Create a Culture of Trust:
The Power of Accountability

AccountabilityIt may seem near impossible to create a culture of trust when organizational morale and engagement are lowered by people who can’t be counted on. They flame resentments and dissatisfaction throughout the organization. But can holding people personally accountable promote positivity, unity and build trust? There is a paradoxical truth in the power of accountability.

People demonstrate accountability by doing what they say they’re going to do, when they need to do it. Leaders promote this by holding people to their commitments and making accountability part of the performance assessment. In fairness, leaders also need to provide their people with the means to meet these commitments.

Accountability also means tackling problems head on and not running from them. People trust coworkers who meet challenges with noble efforts to ensure that everyone wins. A culture of trust thrives only when people at all organizational levels fulfill their responsibilities. Managing work with measurable criteria expands trust in the system. Clarity is a strong trust builder, according to leadership consultant David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line (Free Press, 2012).

Accountability often overlaps integrity, in that people who admit their mistakes are trusted more. Inspiring this kind of transparency allows people to air their mistakes and learn from them. As I share with my coaching clients, be a leader who encourages learning, focusing on fixes instead of blame. The pursuit of solutions empowers people to reach new levels and expands trust.

Strengthen Communication

Trust issues often begin from poor communication. People who don’t communicate clearly or authentically aren’t trusted. Properly conveying information makes conversations, emails, phone calls and meetings more effective and trustworthy. Leaders need to provide training in communication skills and monitor employee progress.

Anger, resentment, offensiveness and rumors destroy trust. Leaders must take aim at these issues and set behavioral standards that are continuously reinforced. Ask your people to put themselves in other team members’ shoes when communicating. How will their words be perceived? Can they achieve a win-win situation? Can they step back from a conflict, calm down and form a more reasonable response?

Employees who communicate reasonably and professionally with each other raise workplace trust. Integrity is best revealed through communication, and unity is best realized in a high-integrity environment.

There’s no question that leaders set the tone for every aspect of workplace trust, and the necessary mindsets are passed down through the ranks. Leaders must put policies in place to monitor and correct undesirable behavior. Those who see the highest levels of coworker trust provide ample training, support and enforcement for trustworthy behavior policies.

What do you think? How has accountability and communication affected trust in your organization? What tactics worked to create a culture of trust? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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