Leading organisational consultant, speaker and author Simon Sinek has an excellent video about which professional traits are genuinely appreciated in the workplace, and which are actually valued in terms of rewards and promotion…

What he discovered was a profound disconnect in how we evaluate those who ‘hit the numbers’ and those who are great people to work with or be managed by.

To give you the gist: in the workplace, the parameters of ‘performance’ and ‘trust’ are what set a ‘value’ to someone’s contribution.

As expected, those employees who score high in terms of both their performance and how greatly others trust them, are those seen as the most valuable, and this is reflected in their pay, status and responsibilities.

Those who are the least able to fulfill their responsibilities and who inspire a minimal amount of trust, are the most ‘unattractive’ people. Their diminished contribution and trustworthiness is also reflected in their lesser status and reward.

But then Sinek zooms into something contradictory.

And that is that, very often, professional norms reward those who score high on performance… but whose indifference to their teammates’ feelings or comfort levels rank them low in terms of ‘trust’.

These are the ‘toxic’ yet ‘high-performing’ leaders who push their people relentlessly to achieve targets, but who noone actually likes, or who actually inspire fear or anxiety, who demean and diminish their teammates’ self-respect, confidence and dignity.

Up to now, such people have often been rewarded handsomely for their high scores in ‘performance’… despite their long-term negative effect on their colleagues.

Conversely, there are those people who may not be as high-performing in terms of the numbers, yet, in the eyes of their colleagues, nevertheless score very highly in terms of trust, and who their peers know will be at their side when the pressure mounts, and unexpected trouble strikes.

These are the people who will not play blame games and seek to throw others under the bus at times when mistakes are made or losses are suffered. Who are generous and gracious when others are exhibiting weakness or pain.

And they are the same people who will share the praise and lift up others when things are going well, rather than claiming all the credit as their own.

And yet… these same high-trust-scoring people are often valued and rewarded far below the toxic ‘high performing’ people by organisations, despite the long-term cost to the team’s well-being. And even though, given enough time, the high-in-trust people can even potentially ‘overtake’ the toxic people in terms of performance.

The takeaways from these insights?

For an organisation to have a healthy work culture in the long-term, i.e. able to carry out its mission while sustaining its success… it is vital for people to feel ‘safe’ working shoulder to shoulder with each other.

It is vital that they can ‘trust’ that their leaders are as invested in their well-being as in achieving company goals.

In other words, it is vital to ‘reward’ the ‘trust’ generators and not overlook their irreplaceable contribution, because this will also signal to potential high-performance toxic people that their technical achievements will not excuse their negative relations with their teammates.

In a day and age when it is more challenging than ever to build a sustainable work culture, organisations prioritising performance at the expense of trust, will eventually fall victim to competitors optimised for trust.

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