Published in Forbes

By, Stuart R. Levine

The role of trust and values in managing relationships is critical today. Conduct Yourself and Your Business with Integrity was the 4th Fundamental The Six Fundamentals of Success, a book I authored in 2004, but is even more relevant today. CEOs loved this book as they understood the importance of living these fundamentals as modeling behavior that becomes the basis of a trusting culture. Today the role of trust and values has been identified as one of the top three reasons why employees choose a company to work for.

In today’s new work environment, employees are expecting more from their employers regarding social issues that reflect their values. CEOs and C-suite leadership are being challenged to fight for change. Employees not only want meaningful work and fair pay, but they are now seeking jobs with purpose, where leaders are trusted, and their values are expressed and recognized. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: The Belief-Driven Employee, 61% of employees are now seeking alignment of their personal values with organizational values and beliefs and would choose, leave, or avoid companies based upon this powerful factor.

The competitive reality for acquisition of talent, is being impacted by conversations relating to sustainability and ESG, with over 50% of employees expressing expectations around these issues. Surprisingly, 60% of employees looking for a company to work for, believe that CEOs should be speaking out on the social and political issues they believe in. This increasing pressure from employees is forcing leaders to rethink their strategies around how they articulate purpose, and the impact their organizations and actions are having in the world. impacting the world. It’s not only important to establish these goals, but to communication them and share progress with employees and their boards.

There is an emerging, important opportunity that relates to communication within a company versus external social media. Employees today trust their own company’s communications and publications more than social media and other news outlets. Fundamental #2 in The Six Fundamentals of Success was entitled, Communicate Up and Down, Inside and Out. It is critical that employees directly hear from you as a leader, in a continuous rhythm, to strengthen relationships, reduce fear and uncertainty, express values and increase trust. Communication is two way. It requires listening to what people want to know about and selecting the best methods to deliver these meaningful dialogues. Sharing both the good news and the bad requires courage, but telling the truth not only builds trust, but shows you are human. People make mistakes, they learn, grow, and move forward.

Fundamental #5, Invest in Relationships, explained that strong relationships are the foundation of business and life. No one can do it alone, and to be successful and live a happy, purposeful life, you need help from others – whether it be family, friends, colleagues, employees, or customers to enrich your life. Keeping a relationship radar screen and making a really sincere effort to stay in touch with family and friends around the world helps to continue to expand your world and create gestures that result in both sharing values and increasing trust. Share things of meaning, such as a meaningful articles or books with a brief note or phone call requires both time, energy and focus. But it is time well spent. Don’t forget your team. Your work life is only as good as your team. Reach out consistently, bring them around in times of need and celebration. Value them genuinely and invest in them strategically.

Once while travelling on a plane, I had an experience that served as a strong example of how relationships based upon shared values provides meaning. The person next to me was having what you might call a “bad hair” day. My typical routine on a long plane ride is to settle in and go to sleep. However, I recognized a person in need. I listened and provided guidance for most of the trip. At the end of the conversation, he thanked me and asked me what I was doing in business. I explained that I was writing a leadership book after starting our own company advising C-suite executives and boards. He asked who I would most like to meet to interview for this book on values. He then responded there’s only one person you should speak with and it’s my best friend Arthur Ashe. Call him on Monday and he will see you.

Of course, it did and here’s the story about our long and meaningful interview, one of his last, that remains with me to this day after our interview almost 20 years ago. He explained at the dinner table when he was tired and sick, he might have his elbows on the table. His daughter Cameron, the same age as my daughter, would say, daddy your elbows are on the table. Now I might have said that’s OK, I’m your father and I pay the mortgage, but Arthur said you are right Cameron, elbows should not be on the table. His words connected with his actions which is profound. We all know the right words, but do we operationalize them. When he passed away a few weeks later, I was told that Arthur had wanted to meet with me to make sure that we continued the dialogue around values to ensure this concept remained front and center. And how right he was.

The importance of taking a cleansing breath which was Fundamental #6 – Gain Perspective in The Six Fundamentals of Success is about finding ways to get to a higher ground to eliminate those things that are distractions and to instead focus on solutions – and this is what is required in leadership today. Even when mistakes are made and tensions continue, the world will keep spinning at a relentless pace. Instead of laying blame on others, yelling, making impulsive decisions or drafting destructive emails, find ways to put things into a perspective that will enable you to remain calm. Associate with positive people instead of those who are toxic, find ways to laugh to diffuse tension, recognize that it’s just a moment that will not even be remembered in two weeks or six months from now. Get comfortable with not knowing and lean into learning. Surround yourself with people who can teach you things out of your comfort zone. Uncertainty and gray areas will continue as the norm. Continue to dream and hold onto your values. Incredible things can happen. Those who do this will continue to grow and thrive. Those who refuse will be left behind.