A man who trusts nobody is apt to be the kind of man nobody trusts. -Harold MacMillan
I have a fairly straightforward mind but this whole issue of trust, especially inside an organisation, has me confused. Every time I work with a senior team on a strategy execution or leadership team alignment assignment, at some point the issue of “trust” comes up and normally a heated discussion follows.
- “We don’t trust them and we definitely don’t trust their numbers.”
- “You can’t trust that department. They only care about going home at 5 pm.”
- “I don’t trust that they will take this assignment as seriously as we need them to.”
- “I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him!”
If I believed all this it would be easy to form the opinion that nobody trusts anyone and that lack of trust is another “corporate cancer”, akin to lack of accountability or greed in investment banking.
Let me share a few observations on the subject of trust, because I believe all this “lack of trust” rhetoric is mostly nonsense and actually a smoke screen for a much larger, and more debilitating issue.
Did you know that most of us in the modern world trust total strangers with our lives, and the lives of our loved ones many times a day! When you walk across an intersection on the green light you trust that the driver in the oncoming car will respect the red light and stop. When you are driving to work or on vacation with all the family, you trust the other drivers will stop at the intersection. When you purchase something with a credit card you trust that the shopkeeper is not ripping off your card number for unauthorised purchases. And a thousand other little events in the day go by unnoticed where we trust total strangers with our wellbeing, and the lives of our loved ones. Yet we don’t trust the people we know and work with every day?
Give me a break! It’s not about trust, at least not in the definition we all understand.
|trust (trst) n.
1. Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing.
2. Custody; care.
3. Something committed into the care of another; charge.
4.a. The condition and resulting obligation of having confidence placed in one: violated a public trust.
4.b. One in which confidence is placed.
5. Reliance on something in the future; hope.
What’s really happening within a leadership team or department where “TRUST” is such a big concern?
In my experience, most (99.9%) of the people at work are trying to do a good job. And only the rare “corporate anarchist” comes to work with the conscious intention of making mistakes. Yet mistakes happen, deadlines are missed, numbers are incorrect, people don’t return calls on time, emails go unanswered, people get upset and say unfortunate things to or about each other. And after one or two such instances, we lose trust.
If, in the majority of these instances where the issue of trust comes up, we were to do a Root Cause assessment, at some point in the chain of events uncovered we would likely find two root causes: a “broken” process or incomplete alignment around a common objective.
Here’s a process cause: The steps for generating monthly figures is so cumbersome that lack of time, departmental hand-offs and other human issues contribute to incorrect assessments. Deadlines are often missed because a process step is missing or so cumbersome that it is almost impossible to comply.
Here’s a poor communication cause: In many cases we, the individual asking for the deadline, didn’t communicate the importance of the deadline, or even set a deadline in the first place. How many times have you heard someone say: “I need that right away?” versus “Can you give me a commitment to have those numbers in my hand by 3pm?” Which is most likely to get an accurate response?
There are business processes and also human communication processes that are incomplete or broken. And it’s the accountability of leadership to recognise these issues and root them out, not just assume lack of trust.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. -Steve Jobs
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress