In the age of transparency, where information is available in virtually a mouse-click, building trust is essential for long-term growth and success. It’s not simply things like getting positive customer reviews, or employee feedback, but the need to create sustainable trust.
Take for example, employees. What message are you sending to employees when your organizational structure limits their ability to make independent decisions within the scope of their job? Or when they are micromanaged? It indicates they aren’t trusted to make those decisions. In addition, without that trust and ability to practice that decision making, they are limited in their ability to problem solve, finding new ways to innovate, and to expand their value to the organization as a whole. In short, they are simply executing tasks.
Often, this leads to the “tribal knowledge” effect, where employees start to tie their perceived value to the organization to the information they have about a process, procedure, software platform, or simply historical company information. When this information isn’t shared with others, it limits the company’s ability to scale. Processes are force-funneled through specific individuals, which often slow down implementation or bring it to a halt completely. If they aren’t in the office that day, the project doesn’t move forward.
“when you examine your organizational culture, start by thinking about how you build trust – with employees, partners, vendors, and customers.”
Or take customers. What happens when a customer doesn’t trust you? They seek out other options. They examine other solutions. They drop you as a provider or partner. This trust doesn’t get broken typically with a single incident, but rather the lack of information transparency, follow-through, openness, and proactive responsiveness over time. When a customer is constantly waiting on you, or don’t know the status of their project for weeks, trust begins to erode. Often times, a simple issue that arises becomes the proverbial “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, and they end the business relationship. Organizations then tend to blame that “last incident” as the cause of the break, and proceed to implement changes in that area, when the real issue were all the activities before the final incident. It built up over time.
As business leaders, it’s hard to take the long-view perspective. Each and every day, we are pulled in different directions and often feel like there’s little to no time, or wiggle room, to allow employees to make mistakes. Many leaders frequently take the path of limiting scope, and putting the burden of decision making on themselves.
It’s extremely common with small business owners – in a 2018 survey we conducted of 100 manufacturing CEOs and 98% explicitly stated that they “wanted to make the majority of decisions, as they did not want to have to blame or discipline their employees”. While this may seem admirable, it’s unsustainable. It’s akin to the “one point of failure” theory, where if that individual – or in this case, business owner – takes ill, gets hit by a bus, etc., the entire organization goes down with them. Not a real viable business strategy.
So when you examine your organizational culture, start by thinking about how you build trust – with employees, partners, vendors, and customers. This begins by laying the groundwork of educating and empowering others to make bigger business decisions. It’s the most cost-effective growth strategy you can get.