People Will Follow You When You Become a Trusted Leader

Can you imagine building a business that keeps growing even after you leave? What this means is that you have worked hard, and you’ve built a great business, and when you leave that business, you will be left with the freedom to do other things — while still reaping the rewards from your business’ success.

Most of us must build a business with residuals and passive income. That’s a fact I try to get my groups working on for their futures. It’s a reality that has become almost essential in our changing world. One of the best examples of someone who accomplished this great feat is Sue Dyer. Sue nurtured a high-trust environment in every organization where she worked. She’s the first woman to run a big trade association in the U.S. Her experience includes negotiating collective bargaining agreements and mediating disputes for 200 construction companies.

Sue Dyer has been doing this job for over 40 years — for over 48,000 executives and leaders worldwide. She’s brought in over $180 billion through more than 4,000 construction projects. Such an inspiration!

In addition to being the founder of OrgMetrics in Livermore, California, and the President of Sudyco TM LLC, Sue also wrote the book The Trusted Leader: Use the Partnering Approach to Become the Trusted Leader People.

With her models of collaboration, trust, integrity, and high performance, she’s helping other companies and leaders reach the same level of profitability and sustainability.

This article shares the principles that helped Sue Dyer be successful in business and government. Please listen to the podcast as Sue teaches you how to build a trust-based organization. Plus, you’ll discover how to keep your business alive after you’re gone.


The benefits of a high-trust organization

Before we get to Sue, let’s explain the importance of a high-trust organization.

In high-trust organizations, employees feel safe taking risks, expressing themselves freely, and innovating, Abbey points out in HBR. The more trust an organization has, the easier it is to accomplish tasks since people will collaborate and communicate more productively. This leads to better outcomes for everyone in the business.

High-trust companies, according to a Harvard Business Review study, have:

  • Stress reduced by 74%
  • More energy at work by 106%
  • 50% more productivity
  • A 13% drop in sick days
  • A 76% higher engagement level
  • An increase of 29% in satisfaction
  • Burnout is 40% lower in high-trust companies

Compared to high-trust companies, low-trust ones are often rife with office politics. If they don’t feel safe sharing, they’re more likely to keep information and resources to themselves. The result is slower, less effective decision-making.

Take a look at your company culture

Nothing is stopping you from changing your culture because, according to Sue, “it’s all in your policies, practices, and processes.” No matter if you’re an entrepreneur or a government, if you want to know what your company’s culture is, you’ve got to ask questions like:

  • Which policies do we have?
  • How do these policies support empowerment and trust?
  • Are practices just written down policies?
  • Which processes do we use?
  • How much do they empower people to make their own decisions?

Will this happen overnight? Of course not. This is especially true when you have a large organization. Nonetheless, if you’re patient and stay the course, it’ll be worth it. For example, Sue was nominated by a state government where she lives because she saved them a staggering $50 million on a project!

However, more important than the money she saved was her help to the state. And incredibly, Sue Dyer found that this massive effort energized and excited all employees who became fully engaged.

Trust starts with a mindset

The culture of trust starts with the leader’s mindset. Why? Often, leaders don’t know how to create trust, so we hit a roadblock. As a result, they’re creating a lot of fear, which drives all the trust away.

That’s like having your foot on the gas and on the brake simultaneously and wondering you we aren’t heading anywhere.

Leaders eventually assume their people aren’t doing what they want them to. They think they’re wrong or not hiring the right people. What they’re really doing, and it’s creating fear.

You can go forward once you let that fear and anxiety off, and as a result, you’ll pick up momentum. —Sue Dyer

Why collaboration, not fear = growth

When you have someone with a lot of power, which is what most organizations have, people vie for that power, leading to a lot of competition.

Why’s that a problem? There’s always going to be a rivalry between competitors. However, you’re interdependent in a business. In an interdependent system, having an adversarial mindset is a lose-lose situation.

We also see this rivalry-thinking in businesses — when leaders don’t own the power, and the power diffuses down into the organization — with everyone fighting for it. “This is how turf wars and clicks happen,” Sue tells us.

Instead, you should optimize globally. However, most people are just trying to make their own little local optimization. A trusted leader, though, helps their team see the whole picture. Sue says it’s about optimizing the whole business, so your company doesn’t do really well in one area and then do poorly in the rest.”

Sue calls this “the nozzle effect”

When you tie down a nozzle and focus it into a narrow spray, you get the same power, but now you have a lot of force. We do the same thing with our scorecard, measuring what the team does every month, from 1, poor, to 5, great. In addition, we have an algorithm that calculates a momentum score based on all those scores. It’s an excellent predictor of what will happen, so the team and leaders can then put their resources where they need them,” Sue explains.

Some people have thought that this type of leadership is “policing.” But as Sue Dyer explains it, “It’s just like when you’re driving down the freeway, and you get a speed warning showing you what your speed is.” As Sue tells it — when you see that speed warning, and you’re a little slow, you can speed up — and a little fast, you will slow down. Sue says, “It’s more just a measurement so the team can steer, but steering is often a problem for many businesses.”

And it’s SO true — it is very hard for a business to steer if they don’t have enough feedback. I loved how Sue explained responsibility using this very thought process. “It’s hard for leadership to steer without enough feedback.”

Keeping track of business performance

Many businesses don’t make any money. Income and cash flow are there, but money doesn’t drop to the bottom line. Sue says you’re not really making money, so that’s another barrier. “You’re just moving deck chairs on the Titanic, I guess,” she says. “You’re just moving money; you’re not really making money.”

It also takes discipline, says Sue. Take a look at your business, and you’ll see:

  • How much do you spend?
  • What can you afford?
  • What’s your profit?
  • How much margin will you make?

When you have been in your business or startup for at least a year, you should have a better feel for what is going on with your team, and Sue tells us that we shouldn’t be off by more than a few thousand dollars. Yet, most of us know that as an entrepreneur — everything is geared toward measuring revenue, and it seems most people count the money as your success — and nothing else. Sue Dyer says that is not the most important thing.

“Don’t just focus on your top line; you’ve got to stay in your lane and surround yourself with people who are on a higher level than you are, whether it’s wealth building, entrepreneurship, whatever it is to keep you accountable, inspire you, or help you change your mindset.” I appreciated this statement from Sue.

Creating a culture of trust and cooperation

What can you do to think and act like a trusted leader? Sue says that it’s all about the partnering approach, calling them our “values and mindset.” Sue mentioned that our intentions are how we all think about them.

The Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect, is a psychological phenomenon in which high expectations lead to improved performance in a given area and low expectations lead to worse. As Sue Dyer explains — “back in the day, the Pygmalion effect happened because of what the teachers believed about their students.”

The same goes for your business. As a result, Sue tells us about the ten partnering intentions and six partnering values. “A value is a bunch of beliefs, so it’s really important — your attitudes are shaped by your beliefs.”

We all know it’s difficult to see someone’s beliefs, but those beliefs drive everything they do, and you will notice the belief in what a person says and does and even in their attitude. Sue explains how “Those attitudes then turn into behaviors. To change a person’s behavior, you start with their values.”

To create a high-trust environment — trust is the core value.

Sue explains, “It’s really about being fair that makes trust work because conflict or distrust happens when we feel unfairly treated.”

Transparency is also important. This means being honest and open but also sharing good and bad stuff. That means you’re not afraid to share openly, and your people aren’t either. Imagine creating an environment where people are scared to speak up. You don’t know about big problems or big opportunities until it’s too late. Not only does this waste amazing people’s talent, but it also jeopardizes the business.

Respect is another value that Sue thinks is important. “Respect is a two-way street, but we’re cutting off too many people’s perspectives, abilities, and points of view. Sue suggests respecting others instead of judging them.

Get your business to last after you’re gone.

At some point, even if you love what you’ve built, you have to let go of the reins. In the podcast, Sue gives some great visuals about other pursuits a person may want for their future — like “pursuing other wealth-growing opportunities or enjoying the fruits of your labor.”

Sue decided ten years ago to get her business to produce for her, both now and into the future. For this to happen, Sue had to find a successor. That meant establishing a succession plan.

Entrepreneurs have trouble setting themselves up to have someone take over the reins of their company — because their company is their baby. It’s like when children grow up and leave the nest — it’s hard to let go. The only way to overcome this hurdle is to change your thoughts. “It’s thinking we instead of I — and it’s selling the team,” she explains.

Sue decided to start developing a team that she could mentor for years and be able to hand off the reins to.  It’s a hard thing to prepare a team to move into the future without you — and it takes quite a bit of time — they have to know what they are doing.

She mentored the team so they could operate without her. On average, it takes about five years to complete a project, so Sue had to start out far enough to start handing off projects instead of starting new ones.

Her final advice? “To make sure your succession works, you need to start at least five years before you want to leave.”

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Sora Shimazaki; Pexels; Thank you!

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