When leaders strive to get people on board and promote enthusiasm many miss the mark. Workplace statistics show that only 25 percent of employees are truly engaged.
Developing an atmosphere of trust and generosity of spirit should be senior management’s goal. When leaders give workers something they can believe in – a cause greater than the common good – they engage both hearts and minds.
Most of us seek meaning in our lives, from a psychological standpoint, and many of us find it through our work. Leaders can facilitate this by communicating their own beliefs, passions and ideals.
The Leadership Trust Gap
There are two barriers that create a trust gap between leaders and their teams:
- The financial chasm that results from large pay disparities
- A disconnect between verbal and nonverbal communication
Although there is an inherent desire to identify and bond with one’s leader, people instinctively defend their own interests and exercise caution before committing their careers and livelihoods to anyone.
No one wants to commit to the wrong cause or person, which clearly highlights the importance of leaders’ honesty and authenticity.
Pay disparities can throw a massive wrench into the trust equation.
In 1990, CEO compensation in the United States increased 100 to 400 percent while the average American worker earned $27,000. Adjusted for inflation, this figure remains constant two decades later. Surveys show that 90 percent of institutional investors believe most executives are overpaid.
Envy leads to divisiveness. Such pay disparities between top leaders and their employees undermine workers’ security and sense of well-being. the constant threat of downsizing and outsourcing magnify people’s fears and makes matters worse.
This is why employees struggle to see their leaders as invested in a shared outcome. But leaders who recognize trust-gap factors can prepare to deal with these issues by establishing an emotionally solvent, personal connection with their people.
Flailing leaders may need to work on their “emotional intelligence” by engaging executive coaches to help them. Employees are laboring in a harsh economy, so leaders need to learn and practice empathy, honesty and authenticity.
The disconnect between what a leader says and actually feels is the second obstacle to overcome. As a leader, you will experience a “say/feel” gap when your messages are incongruent with your physical expressions. Facial expressions convey your feelings much more accurately than any words you say.
Fifty five percent of meaning is derived from body language, 38 percent from vocal intonation and only 7 percent from the actual words according to research about messages.
With seven universal emotions found across all cultures, we discern emotional content from others’ facial expressions. According to Paul Eckmann’s research in 2003 the basic facial expressions of emotions are:
- Positive: happiness
- Neutral: surprise
- Negative: anger, fear, sadness, disgust and contempt
Studies of CEOs’ facial expressions reveal that honest and robust social smiles trump all others when one wants employees to feel hopeful and buy into goals. The worst possible expressions are dislike, especially when combined with anxiety (fear). Condescending, scared leaders will invariably cut themselves off from others.
The key here is for leaders to acquire knowledge of how congruent their nonverbal facial expressions are with their intended message. Again, working with an executive coach can help.
Check back tomorrow for Part 4