Thursday, March 19, 2009

"The Secret of Thoroughly Excellent Companies... Trust"

I confess that I'm generally skeptical of the latest and greatest management idea but this is one that will stand for time immemorial - or at least so long as there's commerce. From Peter Bregman on his HBSP blog:

But underlying these is trust, deeply embedded in the culture of the organization, exemplified in its daily operations, driving its success. These days, with banks going bankrupt and employees getting laid off, trust is in short supply. So its value is higher than ever.

Trust is as simple as following through on your commitments. Every sales person knows the way to make a quick sale is to develop quick trust. A good sales person will send you an article with a little note saying it made her think of you. That builds a relationship.
This makes sense. I wouldn't fault the casual observer of the corporate world for thinking that it's greed that drives commerce. The reality however is that it's trust - sure greed can be a motivator but if your clients don't think you can deliver, that's pretty much useless. Of course the important thing is not to get carried away - when it comes to staff, having been burned already, it's important to make sure trust is earned.

There obviously needs to be a balance here or else you'll get robbed blind. That's the approach I now take - I trust until I believe I have reason to otherwise - and as much as possible, I also verify. It's also a lot easier to trust when the consequences of betrayal are negligible - or in the very least can be caught before real damage is done.


shanghai said...

I have to say I do apply this to my employees to some degree. The key issue, and I'd say 90%+, is in the hiring process. If you hire the right people, they can manage themselves. I don't think it's any special theory, it just works like this...

Clement Wan said...

I've always been a strong believer in hiring good people and subscribe to the theory that if you hire great managers, they in turn hire great people. On the other hand, I think it gets a bit more complicated than that -

I've come to believe over the years that it's not about the people so much as the processes. A great coach can coax great results from an average team especially if you have a bunch of crazy superstars who are all vying to be the center of attention and a severe lack of accountability. Alternatively, your superstar could be stealing, etc.

This isn't to say that after you have strong processes, I wouldn't go after the best people - I would and I try to, but the right fit implies that there's a mould of some type. Further, after you have the mould to get the results - there's always a balance of restrictions and giving them the leeway/trust to perform. It's a tough balance to strike - and I find at least in industrializing China you have people going off on the deep end on the controls versus those like myself born and raised in the west who may be a little too soft at least at the outset without enough controls in place.