Trust – #1 Competency Needed By Leaders Today

In a recent presentation I attended by Stephen M. R. Covey, author of Speed of Trust, he shared the three reasons why trust is is the #1 leadership competency needed by leaders today:
1) Trust is the currency of today’s collaborative, global economy much like money fuels the economy. Trust fuels connectedness and is vital to the leaders who are playing in the global markets. Covey shared that 1000 people participating in a global conference were asked to identify the biggest challenge the world faced. The #2 most common challenge identified was the global financial crisis and the #1 challenge the world faced was a crisis of trust and confidence.

2) Trust affects everything. Trust affects performance. Covey explained that where an organization had high trust, performance was multiplied. If there is low or no trust, all strengths of the organization are viewed through the lens of “I do not trust this person.” A Watson Wyatt study of high trust organizations found a 286% total return to shareholders in high trust organizations. Covey specified how in the area of strategic planning, high trust won’t rescue a bad strategy but will create an environment in the organization for discussion on the strategy. In contrast, low trust will derail a good strategy for the environment is one where they can’t talk about it.

3) We are operating increasingly in a low trust world. All types of organizations are experiencing a shift – media, churches, business , government. And, society generally is living in a low trust environment as recent studies show only 34% of people in the US believe people can be trusted. There is a crisis in trust.

 Wow, it is one thing to sense the shift and quite another to have studies validate the feeling as being more common. Having just come from an organization where low trust was rampant, I fully understand the impact it has on an organization, its clients and the employees and their families. As a leader it was frustrating yet so necessary to stay focused on empowering one employee at a time to deal with the low trust environment. In coaching the executives, it was demanding that they deal with their own self trust and dig deep to stabilize the environment, by dealing with credibility issues, having the straight talk discussions, creating transparency… For this organization, unfortunately the crisis of trust was deep and could not be overcome resulting in massive layoffs and a total dismantling of services for clients who had come to rely on them. The impact of low trust is still being felt.

Thankfully, Stephen continued to talk about what a leader can do to create trust and the huge advantage it provides for the leader and her stakeholders to navigate confidently in a low trust world. Over the next several weeks, I will explore this critical leadership skill more fully and the effective techniques that Covey shared in building trust. Check back to see how you can build this leadership competency for yourself and your team.

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