A culture of trust is a company's competitive advantage

Service Business

“Trust has a strong economic dimension. It always affects two elements - speed of operation and costs. When confidence decreases, speed decreases and costs increase. When confidence grows, costs decrease and speed increases. "

- Stephen M. R. Covey

“The widespread distrust in society imposes a kind of tax on all forms of economic activity. A tax that highly trusted societies do not have to pay. '

- Francis Fukuyama

Low trust in the organization leads to excessive mutual control and entrenchment of the parties. It causes reluctance to take responsibility and make decisions on one's own.



The high growth of Web INnovative Software, which has been maintained for many years, and the scale of the company's operations have forced the introduction of constant standards, ensuring the improvement of services and maintaining their appropriate level. As I mentioned in the previous article, the organizational culture in the company was created spontaneously as a result of the constant expansion of the group of employees. In such a situation, therefore, there could be no question of any trust between the management board and the employees as well as towards the actions and intentions of the management board. Therefore, the introduction of uniform principles of work, reporting and responsibility for the process was met with dissatisfaction and contestation of the adopted standards by the majority of significant people in the company. Therefore, the only logical way out of this situation was to make the effort to consciously build a culture conducive to the growth of trust in the organization.

It is important what unites us - the search for common values

"The road to turquoise (...) requires not only the implementation of new rules, customs and habits, but also - what is most difficult - abandoning those to whom we are used to."

"(...) building a turquoise organization requires work in two complementary directions:

  1. building a turquoise civilization of work,

  2. building a turquoise organizational structure ”.

- prof. Andrzej Blikle, "Compendium of turquoise self-organization"

The first step - improving communication

The first action we took to counteract the growing conflicts was a seemingly simple action that did not require any special tools - we started to talk to each other consciously. We introduced the custom of Friday team meetings where problematic issues from the entire week were discussed.Everyone had the chance to share their difficulties and receive support from other team members. There was always a person who encountered a similar problem before.

About two months of weekly meetings resulted in a significant improvement in communication - people started talking to each other naturally. The talks moved from Friday meetings to the daily work in teams, relieved tension and warded off the sense of danger that had previously accompanied employees - they began to slowly break the rock of distrust.

The problem of not being able to talk is quite complex. It happens, for example, that we talk about the same but different languages ​​- so there is the question of perceiving phenomena in reality, in other words - the question of paradigms. Therefore, it was necessary to establish the principles and values ​​in force in the company in such a way that no one had any doubts as to their meaning - so that they were common to everyone. The Coveyowe trainings described later in this article proved to be helpful in this process. They familiarized employees with the problem of creating paradigms on the basis of fundamental principles as a universal compass showing the right way of reasoning.

Communication blocks also often arise - as a result of low self-esteem - for fear of embarrassment and evaluation of others. We overcame these and many other barriers during these weekly meetings. Of course, opening up to the team was quite a challenge for most people. However, it was a step towards deepening trust between employees, which is crucial in terms of good communication and development.

Second step - building community - Covey meetings

Another milestone was building the community - the main element here were meetings organized according to the concept of Stephen Covey. We based the modeling of the company's culture on the assumptions described in his bestseller "7 habits of effective action".

At this point, it is worth returning to the principle of a holistic vision of a human being discussed in the first article, which is based on the perception of a human being as composed of many aspects of the whole. He lives parallel in four dimensions (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual). In these dimensions, he also needs to develop.

Even though at first glance, the issues of self-fulfillment do not seem to be related to professional development and performance, in fact they are the basis of the company's growth. Each type of cooperation (and thus also cooperation of a professional nature) requires sharing with others - insights, knowledge and skills. There is no doubt that in order to share, you must first have something. That is why the company should enable employees to develop.

The essence of a well-functioning organization is the maturity of the people who create it - it is thanks to it that we can talk about proper communication and efficient cooperation. Lack of maturity is tantamount to dependence on external factors and, as a result, to passivity and rejection of responsibility. Development towards independence aims to strengthen your self-esteem, which can then be shared and thus strengthen others.

The result of individual development is the development of the entire organization - this translates into the creation of a new form of community based on interdependence, thanks to which self-organizing teams pursue a common goal - the common good. Interdependence presupposes the independence of individual people with simultaneous cooperation. A stable and adequate self-esteem allows us to share what we do best and use the help of others without feeling threatened by our own position. This contributes to the synergy effect and the introduction of innovative solutions both for the internal use of the company and for its customers.

Third step - external Coveyowe training

As communication developed, we expanded the scope of our activities aimed at changing the structure of work (we increased the so-called circle of influence). For this purpose, we participated in training courses organized by FranklinCovey Polska, based on the ideas of Stephen Covey. They resulted in the definition of values ​​common to us by almost the entire team of the company, as well as patterns of behavior characteristic for individual competence groups and teams. It took place over three years ago during a company trip to Prague. The mission, vision, values ​​and behavior patterns serve us as guides in our daily work to this day, and the training that helped us establish them is still available to new employees who will stay in our teams for longer.



I admit that not all employees were positive about these changes. The approaches varied, some responding enthusiastically and some quite the opposite. However, everyone had a chance to implement the new work system and adapt to the new management paradigm - meetings and training were available to everyone.

We required one thing - everyone had to work on himself as part of a team.

The greatest resistance to changes was observed among those employees who were recognized for their seniority and high competences. As such people are a point of reference for younger employees, it was a significant difficulty in the process of corporate transformation. However, the new culture was also supposed to "flatten" these dependencies - it even forced a departure from the hierarchy in favor of partnership.

Transparency - a weapon in the fight against intrigue

In response to the changes, a group of so-called malcontents and schemers emerged. They wanted to "expose the truth" - to identify erroneous assumptions and reveal the "second bottom" of the transformation, that is, the alleged evil intentions that the management board was to follow. In this way, operating on various levels, often plotting various types of intrigues, they tried to oppose the changes that were increasingly introduced in the company.

The efforts of schemers were perfectly neutralized by the principle of transparency introduced throughout the organization. It prevented the division into groups with their own secrets, and the creation of barriers within the company.

The culture of open doors has become a symbol of transparency. It comes from the moment of the company's greatest crisis, when employees locked themselves in a kitchen shared by everyone and talked in secret about other employees. This, of course, created an atmosphere of hostility and tension - those who found a sudden, embarrassing silence upon entering the kitchen felt at least uncomfortable.

Even though these are not strictly professional matters, they have the greatest impact on efficiency at work. Disregarding relations between employees is a management error. The example of secret conversations in the kitchen illustrates this well: employees who felt that their company was not desirable did not want to cooperate with those who created such an atmosphere - they also preferred to avoid asking them questions or asking for advice. This obviously influenced the work process and workflow in the company. We spend a significant part of our lives at work. It is therefore natural that we want to be in this place with people who simply like us and have respect for us - we need to feel good and at ease in their presence.

The intriguers wanted a return to their former, unclear state. It gave them a lot of room for manipulation and achieving their own goals, which is why it was so important to maintain transparency. However, it should be remembered that transparency itself does not equal trust - although it undoubtedly constitutes its foundation.

The role of the boss in building a culture of trust

Due to the specificity of the "supervisor-subordinate" relationship, the emphasis on bonding, and consequently on building trust, should be transferred to the life of the team.

The boss, instead of striving for trust or in extreme cases even demanding it, goes into the background in such a situation and supports the development of trust within the teams. His attitude therefore says: "you don't have to trust me - trust each other."

Such an attitude requires a transformation - from a limiting boss-controller to an inspiring boss-supervisor. Therefore, we have abolished the reporting system in WINS in favor of the SCRUM system within teams, which will be devoted to a separate article. SCRUM teaches mutual openness and honesty.

However, changes at the professional level went hand in hand with changes in the social sphere. Bands heard the words repeated like a mantra: "talk about crap." The employees' goal was to get to know each other, and above all - to want to get to know each other. Conversations about seemingly insignificant, everyday matters break the barrier of distrust, and knowing other employees greatly facilitates cooperation.

We have also introduced the custom of celebrating success that exists until today. When the team responsible for a project finishes it, everyone in the company celebrates it with a joint pizza, for example. The team itself organizes a social outing, to have fun with each other and get to know each other better on the occasion of a successful project. This strengthens ties and increases the willingness and ease of cooperation, and as a result - builds trust.



Trust in teams - what next?

Trust manifests itself in several ways:

  • employees are not afraid to ask questions,

  • the division of tasks within the team runs smoothly and without conflicts,

  • employees are not afraid to take responsibility for the tasks entrusted to them,

  • employees support each other,

  • employee involvement in projects and the life of the team is at a high level.

All this, in turn, translates into a good atmosphere and increased work efficiency.

It wasn't until the above behavior became the norm in WINS that we decided to go much further. Namely:

  • managerial functions have disappeared,

  • the wage incentive system has disappeared,

  • teams gained the right to hire and fire employees,

  • teams gained the right to decide on the development of projects.

All changes consisted in increasing the freedom of employees and the associated responsibility, based on trust in the skills and intentions of employees (according to the paradigm "man is by nature good and does everything optimally for himself" discussed in the first article).

The ground on which the changes took place was the creation of internally diverse, interdisciplinary project teams - more on this in the next article.