WHY TRUST MATTERS
When employees are fearful, innovation and creativity suffer.
By Dori Meinert
In an age of economic uncertainty and change, cor- porate leaders are seeking ways to be more agile and innovative.
Yet in doing so, they frequently overlook one time-honored component of success—employee trust. That can
be a costly mistake in terms of time, money and reputation, experts warn.
“When you don’t have trust, you can’t respond as quickly as you need to with the fast pace of change that we’re
seeing in today’s market,” says Amanda Setili, a strategy
consultant and author of Fearless Growth (Career Press,
Moreover, if employees don’t trust their leaders, they
won’t operate efciently. Staf members will be reluctant
to make decisions, seeking approval for every little thing.
They won’t be willing to go the extra mile if they’re unsure
whether others will back them up. They’ll fear sharing
bad news, so problems will grow instead of being promptly addressed. They’ll be less likely to ofer ideas for new
products or processes if they believe leaders won’t support
them or will take credit for their ideas.
WHAT IS TRUST?
“Trust is when I feel I can count on you to do what you led
me to expect you to do,” says Setili, president of Setili &
Associates, an Atlanta-based strategy consulting company.
“If we don’t believe that the other person is going to
do what they led us to expect them to do, then we’re not
going to put ourselves at risk,” she says. “And if we don’t
put ourselves at risk, then we’re not going to be success-
ful. And the company … is going to slowly erode and
On the other hand, trustworthy leaders can bring great
benefts to an organization, including greater employee
engagement, innovation and productivity, says Andrea P.
Howe, founder of The Get Real Project in Washington,
D.C., and co-author of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook
“You are much more likely to get innovation because
with trust comes freedom,” Howe says. “You can get mas-
sive productivity gains. Simply put, things move faster,
Trust also enables people to have greater infuence on
others—which is important not just for leaders but for
workers at all levels. “It’s the ability to be heard, to make a
diference,” Howe says.
Numerous studies from the Great Place To Work
Institute and elsewhere have found that companies with
high-trust cultures have greater fnancial success than
those that don’t.
In fact, “a lack of trust is the biggest expense in organizations,” says David Horsager, chief executive ofcer of
Trust Edge Leadership Institute in St. Paul, Minn. Every
problem that leaders think they have—whether it’s a leadership issue, a sales issue, an engagement issue or some
other issue—boils down to trust, he contends.