Building Followership

iStock_000002117973SmallDo your company leaders create workplace inspiration or workplace drudgery, or something in between?

Do team members experience trust and respect in day to day interactions with leaders or do they experience something less?

If followers feel disrespected and distrusted, they won’t engage willingly in efforts to make the company successful.

My work with a culture client awhile back shed light on this issue. The first phase of any of my culture initiatives is one of discovery; I interview senior leaders, their direct reports, and select next level staff. These interviews help me understand how the culture operates, how leaders are perceived, how fair and just the culture is, and the like.

With this client, a new plant leader was seen as a strong driver of process improvement, yet his interpersonal reactions led staff to believe that he did not trust or respect them.

He would ask people’s opinions in a public forum, then would roll his eyes when he heard others’ ideas. He’d discount others’ ideas abruptly, strongly, and verbally. He discounted others’ concerns about safety during a major construction project.

He didn’t listen. He didn’t validate others ideas or concerns. He didn’t observe the clear indications that team members were distant and distrustful of him.

Performance and quality issues grew while team member engagement fell.

Other than that, things at the plant were great!

I truly do not believe this leader was trying to create a workplace of stress and dysfunction. I believe he was doing the best he could. And, he wasn’t paying attention to the quality of his relationships, to the presence (or absence) of trust in him.

Leaders can only have consistent, positive influence on productivity and engagement if they create followership – a willing, talented team that understands the leader’s vision and the customer’s needs, and delivers on both.

The newest Edelman Trust Barometer provides insights on the degree of global trust in business and government but also provides suggestions on how to boost trust in the workplace.

The new trust barometer indicates that engagement and integrity are powerful drivers of trust in workplaces. In one section of Edelman’s research, seven factors that boost engagement and integrity were analyzed.

These key factors rate the degree to which business leaders:

  • Are ethical
  • Listen to customers
  • Treat employees well
  • Put customers before profits
  • Act responsibly in crisis
  • Are transparent and open
  • Communicate often

Their research found that, today, business leaders around the globe fall short in each of these key factors – by 25% or more when comparing the business’ stated importance of each factor and the business’ actual performance on each factor. For example,  being “ethical” was reported as an important factor by 60% of respondents. However, those same respondents reported that their business’ actual performance on the ethical factor was just 29% – a gap of 31%.

If we think about our great bosses, it is very likely that we experienced those great bosses demonstrating every one of these key factors.

Leaders, it’s not that complicated. Do the right thing, daily. Value team members’ efforts and ideas as well as their accomplishments.

What do you think? Which of these key factors did your great bosses demonstrate? To what degree do your leaders today model these key factors? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

Get your free copy of my ChangeThis manifesto, “What? Your Organization Doesn’t Have a Constitution?

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway. The Great Boss Assessment compares your current boss’ behaviors with those of great bosses. The Performance-Values Assessment compares your organization’s culture practices to those of high performing, values-aligned organizations. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My new book from Wiley, The Culture Engine, guides leaders to create workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution. Get your free sample chapter here.

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