“Trust no one.  Suspect everyone.”  Great advice if you’re an MI6 agent trying to uncover a spy at the height of the Cold War.  Not great advice if you’re a senior executive responsible for leading a team to deliver record results.  So, when a report titled “Leadership Confidence Falls to Three-Year Low” was published, I hoped it was clickbait.  So I clicked.

Things only got worse.

While two-thirds of CEOs believe that their teams role model the right culture and behaviors, work together effectively as a team, and effectively embrace change, everyone else disagrees.  Only about half the C-suite believes their teams work together well, are role models, and embrace change.  The lower in the organization you go, the lower those percentages get.

Why confidence is at an all-time low

In a word – change.  Neither humans nor financial markets like change, and that’s all we’ve experienced for the past four years.  “From the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East and their destabilizing effects on the world, to inflation, rising interest rates, and the launch of ChatGPT igniting massive interest in generative AI, the leadership landscape has been far from quiet. What’s more, nearly half of the world’s population is set to head to the polls for what many are calling a ‘super election year.’”

None of this is the executive team’s fault, but the relentless nature of depressing and destabilizing news wears everyone down.  As a result, people have less patience and empathy and are quicker to anger, judge, and blame others.  Senior execs are people, too.  And they’re taking their exhaustion out on the people they spend the most time with – their teams.

What you can do about it

If you have the power to stop the wars, improve the financial markets, quell GenAI fears, and ensure that democracy reigns, please use that power now. (Also, what have you been waiting for?)

If you do not have such powers, there is still something you can do: Build trust.

Researchers found that leaders of high-performing organizations are 8x more likely to feel that their teams practice and role model high levels of trust in all their interactions across the organization. But the teams won’t practice and role model trust if you don’t set the example through:

  1. Inclusive, transparent, and vulnerable communication – Most of us grew up in cultures where information is power, so it is hard to build a habit of sharing information with everyone on the team, especially if it isn’t good news. But if you want your people to work together as a team, you can’t create cliques or pick and choose the information you share.  There is no trust where there are Haves and Have Nots.
  2. Lead by listening and collaborating – In case you haven’t noticed, command and control styles of management don’t work anymore.  The people on your teams are experienced adults with good ideas.  Treat them like adults, value their experience, and listen to their ideas.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you hear and earn.
  3. Be consistent – If one of the causes of the problem is change and you want to be part of the solution, do the opposite – be consistent.  Yes, things can change, but who you are, the values you role model, and how you treat people shouldn’t.  When things change (and they will), remember that decisions made with data should only be unmade with data.  Then, communicate those changes broadly, transparently, and honestly (see #1)

What will you do about it?

Rebuilding trust within your team isn’t a quick fix; it’s an ongoing process that requires commitment and consistency. By being transparent, authentic, and reliable, fostering open communication, and empowering your team, you can create a high-trust environment that drives success.

What steps are you taking to (re)build trust within your teams? Share your thoughts and let’s navigate this journey together. Remember, trust is the glue that holds your team together and propels your organization forward.