Building Trust – a core leadership quality

Building trust

Building trust

Last week I read a post on the “speed of trust” and it got me thinking.  The author, Stephen M.R. Covey (different from Stephen R. Covey of the “7 habits of highly successful people”) makes a great point in the post about “high trust, high speed, low cost”.

Anytime we hear about the appointment of a new CEO, the company expects the CEO to bring “her own team”.  In fact one of the points of negotiation between the incumbent CEO and the Board is the CEO’s direct reports and how many of her own choice can be appointed.

It is not a question of incompetence of those that are already in the role of direct reports.

The real need is for the CEO to trust her direct reports.  And who better than those who have contributed to her successes in the past!

When leading a corporation to success, the CEO cannot be looking sideways and protecting her hack.  She needs people with whom she has implicit, deep and proven trust.

The English cricket team had a stand-out superstar, Kevin Pietersen.

In 2005, Kevin played an outstanding innings to secure a great victory for England over Australia.

Cricket writer Simon Barnes described the performance as: “An innings of neurotic violence, of eccentric watchfulness, of brainless impetuosity and incontinent savagery – it was an extraordinary innings, a masterpiece and it secured the Ashes for England.” (Full post here)

After a bad series in Australia, Kevin NEVER got into the English cricket team even despite scoring a career-best 355 runs – the sixth highest score in more than 100 years of English County Cricket Championship!

Director of English cricket, Andrew Strauss cited Kevin’s omission due to “underlying issues on trust and respect”.

Kevin Pietersen provided England with their best chance of combating Australia for the Ashes (symbol of cricket supremacy between England and Australia cricket test matches).  But England was not willing to select a player who represented trust issues.

The above two examples indicate trust on a personal level.  At the corporate level also there is trust.

In Stephen M.R. Covey’s post he talks about a standout example being the Berkshire Hathaway acquisition of Mclane Corporation for $23 billion.  This acquisition was completed in a record time of less than a month, purely due to the high trust between Warren Buffet of Berkshire and Wal-Mart which owned McLane.

In May I heard Hasso Plattner speak about SAP’s innovation partnership with a global retail company.  He used the term “trusted innovator”.  As part of building the latest version of SAP’s business application system, the innovation team at SAP wanted to try out analytics based on complete transactions.

For this they needed a FULL year’s worth of PRODUCTION data.

You should read the above statement again.  SAP was looking for one FULL year’s PRODUCTION data.  This means the company that chose to provide the data to SAP would be handing over their customer and pricing information, bank account information, key executives’ information, manufacturing and product planning information, etc.

When you consider that more than 150,000 companies run SAP, it is HIGHLY likely that the company’s competition would also be running SAP (they do, actually).

Even if SAP could be trusted to not give out the information to a competitor, what about accidental breach?  The company that parted with the data could be destroyed.

But when SAP requested the data, Colgate provided it.  SAP went ahead with the innovation, and Colgate’s CIO showcased the new “board-room of the future” that SAP built for them based on Colgate’s data.

This innovation could not have been possible without the trust between the two corporations.

As a leader, building credibility and trustworthiness – that the team recognizes and values – is a top priority for a leader.

A leader must build trust, create an environment for others to build trust and also help propagate such a culture.

That will help great innovations happen, and at a great speed.

Image, author Gorskaya: