Trust and motivation at work: seven key factors

What matters for trust?

Susanne Jacobs’ model of trust, from her book “DRIVERS – Creating Trust and Motivation at Work” identifies seven key factors:

1️⃣ Direction – purpose and meaning
2️⃣ Relative position – a sense you contribution is valued
3️⃣ Inclusion – belonging and connection
4️⃣ Voice and choice – some say over decisions that affect you
5️⃣ Equity – respect and fairness
6️⃣ Reliability – certainty and security
7️⃣ Stretch – learning and growth.

? Get these right and you can head down a performance path that is based on trust and safety. => You will set people up to Thrive.

? Get them wrong, and people will be fearful and threatened. => A workforce may enter Survive mode.

? Susanne highlights the importance of perceptions. “Our perception about what is happening to the DRIVERS can shift, determining whether our brain interprets them to be safe or under threat. This interpretation is designed to drive our behaviour towards safety and away from danger. It is the basis of whether we engage or disengage.”

? Find the book here:

This infographic comes from a report by Unum. The eagle-eyed will notice that it has 8 factors since it lists voice and choice separately (it’s an earlier version of the model).

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What really matters for employee engagement?

What really matters for employee engagement? What does the research say…?

? Here are five keys, based on WTW research into what engaging managers actually do:

? Really know the people who work for you – understand their experiences, motivations and interests

? Have an interest in helping people learn to do new things in new and better ways (this isn’t about formal training, it’s about a coaching mindset and encouragement)

? Inspire people; not through slogans and posters on the wall, but in practical ways that provide a sense of purpose (e.g. customer interaction and feedback)

? Involve people through building line of sight and business literacy, and by providing access to fresh information (transparency) and by being inclusive

? Recognise people’s contribution: a “Sincere Well-Informed Timely Thank You” is a powerful thing (but many managers struggle with this).

? The list comes from the book “Closing the Engagement Gap: How Great Companies Unlock Employee Potential for Superior Results” by Julie Gebauer and Don Lowman.

? Julie leads the Heath, Wealth, and Careers team at WTW. You can learn more about this and other research we’ve done on employee engagement here:

? The best managers in my experience do all these things and more. What would you add to the list?

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“Can and Can’t, Will and Won’t.”

“Can and Can’t, Will and Won’t.”

In this article Daniel Stillman summarises a 2×2 of employee motivation and technical ability that comes from Danny Meyer (founder chairman of Union Square Hospitality Group and author of “Setting the Table”).

It’s based on an interview, which you can watch here:

The conversation is really around how you can scale culture by rewarding the right behaviours and not tolerating the wrong ones.

When it comes to this framework, each quadrant has its own actions.

For people who:
✔ Can & Will – you need to recognise and celebrate them
✔ Can’t but Will – you need to coach, and have some patience
✔ Can’t & Won’t – you need an early intervention
✔ Can but Won’t – you need a broader discussion.

? Danny Meyer talks about using the framework as a mirror (literally, in fact) for employees to reflect on their position. There’s a hospitality-focus to the approach, as in engaging people with great “hospitality attitude”.

I’m always interested in how tools like this can “fit” with different sectors and strategies. Does this approach resonate with you at all….?

The link to Daniel’s article is here:

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What really matters for wellbeing and, in particular, for sparking improvement actions?

What really matters for wellbeing and, in particular, for sparking improvement actions?

? Our research points to the importance of social connection.

The article (linked below) is a great summary by my colleagues Natalia and Steve. It focuses on the connections between wellbeing dimensions and explores what really matters for taking action.

? We define the ideal state of wellbeing as one “where the employee is physically thriving, financially secure, emotionally balanced and socially connected.”

? When you look at the links between those 4 dimensions, it’s clear that employees with high levels of wellbeing in one area tend to report high levels of wellbeing in the others.

✔ An effective way to improve wellbeing in any dimension is to take targeted actions in that specific area.

? But when employees combine actions in multiple areas, the benefits (in terms of wellbeing improvements) are larger still.

? In fact, employees who take actions in all wellbeing areas are three times more likely to be thriving (i.e., achieving high wellbeing levels in all dimensions) than those who take no actions.

⚙ But what makes employees more likely to take actions? The analysis finds that levels of social wellbeing are a key catalyst to encouraging employees to take actions.

? As the figure here shows, employees who are “socially connected” are more likely to take action to improve their wellbeing in all dimensions.

A useful reminder of how important the social element is for sparking behaviour change.

Read the article here:

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How’s your Emotional Energy and how charged are your Moral Batteries?

How’s your Emotional Energy and how charged are your Moral Batteries?

Emotions in the workplace is a hot topic. However, a lot of stuff on LinkedIn and in general focuses on the individual. As a social scientist by background I like how this paper draws on concepts from sociology as well.

=> “People are inherently social–emotional and embedded within organizations and institutions.”

The paper highlights the importance of:

=> Collective emotions: common feelings as a result of shared experiences.

=> Emotional energy, which operates as a continuum ranging from ”good-self feelings’ to ‘negative self-feelings’.

=> Moral batteries: “positive and negative emotions which motivate action away from an unattractive state and towards an attractive one.”

=> Emotional capital: resources that shape behavioural dispositions that may be seen as desirable or undesirable within a social group.

Here’s to more work on understanding and improving situational mechanisms and social bonds.

And here’s the link to the paper:

Citation: Zhang, R., Voronov, M., Toubiana, M., Vince, R. and Hudson, B.A. (2023), Beyond the Feeling Individual: Insights from Sociology on Emotions and Embeddedness. J. Manage. Stud..

** I associate “moral batteries” with work on social movements, and prefer this definition from James Jasper: “Pairs of emotions, one positive and the other negative, which draw people toward one pole as they repel them from the other” e.g. pride and shame.

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What does it take to build a High-Performance Employee Experience?

What does it take to build a High-Performance Employee Experience?

This is our HPEX “blueprint” that’s based on a lot of research we’ve done.

=> There are 4 key areas for EX: Purpose, People, Work, and Total Rewards.

=> There are some aspects of these that are foundational. I often call them “brilliant basics”. These include having a supportive boss and understanding how your work fits in to the bigger picture.

=> Then there are areas where good companies emphasise an advantage over the pack. What’s interesting is that they mostly relate to inclusion and involvement. (This is one reason why I write a lot about these topics.)

=> And finally there are aspects where top companies stand out, including drive and inspiration, growth and trust.

We measure EX this way and provide organisations with a scorecard that’s aligned to their ambition.

We also design, prototype and implement solutions that spark behaviour change and create lasting impact.

=> One approach that’s very powerful for this is digital, personalised communication, which our Embark software delivers.

You can learn more about our research and approach here: or you can just contact me.

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How do you move from “mouthset” to “mindset”?

From simply adopting the language of change to transforming the way you do things?

It’s a terrific question and I like the idea of “mouthset” – especially as you think about some of the big challenges ahead. Lots of organisations feel stuck there.

This article by Emma Blomkamp, Thea Snow and Ingrid Burkett argues:

=> First, there is an unsettling
=> Second, there is a breakdown
=> Third, there is a reconciling & realignment.

The specific focus in the article is co-design, but the question applies more broadly for sure.

From the Griffith Centre for Systems Innovation, the article is here:

I think it aligns nicely with William Bridges’ Transition Model, which I’ve always liked: Endings, Neutral Zone, New Beginnings.

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What really matters for Transformation?

The iceberg model.

I associate this iceberg model with Peter Senge. It shows the different levels of a system, with most hidden far below the surface.

=> Events are visible; they might be a crisis or a success (both can be fleeting)
=> Patterns are trends and behaviours that emerge over time and are more consistent
=> Structures are rules and policies that shape patterns and events
=> Mental models are beliefs and values; they’re the deepest level and the most powerful.

The point is a simple one, that if we operate based mainly on what is visible (the event level), then we are only in a position to react.

You can anticipate patterns. You can design structures. But in order to transform systems, you need to understand the mental models that underlie structures. You need to change mindsets.

With transformation being such a focus for leaders in so many industries, we’re doing lots of work exploring mindsets and identifying the moments that matter for shaping them. If you’re interested in seeing an example, you can listen to a great discussion with my colleague Marisa Hall (Co-Head of our Thinking Ahead Institute) here:

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There are many iceberg pictures, this one comes from the excellent Donella Meadows website:

* I’m not sure Peter Senge uses an iceberg though. The Fifth Discipline uses lots pyramids.

What’s required of leaders to really make change stick?

Here’s some of our research:

=> Know what success looks like and tell the story
=> Communicate as many specifics as possible, acknowledging what is not yet known
=> Display empathy, self-awareness and transparency in communications
=> Take initiative for communicating over and above the core corporate messaging.

=> Build communities by finding opportunities to involve employees
=> Generate energy around the change and model the future state by “walking the talk”
=> Stay visible and accessible during difficult periods [** This can be a tough one]
=> Encourage two-way dialogue and respond proactively to feedback received.

=> Identify and address resistance and barriers to change
=> Ensure a communication and/or change management plan is in place
=> Provide the tools and resources required
=> Create opportunities to learn new skills needed in future state.

=> Use authenticity to inspire confidence and respect from employees
=> Seek input from others to address unanswered questions from employees
=> Ensure people can speak up and create psychological safety
=> Evaluate impact of own actions on others and adjust behaviour or communication style as appropriate.

Read more about our research and our approach to change leadership here:


How do leaders’ emotions affect employee engagement?

Here’s some new research looking at this question (based on an experience sampling method).

=> “Leaders’ emotional expressions are not just fleeting moments; they may set the tone for the entire workday of employees.”

=> “Leaders’ total amount of positive emotions, such as happiness, excitement and satisfaction, promote employees’ work engagement, as they can enhance positivity on that day.”

=> “Similarly, leaders’ total amount of negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety and anger, can decrease employees’ work engagement on that day, by eliciting more negative feelings in them.”

The authors explain their findings in terms of “Emotion-as-Social-Information (EASI) Theory”.

They suggest:
– Leaders need to enhance their emotional intelligence (EQ)
– Leaders should recognise the power of maintaining consistent (observable) positive emotions in the workplace
– Employees should be aware that their emotions can be influenced by those of their leaders.

=> “When dealing with a volatile leader, maintaining a certain emotional distance might be a wise strategy to safeguard their own emotional well-being at work”.

Yes, you can certainly imagine times when that’s true!

Emotions in the workplace is a hot topic and this is an interesting take on how observed emotions can impact on teams and engagement.

Here’s the link to the article:

The full paper is here: Sun, J., Wayne, S. J., & Liu, Y. (2022). The Roller Coaster of Leader Affect: An Investigation of Observed Leader Affect Variability and Engagement. Journal of Management, 48(5), 1188–1213.

The Emotion Wheel image shown here is from:

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