I recently discussed how team leaders need to align incentives to achieve a high level of trust among teams which, in turn, supports better performance and results. A recent article by ASTD’s Ernie Kahane, Trust and Powerful Learning, proposes that organizational learning can be a powerful tool in building the kind of trust needed for effective teamwork.
This article makes me envision a three-step process for building trust through learning:
STEP 1: Conduct a Trust Audit
STEP 2: Build an Environment of Trust
STEP 3: Nurture Communities of Trust
Let’s examine each of these steps more closely.
A trust audit is an assessment of the current organization to determine whether growth opportunity exist.
A trust audit gauges the current level of trust and identifies a plan of action for learning programs…
Activities can include organization-wide questionnaires, focus group discussions, or one-on-one interviews. There is a rich set of literature dedicated to developing good measurement tools for such an audit. Where trust is judged to be low, leaders will want to plan tactics for change.
An environment of trust can only been built when leaders take the first steps to set the example. A leader who identifies that greater trust is needed, will begin by publicly acknowledging the need for change and making a commitment to learning.
Since trust is about perceived care, competence, and integrity, these values need to be demonstrated through interaction and design choice. By respecting participants and fostering an environment where people can feel safe acknowledging what they do not know, an organization can go a long way toward achieving long range objectives. Genuine participation, clear strategies, direct talk, fairness, and re-entry strategies can all create high-trust environments.
Even when the environmental stage is set for learning, organizational culture is not going to change overnight. Some teams, or even small groups of team members, will adopt trusting behaviors more readily than others. Leaders will want to identify and nurture these change agents.
Learning professionals [and team leaders] should aim to build small communities of trust by demonstrating actions that promote trust and by addressing issues openly.
Building trust within an organization or team is like planting a tree from seed. The leader plants the seed by modeling the behavior of trust. The leader cultivates the ground and waters the environment to ensure that the seedling will take root. As the tree begins to grow, the leader nurtures the strong trust communities (branches) and prunes away the sprouts and under-branches.
I am curious. How have you built trust in your teams? How has learning helped build and reinforce a culture of trust in your organization?