August 1998 / Special Feature : An Issue Of Trust
Trust In Whom
by Peter Block
Emergency Room Physician
Air Traffic Controller
Eight Organizational Strategies That Build Trust
If organizational leaders want people throughout the organization to work effectively in teams, take risks, speak up, be open to new ideas, support change efforts, share information, focus on quality and customer serviceand follow through on commitments, they must attend to the infrastructure which shapes the work culture. People will behave in these ways only if they choose to do sonot because they are forced. Such intrinsic motivation comes only when people feel trusted and when they trust the organization. Here are eight powerful ways leaders can build trust throughout the organization.
1. Define the organizations values behaviorallyso that people share a common understanding of what concepts like quality, trust, innovation and teamwork mean.
For example, one organization defines trust as, We will tell the truth. Use these definitions to guide decision making throughout the organizationespecially at senior levels.
2. Align policies, practices,
systems and structures with the positive intent of the vision, mission and
values of the organization.
3. Consider deleting or changing any policy, practice, system or structure that makes negative assumptions about the intentions of people.
When problems develop, and there is evidence that negative intentions are present, deal with those circumstances on a case-by-case basisnot as a systemic pattern.
4. Build, support and encourage both technical and human relations competence throughout the organization.
Such efforts tell employees they are valued and valuable. With greater skills come increased personal confidence and a more positive attitude toward changes that might affect ones role, responsibilities or employment. In trust-based workplaces, interpersonal skills are as equally important as technical skillsespecially among those in leadership positions. The most useful are listening, giving and receiving performance feedback, talking about tough issues, handling conflict and disagreement, consensus based decision making and effective participation in meetings.
5. Expect and require all those in management or supervisory roles to be competent in the skills listed above and to actively model the organizations values.
The recruitment, hiring, promotion, training and development, evaluation and compensation of those in leadership roles should reinforce these skills and fundamental beliefs. Employees will not willingly adopt these behavior patterns unless they see their leaders acting in these ways. When leaders obviously do not model the expectation, they sow the seeds of cynicism, confusion and mistrust.
6. Establish positive work
group norms that support the regular exchange of performance feedback among
7. Address performance problems directly with the intent of building the competence of the individual(s) involved.
When leaders are committed to building the competence of those they support in the organization, they directly address performance problems of employees. They help individuals understand the impact of their behavioron others, on systems, on the work and offer support, ideas or resources for how to correct the problems. They do not wait to see if the problem will correct itself or assume that the employee cant handle it.
8. Assist people who will not
or cannot perform at an acceptable level in finding work elsewhere in the
organization or in leaving the organization in ways that do not diminish