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First you have to overcome these 7 barriers to high-performance.

Alex Ferguson was one of the best football managers in one of the best leagues in the world – the Premier League. Football experts – of which I’m not one – say that he did a brilliant job of transforming the team at least three times in the 26 years he was at the top.

A key characteristic of Alex Ferguson’s management style was to take difficult decisions, immediately. The gossip is that when David Beckham started playing with his hair more than he was playing with the football, Ferguson didn’t wait to show him the exit. Beckham went on to the glitz and glamour of Real Madrid. Ferguson went on to win multiple cups and titles.

The aim in decision-making is to always have the two ideal characteristics:
#1 Fast decisions
#2 High-quality decisions
Both depend on trust. That’s because although we have access to more data than ever before, we also have more complexity and more competition.

The result is: it’s almost impossible to take excellent decisions on your own. I struggle to think of anyone at the top of an organisation who consistently takes fast, superb decisions without getting expert input from other people. My friend who is a Liverpool fan would argue against that. He’d say Jürgen Klopp is a brilliant decision-maker. And while Jürgen Klopp comes across as a great guy, I’d be surprised if even he decides on his own, all of the time.

The fact is, today, we are interdependent. We need other people for decision-making input, analysis, and evaluation. We need their expertise, their wisdom, and their insights.

At the heart of that interdependent relationship is trust. To make fast decision, high-quality decisions we need trustful dialogs.

What do we mean by “trust” in the experession “trustful dialog”?
Trust is like the air we breathe: we only think about it when it is not there or toxic.

If trust is an abstract concept, the barriers are clear for everyone to see. Here are four basic barriers of a low-trust, toxic culture:

•    People playing politics and trying to manipulate everything for personal advantage.

•    People who cannot deal with conflict. The climate at work becomes toxic.

•    People not showing appreciation or gratitude. Receiving the simple words “well done” or “thank you” are like Xmas presents. They’re given once a year.

•    People suffering from illness – for example, a high incidence of stress, exhaustion, and burnout.


However, there is another side to trust. These are the average workplaces which struggle to achieve high-performance.

If these workplaces were a race car, they’d be stuck in neutral. The work gets done, but it isn’t outstanding. Customers are happy, but never delighted because the service they get is inconsistent; it is excellent in one country and below average in the next. Innovation happens at the local/country level but ideas rarely flow across borders. Collaboration is weak.

There is a just enough trust to “keep the engine running”. These companies are making a profit, although their growth rate is probably far behind be the best in their industry. The barriers of companies stuck in neutral are:

•    People standing still. They don’t avoid extra work but they are inactive instead of pro-actively taking responsibility and ownership.

•    People criticising colleagues. Trash-talk is a killer for risk-taking and innovation. The classic signal is “Yes, but…” rather than building on ideas with “Yes, and…”.

•    Over-engineered solutions. Project processes are micro-managed to death. Simple improvements take weeks to push through. Even the simplest of changes exhausts the energy of your middle managers because the trust need to risk a “leap of good faith” is sadly missing.

Think what you could achieve by moving up from neutral to high-level trust. Research by the Great Place To Work organisation, shows that over an 18-year period (from 1998 to 2016), the value of companies with high trust rose 712%. Over the same period, average companies in the same industry increased by only 244%. That’s why is pays not to be stuck in neutral. (It’s frightening to think what the statistics are for low-trust, toxic cultures!)

Dysfunctional to Functional… then Functional to High-Performing
It’s important to see the Full Trajectory of Trust. Trust is needed to move a dysfunctional culture to become a functional one. But the trajectory of trust goes beyond that: it takes profound, deep trust to move a functional group up to become a high-performance, outstanding group.  And it’s outstanding group cultures that are the big winners.

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Client Testimonials

You have brought a direct positive impact on our sales… because people work more customer-oriented. Our efficiency levels... are continuously growing.

AL Managing Director

Leading this product launch has taught me to be effective doing what I find naturally easiest – using trust and supporting people each step of the way. It augments my chances of making sure future product launches are as successful as this one.

MN Vice Director - Medical Marketing Europe

This process allowed people to re-appraise how this [senior team of managers] group was functioning or, rather, not functioning correctly. The tendency for each member of our group to see himself as an isolated beacon of excellence – which acted against the vital need for cooperation between members – were eased and communication is already becoming more 'normalised'.

RS Senior Director

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