24 Jan 2011

Leadership and a Trusting Culture

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In a previous blog, I mentioned that the main ingredient of cultural change is trust.  I would like to examine here how trust is built and nurtured.  Restoring or establishing trust starts and ends with the leadership. Trust must be built incrementally and must be clearly established before attempting any transformational change.

In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni has identified a lack of trust as one of the most common reasons why teamwork fails in an organization. Since teamwork is an essential ingredient for building a continuous improvement culture, it follows that leadership must understand that people will not work towards a common goal until they trust each other and their leadership.

W. Edwards Deming, thought leader in quality management, provides the essential elements for establishing this mutual trust in,  “14 Points for Management”, the basis for transformation.  One of these points, to create constancy of purpose is indispensable for developing trust.  Employees will often snicker at the first introduction of yet another improvement initiative,  the “program of the month”.  Trust must be built by showing that you “say what you mean and mean what you say.”

Deming also stressed the importance of creating trusting collaborative relationships with customers and vendors by warning us to “stop doing business by price tag alone”.  Most of his other points actually dealt with developing trust internally.  Leadership is about “facilitating”, that is, providing the resources, training and education, tools, and systems required to get the job done correctly.

Your role as a leader is to “drive out fear” and to eliminate goals, measurements, and rewards that divide rather than unite members of your organization.  By doing this, you start eliminating barriers and building bridges that enable trusting relationships to develop that make the transformation everyone’s job.

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