Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Speed of Trust Webinar: Employee Engagement & Culture

This post is about a webinar that was run some days ago by Franklyn Covey -The Speed of Trust and that was focused on trust, employee engagement and culture.

The content of this post is a summary that I made of the webinar. In some respect these marginalia can be considered as a sort of continuation of my previous post (where I wrote about two pieces of article that were written by Stephen M. R. Convey some years ago).

My Marginalia:

“Franklyn Covey -The Speed of Trust believe that there is not leadership competency that can compensate for a low credibility, trust leader.

Culture and Engagement experts say that employee engagement, as a metric of business success, is getting more attention than ever before. It seems to be that “only highly engaged employees enable performance”. And yet the topic remains elusive, even murky. Many organisations are stymied by stubbornly stagnant engagement levels despite yearly cycles of measuring and action planning.

How do we do something about this?

In The Speed of Trust’s opinion, the root of engagement is the great engagement and culture paradox: you do not improve engagement by focusing on engagement, you improve engagement by focusing on trust.

Gaining the trust of employees as the key to high engagement” (Personnel Today)

“How do we improve employee engagement?” organisations should ask themselves “How do we improve trust?”

The key to engagement is a focus on trust and trust is driven by two things: CREDIBILITY and BEHAVIOUR.

A University of Dublin study found that there is a mutually beneficial spiral relationship between trust and engagement, like a virtuous upward cycle. As trust goes up, engagement goes up.

A similar study by a Canadian research firm analysed 12 different engagement models with 26 different drivers of engagement. They found that the strongest causal factors were the trust that a person had in their supervisor and the trust they had in the company at large.

“The bottom line”, says The Speed of Trust, “is that if you move the needle on TRUST employee engagement will increase. In a low trust culture, you will NOT engage your people. The fact is that trust drives engagement”.

Think of someone at work with whom you have a HIGH TRUST relationship. What is it like to work with this person? Do you have to worry about increasing engagement in the context of this relationship? No. It is naturally there. It is because of the nature of the relationship.

Now, think of a person at work with whom you have a LOW TRUST relationship. What is it like to work with this person? Everything is slow, no matter how much effort and carefulness you put into your communication skills. The relationship is hit by the tag ‘trust’.

It is impossible for engagement to improve in this toxic, dysfunctional soil of low trust.

The speaker went further by explaining what he called the ‘Three big ideas’:
Trust is

  • Financial. It is an economic driver. It is measurable and always impacts two variables: speed and cost. When trust goes down, then speed goes down while cost goes up (trust tax). When trust goes up, then speed goes up and cost goes down (trust dividend)
  • The number one Leadership Competency needed today. High trust is the great performance multiplier. The root of a healthy, engaged culture.
  • A learnable skill. A tangible asset you can deliberately create. CREDIBILITY and BEHAVIORS are the mechanics of trust.

You cannot build trust just by saying people that they need to trust each other. Trust is an outcome. Trust is function of language and behaviour. Why? Because

  • All grand strategies must eventually degenerate down to real work, done by real people.
  • Woven into the fabric of real work is language and behaviour that either destroys trust or language and behaviour that builds trust.

—> BEHAVIOR is the platform on which you either get results or not get results. “Trust is the Operating System of your team and organisation” and it impacts everything you want to get done.

Then, the webinar focused on ‘The 5 Waves of Trust’: Self, Relationship, Organisational, Market and Societal. The first three were explained in details (I believe this was due to a constraint of time):

1. SELF. It is self-trust. Our own credibility.
It has to do with being a person of Integrity, good Intent, Capabilities and producing Results.
These are the four cores of CREDIBILITY with: Integrity (deep honesty, truthfulness, humility, congruence, courage) and Intent (your fundamental motive) being part of CHARACTER ; Capabilities (inspiring confidence, attitude, talents, skills, knowledge) and Results (if you do not produce results you will not be credible) being part of COMPETENCE.

The principle beyond self-trust is our own credibility. Trust starts with you. Trust starts with me (‘I need to be credible’). And in order to be credible we have to have both Character and Competence.

2. RELATIONSHIP. This has to do with the importance of behaviour
According to The Speed of Trust, there are 13 behaviours of High Trust People:

  1. Talk Straight (Be honest, tell the truth, let people know where you stand, use simple language, call things what they are)
  2. Demonstrate Respect
  3. Create Transparency
  4. Right Wrongs
  5. Show Loyalty
  6. Deliver Results
  7. Get Better
  8. Confront Reality (Take your hands on, address the task directly, acknowledge the uncertain, lead conversations with courage, address all the real issues)
  9. Clarify Expectations (Disclose expectations, discuss them, validate them, do not assume that expectations are clear or shared)
  10. Practice Accountability
  11. Listen First (Listen before you speak, diagnose, listen with your ears, your eyes, your heart. Do not assume you know most than others)
  12. Keep Commitments (Say what you are going to do and then, do what you say you are going to do. Make commitments carefully, including implicit commitments and keep them at all costs)
  13. Extend Trust

“These behaviours flow out of what you are, not what you pretend to be”

Each of the 13 behaviours has an ‘opposite’. (e.g. the opposite of Talk Straight is to lie or to deceive).

Associated with each behaviour, is also a ‘counterfeit’ (e.g. the counterfeit of Talk Straight is spinning, positioning, posturing and manipulating. Withholding information, beating around the bush, double-talking and flattering. “Corporate Speak”. Technically, telling the truth but leaving the wrong impression). “If there is low trust inside your team is because people are behaving the counterfeit behaviour”.

Executives appear to struggle with key leadership behaviours correlated to engagement… However, “Leadership is about getting results in a way that inspires trust and the way you inspires trust is through your behaviour. Behaviour is the root to engagement”.

3. ORGANISATIONAL. This is about organisational trust. Its core principle is alignment: communicate trust as an explicit objective; design and align systems that inspire trust and create symbols of trust.

Most complex organisational problems cannot be solved with the stroke of a pen, a leadership mandate, a training program, restructuring or changing system. However, the solution is not there. The solution to many organisational challenges is rooted in changes to human behaviour”.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. (Peter Drucker)

If the culture opposes strategy the results can be disastrous. Many business leaders understand that culture plays an important role in their businesses, but most have difficulty understanding how to use culture to improve performance”. (Jon Katzenbach, Senior Partner of Booz & Company).

Speed of Trust think that the term ‘culture’ is often too broad, not specific, not deliberate and not strategic. And, instead of focusing on this broad term, organisations should focus on trust and on the behaviours that create it. They state and believe that there are specific behaviours that are the root of a healthy, engaged culture. And, there are specific counterfeit behaviours that are the root of a dysfunctional, disengaged culture.

They think that it is possible to help people learn new skills and apply the few simple behaviours that create trust as the foundation and core of the culture. And that it is possible to help leaders make TRUST an explicit, strategic objective.

How? Through implementing a simple, scalable process. “A process that changes language and behaviour in the context or real work, and creates a cultural ‘Cadence of Accountability’ around new behavioural norms”.

That should be done by focusing on a few critical behaviours at different levels within key populations.


First, by PREPARING and LEARNING. Measure, prepare, Learn new skills. Practice new language and behaviour). We need to understand first of all where we are in terms of behaviours – not just personally but also as a team, an organisation.

Second, by APPLYING what has been learnt. Apply, reinforce and integrate new language and behaviour in the context of the real job, over time. Create a cultural cadence of accountability around new behavioural norms.

Thirdly, by SUISTANING. Measure the business impact. Improve. Renew learning and application.

Culture is the collective behaviour of the people…and key high trust behaviours can be driven into the DNA of an organisation”.