• Dan Mack

Ruthless Trust

"Be who you is, cause if you ain’t who you is, you is who you ain’t.”

― Brennan Manning

One of my heros Max De Pree, former Herman Miller CEO, once said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant.” Amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk trust.

In its 2016 Global CEO Survey, PwC reported that 55% of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth. Lack of trust will always create low retention and difficulty attracting game changing talent. Trust is the ultimate currency and it serves as organizational glue. Trust is not the most important part of a culture; it is the culture.

In his recent HBR article, The Neuroscience of Trust, neuro-economist Paul J. Zak writes that “employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies.” In the survey, respondents whose companies were in the top twenty-five percent shared the following benefits of a trusting team culture:

  • 106% more energy

  • 50% more productive

  • 74% less stress

  • 40% less burnout

  • 70% more were aligned with companies’ purpose

We are all lulled into believing humility is synonymous with frailty. But, as Ashley Merryman writes in a recent Washington Post article, humility is when we understand our strengths and weaknesses and are “liberated by this knowledge.” Humble leaders practice staying present, and are skilled at neutralizing their own blind spots. They are not afraid to admit their weaknesses.

Duke University conducted a study in July, 2016 measuring intellectual humility versus intellectual arrogance. They found that the intellectually arrogant are more susceptible to fake news, are more easily misled, and suffer from lack of perception. They don’t know what they don’t know. On the other hand, those leaders that are intellectually humble embrace learning, ambiguity, and the unknown. And they win because of it.

Researchers Bradley Owens and David Hekman sourced groundbreaking research studying humble leadership across a wide spectrum of fields including the armed services, business, and the clergy. The researchers found humility bolsters a leader’s authority, power, and impact. In contrast, non-humble leaders get their strength from a position of certainty. The non-humble leader believes they have all the answers: their need for certainty distracts them and limits their ability to see clearly. Craving clarity, they try to reduce risk, uncertainty and fear. The better answer is embracing leadership vulnerability; it underpins a culture of trust.

Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, once described trust by saying, “I could give you a dictionary definition, but you know it when you feel it.” Trusting relationships are the glue of high-performing teams. And if trust is absent, leaders rely on control.

“Ruthless trust” is currency and it’s rare.

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them." - Ernest Hemingway

Dan Mack is the leader of Mack Elevation, a sales consulting, executive coaching and training agency.

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