Trusted Leader
eBook - ePub

Trusted Leader

8 Pillars That Drive Results

David Horsager

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  1. 200 páginas
  2. English
  3. ePUB (apto para móviles)
  4. Disponible en iOS y Android
eBook - ePub

Trusted Leader

8 Pillars That Drive Results

David Horsager

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“A lack of trust is your biggest expense,” says David Horsager, a message he has brought to Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, and governments the world over. Without trust, transactions cannot occur. Without trust, influence is destroyed. Without trust, organizations lose productivity, relationships, reputation, talent, customer loyalty, creativity, morale, revenue, and results. And there is a reliable, research-based, repeatedly proven-in-practice way to build trust. In this book, Horsager uses the popular business fable format to make his method accessible to as wide an audience as possible. Horsager tells the story of a young software executive facing a critical deadline who discovers the eight Pillars of Trust: clarity, compassion, character, competency, commitment, connection, contribution, and consistency. In the remaining third of the book, Horsager departs from the story to go deeply into the eight Pillars of Trust, describing the research behind them and offering tools for applying them. Trust, not money, is the currency of business and life, and this is a comprehensive guide to building it.

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ETHAN PARKER FINALLY UNDERSTOOD. He blinked, feeling a smile spread across his face, as a puzzle he had been trying to fit together for almost a week finally clicked. The woman sitting across from him leaned back in her deep, brown leather chair with a satisfied look on her face. Her name was Sunny Bonaventure, CEO and owner of The Grove, and she was currently saving Ethan from certain disaster.
“I’m embarrassed to admit this, Sunny,” Ethan said, “but I’ve never thought about trust like this before. I always thought it was something people just had—either they have your trust or they don’t; you are a trustworthy person or you aren’t. I mean, I know that trust can be gained or lost based on your actions, but I always thought that meant the big things, you know, like malicious dishonesty or breaking a promise.”
Sunny nodded. “I think most people understand trust like that. It’s normal. We always notice larger betrayals,” she explained. “But trust is much more subtle. It can be felt in every interaction, and it’s present in every choice. Every single action you take either increases or decreases trust. There really is no neutral. It took me a while to learn that, after taking over for my father. Once I did, I was able to turn the whole resort around into what it has become today.” Behind Sunny was a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out onto a scene of absolute winter perfection. The peak of an imposing, snow-covered mountain pierced the sky. Sinuous white lines cut through the green of the trees, and the skiers were little black dots racing down the slopes.
Ethan felt two distinct and conflicting emotions. On the one hand, he felt the lightness that comes with profound relief at having finally understood what Sunny had been trying to teach him all week. He was fairly certain that she had just handed him the tools he needed to get his faltering company, 10K Solutions, back on track. But he also felt chagrined, even a little ashamed. Until a week ago, he had been sailing through life, confident in his successes and achievements, thinking he was the world’s best leader at the helm of a company about to revolutionize the auto industry. Instead, Ethan now realized he had been woefully naive, blind to what was going on at his own company. As he was learning from Sunny, he realized he had been taking it for granted that everyone on his team trusted in his leadership.
“I’ve always thought of myself as a trustworthy person,” he told Sunny. “I keep my commitments or communicate if I unexpectedly can’t. I have integrity, and I’ve always conducted my business with transparency and honesty.” It had never occurred to Ethan that people might not trust him on the basis of that alone. “But I think I finally see what you’ve been trying to tell me. It’s not enough! All the things I think make me a trustworthy person are invisible to other people. How would they know? And if they can’t see what makes me trustworthy. …” He paused, processing this moment of clarity. “How are they meant to trust me?” Ethan wanted to be sure he was on the right track.
Sunny leaned forward in her chair, sensing Ethan’s hesitation. “Most people think of trust like a bank account,” she offered. “You honor some commitments, you help people out, you tell the truth, and you think that you are putting trust, like money, into that account. You think that it sits there waiting for you when you need it.” Later, she explained, people think they can just go to the trust bank account and “withdraw” their trust currency. “But that’s not how it works,” Sunny explained. “If you don’t continually reinforce trust in any relationship, it will erode and disappear, no matter how much was in your bank account last week, last month, or last year.”
Ethan sat up, intrigued. “That’s exactly how I thought trust worked,” he said. “I just assumed my team, my whole company, would trust me just because I’m the leader.” He suddenly felt less enthusiastic. “They must think I’m incredibly arrogant! And even worse—now they don’t even trust each other, and I think it’s all my fault. It’s going to be a long haul to rebuild trust from the ground up. If we even make it that long, of course.” A looming deadline was the root of the crisis that had bowled Ethan over like a stampede of elephants the previous week. If 10K Solutions was not able to deliver, the company would be toast before he even got the chance to rebuild his team’s trust.
“Not necessarily!” said Sunny, with a reassuring look. “Trust can be built or lost in a moment. Some things do take time, but you can begin to build trust right away if you start taking the right actions.” It always comes down to action, she explained. “Making sure that every day you are actively and intentionally taking steps to build and reinforce trust. It’s why we have the 8 Pillars I told you about. Without some sort of comprehensive framework to guide you, it’s too easy for these things to get lost in the constant grind of everyday tasks.”
Ethan had not been totally convinced by the 8 Pillars model when he first heard about it. “It just seemed so broad,” he told Sunny. “I mean, isn’t eight steps straining the modern attention span? Most corporate models don’t go much above five steps.” He hoped the levity in his tone came through. He had seen many organizational models throughout his career and had a slight aversion to them. When Sunny said her model had eight different components, Ethan had been skeptical.
“Oh, we are very familiar with that!” Luckily, Sunny appreciated his irreverence and laughed at the quip. “This place was overrun with methods and five-step models when I took over,” she said. “My dad seemed to introduce a new one every month. They all had merit, but it was too much, and the sheer number of them just ended up causing more harm than good.” But the 8 Pillars model was different. “I don’t see the 8 Pillars as a rigid structure to be followed step by step. Their real strength is in their interconnectedness. They work individually to solve problems, but all eight together are what builds systemic trust.” As she explained to Ethan: “A trustworthy person and a trustworthy organization are not the same thing. It’s perfectly possible to be a trustworthy person but fail to build a trustworthy organization.”
It was hard not to feel inspired around Sunny. Maybe there was hope for 10K, Ethan thought, even if their deadline was approaching with terrifying speed. He felt like he had the tools now, and more important, the understanding of how and why things went wrong. When Ethan had arrived at The Grove a week earlier, he’d never expected to be sitting in a stunning library, talking with the owner of a ski resort about trust. A treasure trove of insight about how to bring 10K back from the brink was the last thing he had expected to find in this out-of-the-way ski lodge in Colorado. Planning their annual getaway with his three best friends from college, Ethan had hoped to enjoy the slopes for an extended weekend. Instead, he had arrived at The Grove in a daze, after finding out earlier that morning about a complete breakdown at 10K.
The soft chime of a clock told Sunny and Ethan that it was getting late. Glancing out the window, Sunny saw skiers heading in as the sun was setting. “I’ll be crossing my fingers for good news at your appointment with the surgeon tomorrow!” she said, rising from the leather chair. “And we’ll be sure to chat at least one more time before you leave.” As she approached Ethan, she picked up the crutches he’d leaned against the wall.
Ethan levered himself up on his good leg, trying to keep the one that was strapped down under layers of plastic and Velcro from knocking into anything. “I’m learning so much, Sunny,” he said, accepting the crutches, “and I really appreciate all the time you’re spending to help me out.”
“It’s absolutely my pleasure,” Sunny replied, “and I have a feeling 10K is going to be just fine!”
The doctor’s appointment that Ethan hoped would give him medical clearance to fly home wasn’t until tomorrow morning, so he still had plenty of free time on his hands. He decided to sit by the fire that evening in what The Grove called the Great Room, an open space in the middle of the resort. Beautiful rustic furniture provided a comfortable atmosphere for people to chat, sip on beverages, or gaze at the mountain. One family lounged on a scatter of floor cushions playing a board game. He ordered a mug of hot cocoa and spent the rest of the evening writing notes about the afternoon’s epiphany on trust.
The Great Room looked out on a picturesque scene through another enormous wall of windows. The mountain was illuminated by the moon and stars with strings of lights hung along the paths and ski lifts. Lamps glowed through the falling snow, resembling fuzzy dandelion tops. Inside, three massive fireplaces crackled merrily. But the most striking feature was a beautiful old Aspen growing straight up through the floor, lending an otherworldly majesty to the space.
If I had to get stuck somewhere, Ethan thought, I certainly feel lucky it is in a place like this!



ONE WEEK EARLIER, ETHAN PARKER, founder and CEO of 10K Solutions, had sailed into his office, feeling good about the future. It was a brisk Minnesota morning in January, which most people would call frigid. Ethan found it invigorating. He’d always loved winter, and his yearly ski trip with his three best friends from college—known as the Brain Trust—was mere hours away. Tomorrow morning they’d hit the slopes for three days of nose-numbing, head-clearing, Colorado mountain air. Ethan loved the speed and couldn’t wait to gondolier up those peaks, then feel the adrenaline rush of racing down that mountain, pushing the edge of control.
But life was about to throw him a curve ball of epic proportions. It was the meeting that changed everything. More precisely, it was when Jenna, 10K’s COO, had said, “I have to change my seven to a four.” That one little sentence could bring down much more than Ethan’s weekend plans.
He had called a morning strategy meeting with his top executives. Their software release date was May 1, an easy four months away—something they’d been hard at work on for a year now. It was one of many meetings to make sure this project was all sewn up, in the bag, and done on time.
But the atmosphere in the room was tense. There was a distinct lack of post-holiday camaraderie, and everyone sat quietly, greeting each other with just the most basic professional courtesy.
“So,” he said, once the team had settled in their seats around the conference table. “First of May. How are we looking?”
The rush to reply was anything but a stampede. No one said a word.
Don’t all jump in at once, he was about to say, but he stopped himself. The wooden expressions around the table told him this was not the time for a joke.
“Okaaay …,” Ethan said. “Let’s do it this way. Scale of one to ten, ten says we coast through without breaking a sweat, one says we flat out don’t make it.” He looked at his COO. “Jenna? Give me a number.”
Jenna hesitated before responding. “Seven,” she replied.
Ouch. He’d expected a ten, a nine at worst. That’s why he’d called on Jenna first—she was one of the most capable executives he had ever met. A VP by thirty, Jenna was laser-focused and brought a positive, relentless determination to every project she handled.
Ethan looked at Zach, the director of software. You’d never know from his unassuming personality that Zach had started college at sixteen and gotten his master’s by twenty-two. “Zach?”
Looking down at the table, Zach slowly replied. “Um … eight?”
Ethan would have felt better if Zach hadn’t phrased it as a question. “Iris?” he asked in an uneasy tone.
Iris hesitated, looking at her hands in her lap. She was the lead UX designer, in charge of user interface of the finished product. She was silent long enough that a few people shifted uneasily in their chairs. Just as Ethan was about to say something, Iris looked up and took a deep breath, bracing herself.
“Ethan, I have to be honest,” she said. “This is really difficult for me to say, but I just can’t go higher than a three.”
A three? It took a moment for Iris’s response to register. Just barely above “we flat out don’t make it”? Scanning the room and the rest of the team, Ethan noticed that Jenna seemed to have relaxed, and Zach was hesitantly looking around at the other faces. Not knowing what else to do, Ethan cleared his throat and turned toward Dom, chief technology officer, parked at the far end of the conference table.
“Dom?” Ethan hoped for a miracle. Dominick was known for his incredible efficiency. As the person tracking overall design and system integration, his view carried extra weight.
Dom sighed. His frank expression spoke volumes. “I’m going to have to agree with Iris. Give it a three.”
This bombshell stunned everyone into silence, which stretched on for several very uncomfortable moments until Jenna spoke. “I’m really sorry, Ethan, but they’re right,” she said, looking directly at him. “I have to change my seven to a four.”
That was the moment it really sank in, the moment Ethan’s stomach tightened. The release date was in serious jeopardy, not to mention his weekend plans.
After Iris’s revelation, Ethan completed the circuit around the table. No one ventured lower than the apocalyptic three, but there was nothing over a six from the rest. Not a single ten from the group. Still, the worst hit had been from the company optimist, Jenna. I have to change my seven to a four. How had his COO not known until now that Iris and Dominick had such serious misgivings about their progress? How had Ethan himself not known? How had his team gone from having things clearly in hand to a situation that justified pure panic?
For the next twenty minutes, Ethan led the group through an ad hoc pep talk, hoping he was offering up more than be-positive platitudes. But as everyone filed out of the conference room, Ethan could fee...