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From the Archives: My Anchor belief: Trust-building STARTS with culture & structure

March 19, 2018

John Morgan, the author of Brand Against the Machine, says any vibrant organization must have an anchor belief. Here’s mine:

Please!!  Stop thinking trust has something to do with being liked, or saying ‘we’. Stop thinking trust has to start at the interpersonal level. Stop thinking trust has to evolve slowly or is strictly based on past relationships.

Understand the complexity of trust. Understand that you can build and support trust with policies, practices and mechanisms in your organization.

The most trustworthy individual can’t build or sustain trust within the organization or with partners if the organization doesn’t have the right culture and structure in place.

My anchor belief: Trust can be swift. Trust can be built through governance. Trust can start at the inter-organizational level and move to the inter-personal.

DANGER: This turns a lot of trust research on its head. Usually, scholars start at the interpersonal level and build incrementally from there (check out Types of Trust in Twelve Weeks to Trust). Some scholars don’t believe you can trust an organization, only the people within it. But…

Macro level-problems need macro-level, institutional solutions because organizations are bigger than any one person or leader.

Leaders can start structurally to show people on your team that they – and the organization- are trustworthy. You can start today!

  1. Always declare your benevolent intent. Suspicion breeds distrust so open up the lines of communication.
  2. Reduce hierarchy and monitoring. Set up clear performance expectations through performance agreements, which are a type of contract, and then get out of the way!
  3. Invest in peoples’ financial or psychological security through transaction specific investments like training or equipment they need to do their job.
  4. Establish positive team norms that value trustworthiness. Lead by example and support the norms with policies, incentives, etc.
  5. Talk about ethics. Live them. Run your product, policies and practices through these 10 ethics screening questions. Punish ethics violators.
  6. Create mechanisms for joint planning and problem solving – joint planning meetings, requests for input at various points in a project, stand-up brainstorm meetings or a quick phone call. Create joint goals and incentives so that everyone has something to gain from the others’ success.
  7. Put your money where your mouth is. Nothing is more tangible within an organization than budget. Ensure you have the right people on your team and that you resource projects appropriately otherwise you’ve set them up to fail which does not exactly foster warm fuzzy feelings or trust.

A lot of the focus of interpersonal trust is to show benevolence – that you care about the other person and can put their needs first. You demonstrate that when you create a work environment that has a culture and a structure that supports trust.

When trust-building practices are institutionalized, trust is sustained beyond the actions of one manager or leader. Trust becomes “how we do business” or in fancier terms, an operating mechanism.

An amazing thing about trust is that it is generative. Once you start to create it, it builds upon itself to create more trust. So, today, start where you can. Begin to infuse trust in the big machinery that is an organization and you will be amazed by the transformation that can take place.

Worried about budgets? Most of these steps don’t cost anything and as you build trust you reduce the need for double-checking, tight contracts, etc. High trust governance is less expensive than control and monitoring. You will free up funds to invest in people, projects, training, etc.

You can help reunite families

July 15, 2018

Can you imagine how desperately you would want to be reunited with your child in a natural disaster or a crisis? Are you horrified by stories of children being torn from their parents at the Mexico-U.S. border with no plans for reunification?

There are millions of displaced children in the world. Through UNICEF, you can reunite a child with their family.

Only $26 pays the transportation costs to reunite a child with his or her family somewhere in the world. That’s roughly the cost of one of my kids’ music lessons and a fraction of the cost of a week of summer day-camp. Throw in another $20 and you can cover one month of counselling.

You don’t have to feel powerless. Put some good back into the world. I’m glad I did.

Wishing you a wonderful summer.

P.S. I have no professional or personal affiliation with UNICEF, just a desire to help where I can.


Do Your Leaders Build or Erode Trust? #infographic — Leading with Trust

June 24, 2018

Here’s a post by the incomparable Randy Conley, V.P. of Client Services & Trust Practice Leader at Ken Blanchard.

Trust is the absolute, without a doubt, most important ingredient for a successful relationship, especially for leaders. Unfortunately, though, most leaders don’t give much thought to trust until it’s been broken, and that’s the worst time to realize its importance. According to a study by Tolero Solutions, 45% of employees say lack of trust in […]

via Do Your Leaders Build or Erode Trust? #infographic — Leading with Trust

Miss you Dad: 10 Leadership lessons my father taught me

June 11, 2018

Last year for Father’s Day I wrote about my Dad who had recently passed away. Since the lessons all still apply. Here’s that story from my archives.

10 leadership lessons from my Dad



My daughter, then three, me and my Dad the day I received my MA Leadership from the University of Guelph. He started teaching me about leadership long before then.



Podcast: Building trust in an age of disruption

May 10, 2018

Did you catch my trust talk with Marguerite O’Neal on her Creative disruption podcast

this week? The conversation ran the gamut from the importance and benefits of trust in – and between – organizations, the results of the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer which shows declining trust in media, government, NGOs and businesses and, more importantly, how and why companies need to focus on macro-level solutions to address the growing trust deficit.


With Facebook, Starbucks, #metoo, price fixing and other topics hot in the news, there’s never enough time to reveal all the strategies for building trust through formal and informal governance mechanisms, so I hope you enjoy these supplements.

Want to chat or find out more? Contact me at

What is wellbeing and how can it apply to your workplace or community?

April 18, 2018

Are you a systems thinker? Are you sick of silos? Are you looking for a way to measure and to improve social progress in your community or even your organization? Then the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) may be a framework for you.


Based at the University of Waterloo, the CIW has been recognized globally as a leader in measuring quality of life.

Find out more in this article I co-wrote with CIW Director, Bryan Smale, for Public Sector Digest.

As always, your feedback is warmly welcomed.



Get your tickets: IABC Waterloo Breakthrough Conference

March 4, 2018

What an honour to present a workshop at the upcoming IABC Waterloo Breakthrough conference. Last year I was already using new tactics before the first break. Excellent value.

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