Dan Arens

Bill was a mentor to some of the richest, brightest, and youngest leaders in Silicon Valley. He spent decades working with names like Steve Jobs of Apple, Eric Schmidt of Google, and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook. There was one five-letter word that everyone of those leaders used to describe him. That one word allowed them to share their innermost thoughts, fears, and realizations. They put their trust in him.

In his book Trillion Dollar Coach, Schmidt describes the work of Coach Bill Campbell and his brilliance in motivating, encouraging, exhorting, and supporting his colleagues. But without question, Schmidt felt the strongest bond was the trust between them. In other words, whatever was said between them, stayed between them. It did not go any further. He went on to say, “It became clear that I could have conversations with him that I could not have with anyone else, in particular my own hopes and fears.” The bond of trust, without a doubt helped bind the mentor in Campbell with the mentee for many of his ‘clients.’

Trust is the reliance on integrity, strength, ability, and surety of a person or a thing; a person on whom one relies. The obligation or responsibility imposed on a person, in whom confidence or authority is placed. The importance of trust in a leadership position is paramount.

Confidentiality is a huge part of that trust. It has to do with the direct relationship someone has with an individual. It is NOT telling a third party something about someone else. That is ‘gossip’ or ‘talking behind someone’s back.’ Each of which is a betrayal of a confidence. In the case of Bill Campbell, imagine what things would have been like had he betrayed a confidence in any situation that presented itself with the colleagues he worked with as a leader/coach. He would have never been successful. Fortunately, Campbell excelled in keeping a trust. As Schmidt has suggested, Campbell was the epitome of trust.

Kronos, an international based human resource company, conducted a recent survey that covered eleven countries. Fully one out of every three of the participants in the study developed more trust in their employer, as a result of COVID. Ironically, another one out of three of those surveyed cited ‘burnout concerns’ during the pandemic. These kind of mixed results should be disturbing to employers who continually strive to earn and keep the trust of their staff. Unfortunately, there will always be underperforming employers alongside those who work hard to address employee concerns and earn your trust. The key, as alluded to by Schmidt, is to do what you say you are going to do.

Empathizing or caring for others is aspect of trust. Coming alongside employees, working with them; not confronting them or belittling them regardless of their position or citing their weaknesses in front of others. While Bill Campbell obviously gained the trust of many leaders in Silicon Valley, he also empathized with each and everyone of them; using his gift set to walk in their shoes and try to see things from their perspective, as well. 

As the saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” In many respects, no truer words were spoken. By leading your company with empathy, you are sending a message every time you engage anyone in conversation. It shows how much you really care for them, all of them. It should go well beyond the traditional greeting and get to a level of significance like remembering the names of their children, spouse, and their birthday, because you are genuinely interested or concerned in how they are doing. When those kinds of conversations are held with your staff, it will truly show them how much you care about them, as people, not just employees.

Finally, you need to be able to listen. Paying attention to what is being said is critical in the communication process. By developing better listening skills, you are gathering insight into the mind of the employee. Typically, you are laser focused on solving problems and making decisions on a regular basis. You might have to change your mindset and your way of listening in order to empathize with someone to try and understand how and why they feel the way they do. In the end, working on trust and empathy, while being a better listener will, no doubt, seize the day and help grow your business.

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