Superannuation executives need to let go of what has previously worked and move on, if they want to continue to build trust with their employees, said Kamal Sarma, chief executive of Rezilium.

Drawing on the analogy of what you could do with your body when you were 20, in terms of what you ate, drank and how much exercise was done, Sarma pointed out the same could not be done with your body at 30 years old. Similarly, how executives worked today is not the same as it was 10 years ago as they, the organisations and the wider environment have changed.

“Most people struggle to disconnect, especially when it’s served them well,” he said to delegates at the Fund Executive Association Ltd (FEAL) annual conference.

“Today’s theme is really thinking about trust from that perspective, but also how do you manage change? When you are going from one s-curve to the next, when you are about to jump off and you are about to take the organisation to the next level, people have to trust you. True or false?”

However, trust between employees and the leadership is far from prevalent.

Across businesses, only 51 per cent of employees have trust and confidence in their senior management, while 36 per cent of employees believe their leaders act with integrity and honesty.

Meanwhile, 76 per cent say they have observed senior management engage in unethical or illegal behaviour.

Eight ‘C’s to help build trust

According to Sarma, if handled correctly, eight areas could help executives to build trust in their organisation. These were credibility, consistency, character, connection, crisis, clarity, community, and congruency.

Advice he gave on how to recover trust was to improve feedback, which was dependent on others feeling appreciated and lacking a fear of retribution, and asking for help when it was needed.

“Leaders set the standards on how they create a feedback culture. Since my kids have been four or five years old I’ve been sitting down with them and asking them for feedback, and it’s been brilliant. They’ve told me stuff I would never have picked up.”

He added that in the past century the focus was on motivation, but this needed to shift to inspiration to achieve better outcomes.

His rationale was that motivation came from external factors driven by fear, such as the need to gain wealth or achieve, and had led to preserve outcomes, exemplified by Exxon.

“It’s like a shark, and unfortunately in financial services a lot of people have got this shark. The shark is behind them and they are swimming as far away from it as they can. And the shark is ‘I won’t have enough,’ ‘I’m not good enough,’ ‘I need to be more’. They swim so far away from the shark that one day it can no longer get them, but guess what, they can’t let go.

“And unfortunately if you can’t let go you stay in this place of scarcity. So how do you let go of this? You have to shift the energy from motivation to inspiration.”

In contrast, inspiration came from internal factors of wanting to help others, with Sarma adding industry super funds had a golden opportunity to further pursue this because of their ethos of profit-to-members.

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