Why building trust and engagement is a crucial leadership skill

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Trust and engagement represented by ropes tied together by a single knot.

The ability to build trust and engagement in the workplace is one of the most critical aspects of a successful leader, writes MICHELLE SALES.

Research shows us that even with all of the technology now at our disposal we have a connection deficit in organisations everywhere.

In late 2018, Ernst & Young instigated its first Belonging Barometer study. More than 1000 employed adult Americans were surveyed in the study, which confirmed evidence that exclusion – the inverse of belonging and connecting – is a growing issue, with more than 40 percent of those surveyed feeling physically and emotionally isolated in the workplace.

When we feel isolated and disconnected we also feel disengaged. We don’t want to work, or work for our leader, so we mentally ‘check out’. This usually leads to performance management actions to try and fix the issue, which actually makes things worse. It’s the equivalent of career suicide.

On the flipside, when we feel connected, we feel a sense of belonging. When we feel like we belong, we feel engaged. When we are engaged we thrive, as does our organisation’s performance.

So what to do?

Trust: the critical foundation

When people are engaged, they feel included, accepted and trusted. They feel valued by their leaders and colleagues, so their level of commitment increases dramatically. There is an openness with these employees, as well as a desire to communicate and work together for better outcomes.

Paul Zak compared high and low trust in organisations in his book Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies. What Zak found is that companies with high trust demonstrate high energy levels (106 percent more than companies with trust issues), higher productivity (50 percent more) and more engagement (76 percent more).

Engaged teams start working well together, harnessing the collective in the pursuit of solutions that improve outcomes for customers and employees alike. They understand and adopt the vision, values and purpose of the organisation. They are engaged in both the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of the work. Hearts and minds start to fire together, building passion and capability.

Therefore we must ensure a solid foundation of trust. This is what will lead to a greater connection with not only our employees, but also our stakeholders, customers and communities. This is how we influence the prospects of our leadership career.

Connect for career growth

We all remember the leader who made a big impact on our lives for the better. Equally, we all remember the ones who made an impact for the worse.

The leader we respected, the one we looked up to, made us feel like we could be our best possible self around them. We felt valued and rewarded for this. So when you’re in a position of leadership it’s important that your employees and team members feel understood at an individual level.

This is when they start to love what they do and they want to contribute to the performance of the entire organisation. This is the best possible result for leaders looking to grow their career and reach.

When we exercise leadership in a way that allows our people to bring their best self to work – to feel truly valued for what they do and why they do it – only then does performance really thrive. This is also what sees you become respected not just as a leader but one that is remembered for good reasons, not bad.

As Amy Cuddy put it in her Harvard Business Review article Connect, Then Lead, high-quality connections, meaning and purpose from leaders drive new levels of effort, creativity, confidence, engagement and performance – and that’s what we all want, right?

Michelle Sales is speaker, trainer, coach and the author of the new whitepaper The Connection Deficit: Why leaders must bring both head and heart to work to build trust, lift engagement and accelerate organisational results. For more information on Michelle’s work visit www.michellesales.com.au

 

Image: 123RF’s alphaspirit © 123RF.com

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