Engaged People are the Result of a Culture of Trust

This is part Two of Two on driving culture change through an organization. Review Part One

Most leaders today are looking for growth through innovation from an engaged workplace culture. And yet, most companies are struggling with the level of engagement and creativity that is truly needed.  So how do corporate cultures become truly engaged?  The answer is “Build trust.”

Do You Want Culture Change That Fosters High Trust? Why?

This is an essential question to answer.  Fostering trust takes time and intention. We can see how important it is in our personal lives.  In an organization, trust is about keeping your word and speaking honestly. This can feel very risky in an environment where people are belittled or punished for speaking up or saying “No” or “We can’t do that.” Culture change based on a foundation of trust means you believe your organization is a “living entity” and relationships drive success. If the primary belief and focus is to make money, then leaders feel it is their responsibility to demand performance from those they hire – ie, people are there to serve the bottom line and generally cannot be trusted to do that without a lot of carrots and a big stick.  “Demand” in a relationship doesn’t create trust. It does not leave people feeling “I am valued and I contribute.” (people feeling valued is an essential ingredient for innovation). Demand-based cultures are parental.  And this is an outdated mode of operating. In today’s global organizations with increasingly diverse workforces, learning how to drive collaborative leadership is the foundation of project success and speed.

At the same time, there are demands leaders must make to win a fiercely competitive era. If trust is high in the culture, then demand can be high too.  But if it’s all “demand” and no relationship-building, then external rewards and punishment become the only method to driver results, and trust diminishes. Today’s workforce disengagement shows the The Doom Loop situation that results from this thinking.

Any culture change must explore the question: “Do we want to foster greater trust between workers and management? Why?”  When you believe that your organization’s ability to make money and compete better is a direct RESULT of healthy relationships, it’s easy to see that building trust is paramount.

As is true with any relationship.

The first tool or principle of building trust is to use the power of positive intent. We gave an example of how one of our clients used this tool in last week’s blog.

3 Techniques for Culture Change Through Giving and Receiving Trust

Building trust WILL increase workplace engagement, creativity, and performance. Try these 3 tips: 

1) Skill. Does the person have the skill to execute what you’re asking? This is the first rule of fostering more empowerment and trust is “Don’t allow people to sink. Teach them to swim.” Better to take on fewer projects within a quarter and allow the teams to meet their agreements within promised time frames. The frantic “shell game” that most companies go through in re-prioritizing weekly and setting impossible goals fosters mistrust. Working within your capabilities builds a widespread sense of accomplishment and trust capital.

2) Accountability.  Will the person do what they say they’ll do? How will you decide? Can you provide feedback without blame or judgment? (ie, positive intent). Having clear agreements, milestones and behavioral expectations is crucial to building trust. In today’s workplaces there is far too much guesswork, interpretation, and appeasement on the part of managers. Everyone is too busy, and as a result mature, honest conversations that feel or look like conflict are either avoided or dropped harshly without context. A good leader will call people out when they’ve not kept their word, discuss the obstacles that led to the breakdown or missed deadline, help them problem-solve to remove obstacles, and most importantly – make new agreements.

3) Business Relevance. Not everyone should have a say in everything. (In spite of a widespread Gen Y entitlement belief!) When you are building a trust-based culture, it is important to be open and transparent about decision rights so people can visibly see the effort you’re making to be fair and smart. Give a longer trust-leash to people who can and will earn trustworthiness in return. Separate trust in character from trust in performance. The former is about good hiring. The latter is about good management.

If this all seems too complex, you take one simple step to build more trust:

Ask the question several times a day, before you act: “Is what I’m doing right now likely to build more trust among my team/organization … or erode trust?”

How will you know the answer?

Hint: Ask your people.

Lisa Jackson and Gerry Schmidt are corporate culture experts with a proven method to teach leaders how to evolve their corporate cultures to perform better, innovate faster, and show they truly care about people in an unprecedented era of rapid change and transformation.

Visit them on the web at www.CorporateCulturePros.com or follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/corporatecultur

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