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Trust Me, 100 Percent

Trust me - 100 percent~ July, 2010

To paraphrase Jerre Stead, the wise chairman and CEO of IHS, Inc., one of Colorado’s largest and most successful global companies: When you operate with 100 percent trust, great people do great things. Leaders who earn the right to say “trust me” get that extra push in performance that competitors can’t touch.

We know a lot about why some companies perform at a higher level. They have good communication, shared purpose, flexibility, fair compensation, inspirational leadership, professional development, and a variety of other characteristics and programs that employees need and want. High performing companies pay as much attention to creating a good work experience as they do a good customer experience.

But what underlies these positive experiences? Trust — ideally, 100 percent trust. Levels of trust are directly related to how confident employees, customers and shareholders are of the truth (in numbers, for instance) or of quality (of a product, for example). Like virtually every aspect of organizational culture, trust begins with the CEO. All too often, chief executives fail to see the connection between their personal behavior and how trusting — and trustworthy — their organizations are perceived to be.
How to earn trust

Secretive, controlling, demanding, fearful or judgmental attitudes and behaviors in a CEO undermine every element of trust in their organizations. Whatever level of success these kinds of leaders achieve, they are not maximizing performance and profits. In today’s economy it’s not good enough to do a job well; you need to do it better.

Leaders earn trust by creating cultures that value openness, honesty and respect. For many CEOs, this means learning to be vulnerable and willing to be wrong which, far from showing weakness, reveal underlying confidence and strength.

So, give up the urge to micromanage and control outcomes; and eliminate all but the most critical policies and procedures — all of which stifle creativity and motivation. If you don’t know the answer, say so. If you have a hard question, ask it. If you have bad news, deliver it. If you make a promise, keep it. Walk around, probe and listen. And laugh whenever you can.

It’s the little things you do, consistently, that add up and earn trust over time. When you show trust through your beliefs and behaviors, you will receive it in return.

Together we’re smarter

Organizations can set policies and practices that foster trust, but cannot earn trust. Trust is an interpersonal experience, most importantly between leaders and employees. In a trusting environment people are comfortable relying on one another; cooperate as part of the group; and feel free to take appropriate risks. All this leads to better communication and more innovation —setting the foundation for extraordinary performance throughout the organization.

As author Ken Blanchard said in a recent Forbes article: “Are you betting on the brainpower of your top managers, or on the brainpower of everyone in your organization? What's at stake? The future of your company, based much more than you may realize on trust and respect.”

Kathleen Quinn Votaw is founder and CEO of TalenTrust, a Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) firm that helps companies accelerate their growth by hiring exceptional talent. TalenTrust LLC is located in Golden, CO. Kathleen is president of the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG), Denver . Reach Kathleen at or 303-838-3334 x5.

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