Culture eats strategy for breakfast, but the type of culture you want to build is probably the more important question. For me, the right culture has two main components: trust and empowerment, or put another way, enabling the person closest to a problem to make the decisions to resolve the problem. In this post I want to share our approach to culture of trust and what we have done to make it a reality in our daily life.
When you mention trust the first reaction you get from people is a long lecture on why you shouldn’t trust people. That’s not the trust I’m referring to. The trust that I’m talking about is to make sure people can trust their six basic needs, of any people working for any organization, are always available in the working environment. The list of those six needs is not intended to present priority, since different needs plays different priority for different people.
So, what are our needs that we expect to get at work? First, we all expect that there is an effective process in place to address performance concerns, and everyone will be treated fairly and equitably. Second, our compensation is fair. Third, that you can learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. Fourth, your colleagues are willing to listen to your crazy idea that you just had in the shower without fear of being laughed at or put down. Fifth, that we can speak honestly and respectfully without repercussions, and sixth, that everyone is treated and evaluated the same.
Trust that there is an effective process in place to address performance concerns: Talking is not enough here, you have to set up a process that will help people to realize it. We created a process where team members that have difficulties performing their accountabilities will get a note from the group that will explain why.
Trust that your compensation is fair: We follow a very simple logic. Our internal roles are compared to one of the leading salary survey boards. From there we work with our compensation team to ensure we are competitive with the market.
Trust that you can try and make mistakes: As long as there are continuous validations and affirmations, more and more people will understand that they can trust you and you’ll see boost in creativity.
Trust that you can come with crazy ideas and not be ridiculed: This is also referred to as psychological safety. Simply create a culture (starting with you) that flows with new and crazy ideas, then vet them seriously to find out if they are feasible. Don’t automatically kill ideas as you hear about them, even if you believe it is a complete waste of time. Remember it all start from YOU!
Trust you can speak honestly and respectfully without repercussions: If culture is forming based on leadership behavior, creating trust in this arena is perhaps the hardest one to form. This is because it is based on how leaders behave when they are being critiqued or when they are at their most vulnerable. If you want to create an environment that enables people to speak freely, you need to learn how to master your behavior, body language and facial expressions, or simply learn to understand that there are often different and conflicting ideas and opinions that can still live side by side. You need to show that you really do in fact listen and accept other people’s opinions. If you are unable to do this people will not only see you as hypocrite, but you will not hear different opinions or criticisms.
Trust that everyone is treated and evaluated the same: If you want to run team of professionals, they need to know that every individual in the team is going to be evaluated professionally, and treated the same. Once again, this is easy to say but hard to do. It means that you are going to impact your personal relationship with people, especially if you knew them before working together.