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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.

“Accidental” nuclear emergency alert

January 12, 2020

At 7:23 a.m. today the Province of Ontario broadcast an emergency bulletin to cellphones across the province. Still mostly asleep, my cell phone blared and this message appeared:

This is a Province of Ontario emergency bulletin which applies to people within ten (10) kilometres of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. An incident was reported at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. There has been NO abnormal release of radioactivity from the station and emergency staff are responding to the situation. People near the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station DO NOT need to take any protective action at this time. Remain tuned to local media for further information and instructions.”

IMG_7356What a wake-up call. My sister and her family live just North of Pickering so, of course, we were concerned… plus the whole nuclear thing, of course. So we tuned in to media to see what was happening. Crickets.

  • Around 45 minutes later the news reported that the message was sent by accident.
  • One hour and 45 minutes later, at 9:11 am, a second email emergency blast came through.

“There is NO active nuclear situation taking place at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. The previous alert was issued in error. There is no danger to the public or environment. No further action is required.”

Hmmm. I’ve led crisis communications teams and further action is definitely required. Like, explaining what the heck happened?

Here are my first three questions:

  • Who signed off on the original alert and what is the process to do that? I’ve worked in government, you need sign off for everything. On top of that, a golden rule of communication is the information needs to be accurate.
    • Several hours later, the province is saying the error took place during emergency measures training. If that’s the case: you need a better “are you sure?” message; you need a step where you confirm with the agency in question; AND the “oopsies” response should have been much faster.
  • Another important communication rule is that if you are going to scare people, you have to tell them what to do. “Stay tuned” is much too light under the circumstances. While this might have been a canned message, it’s not a good one.
  • Why was the news that this was error come through Twitter at 8:06 a.m.? It’s a totally different channel. It won’t reach the same people you scared almost two hours ago and people will only find it if they are following you. This is terrible communication.

To the best of my knowledge, it’s the first time a crisis communications team caused its own crisis. These are massive errors in messaging, medium and timing. There will be a lot of explaining to do and processes to reinforce.

If you, or your organization, are unfamiliar with crisis communications or don’t have a crisis communications plan, perhaps this is a catalyst to think about one. “Nothing ever happens here,” is not accurate. Every day, organizations of all sizes have data security breaches, harassment issues, violence, product recalls, financial impropriety – you name it. If you are in a large organization, your Public Affairs department should have a crisis plan and practice it regularly. This means back-up technology, off-site recovery and staff relocation plans, alternate communications methods, call-trees, access to social accounts, you name it.

What would you do today if there was a wildfire? Active shooter? Data breach? The key is to create your plan before there is a crisis and test it. The real thing will never follow your plan precisely but you will have essentially mapped out best practices ahead of time. You follow-them as closely as you can, making allowances for the circumstance.

I’ve lived this. In January 2003, I was the manager of media relations for a company whose hard drive, containing 170,000 client files was stolen from a secure location. We’re used to Equifax, Desjardins, LifeLabs privacy breaches now, but at the time, we were one of the first companies in the country to disclose a breach that was national in scale. We used the crisis communication plan. You should have one too.

 

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

 

IMG_0164

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 dominique@accoladecommunications.ca

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.

https://www.publicsectordigest.com/article/capturing-quality-life-canadian-index-wellbeing

As always, your feedback is warmly welcomed.

 

 

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