Self-Determined Employees Rebuild Trust

image courtesy of

In the light of what seems to be a continuous and global stream of corporate breaches of customer trust, without naming the obvious, marketing and public relations divisions within major corporations are working frantically on ways to rebuild trust. But they might be missing the most important element.

Typically, they will be working on ways to communicate how they (the organisation) have (1) Admitted any breach of trust; (2) Taken ownership and accountability for the breach of trust; and (3) Communicating their genuine and transparent actions to earn back trust.

Customer Obsession in Action

While these three steps are most certainly important to the process of successfully rebuilding trust, they are not enough.

What’s also required is a fundamental commitment, demonstrated through intention, words and actions, that making life better for customers is the driving purpose of any organisation.

A subset of this however is often overlooked.

Employee Obsession in Action

To create amazing customer experiences to live up to this organisational intention to make life better for customers, organisational leaders need to stop being business leaders and start being life leaders.

I’m not trying to rebrand any of the other leadership approaches here. In fact, I don’t care what you call leadership, whether it’s transformational leadership, authentic leadership, trust-based leadership… the label isn’t important.

What’s important is the realisation that if you’re a leader in a company, it’s a privilege not just a role.

The employee experience directly impacts the customer experience and with research suggesting that up to 75% of the workforce being disengaged from their work, this shift in the mindset of what leadership really is all about is long overdue.

A Self-Determined Workforce

What’s needed, as a part of any strategy to rebuild corporate trust, is to develop a Self-Determined workforce.

Research by Deci and Ryan 1along with hundreds of other academics and practitioners globally, have identified three specific elements that leaders need to develop in their people.

(1) Autonomy: this is an employee’s sense of personal control over what they do, how they do it, the value they create and how what they do is aligned with their personal values.

(2) Competence: this is an employee’s sense of their ability to achieve in their jobs, that they have the capacity and resources to be successful.

(3) Relatedness: this is an employee’s sense of how supportive, trusting and meaningful their relationships are in the workplace.

When these three elements exist, an employee is working from an intrinsic motivation which the research highlights is much more powerful than being extrinsically motivated (for example, only working for pay or the fear of losing their job).

This is why any leader within a company needs to have the mindset of being a ‘life’ leader.

Leaders need to be asking and seeking answers to the question ‘How can I make life better for those I am responsible for?’

While external stuff like bean bags, coffee machines, or a company cafeteria might be of value and improve the employee experience, evidence shows, finding ways to increase employees’ sense of autonomy, competence and relatedness will reap much better results.

  1. Edward Deci and Richard Ryan – Self-Determination Theory
Share this article

2 Responses

  1. David loved this article, I have been following your customer service 3 min sessions for some time and I think they are great, but this one really hit home for me.
    thanks and keep up the good work

    1. Thanks Michelle. Glad you’re enjoying and gaining value from the Building Customer Trust Audio Series. Working on our sense of self-determination in our professional and personal life is certainly one of the keys to unlocking our potential to flourish. Thanks for joining the conversation Michelle. Warmly, David

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Articles & Research from David Penglase

Lead like Nordic Countries to Boost Well-being and Success

Hold yourself accountable for fostering trust, mutual respect, and support in your own teams and between individual team members, and there’s a big chance you’re going to positively impact the well-being of your individual and collective team members … oh, and at the same time, science also tells us, you’ll more than likely get a boost to your own sense of life satisfaction and well-being too.

Read More »

Are You Trustworthy

There’s a lot going on in any relationship you have that cause people to determine if you are trustworthy. Your attributes are just one of these elements.

Read More »