Build Employee Trust the Chicago Cubs Way

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

Nov. 3 — The Chicago Cubs, World Series champions for the first time since 1908, offer a great example of how to build employee trust, a consultant says.

The Cubs’ victory was “thanks in large part to the connection culture Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon created,” Michael Lee Stallard, co-founder and president of Greenwich, Conn.-based corporate leadership consultancy E Pluribus Partners, told Bloomberg BNA in a Nov. 3 e-mail. “Everyone on the Cubs feels like a part of the team, they know Maddon cares about them as individuals and doesn’t think of them as merely means to an end. They play their hearts out for Maddon, for each other and for their fans. Connection culture provides a powerful source of competitive advantage.”

“Most leaders today are focused on results so they try to control the people or they are indifferent to them,” he said. “The best leaders care about people and about achieving results so they develop a culture of connection that unites people.”

A similar viewpoint came from Ty Tucker, CEO of Orlando, Fla.-based performance management software company REV. “There’s a huge disconnect going on right now in the majority of corporate America,” he told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 27. “Organizations are working for shareholders more than they are about anything that gets them that value.” The result, he said, is that employees “are unbelievably unengaged from their job.”

Better Communication

To turn things around, Tucker recommends better communication, better performance management systems and investment in employees’ career development. “First and foremost you have to bring a certain level of transparency and accountability to all levels of the organization,” he said.

“Many factors contribute to developing trust in the workplace,” Stallard said. “These include competence, reliability and whether our colleagues care about their team’s and organization’s performance as much as they care about their self-interest. The factor that’s missing in most workplaces today is connection, a bond among a team based on shared identity, empathy and understanding that moves individuals toward group-centered membership.”

Sense of Community

There are many ways to build that sense of community, Ilona Jerabek, president and chief executive officer of Montreal-based PsychTests AIM Inc., told Bloomberg BNA in a Nov. 3 e-mail. “These can include communal lunches, birthday and holiday parties, company picnics, team building activities, or even group training events,” she said.

“Employers need to create an atmosphere where people feel free to share, where they feel safe to disclose some personal information (without oversharing intimate details), where people can truly connect. Leaders who show genuine interest in the employees are in a much better position to establish trust than those who view their staff as tools.”

Jerabek also pointed to the need for “transparency and truthfulness in business operations.” She said that “leaders who truly care, seek team members’ input, are able to show vulnerability by admitting an error or disclosing that they are not all-knowing, and who model the right behavior are the ones who establish trust and inspire employees.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at mbermangorvine@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at tharris@bna.com

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