prices that grew twelve times faster and profit performance that was 750 times higher than companies that did not have shared values and adaptive cultures.

I think the evidence is clear and compelling.

Companies that foster a climate of mutual trust and respect reap significant benefits.

So take a closer look at your company.  Knowing trust plays an important role between business success and failure, you want to make sure your company’s culture is on the winning side!

If you’re not sure how to inspire loyalty and trust or determine if your company has it, here are five simple behaviors to put you on the right track:

  • Demonstrate uncompromising integrity: Remember, everything you say and do as a leader (including non-verbals) is being evaluated by your employees and others.  Your trustworthiness is measured daily against those words and actions.  Case in point, if the company is making cuts and performing poorly, it doesn’t play well with employees if you still take home a big bonus.
  • Make and meet commitments: While this seems like something you’d just expect, you’d be surprised how many struggle to deliver.  If your company treats commitments as promises and delivers results without follow-up, you’ll build tremendous esprit de corps.  Bonus: When there’s trust, you can delegate with confidence and have more time to think and plan.
  • Be direct and forthright: Forget being politically correct!  Let people know where they stand and what and when things are needed.  A first rate leader will clearly communicate and integrate company objectives, delegate responsibly and have low tolerance for missed commitments.  Tip: If you’re micromanaging, you need to delegate more effectively and strengthen trust and accountability.  Small business owners often find themselves in this trap.  It’s hard to let go of something you’ve poured your heart and soul into building, but you have to learn to delegate if you expect your business to grow.
  • Slow down: Meaning, take time to explain yourself.  Make sure people understand what’s being asked of them.  If it takes a little extra time, it’s well worth it!  When employees understand the “why” behind your request, you empower them to provide solutions. Bonus: It removes excuses, reduces rework and builds relationships, as well as future leaders.
  • Open the door: When you constantly work behind closed doors, you quickly lose touch.  Trust is built one-on-one and eye-to-eye, not via e-mail.  The “open door” may be an old policy, but it goes a long way toward helping everyone get their jobs done.

At the end of the day, accountability and results are what it’s all about.

Those who achieve goals, meet commitments, and treat people fairly along the way should play important roles in your business.  Those who continually disappoint, fail to deliver, or lie should be let go.

Let’s face it, if you can’t trust the people on your team, why have them?  And remember, this works both ways.  If the barometer on your trust leadership is low, what makes you think your quality employees will want to stay?

So be honest and ask yourself:  As a business leader, are you continuously building a culture of loyalty and trust in your organization?

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