Building A High-Trust Organization

In my previous blog, Do You Have A High-Trust Organization, I explored the benefits of building a high-trust organization and identified areas you can assess to determine where you may need to restore trust.  In this post, I’ll share some potential solutions you can implement to build a high-trust organization.

Below are some elements of high-trust organizations that will give you some direction and ideas for actions you can take to build trust in your firm:

-       Establishing your firm’s strategy – including all its multi-faceted elements and communicating (relentlessly) the firm’s purpose and vision for the future so everyone is on the same page about your progress, changes in direction and their contribution to achieving it. This requires updating your strategy at least annually, and then reviewing it regularly (monthly) with your leadership team to ensure progress is being made and providing regular status (at least quarterly) to your team.

 -       Maintaining integritywhich is more than “honesty” or “doing the right thing.”  True integrity includes keeping commitments – not over-committing and under-delivering – and resetting expectations when commitments cannot be kept.

 -       Setting clear expectations for each role in your organization – from the partners on down, each individual should have a written role description with their responsibilities, minimum expectations and annual goals defined.   For each goal, be sure to assign “by when” dates and the specific deliverable or result that is desired so expectations are clear.

-       Defining your firm’s governance – including the decision-making process of your firm and the authority for each of your roles, such as your Managing Partner, Business Line Leaders, Executive Committee, Compensation Committee, etc.  Then, partners (and all team members) should be expected to submit to your firm’s strategy and any decisions made by your chosen leaders by demonstrating support both in and out of your partner meetings.  This includes not triangulating (Are You Guilty Of Triangulating On The Job?) or “doing your own thing” once decisions are made.

-       Being accountable – which means taking responsibility for your results – or lack of them and refraining from providing reasons for a lack of results.  Instead, recommitting to when you will deliver the result.  Being accountable also includes returning and reporting your status on your goals and assignments so others are not left wondering how you’re doing or if you’re on track – especially in our interdependency- filled profession.

-       Talking straight and providing performance feedback – defined as using candor and honesty in all communications and telling it like it is. Instead of “brutal honesty;” straight talk is caring enough about someone and your relationship with them to overcome your fear and express your insights so you can both improve and come to an agreement on how to move forward constructively.  Talking straight also requires honesty in disclosing self interest and expressing how you would like to ideally see situations be resolved so the other party can disclose their self interest, too, and you can then work toward a collaborative solution.

-       Rewarding contribution – by moving towards a pay-for-performance compensation plan that rewards individuals for their contribution towards the firm’s strategy. You’ll need other elements in place first, such as written role descriptions and goals, and then the willingness to engage in straight conversations about performance by regularly reporting status.  This means, too, that there will be impacts or consequences when goals or results aren’t achieved.  Rewarding contribution is more than just compensation, as well, and includes acknowledging a job well done, providing opportunities for increased responsibility and challenge and providing flex-time or time-off opportunities.

How are you doing in these high trust-building actions?  Which one can you undertake immediately that will have the biggest impact in developing trust in your firm and which one should your leadership team address as a strategic initiative in 2012?  Post a comment and share what actions you’re going to take to build trust!