Creating a High-Trust Culture for High Performance

 

How to Increase Trust

 

Why is culture so difficult to change?

Why are so many employees disengaged?

What should a leader do when she arrives at a company that is struggling?

 

The founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies recently wrote a book, Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies to answer these and other questions. Paul J. Zak, PhD, is also a professor at Claremont Graduate University. He recently answered some of my questions about his extensive research into trust. His book is fascinating and contributes to the body of work on trust and organizational culture.

 

Survey of 200,000 employees: 71% of companies have mediocre to poor cultures.

 

Spot the Signs of a Low-Trust Culture

In one part of the book, you tell a story of walking into an office full of cobwebs, old furniture, and a struggling culture. What are some of the signs of a low-trust culture?

Distrust drains employees’ energy, so people move slow, think slow, and lack a passion for their jobs.  Organizations with low trust also have lower profits, so offices often look out-of-date, even while new employees show up as turnover tends to be high.  We have also shown that people take more sick days when they work at low-trust companies, so one sees empty desks.  All these factors are signs of a low-trust syndrome and a downward cycle of productivity, innovation, and profits.

 

“High-trust companies invest in employee health and productivity.” –Paul J. Zak

 

Why Healthy Cultures are Based on Trust

trust factorWhy is a healthy culture based on trust so vitally important to its success?

Companies are, first and foremost, people. As social creatures, we naturally form teams to accomplish goals together.  Extensive research shows that teams are more effective when they have a clear objective and when team members are trustworthy. Trust reduces the frictions that can arise in teams so getting things done takes less effort and as a result more and better work is done.  By measuring brain activity while people work, we’ve shown that people are more relaxed when they trust their colleagues. They innovate more and shed the stress from work faster than those in low-trust companies.  Creating a culture of trust provides powerful leverage on performance because it harnesses what our brains are designed to do: cooperate with others in teams.  And the neuroscience I’ve done shows how to create a culture of trust in a system so it has the maximum effect on brain and behavior.

 

Workers in high trust organizations are paid an average of $6,450 more.

 

I love the biological explanation of the Golden Rule. Explain the connection between oxytocin and trust.

Why Leaders Must Prioritize Health and Wellness

Prioritize Your Health

Leaders are especially vulnerable to stress. Often leaders put others first and sacrifice their own wellbeing in the process. That’s not a recipe for long-term success and often results in failure.

Danielle Harlan, PhD is the Founder & CEO of the Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential. She completed her doctorate at Stanford University and has taught courses at both Stanford Graduate School of Business and U.C. Berkeley Extension’s Corporate and Professional Development program.

After reading her book, The New Alpha: Join the Rising Movement of Influencers and Changemakers Who Are Redefining Leadership, I asked her about her research and experience in leadership health and fitness.

 

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” –Antoine De Saint Exupery

 

Your Health and Your Leadership

When did you realize that prioritizing health was linked to leadership?

Leadership is fundamentally about being able to set a vision and persist over the long run as you lead yourself and others to take on big challenges and work toward the finish line, so it seems like making health a priority would be a no-brainer, right? I mean, it’s pretty obvious that taking care of ourselves affects our energy levels and stamina in the long run.

However, in my experience, this is the one aspect of personal excellence that leaders are most likely to struggle with—and this is true across industries, types of organizations, and roles. As the work piles up, self-care often takes a back seat to other more “pressing” priorities, which almost never leads to good outcomes in the long run.

 

“Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” -Booker T. Washington

 

More often than not, leaders who don’t prioritize their health either become unbearable to work with because they they’re dehydrated, or tired, or stressed, or “hangry”—or they start to get sick. I’ve worked with people who’ve developed diabetes, pre-diabetes, and even heart disease because they’ve put work ahead of their health. I’ve also known people who’ve gained or lost too much weight because of work and even someone who eventually had an aneurism. I’m not saying that there weren’t other factors that played a role in some of these cases, but all of these examples are of people who put work ahead of self-care, and I think they (and their teams and organizations) suffered for it.

After seeing this pattern of behavior and outcomes over and over again, it became clear to me that managing your health is a key component of being an effective human being and a successful leader.

Copyright Kate Haley Photography Copyright Kate Haley Photography

 

 

“Tomorrow belongs only to the people who prepare for it today.” –Malcolm X

 

The Dangers of Putting Work Ahead of Self

Why do you think so many people miss this important link (leadership / wellness) to their detriment?

I think putting work ahead of self-care actually comes from a good place—a desire to put forth our best effort and do as much good as possible, and people can be very effective in the short run by working this way (I’ve definitely had moments, for example, where I’ve sacrificed sleep in order to meet a big deadline).

The problem arises when we consistently put “achievement” ahead of our health and wellness, which simply isn’t sustainable in the long run—and I think The New Alpha gives people permission to re-prioritize their health and wellness, even if it means perhaps being slightly less effective on a few short-term tasks.

 

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” –Winston Churchill

 

4 Steps to Improve Your Health Today

Why Attitude Always Matters from Technology to Healthcare

It’s All About Attitude

One of my company’s board members is also one of the Internet’s earliest pioneers. In the past few years, I have had the opportunity to hear him tell stories that are instructive, but also mind blowing. At one meeting, I recall him sharing an example of what he learned about product marketing and branding. Because of his humble style, I almost miss the product reference. Wait, I think, did he just share how IBM’s ThinkPad name was conceived? Yes, and much more.

 

“Think big, act bold, start simple, and iterate fast.” –John Patrick

 

John Patrick doesn’t brag or seek attention, so most people don’t realize he was a founding member of the World Wide Web Consortium at MIT or a founding member and former chairman of the Global Internet Project. He was also the head of Internet Technology at IBM and is currently the President of Attitude, LLC.

Most people would just stop, retire, and enjoy life. Not John Patrick. Only a few years ago, he decided to get his doctorate in health administration.

He has authored two books: The first, Net Attitude: What It Is, How to Get It, and Why Your Company Can’t Survive Without It, and one just out called Health Attitude: Unraveling and Solving the Complexities of Healthcare. Both books deliberately have the word “attitude” in the title because John Patrick is a passionate believer in attitude.

 

“The prescription starts with a single word, attitude.” –John Patrick

What Three Words Can Shape Your Future?

Photo by Nico&CO on flickr.

A few years ago, Chris Brogan decided to pick three words to shape his year.  He says that the three words “sum up what you want to work actionably on changing/improving in the coming year.”  In 2006, his words were “Ask. Do. Share.”  This year, he chose “Walt. Ender. Monchu.” I know, not exactly intuitive, but the point is that you select what makes sense to you.

Many others jumped on board and picked three words.  Recently, I was reading Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation and noticed he picked three words (starvation, beyond, student).

MY THREE WORDS

This year, mine are health, love and listen.

1.  Health

True health is not only physical.  Health is something that encompasses the full you:  physical, spiritual, social, mental, and emotional.  It is something you pursue, a state where you keep negative forces at bay.  It’s more than the absence of sickness.  It’s also the presence of well-being.

2.  Love

Is Your Brain the Fountain of Youth?

Image courtesy of istockphoto/firstsignal

Dr. Amen first came to my attention a few years ago. I was flipping through channels and landed on my local public television station.  There was Dr. Amen showing an audience how his brain research could transform lives.  I couldn’t stop watching and immediately ordered his books.

Before they came, I wanted to know more about him.  His background is impressive.  He has had over thirty years of experience as a clinical psychiatrist.  He’s a New York Times bestselling author and the director of the Amen Clinics.  In addition, he is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine.

When I heard that he had a new book coming out, I couldn’t wait to read it.  Here is an interview with Dr. Daniel G. Amen, M.D., author of Use Your Brain to Change Your Age: Secrets to Look, Feel, and Think Younger Every Day.

Most people think of youthful looks and they think of all of the magazine covers at the checkout stand.  We think of fad diets and strenuous workouts.  But you say “The fountain of youth is between your ears.”  How is the brain the key to making us look younger?

I am grateful for the opportunity to appear in your blog!  Thank you.

Your brain controls everything you do, including how you think, feel, act and interact.  Your brain is the organ of personality, character, and every decision you make.  The quality of your decisions is the number one predictor of longevity.  It is your brain that makes good decisions that keep you healthy and alive for a long time, or it is your brain that makes the bad decisions that kill you early.  If you want to live a long, productive, happy, vibrant life the first place to start is by having a better brain.

After performing over 72,000 brain SPECT scans at the Amen Clinics (SPECT looks at blood flow and activity in the brain) it is very clear that as we age the brain becomes less and less active.  See the chart below.  Now that I’m 57, I hate that.  But, our research has shown that with your behavior you can accelerate the aging process, making your brain look and feel older or you can decelerate it.  That is one of the main reasons I wrote this new book. I want to teach people the lessons I have learned to slow or even reverse the aging process in the brain.

Your book is so loaded with practical tips for your health.  Specifics on diet, supplements, exercise, sleep, massage, breathing techniques…what to do, what not to do.  Where do you start? 

Brain health is really very simple.  It starts with 3 strategies.