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One of the major challenges for business leaders / CEO’s today is to win the Trust of stakeholders. Many of the CEO’s whom I interacted with recently have confirmed it. Many times I find them talking about having trust rather than building it. Trust is something that must be developed and earned. Building trust requires long term commitment and cant’ be taken for granted as both stakeholders, internal as well as external are increasingly becoming cynical in the current political and corporate environment. Employees, investors, customers, government and regulators are demanding greater corporate accountability and transparency.
But M.D.’s / CEO’s of well-respected, fast growing organizations have long known the value of building and sustaining trust. Building trust in an organization requires the leader’s personal effort along with his core leadership team as it is a team performance. The corporate function that will support leaders’ efforts to build or sustain trust is Communications. For that matter communication is the key tool to create brands, reputation, perception, performance and profit!.
Role of communications:
Communications acts as a positioning tool for message delivery and leadership development for senior managers. Eminent business leaders have learnt this from their own experience. All of us communicators in the industry have noticed that leaders are good communicators and one of their key responsibilities as M.D.’s / CEO’s is to communicate with stakeholders such as employees and customers. People want CEO’s to communicate the strategic issues like the ‘big picture’ and how they want to achieve it and they want to hear it from the top.
Communications can’t make a person trust someone who is basically not trustworthy. But it can help create a culture in which trust can develop. CEOs and senior management who want to build trust with key stakeholders have a plethora of communication tools at their disposal, and capable communication professionals to assist them.
What is the need for leaders to care about building trust? There are already too many things to worry about nowadays, such as sustaining profitability in a cutthroat, competitive environment, stagnating or declining share prices and ever increasing demand of achieving growth, year on year. More importantly people won’t follow a leader they don’t trust. Trust is a powerful force that builds loyalty, increases credibility and supports effective communications. More importantly it helps in developing belief which is so important to shape behavior that creates bonding among stakeholders.
Communications process is the focal point of building trust. You have to exhibit all the attributes of what you project and sustain it. Today leadership, communications, trust, corporate performance and reputation are inextricably linked. In the absence of trust, organizations will find it increasingly difficult to motivate, engage and retain their most talented employees if their messages are not believed. Leaders of high-performing, well-respected companies create a culture of trust by sharing information quickly and freely, and build strong bonding with employees and other stakeholders that enable their organizations to grow. This will create a more satisfied, more productive employees who take pride in working for their organizations. How to action it?
We all have experienced in our profession that communication is the critical link to stakeholders. Building trust involves managing communications and creating the right channels that give employees more of a say, keeping them engaged and make them accountable in what they do. Key challenges for business leaders here is to communicate sincerely, honestly and regularly with all the divisions / departments in the organizations. I have seen some CEO’s working hard to gain employee trust and evaluate their progress in building trust. More specifically leaders have to Walk the Talk. Leadership dialogue always brings the desired results.
Measuring progress, getting feedback after making the effort, you also want to know whether what you have done is working. Just as there is no end to improving quality, there is no end to building trust. A communications audit every year combined with feedback from stakeholders, will provide a company’s leaders with a full picture of the quality of communications, the effectiveness of information delivery, and the depth of trust for the content of the messages from senior management.
It is said that –Trust will take several years to build, Few minute to break it and Forever to repair it!
(Mr. Nagraj Rao)