Creating And Sustaining A High-Trust Culture
As a leader, you set the tone, whether you lead a large or small team. Setting the tone means serving as a role model of trustworthiness and trust.
Nothing serves to harm an organization more than a failure of trust, which can raise its ugly head in many ways.
Leaders must realize that trust is earned, and that it flows both ways. You must earn the trust of your team, and the individual team members must earn your trust. This is a process that takes time and effort, especially on your part.
Once a high-trust culture is established, it becomes acceptable to make mistakes. Team members know they will not be punished for those mistakes because they are trusted.
It is up to you, the leader, to make sure your people learn from mistakes. However, the same applies to you. In a high-trust culture, you as leader must acknowledge errors and apologize sincerely for them.
Your team members will forgive the mistakes, which serve to make you only more human, engendering loyalty and admiration.
One critical precursor of a high-trust culture is creating an environment of accountability. You must hold all team members accountable, but, more importantly, they must hold each other accountable.
A high-trust culture exists when team members feel accountable to each other, not merely to you or their immediate supervisors.
If people stand out because they have shown repeatedly that they cannot be trusted, they become a cancer on the culture. Others start gossiping about them. Colleagues do not wish to work with them.
Morale can take a precipitous dive. All these negative repercussions can flow from the behavior of one person.
That person may be tremendously competent, but if his or her character is weak, it becomes transparent to everyone in your office. To maintain a high-trust culture, you must move these people out, as painful as it might be and as much of a paper you might need to create.
To perpetuate a high-trust culture, we must be cognizant of the fact that our people pay more attention to what we do than what we say. Two old clichés, “Talk is cheap” and “Actions speak louder than words,” apply in the workplace, regardless of the size of our team.
Those we lead are always examining our actions – do we “walk the talk” and consistently behave in a manner that mirrors our stated values? People do not judge us by our intentions – we can always claim to have honorable intentions. They judge us by our actions.
Moreover, our teammates pay more attention to who we are than what we do. They are consistently assessing our character as well as our competence.
As leaders, we must always be aware of how we are coming across to our teammates, to everybody in the office, both those we may supervise directly and those who report to others.
When we are striving to build a high-trust culture, every single person on our team becomes important.
They are all human beings, and they all have a craving to trust and be trusted by leadership.