Brett Simpson was Group CEO and Executive Director of Low & Bonar plc and is currently CEO designate for Fenner plc. Low & Bonar (now part of Freudenberg Performance Materials) produce advanced, high-performance materials from polymer-based yarns and fibres. Fenner plc (now part of Michelin) is a leading British-based manufacturer of industrial belting and other polymer-based products. It was listed on the London Stock Exchange and was a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.
In this interview, Brett highlights the critical importance of trust as a foundation for leadership and the ultimate success of an organisation.
On the importance of trust:
‘Trust is absolutely foundational for any relationship and I back my own judgement to give trust as quickly as possible which helps to move to action quickly. The downside of this is that any material breach is very difficult to recover from. This demonstrates the power and importance of trust. Trust allows me to empower people across all aspects of life, not just business.’
On building a high trust culture:
‘Trust allows us to leave people to make difficult decisions based upon complex data. As an example, if we had trusted our politicians to make the right decisions then perhaps we would not have experienced the extreme reactions to the political process such as we see in the US or to Brexit here in the UK. Operating in a global environment also raises awareness on how different cultures value trust. North America tends to place trust in a contractual oriented way, whereas Asian cultures tend to place trust in an individual. Therefore trust can, in some cases, be considered a more valuable investment than an enforceable, legal contract and that is why it is important to know your environment and modify accordingly.’
It all starts with Trust:
‘I have five mantras for business which are trust, teamwork, candour, challenge and accountability and it all starts with trust. Without trust the other four mantras cannot be established, so it is critical that you value trust as a foundation. I am convinced of this from having experienced that trust ultimately generated better results, a better return and a better outcome.
‘Working in a trusted environment allows people to be more relaxed, have more fun, deal with less politics and take a lot of satisfaction out of the outcomes. I have talked about internal situations but you can take that and apply it to any situation you want really. For example, the organisation’s relationship with the marketplace and the trust that is established with customers. If you can build trust, and be relied upon you can have open and challenging discussions that lead to a win-win and long-term sustainable relationship with your customers.’
The Nine Habits of Trust:
Brett’s experience brings out that giving trust takes an initial leap of faith but then it has to be earned. Trust is built through integrity, consistency of purpose and open communication. Brett commented that some leaders may feel that people should be protected from ‘bad news’. However, he has found that people prefer to know the truth, whether good news or bad. Respecting them by telling them the truth helps build credibility and trust. This aligns with habit No. 4 being honest and habit No. 5, being open. This level of openness and honesty can be challenging for some. That is why it is important to develop habit No. 8, being brave. Trust has to start somewhere. It involves a leap of faith on behalf of the leader.
Our thanks to Brett for his time and for allowing us to share his insights from the interview.
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