Starting with Trust
I have yet to come across anyone who argues that trust is a bad thing. There are certainly times where we don't trust people, and we wouldn't just blindly trust them because we think trust is generically a good thing, but we would never argue against the inherent value of trust.
But the universal acclaim that trust receives actually has a downside. Because everyone agrees it is a good thing, we tend to move it into the realm of simple declarations. We declare that there will be trust in our organizations. We put cool "trust" posters on the wall to remind ourselves of how our culture is built on trust. The problem with this is we easily forget what trust really means or what it requires.
I was thinking about this as I read Leslie White's great post on the SocialFish blog about social media policies. It has a wonderful list of elements that you find in good policies--things like explaining why you have rules and explaining what you will do when the rules are broken. It's a simple, powerful, and practical post (what I have come to expect from SocialFish!). And the very first bullet point is about trust:
Start with trust - A good policy starts from a position of trust--belief that your people want to do the right thing. The job of the policy is simply to guide your people on the desired behaviors and activities. A policy focused on what and how to do something is preferable to a long list of what you don't want the people to do.
I completely agree with this, but before YOU agree, consider the implications. If you start from a position of trust, you are starting from a position of risk. There is no trust without risk. When you trust someone, you are putting your interests in their control. They have the ability to muck things up for you, and you are trusting them to take care of you (think about it: if they can't really do anything that affects you negatively, then it's not really trust).
So it's not just starting with the belief that your people want to do the right thing. That's too easy. It's easy to assume people have good intentions. Trust is about counting on them to behave in a way that is consistent with your interests, intention or not. There is, of course, a huge benefit to this kind of trust (read Covey's Speed of Trust). But it's hard work for people in authority to give up that kind of control and accept that kind of risk. As a leader, do you know if you are truly willing to trust your people?