In many of my keynote presentations and leadership workshops I emphasize the economic impact of trust within high-performance organizations. Many studies show that productivity, income and profits are directly negatively or positively impacted depending on the levels of trust within a company. I have seen this firsthand by getting it right as well as getting in wrong in my own companies.
When trust in a company is low it places a hidden tax on every transaction, strategy, decision and communication which brings speed down and costs up. This is because low trust leads to lower moral, lower productivity, a decrease in communication and an increase in turnover. By contrast, high-trust organizations operate on a dividend, or performance multiplier if you will, which increases speed and decreases costs.
So how can business leaders and entrepreneurs build high-trust teams?
Integrity in Leadership
Building a trustworthy organization has to start at the top with leaders demonstrating competence, acting in accordance with the company's values, showing care and compassion for people at all levels and being dependable. Leaders must demonstrate their trustworthiness on and off the battlefield so to speak. Behaving in a trustworthy manner in one arena while breaking trust in others won't work. This is one of the many burdens of leadership.
As everyone knows, trust takes a long time to build and only briefs moments to destroy. Leaders must be thoughtful about everything they say and do to ensure there is consistency in messaging and more importantly, follow-through.
Empowering People to Achieve Their Best
Sometimes we make the mistake of focusing on helping our team members avoid making mistakes as opposed to inspiring and empowering them to do their best. Leadership is all about creating the right culture that drives people towards fulfilling the mission and vision. Part of doing this means providing the right resources, removing obstacles, explaining the mission and then getting out of the way. Give the team room to innovate and execute and always find ways to positively motivate the team.
I have always found value in seeking the advice of trusted colleagues, so I asked Lisa Fitzgerald, Chief Editor at GroomNStyle, an online lifestyle luxury magazine. She said, "The most effective way to motivate a team is to involve individual members in helping to define the group's vision, goals, and objectives. After the team's overall purpose has been defined and agreed upon, work with each member to ensure they understand their unique role, and how critical their contribution is to the team's success. Once all team members have been empowered and recognize their value within the group, it is important everyone is held to the same high standards and made accountable for their contribution to the team's progress. Successes should be recognized and failures should be acknowledged as opportunities to learn and grow."
How do we do this? By setting our team members up for success and giving them the power and autonomy to do their jobs. This of course must come with accountability. When they demonstrate their ability to execute, give them a little more power. And so on and so forth. This process will ensure that a deep level of trust builds over time. When mistakes are made, facilitate an after action review, absorb the lessons learned and move on.
Communicate The Good, Bad and Ugly
One of the guiding principles that makes a SEAL Team great is our ability to effectively move, shoot and communicate on the battlefield. Communication being of the utmost importance. Especially in fast-paced dynamic environments. Today's organizations are in a constant state of change, now more than ever. Which means that one of a leader's core functions is communicating down the change of command as well as encouraging communication up the chain of command. For a leader to have good situational awareness and make the best possible decisions, they must constantly be receiving information from the front lines.
Leaders need to build transparency in to the culture and lead by example in this regard. During key events, leaders must communicate the good, bad and ugly before during and after that event. This is most important during times of change.
Do Business With Other Trustworthy Organizations
Whether the business is a B2B or B2C model, all companies have forms of customers and partnerships. To build and maintain a trustworthy organization, leaders also need to be careful about who they do business with. Doing business with organizations that have a reputation for being "shady" or lacking in execution isn't worth it. It will cost you more in the long run. Telling yourself their money is green like everyone else's doesn't work.
I have made this mistake many times in the past as a young entrepreneur. Employees want to know their work matters and that they are doing business with other great organizations. It is very hard to fulfill the true purpose of a company while working with customers or partners that don't share similar values.
There are many ways to build and improve trust within a team, but these are a few good places to start. But it's not a one-and-done process. It takes a consistent and deliberate effort.