Do You Lead a High Trust Organisation?

Trust in an organisation is the glue that holds the thing together.

The better the level of trust, the stronger the relationships are, the higher the productivity of the team, and the more successful the organisation is.

Dennis and Michelle Reina are pioneering, preeminent experts on building and rebuilding trust to drive business results. They believe that trust begins with you, and they share many tools, tips, and ideas in their consulting work, blog, and website. They have also determined that there are specific characteristics of high trust and low trust organisations.

Characteristics of a high trust organisation are these:

  • Leaders serve their stakeholders and are positive role models.
  • There is a high level of accountability to and support for stakeholders.
  • There is a general feeling of "one team" or "one family."
  • Ownership of the organisation and what it does builds through active engagement and empowerment of staff.
  • There is a strong focus on frontline staff needs.
  • Success is celebrated inclusively and consistently, with all contributors sharing in rewards.
  • Learning is encouraged, as is experimentation and innovation.
  • Mistakes are learning opportunities.
  • Healthy risk-taking is encouraged, and everyone’s focus is on a cycle of continuous improvement.
  • A collaborative approach to information and ideas is organisation norm.
  • Sharing constructive feedback is another norm.
  • Taking action related to that input is practised regularly and consistently.
  • There is a consistent organisational approach to gauging staff performance and opinions, and decisive responses result from that feedback.
  • The organisation recognises and promotes talent.

By contrast, the characteristics of a low trust organisation are these:

  • Managers employ a top-down, rigid approach to hierarchy.
  • Those managers are status-orientated and use, or try to use, position power.
  • There will be a sense of "Them and Us," and a widespread belief that authority is best not challenged.
  • Managers will be remote from the front line and, when present, will be seen as spying, not supporting.
  • Leaders will take credit for successful performance, rather than sharing this appropriately.
  • They will also take available rewards, whether in "perks" or otherwise.
  • They will often, quite shamelessly, be self-serving in their pursuit of position, or power, or recognition.
  • Managers will punish mistakes, mete out blame, and scapegoat others to avoid responsibility.
  • Managers will also be risk-averse, and take a defensive position when uncertain of their ground.
  • A result of this behaviour is hiding problems and issues, a reduction in learning, and retention of the status quo, which inhibits ongoing improvement.
  • This management approach leads to limited sharing of ideas and information, or even of sharing potential plans for growth.
  • "Not rocking the boat" is a favoured option for staff.
  • Feedback is not encouraged, and conversations take a round-about fashion, rather than direct.
  • That way it is easier to avoid offence or to raise difficult questions.
  • Staff opinions are not valued, and any given receive limited follow-through.
  • Talent might be either seen as a threat or an opportunity to promote self-interests.
  • Either way, talented staff are controlled, rather than liberated.

By comparison, which way do you lead?

What actions could you take to develop a more high trust organisation? What help do you need to do that?

Dennis and Michelle Reina suggest that building trust is the most difficult of leadership skills to acquire. However, once mastered, you will demonstrate greater confidence as a leader, manage change more effectively, build better relationships, and unlock more significant potential.

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