Having established the first steps of building
trust, a CEO needs to achieve what I refer to,
as “quick victories”. These do not need to be
monumental changes in performance or
significant success stories. They need to be
small reversals of past patterns or achievements that are “baby steps” towards a
change of direction. Landing a small
contract, improving production efficiencies,
fewer sick days, increase in levels of
customer satisfaction are some examples.
These need to be acknowledged, valued and
celebrated as they act as “an emotional and
performance lift” for all employees of a
business. Something to be proud of, pointed
to and celebrated. It’s the start of a pivot
within a business.
The third component of building trust that
most CEOs omit, is in having and tabling to
their employees an operational “Plan-B” for
their business. Many CEOs fear that having a
detailed secondary plan is a time waster, an
indication to the staff that you lack
confidence in your main strategy. They think
that it raises more questions than it answers
and that it creates uncertainty with all
parties. This could not be further from the
In reality, when employees know that their
leaders have concrete operational plans for
unforeseen outcomes, they feel a greater
sense of security. They gain trust in their
leadership and comfort that their company
can deal with any business circumstances.
They trust the wisdom of their leaders and
tend to be more hopeful and optimistic. It
becomes an indicator to employees that their
CEO is thinking of their future. It inspires
confidence and builds greater trust.
I remember a company in need of a
turnaround, in which the CEO’s answer for
failing to secure a sought-after contract, was
to suggest that he would fire the CFO
because the cost savings of the CFO’s salary
would bridge the financial losses of the
business. Such absurd, knee-jerk reactions
terrify employees, creates panic and is clearly
disempowering. It does not build trust.
Employees crave for stability and certainty
wherever possible. The sooner a leader can
generate it, the sooner the levels of productivity will rise within a business.
When a CEO has demonstrated that they
understand the human dynamics that drive
their employees and have established trust,
they are ready to face the leadership
Great leaders must also always be predictable
and behave in an exemplary manner. We are
all familiar with the impact that ego and
hubris can have in both private and public
lives. Those in leadership positions must be
structurally mature. This can mean many
things, but fundamentally it refers to
predictability of action and adhering to clear
standards of behaviour. It means “living an
example” for your team. A leader cannot be
unpredictable and mercurial in their own
actions, and simultaneously expect stability
and high performance from their employees
or within their business. Remember, employees try to emulate and please their superiors,
and often comply with the behaviours and
standards of their corporate leaders. The
acorn always falls close to the oak tree.
Lastly, sustaining the momentum is often
the most challenging task to implement
effectively. People give up for numerous
reasons. Exhaustion, disappointment, lack
of direction, unreasonable expectations or
fear are some obvious examples. The key
to success is to have concrete, reasonable,
tangible goals. That does not mean that you
must not be ambitious in your goals, nor
“stretch” the capabilities of your team.
Rather, it means that you must understand
the capacity of your team and to never
inadvertently set them up for failure.
Businesses fuelled by unrealistic and
unachievable goals and led by ego-driven
individuals have filled numerous turnaround
To establish credibility quickly, a business
leader needs to start by understanding the
salient human drivers of his employees.
They need to be legitimized and addressed.
Secondly, a level of trust needs to be
established as quickly as possible. This is
only possible when a business has a viable
plan with key milestones backed up by a
series of “quick victories” to generate a sense
of confidence. Then a leader needs to inspire
his team through his actions and ability to
repeat and maintain a reasonable trajectory
of success. Lastly, this process needs to be
sustained and repeated through a methodology that is unique to each business, but that
is reinforced by boundaries, structural
maturity and the empowering behaviours
of its leadership.
Milton A. Parissis, Parissis Partners Inc.
Corporate Turnaround Management Practice
challenges. Much like trust, leadership can
not be imposed nor induced. Fear, obedience
nor compliance by employees are not a
synonym for leadership and should not be
mistaken for such. Employees do many
things in their work environment because
they feel they “have to” to keep their job.
That does not mean that they are inspired,
nor that they are well led by their superiors.
Let’s cut to the chase here: Leadership is
about inspiring confidence. Not only today,
tomorrow or under certain circumstances,
but every day. Its about an employee looking
into the eyes of their leader or CEO and
trusting this individual with their livelihood,
their future and aspirations. Its about
trusting the ability of that leader to repeat
top-line performance, and if not, to quickly
do something about it.
A leader’s core job is about implementation.
That is fundamentally, about getting things
done. But its also about the ability of a leader
to singularly own the mantle of defeat, while
openly and unselfishly sharing with the fruits
of victories with their whole team. If leaders
do not understand human nature, build
trust, and implement quickly, they will never
grow beyond the marginal status that their
corporate position allows them.
Having a leadership position within a
business and being a true leader, are not the
True leaders need to inspire others to new
levels of achievements. They must maintain a
pattern of success and quickly pivot when
their actions do not yield desired outcomes.
Why is this important? Because timeliness is
vitally critical. The aim of competent leaders
is not about achieving the targeted goals
“eventually” and at any cost. Its about
gaining optimal outcomes. Consequently, the
“when” targeted goals are achieved is equally
critical as to “how” they were achieved.
There is no doubt that some implementations are hard and require tough choices.
Certain leaders get paralyzed and sit at the
intersection. Do they go left or right? What
if they make the wrong decision? Well, I
guarantee you one thing: Making “no
decision” will guarantee that a decision will
be made for you. That is not a viable option
for any leader, and they will always quickly
lose the confidence and trust of their team.
Its always better to be wrong and reverse
your direction that to not make a clear