The way Lou Solomon sees it, we are living in the “life’s a pitch” mindset. “It’s an environment of constant posturing that creates breaches of trust that undermine the way we experience one another at work and in the marketplace,” says Solomon, an author and founder of Interact, a leadership development firm.
Sales leaders are particularly at risk. With shorter product cycles, opportunities whiz by at breakneck speed. Solomon says that combined with complexity, ambiguity, and change in the market, could lead managers to feel like there isn’t enough time to really connect with staff or customers.
“So, we bear down, manage harder and go faster,” she says, “We send heat down the line to people who push premature pitches before establishing a human connection.” The result: damage to productivity, employee engagement, and a leader’s reputation –not to mention an erosion of trust if leaders don’t recognize and slow down, she observes.
The ROI of Building Trust
Though trust might seem like a squishy concept, it’s easily quantified, according to the Great Place To Work Institute. Companies whose employees report high levels of trust in their workplace are high performers that experience low turnover –as much as 65% less. That saves bottom line costs of hiring and training new staff.
But independent financial analysts who regularly study the financial performance of the Institute’s “100 Best” companies found that publicly traded 100 Best Companies consistently outperform major stock indices by a factor of two.
“Without trust,” Solomon cautions, “people assume self-protective, defensive postures that inhibit learning and performance.” Not to mention that they’re more likely to steal and lie.
Tips You Can Trust
Fortunately, Solomon says there are techniques for both managers and salespeople to use to foster a greater sense of trust with colleagues and clients.
It starts with authentic communication, she says.
Leaders have to remember that people are not “formulas.” People want real stories and real expression. When you bring stories and passion, this invites an authentic connection and doing so, develops trust. Don’t take yourself to seriously, where you are internally confident as a leader you learn how to let your guard down a little and relate to people more. Don’t just talk about the heavy tactical business objectives, rather brighten it with real stories.”
A leader cannot fake trustworthiness. The attempt to manipulate is more transparent than leaders think.
If you want the personal power of influence, you cannot ignore the responsibility of shaping environments in which human connections can produce the trust that really pushes performance.
A leader has to establish a steady pattern of consistency, be able to “walk the walk,” and have their actions reflect their words.
A Word About Cynics
Culture, not just within an organization, but of our greater society, also plays a part. “Mocking irony, snark, and cynicism are very much in vogue, but they are also toxic to your company’s culture,” notes Rich Karlgaard, author of The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success.
You don’t need to be a hipster to sling snark, some researchers say it’s just a by-product of the financial crisis. Yet it’s impact is tough on trust. Cynical attitudes can chip away at an organization from the inside, making bad behavior towards co-workers and customers appear normal. Karlgaard maintains that cynicism is a sign that people feel powerless and under-valued, and less likely to trust.
The flip side, can be found at Northwestern Mutual, Karlgaard writes. In business for over 150 years and worth $25 billion in sales, the company cracks down on cynicism by embracing more trust-boosting practices that range from sincere handshakes to achievement ribbons.
Bottom line, says Solomon: “When trust increases, the dividend is a performance multiplier — creativity, productivity and employee engagement all increase.”