Too many businesses in our region are overlooking the significant financial and people benefits of developing high-trust relationships in the workplace, according to one leadership expert.
Scott Watson, the managing director of UK and Bahrain-based Summit Consulting and Training and author of ‘Win Every Time – Essential lessons for existing and emerging leaders’, says trusted managers inspire high degrees of motivation, collaboration, creativity and commitment.
"Managers are the key to nurturing a positive emotional climate in an organisation," Watson said. "Research has proven that if a manager behaves well, performs well and communicates effectively, openly and honestly, subordinates are very likely to follow this positive example. It is especially important in a crisis, such as an economic downturn, when employees look to leaders for guidance on how to behave and respond in unfamiliar and challenging situations."
The value of trust has been highlighted by the abundance of corporate scandals in recent years. The cases of Enron and Worldcom in the US, and Satyam of India, showed the extreme danger of pursuing personal agendas, and choosing to act unethically. The Middle East region has also recently suffered from problems relating to inadequate corporate governance which impacts market trust. In the UK, the perceived dishonesty of financial leaders brought the banking sector to within hours of collapse.
But winning the trust of colleagues is not always a straightforward matter. There are two vital components – competency and character. One without the other is not simply enough.
"We may trust someone’s competence to undertake a role successfully, but we may not trust their character because they have a track record of making, then breaking breaking commitments, producing inferior work and blaming peers for failures while being all too willing to accept praise for other people’s achievements," Watson said. He continued, "On the other hand, we may trust someone’s character but not their competence. If they are not delivering the results the business is paying and trusting them to deliver, there is little value in them being there."
The chief characteristic of a trusted manager is transparency, Watson said. "When a leader is perceived to have no hidden or self-serving agendas, and communicates truthfully, his credibility is enhanced significantly. If there is an absence of transparency, employees become suspicious of intentions, disengage emotionally and performance suffers. This is no way for an organisation to be run, but many still demonstrate these traits."
Trusting employees are more likely to comply with managerial requests and to express views openly, without fear of retribution.
"The result is much greater collaboration. Ideas are openly explored, solutions generated and creativity and ownership of results is enhanced. Open disagreement is actually welcomed in a high-trust relationship. It’s the best way to find low-cost or even no-cost practical solutions to even the most pressing business problems," Watson said.
"There are also deeply human factors at play. People enjoy working for leaders they trust; they collaborate better when they trust each other. Few people perform at or near their best when outdated, dictatorial management styles are being imposed upon them," he said.
High-trust relationships also have clear financial benefits. "When trust is high, wonderful things can happen in an organisation; ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things together. Quality, productivity, efficiency and collaboration all soar. High levels of trust are rarely viewed as a competitive advantage, but this is exactly what it brings to an organisation," he said.
Watson says the focus of people management training courses needs to be re-directed from simply developing more skills to include developing, maintaining and restoring trust as a core subject. "Many managers may be academic stars but they can learn far too much about theory and far too little about leading by example and demonstrating clear standards of behaviour and transparency which can inspire colleagues to deliver even more value for the organisation – and actually enjoy the journey.
"If a manager is reaching every target he has been set, that is a really good start. But if he leaves a long trail of destroyed relationships in his wake, it is costing his employer dearly. Organisations are much more likely to recruit the best candidates and keep hold of them, if they create a high-trust environment. Leaders should ask themselves can afford not to?" he concluded
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Summit Consulting & Training is a trusted human resources consultancy, specialising in developing highly effective leaders, managers and teams. Serving a diverse client base across a variety of industry sectors, Summit serves clients in the UK, Europe and Arabian Gulf region.
Watson is the founder of Summit Consulting and Training Limited and author of ‘Win Every Time – Essential lessons for existing and emerging leaders’. The independent foreword was written by Professor John Thompson of the University of Huddersfield.
More information is available on the Summit Consulting and Training web site at http://www.SummitTraining.co.uk/
In the first instance, please contact:
Scott Watson or Dirk Bansch
Summit Consulting and Training Limited
UK Telephone: +44 0845 052 3701
E-mail: dirk@SummitTraining.co.uk or Scott@SummitTraining.co.uk">Scott@SummitTraining.co.uk
Press Release 2010