The One Indispensable Ingredient for Employee Engagement

Randy wastes no time in getting you engaged in his message about employee engagement in today’s businesses. If you’ve not read Randy’s writing, then you’re in for a treat. He’s a recognized thought leader on the topic of trust. Heck, Ken Blanchard Company has put Randy as the Trust Practice Leader. When you read this post you’ll leave with a clear connection between trust and engagement. The two are inseparable.

Every day the spirits of millions of people die at the front door of their workplace. There is an epidemic of workers who are uninterested and disengaged from the work they do, and the cost to the U.S. economy has been pegged at over $300 billion annually. According to a recent survey from Deloitte, only 20% of people say they are truly passionate about their work, and Gallup surveys show the vast majority of workers are disengaged, with an estimated 23 million “actively disengaged.”

This blog series on “Winning Employees through Engagement” highlights dozens of excellent strategies for organizational leaders dealing with this enormous challenge. Yet for any engagement strategy to be effective, one crucial ingredient must be present. Without this ingredient your efforts will never reach their full potential and employee engagement will continue to be a pipe dream. What is that one ingredient? Trust.

 

Establishing high-trust relationships on the interpersonal level is just one part of the trust/engagement equation

 

Many people think trust “just happens” in relationships. That’s a misconception. Trust is built through the intentional use of specific behaviors, that when repeated over time, create the condition of trust. Oddly enough, most leaders don’t think about trust until it’s broken. No one likes to think of him or herself as un-trustworthy so we take it for granted that other people trust us. To further complicate matters, trust is based on perceptions, so each of us has a different idea of what trust looks like.

We need a common framework and language that defines trust and allows us to discuss trust related issues. The TrustWorks! ABCD Model® provides that framework and illustrates the four elements of trust that leaders need to focus on to build high-trust relationships.

Able – Demonstrate Competence

Leaders show they are able when they have the expertise needed for their job. They consistently achieve results and facilitate work getting done in the organization. Demonstrating competence inspires others to have confidence and trust in you.

Believable – Act with Integrity

Trustworthy leaders are honest with others. They behave in a manner consistent with their stated values, apply company policies fairly, and treat people equitably. “Walking the talk” is essential in building trust in relationships.

Connected – Care About Others

Being connected means focusing on people, having good communication skills, and recognizing the contributions of others. Caring about others builds trust because people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Dependable – Maintain Reliability

Dependable leaders follow through on their commitments. They respond timely to requests and hold themselves and others accountable. Not doing what you say you will do quickly erodes trust with others.

 

Many people think trust “just happens” in relationships. That’s a misconception. Trust is built through the intentional use of specific behaviors

 

Establishing high-trust relationships on the interpersonal level is just one part of the trust/engagement equation. You also need organizational systems and process that build and sustain trust. Consider the ABCD’s of trust on an organizational level:

  • Able – Do your people have opportunities to develop their expertise and exercise autonomy in their work? Does the culture foster high achievement?
  • Believable – Are policies and procedures fair and equitable to people? Does ethical behavior get rewarded and unethical behavior punished?
  • Connected – Does your culture allow for information to be shared openly? Is good performance rewarded? Is diversity valued?
  • Dependable – Does your organization meet its goals? Do systems, processes, and most importantly leadership, encourage accountability?

 

Every day the spirits of millions of people die at the front door of their workplace

 

If your people don’t trust you as a leader, they will view your employee engagement efforts as just another way to control them, just another attempt to get them to do what you want. We spend too much of our life at work to settle for low-trust, cynical, disengaged workplaces. To create workplace cultures of high-engagement you need to start at the beginning. Start with trust.

 

Connect with Randy

Randy Conley is the Director of Client Services and Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies where he has partnered with some of the company’s largest clients such as Amgen, American Express, Pfizer, and the San Diego Padres to deliver transformative leadership and organizational development solutions. He authors the Leading with Trust blog, speaks and trains on the subjects of trust and leadership, is an adjunct faculty member of Grand Canyon University, and was named by Trust Across America as a Top 100 Thought Leader in trustworthy business behavior for 2012. Randy holds a Masters Degree in Executive Leadership from the University of San Diego. You can follow him on Twitter @RandyConley.

 

Graphic by Shawn Murphy

Randy Conley is the Vice President of Client Services and Trust Practice Leader for The Ken Blanchard Companies, where he has partnered with some of the company’s largest clients such as Amgen, American Express, Pfizer, and the San Diego Padres to deliver transformative leadership and organizational development solutions. He authors the Leading with Trust blog, speaks and trains on the subjects of trust and leadership, and is one of Trust Across America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders in trustworthy business behavior. Randy holds a Masters Degree in Executive Leadership from the University of San Diego. You can follow him on Twitter @RandyConley.

  • http://maritzmotivationsolutionsblog.com @michpoko

    In the book Neuroeconomics and the Firm, Dr. Paul Zak identifies trust as “the platform on which employees interact with each other and with clients…” Employee trust in leaders, managers and peers is at its lowest level since Maritz began its employee engagement research a decade ago.

    Here’s the good news: well delivered recognition can have a positive impact on creating and building trust. When we recognize effectively, we communicate ” I paid attention to what you did, I appreciate and value your contribution and am grateful for your efforts”. When authentically given, recognition can be a bonding experience. The latest in brain science links bonding experiences to the release of oxytocin, the chemical found to be related to trust. Oxytocin release is dependent on our previous experiences with someone and all of our senses. When our bodies release it, we feel that it’s safe to trust.

    The next time we see that person, trust assessment happens more quickly, encouraging the positive behaviors and feelings we share with those we trust – generosity, empathy, cooperation and compassion. Goes a long way to explaining the connection between recognition and engagement.

  • http://letsgrowleaders.com karin hurt

    I believe trust is the most vital aspect of leadership. I agree it involves “intentional use” of behaviors… on both sides … both from leaders and followers.

  • http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/steve-bannister/13/917/2b2 Steve Bannister

    Thanks for this Randy. An excellent article that reaffirms that leadership starts with who you are; and if you are not already this person, who you need to become.

  • http://www.sapience.net Ruhi Desai

    Hi Randy,

    As you say trust is a very important ingredient for employee engagement indeed. Your article does give stress on the emotional approach on typical management issues.

    Please visit our blogs on similar issues to share our views

    Ruhi Desai,
    Senior Business Development Manager @ Sapience Analytics Pvt Lmtd

  • Pingback: It’s Time to Be Proud of Your Work | David Griesing – Author | Speaker | Blogger – Change Your Work Life Reward()

  • http://fall7up8.wordpress.com/ Enzo

    Hi Randy,

    Thanks for another Great article!

    I like how your TrustWorks! ABCD Model® adapts and moulds well to both interpersonal and organizational levels, making it an easy equation to remember for all occasions.

    You nailed the essential building blocks, not only of Trust in Leadership but also in life in general. I think your model can easily be applied to maintaining a happy family and life-long friendships, too.

    All the best for the Holidays and the New Year,
    Enzo

  • http://fourgroups.com/ Bruce Lewin

    Hi Randy, what if trust could be predicted and measured? What if high-trust relationships could be predicted, before people met each other? What do you think would happen to engagement, but also to business as a whole?

  • Randy Conley

    Thanks for your comments Karin. The intentional use of trust-building behaviors (I call them “trust boosters”) is the key.

    Take care,

    Randy

  • Randy Conley

    Thank you Steve. We are in agreement that leadership starts on the inside!

    Randy

  • Randy Conley

    Thanks for your comments Michelle. It’s amazing how trust is hardwired into the essential elements of us as people!

    Take care,

    Randy

  • Randy Conley

    Thank you Enzo! I appreciate your feedback. The concepts behind the ABCD model apply to all of our relationships and if we focus on being competent, acting with integrity, caring about others, and being reliable, we will be successful in building trust.

    Happy holidays to you and your family!

    Randy

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