[ Content | View menu ]

A Culture of Trust

Mark Mzyk | January 16, 2009

A culture of trust would be the ultimate corporate environment.  Just uttering the phrase brings to mind visions of the ideal work environment.  Fill in the blanks however you see fit, but for me it would be having a say in the projects I work on and being left to my own devices to determine how my projects are implemented.  In short, having the freedom to explore and work as I see fit, while achieving results.

What are the implications of a culture like this?  For one, it means everything has to be open.  All communication.  The fiefdoms that frequently come up in corporations couldn’t be allowed to exist, because as soon as they did, the culture would be destroyed.

More interesting though is that in such a culture everyone would have to be accountable.  No one could hide behind empty words or blame someone else.  Each person would be responsible for their failures as well as any team failures.  It brings to mind the motto of the Three Musketeers: “One for all, and all for one”.

Taken to it’s logical conclusion, what does accountability in a culture of trust mean?  It means that at any time if someone betrays the collective trust or avoids accountability they should be fired.

They should be fired.

Think about that.  I think everyone of us is used to feeling that we have job security.  Even if we slack off and perform poorly, it usually takes an act of God to get fired.  In a corporation that had a true culture of trust, this wouldn’t be the case.  There would be a revolving door as new people who failed to grasp the culture where let go.

However, those who embrace trust and accountability would have great job security.  They’re an asset to the corporation, so there’s no need to let them go.

Do any cultures like this exist today?  I suspect Google might be close, but I’m sure even they have their problems.  I agree with Scott Berkun that we suck at holding people accountable.  No one wants to be left as the person blamed for a failure.  In a culture of trust, having a failure on your resume wouldn’t be seen as an evil, so long as you accepted the failure and understood why it occurred.

Are we ready for this kind of culture?  Everyone’s knee jerk reaction is to say yes, but reconsider for a minute.  To be placed in such a culture would be stressful.  I’m not sure if people are ready to give up the stability of today’s general management structure for the more volatile one of a culture of trust.

A culture of trust would lead to more innovation and greater creativity; the rewards would be great.  It would rock if corporations made the switch.

Does any one know of a company that already has such a culture?  What other implications are there to a culture of trust?