63% Of Employees Don’t Trust Their Leader — Here’s What You Can Do To Change That

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Trust is toast, according to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer.

It’s worldwide, it’s pervasive across business and government, and trust of CEOs is at an all-time low.

CEO Credibility plunged by 12 points this year. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said CEOs are somewhat or not at all credible. Whoa. Wow.

How Trust Is Broken…

Lack of trust creates an environment where concerns quickly evolve into fears. And when fears collide with a belief that the system is failing, trouble results. Also as distrust and fear increase, the negative impact on employee morale, engagement and performance accelerate. The end results are disengaged employees, frustrated management and lower profits. And the problem comes from four key emotional experiences:

1. A sense of injustice – the experience of unfairness tamps down the insula, the part of the brain responsible for emotional hurt and intuition. If a person is experiencing unfairness they will be spending more time in critter state, which will impact performance, decision making, collaboration, overall peace and happiness.

2. Lack of hope – the experience of hopelessness is even more painful than unfairness, and it’s below Critter State on the emotional range. In neurolinguistics the states of hopeless, helpless, worthless, and grief/terror are consider Baseline States. It doesn’t get worse than this.

3. Lack of confidence – depending on the person and degree of lack of confidence we’ll likely see procrastination, reluctance to take risks, playing “small”, and yes, more Critter State.

4. Desire for change – this is encouraging as there’s some energy here. Desire for change means we can envision a possible future where things are better. This lights up the Ventral Striatum where we anticipate reward. If we can increase this experience we can get into Smart State.

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A few more key findings are that with the experience of distrust Edelman found that facts matter less to people and bias becomes the filter. 53% of respondents stated they do not listen to people or organizations with whom they often disagree. Further, people are 4x more likely to ignore info that doesn’t support their beliefs. Wow.

…And How To Fix It

So what’s the solution? Edelman’s survey respondents said that a shift from a top-down approach to a more participatory model is needed. In a word: collaboration, communication, transparency and mutual respect. This means deeply listening to and strategically acting on insights from employees. The report also concluded that rebuilding trust is a shared responsibility. We’re in this together.

And sustainable trust is key. This means taking employee engagement and empowerment to a new level, and ensuring leadership is engaged and empowered too.

Engage Everyone

In previous blogs we have discussed proven and trusted neuroscience-based tools that will increase employee engagement, the real reasons your team is not engaged, how great leaders build trust and increase employee engagement and the one mistake leaders make that kills employee engagement.  Engagement starts at the top where the culture of the organization is formed–leaders must build a solid foundation where employee engagement can thrive.

 Leadership engagement = employee engagement.

Engagement and motivation happen when people solve their own problems, and create their own aspirations and expectations. That’s why the “outcome frame” tool is so powerful. Additionally it’s essential to:

• Use inquiry over advocacy—ask questions vs. giving orders, and use the Outcome Frame for deep insight and clarity creation.

• Hold team strategy and problem solving meetings at every level–meet to do the work not to talk about the work.

• Have team members create their own goals and action plans.

When we add empowerment to engagement, we will see profound results.

Empower Employees

Are you encouraging employees to have a voice? Are you empowering them to make decisions and to have a say in the company in their department/role and to offer feedback in a safe and outcome focused way?

The damage happens when a leader asks for feedback and then either does nothing to improve him or herself or attempts to identify the source of criticism and punish it. Persecuting someone who took a risk to respond to your request is an obvious trust breaker, but why is doing nothing problematic as well?

When we take the time to give feedback to someone we have most likely thought about it, and feel that the person is not able to see or to prioritize something that can be clearly seen from the outside. When we do nothing, we discount the feedback giver’s experience and their desire to create a more positive outcome—we send them into Critter State through a sense of loss of belonging, mattering and possibly safety. Not responding may result in having them feel invisible and powerless. This results in a fear-based culture where trust won’t thrive, when what we want is a transparent culture where trust is abundant.

According to the Edelman Report, the most trusted spokesperson to communicate the topic of employees are the employees themselves, not the CEO or the Senior Executives. Employees also find the following types of communication the most “believable.”

• 57% Spontaneous Speaker vs 43% Rehearsed Speaker

• 54% Blunt and Outspoken vs 46% Diplomatic & Polite

• 51% Personal Experience vs 49% Data

Effective communication works when we incorporate Safety, Belonging, Mattering into the dialogue. Here are three examples that employees can use with their leaders to increase this experience:

Safety: “I want to be the best [executive/leader/partner/etc] I can be. Could you help me create structures, techniques, processes to foster innovation, safe and sane risk taking, intellectual challenges? I think this could really help us grow and stretch.”

Belonging: “I want to be the best [executive/leader/partner/etc] I can be. Could you provide me with opportunities to bring people together, to form teams and help them perform at their peak? I would love to contribute this way.”

Mattering: “I want to be the best [executive/leader/partner/etc] I can be. Could you let me know when you’re happy with my work/contributions and what specifically you like? This will help me do more of what matters to you and the company.”

Safety + Belonging + Mattering = Trust

We can help heal the significant distrust in the business world via first understanding what a person is experiencing and then intentionally helping them shift into engagement and empowerment. When we give people what they crave their Critter Brain (fear based) calms down and we can guide them into their Smart State.

The result? A culture where trust, true rapport, connection, alignment, enrollment and engagement live.

How will you build trust in your organization?

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