How Leaders Reframe Their Mindset to Build High-Trust Teams 

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Control is elusive. Don’t you think so?  

We all want to be in the driver’s seat. For some, control feels like a need; a safety net. It gives us the confidence that we are going to achieve what we aspire for as long as we’re in control. 

However, unforeseen events and factors can come into play and cause us to feel like we’re losing grip of whatever control we thought we had. But the truth is, even with the best efforts, we cannot control…control.  

I am reminded of Peter Drucker, the Father of Modern Business Management, and his four principles of management — planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. According to him, controlling includes defining performance standards, monitoring performance against planned objectives, and taking corrective actions when necessary.  

How can leaders successfully execute Drucker’s “controlling”? As I’ve worked with various teams and leaders, I have observed that those able to “control” (possess clarity on objectives, effectively monitor performance, and adjust accordingly) first manage themselves.  

To do so is no small feat as we all work in highly complex environments composed of folks with different strokes. And in those spaces, it’s easy to get stuck on how to effectively lead others and oneself.  

What helps? Reframing our thinking and letting go of the illusion of what we think we can control so that new perspectives and promising solutions can surface. 

In our webinar last May 31, the insightful dialogue revolved around how management can exactly do the above. I had the privilege to engage with Ben Ampil, a Globally Certified Neuroscience Coach, and Aya Palmera-Montebon, Founder and Managing Partner of Siegen HR Solutions, Inc., on the powerful ways leaders can reframe their mindset to build high-trust teams via Neuroscience and sound decision-making.  

Here’s what I learned from them!  

1. The Brain is a Trust Architect

There are many ways to build trust in the workplace.  

Our studies at Great Place To Work® say that trust blooms when core competencies of Credibility, Fairness, and Respect are put into everyday practice by leaders.  

While those are proven true by over 30 years of research, it is also interesting to know that deep down inside each one of us lies a natural ability to give and receive trust. We are wired to trust.  

This is where Neuroscience comes in. It is the study of the brain and how it acts and thinks so one can manage their actions and thoughts.  

Neuroscience tells us that when people feel trusted, a life-giving neurotransmitter called “Oxytocin” is produced.  

Oxytocins a.k.a. the “happy hormone” play an important role in stimulating many positive human behaviors such as trust and recognition. As such, they have long been associated with well-being and relationship-building because of their unique ability to create emotional bonds.  
In addition, countless studies have shown that higher quantities of the chemical lead to multiple benefits such as lower blood pressure and decreased cortisol levels. Not only that! It’s interesting to know that increased levels also result in one’s behavior more likely becoming more trustworthy.  

From there, a simple yet significant loop takes place. As Ben perfectly summarized it,

Trust begets trust. Trust leads to better trustworthiness. Oxytocin produces more oxytocin.

Okay — our brain works to build trust via hormones called oxytocins, but what inhibits that process? Stress 

Now that we know all of these, the next step becomes obvious: To control stress. And to do this, leaders must keep an eye on SCARF 

🟥 Status  

How much an employee feels that they are viewed and treated as a human being and not just a mere laborer and if their role is valued. 

🟥 Certainty  

The level of perception of a workforce if management is honorable, trustworthy, and security-giving.  

🟥 Autonomy  

An employee’s ability to exercise their volition or their ability to make and control choices. 

🟥 Relatedness  

One’s sense of belonging and acceptance from their colleagues 

🟥 Fairness  

An organization’s culture of justice and impartiality as perceived by the workforce

Do you lead by nurturing these emotional states (status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness) with others?
Do you lead in the workplace by nurturing SCARF? © Ben Ampil

When I first heard this mnemonic from Ben, I couldn’t help but see how these are well-aligned with the dimensions of Credibility, Respect, and Fairness that great leaders demonstrate in building a high-trust workplace culture.  

2.Disciplined Thinking is an Ally to Trust-Building

Who wouldn’t want dependable leaders?

With such a complex and volatile environment our workplaces operate in, it only makes sense that trust is also anchored on leaders who can be relied on to consistently make sound decisions via disciplined thinking.  

Disciplined thinking is not merely about choices. It is a thoughtful process where different factors and potential outcomes are conscientiously evaluated and combined to arrive at the best outcome for all. And when this mindset is adopted by leaders, a sense of trust and confidence is inevitably developed.

Simply put: If management takes it as their responsibility to carefully make the right choices, then they are reliable and therefore, trustworthy.

The beauty of it is that disciplined thinking breeds many arms under trust. There is transparency because decisions are tied to what’s rational and logical to do. There is integrity to always keep in mind and opt for what is best for the people after cautious consideration of all relevant factors. And lastly and indubitably, there is fairness  because the best decisions are equitable for all.

Disciplined thinking and decision-making pave the path to workplace trust.

Aya mentioned the above benefits of sound decision-making during her powerhouse session. It was also interesting to learn how the #1 Philippines Best Workplace (Small Category), Siegen Solutions, consistently walk the talk on practicing disciplined thinking in their community.

One of the concrete examples Aya shared was when they utilized Mental Models to solve their transition to a WFH setup during the onset of the pandemic.

Like many, Siegen’s whole work system was not pandemic-proof nor WFH-ready. In addition, they were faced with overwhelmingly urgent matters with little to no information to work with. So how then can they make sound decisions?

Siegen employed the Inversion Model. In layman’s terms, it’s addressing the problem backwards by focusing on what to avoid and then acting from there so that one is enabled to move forward despite a lack of concrete information.

And now look where that got them! Siegen not only survived but also thrived as one of the top 2023 Philippines Best Workplaces™.

Workplace trust is established through embracing disciplined thinking because it creates a positive environment where collaboration, innovation, and effective teams can thrive

Siegen’s successful story points me back to how collaboration and care are one of the prominent challenges that non-Philippine Best Workplaces™ list-makers face today. Their inspiring pandemic tale reflects how conscious efforts for the best interest of the people indeed help build psychologically and emotionally healthy workplaces where collaboration and care can thrive.

All the more is it vital for leaders to create an environment where sound decision-makers are first embodied by management and then encouraged, developed, and empowered by allowing others to question the norm, think critically, and possibly rock the boat.

The third biggest challenge of non-list-makers is collaboration and care. Trust Index™ scores of non-list-makers, Best Workplaces™, and Siegen Solutions are compared.
A comparison between Trust Index™ scores of non-list-makers, Best Workplaces™, and Siegen Solutions with regards to questions about collaboration and care

3. Better Brighter Brains

Is control elusive? Most definitely.

Perhaps the more we chase it, the more it becomes beyond reach. I found the key to regaining control is by letting go of old rationales and reframing our minds to what will truly allow our people’s brain to function the way it is best designed to.

Great leaders are those who set the right environment for the people’s brain to fully function as they were designed.

As the only trusted institution by the general population as per the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer, businesses must champion their higher calling in meeting social responsibility and trust-building.  

And those start when managers enable employees to use their unique gifts and brains for the best results via psychologically safe workplaces by… 

🟥 providing clarity of vision and goals by articulating why those are important and how the team will get there. 

🟥 being aware if anything is inflicting unnecessary stress on our people. For instance, how are our language and tone?  

🟥 exemplifying good decision-making. The decisions we make, big and small, impact our employees’ day-to-day experiences at work — ultimately affecting their emotional and psychological well-being.  

How crystal clear it is: safe workplaces attend to both the heart and the mind and it starts from none other than you

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To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.