More than a decade ago, I wrote my first blog. It was a paean to my son, a Green Beret for 17 years. The post focused on the importance of trust as the basis for the success of the Special Forces. They are all small teams of extremely competent members that are totally dedicated to a particular mission.
Fast forward to 2019. Trust is the latest buzzword in the leadership lexicon. It is used constantly, and now is the subject of studies by McKinsey and Deloitte. Beware when that happens. You know that trust is now a marketing tool rather than a value. Whenever a philosophical concept is adapted by consulting firms and universities two truths will emerge: 1) the concept is already passé; and, 2) the consulting firm or university has found a way to monetize it. Expect to see numerous offerings for workshops on “Trust” and certification programs for your company to become accredited as “Trustworthy”.
America has always excelled at advertising. Unfortunately, we tend to substitute PR campaigns for substantive change. The Personnel Department becomes Human Resources, while the focus remains on compliance rather than professional development. The War Department becomes the Defense Department. Coal becomes clean…
The same applies to trust. Today we focus on trust as it applies to Facebook, Google, Walmart, the Fossil Fuel Industry, Wells Fargo (and other Financial Institutions), Apple, the Legal Industry, Health Insurance, etc. When trust in these organizations is questioned, the response is a major media campaign to convince us that they have seen the error of their ways and are now (once again) worthy of our trust – and our business. This is all entertainment, and absolutely without merit. My mother advised my four sisters, “When a man says, ’trust me’; Don’t.”
While I am very supportive of a focus on trust, I am highly skeptical when it is commercialized to sell more product. The current studies are about external trust. They are about how your brand is perceived as trustworthy. This is pure public relations and has nothing to do with the added value of trust.
Trust, as an organizational strength, is internal. This is important because people operating in an atmosphere of trust actually have an opportunity to contribute to that organization at their very highest level of ability.
They are encouraged to explore new and innovative applications and approaches. Instead of protecting and defending their efforts, they can prioritize their efforts. Ego is left at the door, and the success of the team is the primary goal. Energy is liberated. Frustration is minimized. Productivity cannot help but increase.
I began this writing by mentioning the Special Forces. They achieve the absolutely impossible, and we seldom hear of their feats. There are two essential components to their astounding success: 1) They never have to waste time, attention, or energy worrying about support from their team. They trust that everyone has everyone else’s back, and 2) They are totally focused on the personal and professional development of every single team member.
Without those fundamental assumptions, they could never operate successfully in the hostile environments that constitute their everyday world.
In the Teamwork & Trust workshops we facilitate at ExecuVision International, our focus is on the various levels of trust within the organization. We want to know where trust is strong, and where it is failing. By changing that dynamic internally, we know that we never have to worry about external relations. And by assuring that every team member is supported in developing to their very highest level of competence, we assure that the organization remains relevant in a dynamic, volatile, and rapidly changing environment.