From conversations about raising seed rounds to capital investments and executive bonuses, it seems that our perception of success (or failure) in business largely revolve around money.
And while it is true that a well-run company usually requires some funding and sound financial management, I would argue that there is something even more important to the sustained growth of any venture. It’s not something you can buy or sell, nor does it come pre-packaged on a shelf.
I’m talking about trust.
From Enron to Madoff, Americans are growing increasingly weary of the folks at the top. With stories of insider trading and fraud making headlines across the country, there is a growing desire for corporate accountability and transparency. Our nation is losing faith in corporate leaders, and it is our responsibility to create open and transparent cultures that promote accountability and honesty.
The truth of the matter is that employees need to know what’s going on in order to feel secure in their job and perform at their highest level. Staff concerns about the stability and the health of the company are a distraction that can inhibit productivity and negatively impact your bottom line.
Creating an environment of trust goes far beyond releasing quarterly reports. It requires a commitment to infusing transparency into all aspects and all levels of the business. Most importantly – it requires team coaching and open communication at all levels with a willingness on the part of management to hear constructive criticism.
“High trust is a dividend; when it goes up you’ll find that everything happens faster & cost goes down. It’s that predictable” – Stephen M. R. Covey
Although trust can take a long time to build, once we have achieved a state of trust, we often take it for granted. But the fact of the matter is that trust is at the core of the daily work activities that collectively make up company culture.
As Deborah Mills-Scofield explains in the Harvard Business Review, “Trust trumps everything. And everything flows from trust — learning, credibility, accountability, a sense of purpose and a mission that makes “work” bigger than oneself.” When it comes to trust, the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts.
For example, many startups have created cultures based around staff perks like a ‘no vacation policy vacation policy’, providing employees with top-of-the line equipment, offering flexible hours, and letting staff work from home. By offering these unique perks to staff, the company is sending staff the message ‘I trust you, and I trust your judgement when using these privileges’.
HubSpot recently released their long-awaited Culture Code – a presentation that sums up their nine key beliefs as an organization. What is so remarkable about this document is that HubSpot has placed trust at the centre of their organization. In place of binders full of company policies, HubSpot has created a simple three-word policy for nearly everything: use. good. judgement. From social media to travel to sick days, HubSpot understands that trust is at the centre of healthy company.
Trust is a two-way street. Not only is it essential that staff trust their management, but leaders need to be able to trust their employees and feel confident in their ability to move the company forward.
As Stephen M.R. Covey explains in his book, The Speed of Trust, trust is the great liberator of time and resources, and an essential condition for growth. He argues that “when trust goes up, speed will also go up and cost will go down”, and that “when trust goes down, speed will go down and costs will go up.” Covey explains that the speed at which you can grow your business is directly proportionate to the time that you invest in creating trusting relationships.
One of the most important lessons that I learned as a CEO was the importance of trusting your team.
As the leader of an organization (no matter what the size), your primary job is to communicate the vision; give your people the information, tools and resources to march toward it; then get out of the way. Not only will getting out of your staff’s way allow them to be as productive as possible, it will also allow you to focus on your responsibility to drive the company forward strategically.
The truth is plain and simple: if you want to grow your company, you need to have faith in your staff to get the job done – without you hovering around their desks. It is impossible to innovate while being bogged down in the daily minutia of your company. Trust allows you to remove yourself from the details and create the space to focus on long-term growth.
Trust is a natural human instinct, yet we tend to over-complicate it when we try to apply it to the business world. The best way to create a culture of trust is to begin by being open and honest with ourselves and those around us. By committing to being transparent in all our interactions, we will gradually create a culture of trust around us.
What will you do this week to build trust?
Image Source: FreshTracks