Trust in Leadership: Why Work Environments Based on Trust and Transparency Thrive


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On this week's episode, Richard and Kimon continue their discussion on business, focusing particularly on leadership and management.

Starting off the conversation, Richard asks Kimon for his views on leadership. Kimon begins by addressing the role of trust. Trust operates in two directions: employees must trust that the CEO is the right person for the job, and the CEO must trust their employees. This is especially crucial in today's business landscape, which increasingly accommodates remote work.

However, trust isn't easy to scale. As a company grows, the significance of time-tracking tools and productivity verification systems increases. For smaller companies, these tools can be costly and awkward. In such cases, fostering trust between employees and management becomes paramount. The CEO shouldn't need to constantly verify that employees are fulfilling their commitments. Trust establishes a solid company culture where everyone relies on each other, without excessive and bureaucratic surveillance.

If a CEO focuses on controlling and constantly checking employee productivity, the company will incur opportunity costs. Kimon shares that during his time at Argos Multilingual, he prioritized trust over surveillance. Although he encountered setbacks, he believes the overall benefits to company culture outweighed these negative experiences.

Richard adds that while employee processes should be "checkable," they don't need to be constantly "checked." If an issue arises, it can be easily identified without management wasting time playing the role of productivity police.

Both Richard and Kimon lean towards trust over distrust. Acknowledging their moments of naivety, they still assert that an atmosphere of trust is more advantageous to create than one of suspicion. Clear guidelines and well-defined roles remain crucial. Richard straightforwardly expresses it as: "trust goes with high expectations."

Kimon suggests that granting employees leeway "allows the best to stand out." Over time, it becomes evident which employees are engaged, self-motivated, and poised for leadership roles. For this trust-based leadership approach to succeed, the CEO must also be engaged and self-disciplined. Otherwise, employees will follow suit and lose motivation.

Later in the discussion, Kimon introduces the concept of the "bank of goodwill." In prosperous times, CEOs should provide raises without employees needing to ask. This demonstrates appreciation for their hard work and eases any stress related to seeking better compensation. During challenging times, CEOs can request employees to forgo raises with the understanding that adjustments will be made when conditions improve.

Commenting on the "bank of goodwill," Richard emphasizes communication's significance. The CEO should be accessible and open to employees. Regular communication keeps employees informed about business fluctuations, preventing blindsiding when tough decisions are necessary.

Especially in smaller companies, CEOs should hold one-on-one meetings to establish individual trust. While town hall meetings facilitate broader communication, employees often hesitate to inquire about topics like compensation and workplace safety in front of peers. Developing discreet communication channels contributes to a healthier work environment.

Discussing broader communication and the town hall approach, Kimon argues that being more transparent about the company's state is more effective than commonly believed. Clear and honest communication eliminates gossip and prevents multiple narratives that could cause confusion. Kimon advises, though, that other business leaders might differ in their approach to sharing information with employees. Communication should be addressed case by case, leaning towards transparency over secrecy.

In closing, Richard and Kimon summarize their thoughts on trust in leadership. Kimon stresses that for a CEO starting a company, treating everyone equally and cultivating a culture of hard work are paramount. Richard advises potential CEOs to not only trust their employees but also to be candid when facing challenges or difficulties as leaders.

Your Host

Richard Lucas and Kimon Fountoukidis

Richard Lucas is a business and social entrepreneur who founded, led and/or invested in more than 30 businesses.

Kimon Fountoukidis is the founder of both Argos Multilingual and PMR. Both companies were founded in the mid 90s with zero capital and both have gone on to become market leaders in their respective sectors. Kimon was born in New York and moved to Krakow, Poland in 1993. Listen to his story here.

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