The essential step to overcoming fear in the workforce and delivering transformational change is building safety and trust in leaders and their vision. Our research indicates that leadership at all levels—from the C-suite down to team leaders—has at least twice the impact on business performance as any other factor. And according to Accenture Transformation GPS study, vision and direction have three to four times greater impact on benefits realisation than any other factor.

Out at sea in the storms of disruption, it’s easy for fear to set in. The crew feeling safe as a team together matters greatly, but so does their trust in you as their captain.

In my first post in this series, I outlined how our recent research shows that higher levels of fear and anxiety in the workforce can hold back change and agility in financial services (FS). In my last post, I talked about the importance of building psychological safety within teams at incumbent banks and insurers. The other essential step to overcoming fear in the FS workforce and delivering transformational change is building trust in leaders and their vision.

Our research indicates that leadership at all levels—from the C-suite down to team leaders—has at least twice the impact on business performance as any other factor. And according to Accenture Transformation GPS study, vision and direction, have three to four times greater impact on benefits realisation than any other factor.

Navigating the choppy seas of disruption requires FS leaders to be as trustworthy and clear-eyed as a captain of a ship charting a course out of a storm’s path, and to safety.

When people in the business trust each other, their leaders and managers, and believe in the vision of the business, it gives them access to a reservoir of resources, expertise and ideas. This enables them to realise their own potential and to feel more empowered in their part of the business’s change journey.

Emotionally connected leaders develop trust by letting their employees know why they should support the organisation’s goals. That why is the vision set by leaders with a real inner purpose. Inner purpose is something you can believe in and something you can act on. It should connect with your peoples’ heads, hearts and hands. For people to believe and trust in the vision, there needs to be consistency in words and actions—including taking the courageous decisions needed to see the transformation through.

Leadership needs to be at all levels of the organisation, not just the CEO and executive team. There needs to be time and support for good change leadership and to invest in leadership teams during periods of change, encouraging all leaders to spend time on positive personal relationships, communication and listening.

The FS organisations we classify as change leaders are dedicated to creating pathways for an inclusive future of work—a future in which all workers have the motivation, means and opportunity to thrive in the digital economy. The banks and insurers that are succeeding at their change programmes are the higher-trust organisation. They move quickly and nimbly with teamwork, while avoiding individual heroics and burnout.

These change leaders have put their people at the centre of change: 92 percent of change leaders are aware of employee engagement and performance as an internal driver of change (vs. 69 percent of their peers).

Rather than seeing their people as an obstacle to change, change leaders in FS treasure human resilience and creativity as engines for progress. Instead of seeing change as something to be feared, they see it as an opportunity to improve the business and position it for a brighter future. They reduce anxiety among their colleagues by empowering them and creating a safe environment in which people trust each other, their leaders and the vision driving the business. Thus, they are also better able to employ their people as a catalyst to spark change: 83 percent of change leaders say their organisation thrives on fast-paced change (vs. 51 percent of their peers).

According to Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for, “trust between managers and employees is the primary defining characteristic of the very best workplaces.” The Fortune research also shows that the very best workplaces beat “the average annualized returns of the S&P 500 by a factor of three.”

In the meanwhile, 85 percent of transformations that fail do so because of organisation dynamics that existed before the transformation began, especially breaks in trust in the organisation. So, it is essential you build trust. I would encourage you to find where trust is lacking by using data, before your transformational journey starts. Then build trust deliberately—you don’t need leaders to be superheroes—they just need to demonstrate good consistency and judgement and build positive relationships over time. Remember that that it takes time to build trust and a moment to create fear and anxiety.

In my next post, I will outline the steps every leader in FS can take to rally the workforce to unite behind the right vision for the future to thrive in a disruptive world and weather whatever storms that may come.

To find out more about how fear impacts change in FS, please contact me here, or @andyyoungACN.

To learn more register to download: Fearless: How safety and trust can help financial services thrive even during disruption and transformational change

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