Want to know how to build a culture of trust? Leaders trust first!

Leadership Memo 2023-10

At the World Agility Forum last month, Hyatt Hotels Corporation CEO Mark Hoplamazian emphasized that senior leaders need to shift their mindset to succeed in a complex world. He shared that even the best business models can falter during times of crisis like the challenges faced during COVID-19. Without a willingness to adapt, companies will struggle to innovate and grow. Mark reminds us that a culture of learning and open-mindedness is key to success.

So, how do we cultivate such a culture?

First and foremost, employees need to feel safe. They need an environment where they feel free to express ideas and opinions without the fear of humiliation or punishment. When people don’t feel safe, they stop asking questions. They don’t admit weaknesses or mistakes. They hide failures to protect themselves. They stop offering new ideas. They refrain from thinking critically and accept the status quo. That’s the exact opposite of a culture of learning and open-mindedness.

Last month, we started to explore what leaders need to do to cultivate a psychologically safe environment. Today, we’ll continue the discussion that goes hand-in-hand with psychological safety–TRUST.

When people feel safe and are trusted, they feel they are protected and their voices are welcomed. When that happens, they speak up and they dare to be just like they are. They are not afraid of making mistakes because they can simply communicate that they failed at something. Employees can develop much more self-efficacy and responsibility. And you, as a leader, get better ideas.

Just like cultivating a safe environment, building a culture of trust starts with the leaders, you! You need to learn to trust first! No, you don’t wait for your people to prove to you they are trustworthy. You trust first. Remember, you hired them, so you must have believed they were at least professionally competent. Are there people who abuse or do not justify the trust? Yes, but I’ve found that they are the minority, about 1%-2%, and they should be treated on a case-by-case basis. We shouldn’t punish the entire team because of those 1%-2%.

According to Lufthansa Airlines CEO Jens Ritter, the following helps him in his journey of leading Lufthansa managers to create a psychologically safe and trusting environment:

  • When he shares his expectations and the why behind a task.
  • When he is appreciative and allows himself to be vulnerable.
  • When he shows support even if something fails. Because there will be no room for development and success if there is no room for failure.

“If I feel I am rather over-analyzing I try to change this state of mind. I try to be open, aware, connected and hospitable. What really helps me is as easy and difficult at the same time: I try to be present. I listen. And I do it to understand, not to respond.” That’s how Jens succeeds.

What about you? What have you found helped you in building a safe and trusting environment? Comment below and let me know.

Latest happenings:

I’m thrilled to let you know that I’ll be speaking at the upcoming Agile Tour Vilnius 2023. If you want to know how to lead and manage in the 21st century, join me on October 18 at 10:30am EEST (GMT+3). You can get tickets here.

🎧 Exciting News! Our Agile Tales launched a new episode for its current podcast series: “Co-creating the Employee Experience with Agile HR” 🚀🎙We continue our conversation with Natal Dank, a trailblazer in Agile HR, and discuss the future of HR and workplace culture. Get ready for game-changing insights that will reshape your approach to HR.

Join us! Click here to listen or you can go to Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Stitcher.

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