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Building trust to achieve maximum potential: A 6-point framework for high performance at work

I see trust as a currency. Each one of us starts with a certain amount when we initiate a professional relationship. Whether it be with colleagues or customers, you either build on it or lose it. And building trust requires consistent effort. Any gains in efficiency can be decimated if you lose trust. Focusing on the dynamic between employer and employee, building the relationship is a two-way activity, but the onus falls on the employer if they want to achieve the high levels of engagement, productivity and retention that are characteristics of successful organisations.

Being a consistent performer at work not only achieves great outcomes for your employer. It’s deeply satisfying when we know we’re on top of our game. However, working to your full potential relies on your ability to perform at a level that results in a feeling of achievement. It is self-driven and allows us to move faster across our ‘to-do’ list, and attain quantifiable and positive outcomes for the organisation. Since it is self-driven, everyone has different motivators specific to their needs. An overarching critical factor that precedes all others is trust. The more I talk about it, the more I think people relate to it. Every possible factor of influence on performance spans from a level of trust. 

Now that we know trust is a key variable and a direct relationship exists with performance levels, I have developed a 6-point high-level framework that employers and employees can use together to build trust, increase performance and achieve positive outcomes.

  1. Financial – An employer needs to provide an opportunity for a stable future and advancement, without causing unwarranted economic stress to the employee; an employee needs to be trusted to look for the best financial outcomes and revenue opportunities for the business.
  2. Emotional and mental wellbeing – A feeling of positivity is extremely important amongst the people in a company. This helps foster camaraderie with all of the teams and individuals that interact with them at work.
  3. Physical – A positive mental and emotional state supports good physical health. Additional perks such as end of trip facilities for cyclists, discounted gym memberships, etc materially help to maintain a state of wellbeing.
  4. Social – A positive mental state supplements a sense of belonging, inclusion and an ability to build relationships beyond work. All of which play a key role in building trust.
  5. A sense of purpose – Making a positive difference is beyond just making profits or fulfilling the needs of oneself. Emotional fulfilment derived from purposefulness increases trust in the organisation and drives the people to be better.
  6. Employable – Enabling and assisting employees to build in-demand capabilities and skills to advance in their careers also builds trust. Professional development rewards employers by upskilling their workforce and nurturing innovation.  

Here some practical ideas for employers and employees to help implement this framework:

  • Policies and processes – support workforce well-being, foster equality and diversity & inclusion.
  • Openness and transparency – be accountable, take part in intentional conversations, adopt an open and transparent approach by default, use a merit-based decision-making process, involve everyone in the business.
  • Technology and innovation – flexible working, enabling technology, nurture creativity, bring together hybrid and dispersed workforces. This usually unleashes the best performance from people.
  • Information sharing – real-time data where it matters, empower employees at the frontline, thinking not from top to bottom, but from grassroots up.
  • Open and continuous learning – access to the citadels of industries and specialisations, ongoing professional development, a future-ready workforce that can shift at scale.

While all the 6 points are critical, finding the right balance depends on the nature of the people within the organisation. Identifying distinct groups, understanding their motivations and required trust level, then building standard policies with tangible benefits is key to building trust. These work wonders on performance.

Which business practices would you establish using my 6-point framework?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Are you hiring to fit today or tomorrow?

When you see candidates, do you imagine the possibilities and give them scope to realise their potential?

In recent weeks leading universities have advocated strongly for the removal of the traditional means by which students are selected for tertiary places – the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), describing the existing process as “out-of-date”, “irrelevant” and “meaningless”[1].

As the Vice-Chancellor of Swinburne University, Professor Linda Kristjanson, said this week, universities are very experienced at assessing student potential. Indeed it is the potential for learning and developing in a chosen field of endeavour that is so important to nurture and encourage in a young person (or a mature aged student); rankings only provide a narrow assessment of a student’s capability.

Of course for higher education providers, an assessment of academic ability is necessary, but it should be accompanied by evaluating a broader set of needs. In business, hiring organisations are most interested in an individual’s potential for growth.

Undertaking tertiary study is just as important and as potentially exciting as beginning a new career (or a new position within a chosen career), so why be restricted by a narrow measure of suitability? To encourage people to be successful, institutions should be supporting them through coaching and mentoring, nurturing their passions. As they advance, they need to display a humble willingness and desire for ongoing learning, while honing an industry sector, role or technical specialisation that’s appropriate to the workplace and aligned to the future employment market.

Universities, and employers, have always looked for motivation, sound communication skills and evidence from applicants that they can look beyond themselves to positively contribute to the wider community. Candidates, therefore, need to be able to show initiative, adaptability, creativity and teamwork. These indicators of a person’s potential are certainly assessable from a recruitment perspective, but not by some narrow measure.

While universities continue to debate the assessment of students, recruiters and hiring managers recognise a close fit between the needs of an organisation and the potential of a candidate is vitally important. For employers to achieve a more productive, dynamic workforce and be competitive in the international marketplace, a focus on potential as well as ongoing collaborative learning for all employees is required.

High-performing organisations will always emphasise professional development and executive recruitment should reflect that too. When you see candidates, imagine the possibilities and give them scope to realise their potential.

Is your organisation looking to the future in this way?

  1. ATARs are irrelevant, vice-chancellors say‘, The Age, 8 February 2016
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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work