When I was building my first company, looking for examples of how to build a culture of trust, there were not as many visible or discussed as there are today. (Jim Collins definitely put a large effort into this research). The “old business” approach to leadership of relying on trust in power was over. Thriving businesses, like ours, were getting places by adopting a “new business” approach: rely on the power of trust!
I knew the power of trust started with our leaders and the leadership team. We had to become vulnerable with each other first and I was the one to drive this as CEO. Being a huge fan and ‘groupie’ of Pat Lencioni’s work, we start working through the 5 Temptations of a CEO, Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive and then later the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. As a coach I still use all these tools and messages with my clients. (I just re-read the Four of Obsessions of a Extraordinary Executive last week. Love this book!) This view really helped myself and my team build the 3 systems we put in place to support our team and team members: The Cultural System (ensuring we have behaviors we believe in), The Cohesive System (building a high performing team starting with trust), and the Human System ( a repeatable process to attract, hire, onboard, train, coach, keep and grow our team members). These team member systems are the foundation of any great company!
Many people will read this and think it’s obvious. Trust > Power; It sounds so simple... and it is. But at the end of the day, it’s often the simple things that get overlooked. And as I have received feedback from the CEOs and leaders I work with, the “soft” stuff is hard to implement. As a CEO, these three systems were my number 1 focus and priority. I knew if I could get these systems cranking in my organization with my leaders, and if we had the discipline to never stop once we started, we would just keep evolving and getting better as a team. We would be in good shape and other things we were trying to accomplish would get easier. A trusting team makes it easier to achieve your goals and outcomes.
When I think about why the team from my first company wanted to continue to work with me in my second company, I knew it was because we trusted one another and we knew what to expect from one another and we knew we were going to have fun achieving our goals. We would be successful. Beyond my own experience, it’s well documented that the companies with the best cultures, the ones that have been recognized as the best places to work, are the companies outperform other companies even through a down turn in the market. These companies are by far the leaders in their markets. They have focused on their team first.
As a leader, if you focus on your team first by building trust first, you will have a high performing cohesive team. To keep a team cohesive you must work at it everyday. Once you have it you can loose it. Once you start you must create a system to keep the cohesiveness in place. This takes focus and discipline of the leaders to drive this everyday from their behavior.
As a CEO and leader there a 5 actions that you must drive with your team:
- Ensure a consistent Human System is in place.
- Work at team cohesiveness every day. (Overcoming the 5 Dysfunctions Framework.)
- Ensure the messaging throughout your company is consistent.
- Ensure there is organizational clarity.
- Over-communicate organizational clarity.
This takes continuous focus, discipline and commitment by the CEO and the leadership team. As a CEO, this was my #1 priority everyday. I was accountable to drive this in the company. My realization over the years of building companies is building a high performing team where “Trust is Execution”.
What are you going to do today and everyday to build the foundation of trust for your team?
-Shannon Byrne Susko