In my last article ‘How well do you trust? – what’s your propensity to trust?‘ we looked at the impact of our inbuilt propensity to trust from the perspective of how we build relationships. Trust is a topic that comes up regularly in the context of a lot of the work that I’m doing around ‘commercial awareness’, ‘commerciality’, and ‘relational contracting’, and in one discussion this week the linkage between trust and personal/team effectiveness came up.
From my experience, there is undoubtedly, a clear and direct link between the two. Often when we describe positive working environments we use words such as, delegation, empowerment, and responsibility. And this is irrespective of whether we’re considering the question from the perspective of a leadership or a delivery role. Trust is fundamental to all of those attributes.
Yet so often, what we do, and what we design into business processes, is more around ensuring compliance and control than demonstrating trust. Whilst a significant driver behind this is down to the risk appetite at an enterprise level, much responsibility lies with us as individuals.
This is where our personal propensity to trust comes into play, a lack of trust will drive us to a comfort zone where we need to vet and approve a high proportion of decisions, deliverables, and outputs. At the other end of the continuum, too much, potentially un-tested, trust can lead to a totally hands off approach which can be equally negative from a business perspective. Whilst trust isn’t the only driver for where we each sit on the continuum, it’s a major driver. Either end of the continuum is potentially sub-optimal from a business effectiveness perspective.
If we look to progressive organisations in this area then what we see them doing currently is trying to move their organisations to the optimum zone on the continuum often by changing the balance of trust. The kind of things that they’re doing in this area include:
- reviewing and adjusting their compliance frameworks from a ‘heavy’ approvals based approach to one where local, and even self, approvals are the norm, backed up by a sample based approach to auditing;
- moving from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to a risk based layered approach with reviews focused on complex and/or high risk activities
- re-balancing the effort during the lifecycle to ensure that success is baked into opportunities from the start
In addition to these largely enterprise level activities, at the individual level they’re investing in raising professionals’ personal skills in the area of ‘commercial awareness’ or ‘commerciality’ so that they’re better equipped to make good business decisions which is the other half of the equation.
As I said earlier, whilst we like to consider that trust is something that can only be changed at the enterprise level, it something that can be equally addressed from the bottom up. How well do we trust our peers, team, or colleagues? A small tweak to our personal propensity to trust could help us unlock an easy improvement in personal effectiveness. It’s worth stepping back to consider whether your personal balance of trust is optimal and what you could do to further optimise it.