Trust Matters

31 05 2013

I wrote previously about the need to have a shared vision and trust within an organization in order to break down work silos. Clients that I have worked with generally understand the issues surrounding shared vision. Frankly, it’s not a hard concept to convey, both in terms of its importance and how to create and reinforce it.

Trust tends to be a little trickier. 

On its surface, it doesn’t seem like it should be. After all, we understand the concept, right? We have to believe that people we count on will do the right thing even if we’re not around to make sure of it. And I can think of hundreds of examples per day when I count on that for everything from being effective at my job to simply getting home safely. 

What I’ve found is that the interpretation of trust varies greatly depending on who you’re talking to, and that’s what makes the issue tricky. I have experienced environments where management says they trust their employees completely (as long as their employees show them everything they’ve done to make sure it’s correct). And I’ve experienced the opposite as well; people are trusted because they’re expected to be, no proof required. As a result of the differing interpretations, it’s hard for an organization to say whether they have it or not. I may say (and believe) I trust you while you experience no trust in the way I act. 

So how do we get there?

As with many things, going to the extremes is usually a recipe for failure. You’re either going to alienate your best talent, the ones who need a little freedom and leeway to be effective, or you’re going to leave your organization vulnerable to serious liability. 

My suggestion is to set expectations. Outline what trust means to you and acknowledge the gap between being tightly managed and having no management at all. Then communicate how you want your employees to work and solicit their feedback on an ongoing basis. 

At the end of the day, trust tends to be built, not given or taken.

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