This article was first published in TRUST MAGAZINE winter 2016
Most executives give little thought, if any, to how trust in action strengthens the performance of organizations. Trust is just not a priority for them. Why that is so remains a leadership puzzlement, especially when a growing body of evidence indicates that trust is key to success.
In one-on-one conversations leaders often admit that, in fact, they are not sure how to build trust. But such moments of candor are brief and generally followed by rationalizing that trust-building takes too much time anyway.
Whatever rationale is put forward to ignore trust; the fact remains trust is not just nice to have. It’s the center piece that determines how individuals behave and interact — whether team members are open with information or secretive, inclined to help out or hold back, willing to take risks or just looking to play it safe.
What to do?
Alan Mullaly explains how the executive team at Ford Motor Company changed to a culture of accountability.
To watch the entire presentation click here
Viewpoint on Creating a Culture of Accountability
True accountability needs a culture of trust and openness and it is up to the leader to put in place the following necessary conditions: safety, clarity of purpose, trust, and an environment where responsibility is valued. Talking about accountability without such conditions in place will cause people to go into a mode of self-protection rather than initiative.
Whether it is in sports or in business, it’s commonly accepted that a “star team” will outperform a “team of stars”. How competent people work together to accomplish the tasks at hand accounts for as much, if not more, than the sum of their individual talents. The dilemma in organizations is that many working groups never succeed in tapping this higher level of synergy because they get embroiled in day-to-day work pressures and conflicting priorities.
Working with teams in trouble, we find that the real source of problems is rarely technical in nature even when signs seem to indicate that it is. The source of problems usually reveals itself after just a couple of hours, when project members clamor for better communication; problems invariably stem from people dynamics.
A major challenge to leaders is how to foster both high collegiality and a high level of accountability in the workplace. Leaders often experience the challenge as the difference between being a nice boss and a hard-driving one. On the receiving end of the equation, i.e. from the staff point of view, collegiality and accountability are also experienced as opposite extremes, the trade-off between a friendly supportive culture and a hard-nosed, results-oriented culture.
Neither approach, however, offers a complete answer to how to get things done; the positives and negatives of each approach can be readily identified (see matrix below.) So the truth lies elsewhere: in fact both are legitimate, and each approach deteriorates if not tempered by the other. The aim is therefore to manage both factors at the same time.