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• ˜˜Upper management doesn™t even know that we are here.™™
• ˜˜Upper management comes into our departments and doesn™t even
speak to us ˜unknown™ employees.™™

Lack of Trust and Respect for Workers

• ˜˜Upper management has no respect for the people that do the work.
They do not recognize their good employees. ABC Company man-
agement is all about the bottom line.™™
• ˜˜XYZ Company has a vicious, cavalier attitude towards its employ-
ees that makes it hard for employees to feel important and valued. I
felt constantly watched and threatened.™™
• ˜˜Upper management are clearly the ones running the show. No one
is allowed to make any decisions except for the upper management.™™
• ˜˜They treat their employees like garbage. They use them up and
then throw them out.™™

Isolated and Unapproachable

• ˜˜Completely and utterly unknown, unseen, uncaring, unconcerned
and unapproachable upper management.™™
• ˜˜Management needs more individual concern for each employee.
They need to be able to talk with each employee and not judge
through the eyes of another employee. Get to know the individual
yourself !™™
• ˜˜Upper management never takes the time to communicate with the
employees, to say ˜hello.™ ™™

Mismanagement of Change

• ˜˜Provide consistent direction. In the past eight years, ABC Company
has made too many management and corporate philosophy changes.
Employees have whiplash!™™
• ˜˜XYZ Company doesn™t initiate change well. They make drastic
changes too quickly and do not properly prepare employees to adjust
to the changes. But they never tell us why the change is happening.™™
• ˜˜Stay with a plan long enough to see if it works before moving on
to the next one.™™

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Poor Communication

• ˜˜ABC Company doesn™t inform employees about decisions that
would directly affect them. For the most part, most of the relocation
decisions are not relayed to the departments that they affect. The
company keeps too many secrets from employees.™™
• ˜˜Upper management has a clear and direct set of objectives, but that
message doesn™t seem to ¬lter down to the ˜worker bees™ that are the
most important element of the upper management vision.™™
• ˜˜XYZ Company doesn™t communicate changes to the masses. Em-
ployees normally have to read about it in the newspaper.™™



A Crisis of Trust and Con¬dence
If these comments re¬‚ect the way departing employees feel about senior
leaders, we can only wonder how the employees who stayed must feel. If
we are to believe Gallup™s surveys reporting that 75 percent of the Ameri-
can workforce is disengaged, then we can only conclude that the lack of
engaging leadership is a major root cause.
The corporate scandals of the early years of this decade only served to
deepen the hole of distrust that had already been dug by the downsizings
of the 1990™s. Recent surveys of the American workforce provide ample
evidence:

• 82 percent of Americans believe executives help themselves at the
expense of their companies.2
• Only 39 percent of workers trust senior leaders.3
• Only 40 percent of workers believe their organization as a whole is
well managed.4
• Only 34 percent of workers agree that ˜˜I can trust management in
my organization to always communicate honestly.™™5
• Only 50 percent of employees believe that managers in their organi-
zation are concerned for the well-being of employees.6

All this data points to not just a corrosion of trust, but a crisis of con¬-
dence in the ability of senior leaders to lead their organizations to suc-
cess”a basic requirement for engaging and retaining talented workers.

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Reading the Signs of Distrust and Doubt
Watch for these signs in your company of growing distrust, cynicism, or
loss of con¬dence in senior leaders:

• Lack of enthusiasm following announcement of new initiatives by
senior leaders
• Increasing complaints and questions by employees about policies and
practices controlled by senior leaders
• Managers beginning to question decisions and actions of senior
leaders
• Increased grumblings by groups of employees
• Morale problems showing up in employee surveys
• Increased mention of senior leaders in exit interviews or surveys
• Active resistance to leader initiatives and change efforts



The Three Questions Employees Need Answered
In reviewing survey comments, it appears that workers have three funda-
mental questions on their minds when it comes to senior leaders:

1. Will these leaders steer the ship to success? Employees want to know
whether their leaders have the right vision, the right strategy, the
right people, and the personal character and competence to lead the
organization where it needs to go. For some companies, this can
mean turning the company around to reverse its declining fortunes,
while for others it means building on previous success to take the
company to new heights. Regardless of the situation, talented em-
ployees want to know whether they have hitched their wagon to a
star that is burning brighter or burning out.
2. Can I trust them to do what they say? No one wants to work for an
organization where leaders are always saying one thing and doing
another. This question gets right to the heart of organizational in-
tegrity and is directed as much toward direct supervisors as it is to
senior leaders. Even if senior executives backs up their words with
action, if their actions don™t reinforce the organization™s professed
values, trust is lost.

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3. Do they have trust and con¬dence in me? Understandably, we all tend
to trust and have con¬dence in those who have trust and con¬dence
in us. The issue of who initiates the building of trust”employer or
employee”can be debated, or you can say it doesn™t matter. It
seems clear, however, that senior leaders are in enough need of
employee commitment that they should be willing, even eager, to
initiate the reciprocal commitment process.


Criteria for Evaluating Whether to Trust and Have
Con¬dence
As I conduct postexit interviews, former employees increasingly mention
disappointment with senior leaders among their primary reasons for leav-
ing. As consumers of a potential employer™s work experience, job seekers
seem more interested in checking out the reputation of senior leaders be-
fore accepting an offer. Because they have been sensitized by the spectacle
of corporate CEOs betraying the trust of their constituents on a large scale,
employees now view their leaders through different lenses. Here are three
criteria by which employees now judge senior leaders:

1. Servant Mentality vs. Sel¬sh Greed. As we have seen in the survey
comments, there is a deep suspicion among employees that leaders
have mainly their own interests in mind as they go about their daily
business. Workers increasingly see business leaders as interested
mainly in maximizing their stock options and building their per-
sonal wealth, not in pursuing what™s best for the long-term interests
of shareholders, customers, and employees.
As evidence supporting this belief, they cite the disproportionate
rise in executive compensation. In 2003, the ratio of average CEO
pay to average worker pay stood at 281 to 1. In 1983, the ratio had
been 42 to 1. During the 1990s, executive pay rose by 570 percent
while pro¬ts rose by 114 percent. If workers wages had risen since
1990 at the same rate as CEO pay, the average U.S. production
worker in 2002 would have earned $68,057 instead of $26,267.7
Yet, there are also plenty of leaders who see their calling to leader-
ship as one in which they will serve those they are called to lead.
They do all they can to serve the needs of employees so the employ-
ees, in turn, will better serve the customer. Such leaders are inter-
ested in building an organization that serves the business

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community, makes lives better, and makes a pro¬t”not in exploit-
ing others for personal gain. These ˜˜servant leaders™™ (see Robert
Greenleaf ™s classic book, Servant Leadership) are striking a chord that
resonates among today™s workers.
2. Shareholder Value vs. Employee Value. Employees have heard the
mantra about maximizing shareholder value for so long, and seen so
many corporate mission statements that speak almost exclusively
about it, their eyes have glossed over. When employees hear and
read this, they get the message that the CEOs only real responsibility
is to serve the interests of the shareholders. Who are these sharehold-
ers? They are mostly anonymous mutual fund managers and day
traders who never get to know the company, its products or ser-
vices, employees, or customers. Shareholders interests are important
certainly, but employees know when they are being given compara-
tive short shrift.


Companies which, perversely, don™t put shareholders ¬rst, do better
for their shareholders than organizations that only put shareholders
¬rst.
”Robert Waterman in The Frontiers of Excellence


Contrast this obsession with shareholders against a new attitude that is
emerging among a new breed of CEOs. One of these is Dick Kovacevich,
CEO and chairman of Wells-Fargo Bank. When Wells-Fargo acquired
Utah-based First Security in 2000, Kovacevich chose to ¬‚y to Utah and
meet directly with First Security employees rather than check in with Wall
Street analysts, as many bankers might have under the same circumstances
˜˜The way I see it,™™ explained Kovacevich, ˜˜when you take care of your
employees, they take care of your customers. And your shareholders wind
up winning anyway.™™8
In the business press, we read more and more reports of CEOs with
similar employee-¬rst attitudes and approaches. Interestingly, most of their
companies seem to be building strong reputations for excellent customer
service provided by committed front-line employees.

3. Lean and Mean vs. Nice Workers Giving Great Service. With the reces-
sion of 2001, ˜˜lean and mean™™ came back in style, as businesses

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looked for new ways to cut costs. Companies cut to the bone, laying
off thousands of workers. Many of these downsizing companies
gave little thought to how they might redeploy or retrain these
workers before cutting them loose. Remaining workers felt lucky
to still have their jobs, but quickly realized they were doing the jobs
of two or three people. Before long, employees (and managers)
were starting to feel abused and burned out”not exactly the best
formula for putting them in the mood to provide world-class cus-
tomer service. As Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart said years
ago, ˜˜It takes a week to two weeks for employees to start treating
customers the same way the employer is treating the employee.™™

Smart CEOs intuitively know what Sam Walton knew. One of those
CEOs is David Neeleman of Jet Blue Airways, the airline he founded in
1999 and which, by May 2004, he had led to twelve consecutive quarters
of pro¬tability, with the highest percentage of seats ¬lled of any other air-
line. From the start, Neeleman has been committed to running lean, but
not mean. To conserve costs, Jet Blue™s reservations agents work from
home instead of working from an expensive call center. Yet, Neeleman
knows many of his 6,000 employees by name, asks about their personal
lives, pitches in to pass out snacks when he ¬‚ies, and stays behind to help
clean the plane.
Neeleman is obsessed with reliability and customer service, but says the
real secret weapon is the employees, or ˜˜crew members,™™ as he calls them.
Whenever Neeleman and his senior executives consider making a major
change, they ¬rst ask, ˜˜how will this affect crew members™ morale?™™ If they
conclude it would hurt morale, they elect not to make the change, because
it would not be worth it”˜˜employees treat customers the way they are
treated themselves,™™ he says.
When a company survey revealed that one third of the crew members
were unhappy with the abrasiveness and favoritism of their supervisors,
Neeleman and his COO realized that they were promoting people without
teaching them how to manage. That™s when Neeleman decided to create a
¬ve-day training program called ˜˜Principles of Leadership,™™ taught by sen-
ior executives. One of the ¬ve key principles is ˜˜treat your people right.™™
Neeleman™s decision to make an up-front commitment to his employ-
ees has been returned in kind. Says one of his pilots, ˜˜I would walk through
a burning building for him.™™9
How many ˜˜lean and mean™™ companies have created this kind of loy-

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alty? Mean leaders make for mean employees who are often mean to cus-
tomers. It is a formula that is destined to fail in the long term.

Engagement Practice 52: Inspire Con¬dence in a
Clear Vision, a Workable Plan, and the Competence to
Achieve It
One of the ¬rst requirements of trust is competence. We will follow only
those leaders we judge to be capable. Traditionally, leaders were selected
from among the most skilled functional specialists, but that is certainly not

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