Leaders have a compass – their values and the culture they have created. For the most successful, the culture of the organization was focused not only on revenues, profits and shareholder enrichment. Without engaged team members, the traditional business success metrics are unattainable. Without the good reputation that comes from how they treat their people, no organization can ultimately endure.
ENGAGEMENT BUILDS TRUST
Team member engagement is a measure of the trust that team members have in their organization. Engagement is the measure of discretionary effort over and above job requirements that the team member is willing to put forth for the sake of the team and the mission of the organization. An engaged team member is one who will go the extra mile even when nobody is looking, armed with a clear line of sight between their actions and the well-being of the organization and broader community. Organizations have spent much time and energy creating a culture of trust and respect. Effective leaders behave in ways that make them trustworthy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of our lives in ways that were unimaginable a few short months ago. Organizations of every size and shape are on life support. We spend most of our time just figuring out how to keep the lights on. Conflicting messages are coming from the scientific community, the federal government, the state government, community leaders, boards of directors. The chaos of the situation is tearing at the very fabric of what holds us together. In times of trouble, the culture of care and trust should be our compass going forward.
THE BOND WILL BE TESTED
For those leaders who did the hard work of building a vibrant culture of care and trust, the actions of the present will be informed by a keen sense of doing the right thing for their people. They will keep in contact with their team members and encourage the members of their leadership team to do the same. These leaders will undoubtedly exhaust every possible option to take care of their precious team members. They will do what they have always done. They will follow the compass of the culture that they have built. Even if they must part ways with their team members for a short time, the bond will endure. This bond will be tested further when leaders bravely decide to be careful and deliberate in their re-opening out of concern for the safety of team members and customers.
In the upcoming days and months, hard decisions will need to be made and risks will need to be taken by all. Leaders who have taken the time all along to build a relationship of care and trust will have fewer barriers to finding and retaining great talent. Those who continue to do the right thing for their people will continue to build on that trust. This will give them a distinct competitive edge in the long run. Despite their best intentions, mistakes will be made. If the team trusts the leader, these mistakes will be more quickly overlooked. If there is no trust, the mistakes will cause irreparable damage.
THE TIME IS NOW
If you are a leader who has not taken the time to build that trust and engagement, there is no better time than the present to change your behavior and re-gain lost trust. There will be no such thing as “business as usual” going forward. Those who fail to lead effectively will be quickly left in the dust as we all walk the long and perilous journey ahead.
Author: Jeff Bermel, VP Customer Experience