August 1998 / Special Feature : An Issue Of Trust
Trust In Whom
by Peter Block
Emergency Room Physician
Air Traffic Controller
Furnishing Trust And Empowerment
As more and more businesses take steps to empower their employees, many lose sight of the important role trust plays in the empowerment process. Owners and managers want employee action and involvement; however, they often neglect to provide these same employees with adequate tools and information to help them achieve these objectives.
In his book, Principle-Centered Leadership, Stephen Covey writes, You cant have empowerment without first having trust. Covey goes on to say that owners and managers must first work on building trust in the workplace in order to achieve true empowerment. However, establishing trust in any environment is no easy task, and when it comes to the workplace, mistrust is often deeply embedded and difficult to overcome.
Mistrust in the employee/management relationship is a consequence
of a natural human tendency to be skeptical of that which we dont
understand. Because employees frequently have less information than management,
there is a tendency for them to mistrust individuals at the top and to speculate
(inaccurately) about managements intentions.
Changing the Flow
One of the initial improvements Caperton made involved
introducing a company-wide profit sharing plan. Acknowledging that an incentive
alone would not provide a complete solution, he also wanted to provide employees
with a lesson in business basics, as well as an understanding of the importance
of profit to everyone.
Caperton could see a change in employee behavior and attitudes
even before the end of the workshop. In one of the last sessions an employee
recounted a recent incident where one of the company power drills was missing
from the warehouse. Since the drill had been there when the day shift left
on the previous day, the day shift suspected that someone from the night
shift had taken it. The day shift workers got together at the end of their
shift and confronted the night shift about the missing drill. They pointed
out that the company would have to replace the drill and that the cost to
replace it would ultimately come out of everyones profit sharing.
The following morning the missing drill was back on the shelf in the warehouse.