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CEO Insight- Trust, safety and security in an unpredictable organisational landscape

Olivier Herold

02 November 2020

Monitoring software for home workers recently got me thinking about the impact of ‘monitoring’, connecting and ways of balancing psychological safety and trust at work.

As a CEO, a leader or manager, where and when do people in our organisations feel ‘safe’ and what can we do to increase levels of safety and trust while still attending to the need to create performance and evolve our organisations during uncertain times?

People in organisations trust their leaders when they know they’ll be told the truth and if they can’t be told the whole truth, they’ll be told why not. When they know that the things they are told will be true. When leaders really listen. Which is why it matters so much that leaders build trust through consistent, connected behaviour from a position of integrity and deep listening. That way, people can share their truth, surface difficult issues and know that their leaders are able to hear it. Even when it would be easier not to. Especially when it would be easier not to. That can release energy and sustained discretionary effort in tough times in ways that no amount of software monitoring can ever create. 

How can we get much better at building deep trust to enable transformative change in our organisations? As leaders, we may believe ourselves to be completely trustworthy. We may act in what we truly believe are ‘trust building’ ways and people still may not trust enough to share their truth.

Perceptions of power can impact trust, so leaders might need to ask different questions. Ask ‘what do I need to hear that you or others are avoiding telling me?’ Ask ‘what are you protecting me from knowing, seeing or facing about our organisation?’ Ask ‘what do you wish I would ask you?’ Ask the person whose opinion you most want, the person whose opinion you most dread hearing and the last person you’d ever think of asking. The days of ‘one truth’ are long gone. Ask more. Listen more. Know that the investment in building trust is one of the most profound you will ever make. 

This would be easy if leaders could guarantee that asking those questions was enough to get straight answers. In fact, human reactions to power and system dynamics often distort what leaders are told, which circles back to where we started with the problem of ‘safe enough to speak our truths’.

The act of asking with humility and listening without defences is one of the most essential and courageous acts of leadership right now. We’re going to need that more than ever as we create our future organisations to be inclusive - performing and unlocking potential from every person and drawing out their best contribution. To do less is a significant missed human and commercial opportunity. If you want to explore more about the fundamentals of building trust you can download the first two chapters of our Amazon best selling book 5 Conversations- How to build trust, engagement and performance at work.

We can each make a difference to the new world of work. By the way we lead and the conditions we create, we can be part of making it more inclusive, more value generating and more human. How are you approaching building trust right now?

For further perspective on building trust in agile organisations you may find the recording of our recent webinar in partnership with The Institute of Leadership and Management useful- click here to access the recording.