The real cost of distrust

Reflecting on the global financial crash of a decade ago, commentators today agree that something accelerated the crisis: people lacking the courage to speak up.

Meanwhile, in 2019, media and advertising bosses are hungry for ways to ensure their employees feel able to freely share their thoughts and ideas.

Speaking truth to power won’t just protect us from sleepwalking into a once-in-a-generation catastrophe, but – on a more positive note – will foster diverse, fresh thinking every day. This isn’t just a benefit for the financial and creative industries, but any company that wants to manage risk and promote innovation.

How can you build courage and creativity amongst your employees? By creating a safe, inclusive environment that empowers your people. It all comes back to trust.

‘It’s obvious’, says media and marketing CEO Jeremy King, ‘If you treat your employees like adults  – and show real trust – they react in a similar way, producing better results… a good working culture and [they] tend to give more back than they necessarily have to.’

Tellingly, the word for flexible working in German (‘Vertrauensarbeitszeit’) literally translates to ‘trust work time’.

It should come as no surprise that having trust in your team is essential for flexible working to happen at all, let alone for the arrangement to be successful.

But the combination of trust and flexibility in the workplace isn’t just an end in itself.

Turn your mind to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If your goal is to have motivated employees who are fulfilling their potential and who think creatively (and we’re assuming it is), your first task is to ensure that your team’s basic and psychological needs are met.

Trusting your team, and expressing this trust by offering them autonomy in how and when they work best, must therefore be a prerequisite for managing people.

‘We need to trust our staff that working at home means genuinely working at home and not another day at the beach,’ says PwC CEO and Champion for Change Mark Averill.

If you don’t trust someone to do the work they are supposed to, it’s time to ask yourself a question. Is it because you struggle to trust others or is it because they’re not a good employee?

If it’s the former, it’s time for some long, hard self-reflection. Auckland University of Technology professor of human resource management Jarrod Haar​ agrees. ‘Unless you stand behind somebody and watch what they’re doing – and that’s a poor way to manage staff – managers have to learn to let go.’

For courage and creativity to flourish, leaders need to take a leap of faith and place their trust in their teams.