“Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)

I love Penelope Trunk’s blogs at the Brazen Careerist. They contain great thoughts and advice about business and life, but most of all are searingly honest and often very touching.

One particular blog caught my eye recently (link attached here). You can read it for yourself, but the thrust is that, because Gen X are now entering those influential mid-life years, trust and transparency are going to become critical to retaining talent.

It brought to mind a conversation I was having with my old friend and colleague Andy Drake, a couple of months before. He has years of experience managing global teams and has much success with Stephen MR Covey’s “Speed of Trust”. In essence, this model argues that increasing trust within teams has a quick and positive impact on motivation, productivity and financials. Importantly, he also defines trust and divides it into four key types – integrity (are you honest?), intent (are you clear about your purpose), capabilities (are you credible?) and results (what’s your track record?). I won’t go into any more detail here, but it all made logical sense to me – having worked in organizations with high and not-so-high levels of transparency, I know how my motivation was affected!

Taking these sources of thought together, it seems to me that there will be a tussle over the next few years as many late Boomer leaders struggle to comprehend why they have to be more transparent and to loosen their hierarchical structures.  For them, trusting can be a brave move.

On the other hand, as Gen X’s climb the workforce tree, they will adopt a much more consensual style of leadership and will find it comes naturally to be open with their teams and share information.  Will this mean therefore that we can expect productivity and financials to increase?  Quite possibly, but it will be hard to establish as this next 10 years will very likely be a period of economic growth in any case.  What is for sure is that this is a period of big change and that businesses will look and feel very different by the time we get to 2020.

On the other hand, whether Gen X’s find it just as easy to fully extend all aspects of trust to the Millennial generation following up behind them will be interesting to see. All generations struggle to understand the one that follows. Gen X’s are likely to be irritated and threatened by what they see as the Millennials’ ambition and need for attention. This may make it hard for their trusting instincts to prevail – particularly in the area of intent. But it should be fun to watch!

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