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If You Want Optimum Trust and Success You Better Behave

Some organizations have achieved incredible success despite leaders who exhibit questionable behaviors. There are numerous stories about the petulance of Steve Jobs. Some days he was “good Steve” and other days “bad Steve.” Jobs was well known for exaggerated emotional outbursts laced with profanity. Yet still, Apple has been amazingly successful and, as of this writing, is the most valuable company in the Fortune 500 (capitalization) recently touching the trillion-dollar valuation mark. How does one explain the valuation of Apple when many of the behaviors of its most prominent leader were trust-breaking?

How does one explain the growth in valuation of Uber in the face of recent leadership issues and the resignation of one of the founders because of accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination? Yet, as of this writing, Uber is estimated to be worth $70 billion and is known as the company that upended how people think about and use personal transportation.

These two examples beg the question “How can a leader(s) achieve such amazing success while behaving so inappropriately?” It’s frustrating to know that inappropriate trust-breaking behavior by leaders can occur concurrent with incredible financial success. It’s a paradox. The answers lie in the interaction between strategy and culture and the priorities of the leadership at the time, namely, the desire for short-term vs. long-term success.

The famous quote “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” was originated by Peter Drucker and made famous by Mark Fields, president at Ford. This thought sets the stage for us provide some answers for managing the variation of trust. The point of Drucker’s quote is that both the culture of an organization and its strategy interact to achieve success. They are interdependent. One will influence the other. Culture will eventually either undermine the strategy or support it. In the long term, culture wins.

If it’s true that the leader(s) of an organization influences the culture, then we can explain how Steve Jobs evolved. Jobs’ behavior softened over the long term. Recent articles about Uber reveal that they changed their core values. Those most knowledgeable about Uber describe how the original core values often led to inappropriate behaviors, including competition between colleagues.

The key answer to long-term success is consciously managing culture to support an effective strategy. By providing a structure and method to manage the variation in trust we are helping the culture to evolve and to support the strategy.

The question: “How can we create a culture of trust that will support an aligned strategy?” The answer: “We must clearly define core values using specific observable behaviors. We must then provide consistent feedback about those observable behaviors.”

When the core values are operationalized, they describe specific observable behaviors. It’s not enough to say, “We behave with integrity” or “We respect each other.” The leadership needs to define exactly what that looks like. Otherwise, it is difficult, if not impossible, to provide credible feedback when needed. The feedback needs to be timely and credible.

If we want trust and predictable success, leadership must behave.

Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal.  Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.   Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP.  Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.  See other resources here.

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Wally Hauck, PhD, CSP
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