The most critical accountability for leaders is defining management systems that make trust possible. Here are five top things that drive strength of trust in your system, which brings speed to execution of your strategy.

With the Holiday Season upon us it is marvellous to see what people base their faith and trust.
It is this trust in the way the universe works that is the basis for getting anything done at all. And it almost seems fractal in nature – from the family unit to the largest, most powerful organizations in the world.

As a designer of organizational systems, I am often humbled by the awesome structures that are defined and built to accomplish phenomenal things that change our lives. Trust is a fundamental ingredient in that. I am equally astounded by how much people struggle with the issues of trust, politics, and wasted management energy built right into the way they are designed to get things done. These are human-made systems, with all the fallibility of great and not-so-great creators, sustainers, and destroyers.

It is necessary, but not enough for you to possess the character, values and personal integrity to make the decisions and lead the way forward that will engender trust among those who work in your organization to execute flawlessly. It requires the clear definition and ruthless discipline of the managerial functions and practices that you operate with to create the conditions for trust to be present and strong.  The top leader is the architect and steward of such systems.

Five key management functions to focus on to build trust into the very system of doing work:

  • Appraise working effectiveness – assign tasks, and hold people accountable for execution as well as adapting to changing conditions, demands and resources.
  • Account for all direct output of reports – managers retain accountability for the output of their reports; trust and fairness require this where the manager has the authority to assign tasks and resources.
  • Ensure that the conditions for effective teamwork are in place – each individual is accountable for their part, the manager is accountable for all integrating and balancing mechanisms of those parts
  • Coach to increase working effectiveness – provide regular, timely feedback and advice to improve performance.
  • Promote Continuous improvement – support genuine two-way dialogue on current processes, encourage suggestions for improvement, and authorize changes.

No surprises there.

Again, it is not just enough to do these things, but to have a clear definition and ruthless execution of these things in a way that promotes clarity of what is to be done, realistic and trackable commitment to do it, and, most especially, reliable and appropriate consequences.

It is hard to design for trust. Somehow, the accountability moves to some greater mystical authority, even beyond that of the top team or leader. This is manifest in a dizzying array of past experiences, benchmarks, gut feel, and just plain old experiments with the human condition at work. And yes, there are naturally occurring and observable phenomena and principles at play.

With this in mind, it does come right back to the conviction of the leader.

Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith, then the trust will come.