According to Christina Del Villar, a Silicon Valley-based marketing consultant who has 25 years of experience with Fortune 100 companies and start-ups, trust and influence are particularly critical at every level of a company’s hierarchy – not just its C-suite.
Here, she explains why that is and offers her tips for building a company culture and personal work ethic that incorporate both.
‘If people don’t trust you, you won’t be able to drive necessary change to stay on task for the overall corporate goals’
– CHRISTINA DEL VILLAR
Why are trust and influence important in a company?
No matter where you sit in a company, you need to build the trust and gain the influence required to help drive a corporate strategy and meet goals. For the company’s leaders to be successful in achieving their goals – whether they are revenue targets, an investment or an exit strategy – they need to align everyone in the company and move together in the same direction.
There needs to be coordination and collaboration. There will be resource and budget constraints. There will be trade-offs and prioritisation. The more influence and trust an individual has within their organisation, the easier it will be for them to secure what they will need to be successful in their role from others across the company.
I have never seen an organisation succeed unless they are aligned and collaborating. You can’t do it alone.
Are trust and influence especially important during a pandemic?
I think this is true regardless of the economic situation. However, having the ability to pivot is critical. And if you’ve built trust and influence with your stakeholders, pivoting is easier.
I read about a bakery early on in the pandemic. The owner lost 100pc of her customers overnight. She initially furloughed her 20 employees, then came up with the idea of shipping her uncooked products frozen. Within a month she had multiplied her business tenfold. She got rid of her storefront, moved into a bigger kitchen and was up to 100 employees at last count.
Her employees believed in her, her customers loved her, her investors bought into the change and helped her pivot. You need to convince people that a pivot is necessary and that this is the way to go. If people don’t trust you, you won’t be able to drive necessary change to stay on task for the overall corporate goals.
What are some of the initial steps individuals should take to improve trust levels in their company?
The key thing to remember is to always know what the overall corporate goals are, what the go-to-market strategy is and that you are aligned with those. You need to understand what is truly essential about your role. Stop doing things that are not helping you, your organisation and the company reach its goals.
I always ask my team when they come to me with an idea or request: how will this help us reach our goals? To take that a step further, the leadership at companies I work for know that I understand the goals and strategy. I’ve played my part by building trust and influence with them, so my team’s ideas are taken seriously and considered with the appropriate weight.
The other key component is to collaborate. Too often, teams and individuals get siloed. You are no longer working together towards a shared goal. You may be duplicating work efforts or something might already exist from another team that can be reworked or repositioned. Or maybe you can share responsibilities with others.
What can leaders do to help?
It is essential that leaders help keep everyone on track with clear edicts and goals. They must be transparent. If the goal is to IPO and in order to do this you need to increase both revenue and the number of new customers or accounts, then make sure it is clear that these two need to work hand in hand, as it will affect the go-to-market strategy.
Executives can help by continuing to emphasise the overall goals and not let ‘shiny objects’ deter that progress and momentum. They also need to give people the resources needed to make it happen.
Competing for resources is real. How will the budget be split between different teams and projects? Trust, influence and alignment come into play. While we are all driving towards one goal, we all have our own priorities. Product wants high engagement of the features they developed, engineering wants fewer bugs to fix, marketing wants quality leads and conversion to sales, sales wants a strong pipeline, execs want to hit their revenue target, and on and on.
We’re not all speaking the same language to get to the same end goal, so we need to think about how the results and data are articulated to these different audiences.
I once developed a new programme, a thought leadership campaign, and needed significant resources to pull it off. I shared three slides with executives: what the programme was and how it was aligned with our strategy; the revenue it would bring in; and how much budget I needed.
That was it. Because I had built up trust, it was easy for me to ask for and receive the resources. The CEO even said, “I don’t understand the programme, but I trust you.”