leadership can empower trust

Recently I was asked if I could deliver an online workshop for executive team leaders to “relearn/develop trust and empowerment in his/her team members when the team members feel they are not getting the trust or empowerment from their leader to do their jobs. How does a team lift this message upward, have the message heard, and get traction to move forward, to avoid the sense of being micro-managed and the feelings of lack of trust in the team members from their leader.”

As I explored their objectives for the session, it was clear they came to the wrong guy. They wanted a magical makeover to transform leaders in one or two wondrous workshops. Sorry. I haven’t yet found that magic wand.

Trust is a broad symptom of deeper leadership/culture issues. Empowerment comes from a set of values and leadership behaviors that form the team/organization culture (what’s acceptable and rewarded and what’s unacceptable and not tolerated). Trust thrives in a culture that’s beyond empowerment to “empartnerment.”

In this month’s Working Knowledge post, Harvard Business School professor Emeritus, James Heskett, raises a key question, Can We Train for Trust? He writes, “Trust is, as it is for many things in society, the bedrock for employee engagement. A culture that fosters trust reduces what academics call transactional ‘friction.’ As a result, decisions are made and implemented faster and at lower cost, something critical in an age where speed takes on greater and greater value.” He quotes Airbnb co-founder and CEO, Brian Checky, “things move at the speed of trust.” Especially true for his company. Trust is at the core of an automated app or website connecting property owners with renters they’ve never met.

Heskett cites research showing the positive financial impact of increasing trust through higher employee engagement. He also shows that “organizations apparently are doing a poor job of building positive employee experiences, whether through trust or other means.”

Based on research Sandra Sucher and Shalene Gupta’s new book, The Power of Trust. “Trust is something you can get better at,” Sucher says in Good News for Disgraced Companies: You Can Regain Trust. “For companies that want to take this seriously, it can be done.” The authors report that effective companies focus on four elements to build trust; competence, motive, means, and impact.

The dilemma is — as the saying goes — we can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it. There is no quick and simple approach to building a high trust, partnering culture.

You can find a range of articles and blogs I’ve written on Engagement and Empowerment, and Trust. In our leadership and culture development work, we find that trust and empowerment are highly intertwined. Trust me.