August 3, 2016 by

The data is overwhelming. Employee retention depends on one question: Do team members trust their team leader?

In a virtually full-employment market like Omaha, trust is obviously an issue worth discussing.

Trust doesn’t just determine success in recruiting and retention. Current research proves trust determines success with all popular business goals including engagement, culture, high-performance, etc.

Trust is the key to successful relationships between team leaders and team members. In truly high performance, fully-engaged business cultures, trust is also essential to relationships with all constituents: customers, community, investors, government, the media, etc.

Stephen Covey says it best, “trust is the highest form of human motivation It brings out the very best in people.”

No company can claim 100 percent trust in all relationships with all audiences. No. The highest performing companies with the most engaged employees (and communities, investors, etc.) are laser-focused on building, maintaining, and deepening trust.

As difficult as it may seem to define trust, let alone intentionally create it, there are mountains of research defining the conditions necessary for trust to be developed in business which can be distilled to two key principles:

1. Professional Competence

Professionally competent leaders aren’t necessarily the most knowledgeable or experienced individuals on their teams. However, team members are confident that these leaders know enough to consistently ask good questions, make good decisions, provide good direction, and recognize and address good (and bad) performance in real time.

2. Personal Character.

From a psychological perspective, personal character allows team members to trust that their leader will not allow them to be harmed, especially when they are vulnerable. Trusted leaders don’t allow gossip, and never engage in it. They “have the backs” of their teammates in all situations.

There are three specific components of personal character that team members must observe in their leaders before they can trust them:

a) Honesty

Honesty goes well beyond telling the truth. It means the intent to be transparent and “real” at all times—to communicate clearly and completely. Trusted leaders don’t hoard information. They are authentic, genuine, and are willing to have difficult conversations.                                   

b) Consistency

Consistent adherence to personal values allows team members to predict their leaders reactions and behaviors. Predictability is essential to trust. Fairness in decision-making is another key aspect of consistency. Trusted leaders don’t play favorites. Team members can count on them to put principles before personalities.

c) Concern

A concerned leader is not easily swayed by an emotional appeal or grants every wish to be popular. On the contrary, concerned leaders are willing to not only want what’s best for team members, but also hold them accountable to perform at the highest possible standard.

Scott Anderson is CEO of Doubledare, a coaching, consulting, and search firm.

Scott Anderson is CEO of Doubledare, a coaching, consulting, and search firm.