Management
May 7, 2012

Commitment to trust

Stephen M.R. Covey has sold 600,000 copies of The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, a book that has been endorsed by a who’s who of CEOs and management authorities. Covey, chief executive of CoveyLink and the former CEO of Covey Leadership Centre and FranklinCovey, spoke with editor-in-chief Paul Crookall on trust in public service.
 

There are many trust deficits in our work: between politicians and citizens; managers and staff; ministers and departments; one agency and another. How does your research on trust apply?

Public service is built on relationships, and they thrive or die on trust. The context changes, between public and private sector, from one nation to another, but the principles remain the same – even more so in public service where there is a duty to society. As British Prime Minister Disraeli put it, “All power is a trust, we are accountable for its exercise, from the people and for the people, all springs, and all must exist.”

What’s your advice to a manager moving into a low trust situation?

In most cases, you can build trust faster than you thought possible, provided you pay deliberate attention to it. When you go into the situation, don’t ignore, or worse, deny, there is a trust problem. If it is yours, own it. If you have inherited it, acknowledge the issue and declare your intent to create trust – make it an explicit objective. That public declaration makes it easier for people to recognize trustworthy actions and accelerates the process. But if, having said it, you then don’t follow through, you magnify the problem.
We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour. This is why one of the fastest ways to restore trust is to make and keep commitments. It’s not easy, but it is relatively simple. Be purpose-driven, use a deliberative process, and follow through with action and results.

In the U.S., political appointees replace the top levels of public servants after a change in government. In Canada, the professional, non-partisan public service goes all the way to the deputy minister. One side effect can be that a new government’s ministers and staff do not trust “the bureaucracy” appointed by their predecessors. And “the bureaucracy” doesn’t trust the government’s agenda. How can we build trust in those cases?

The fear is of different agendas and motives – what is the other person’s “intent.” I’d suggest you approach the situation from the perspective of focusing on the objectives and the job to be done, and focusing on achieving results in a way that grows trust. Politicians have a responsibility not just to govern, but to also build trust, which in turn builds their capacity to govern and to serve.

I’d be direct, as minister or deputy minister, and say that it is important to build trust in our relationship so that we can: accomplish more; enjoy work more; and be most cost-effective. I would commit to behaving in ways that build trust – practicing the 13 behaviours. I’d lead out, by behaving in a trustworthy way, and by extending trust to the other. There is, clearly, some risk in doing this, and some reluctance, often by the politician. But the potential is great.

Leaders need to realize that trust and distrust are often reciprocated. If the politician distrusts the public service executive, the executive will distrust the politician, and vice-versa. There is a fear of being burned. I am not advocating blind trust. But we cannot allow the few who would abuse trust to set the tone. Let the many who will be inspired set the tone. As a leader, say: “I will lead out; it starts with me first.”

Performance management is a big issue. One behaviour you recommend is “hold others accountable…good performers want others to be held accountable. They thrive where they can trust that slackers and poor performers won’t just slip by.” Recently, a committee chaired by two prominent Canadians, Paul Tellier and Don Mazankowski, advised the Prime Minister that the public service should focus on performance management. In some public service organizations, managers are reluctant to focus on poor performers, and staff are reluctant to draw attention to fellow workers who are not producing or who are violating laws and regulations. How do you build a culture where “don’t rat” and “ignore the elephant in the room” is replaced by something healthier?

That shift doesn’t happen over night. You have to move to where the culture becomes the enforcer. Rules provide some control, but at a greater cost than building trust. Building trust takes time and effort, to build a critical mass of employees who like being trusted and don’t want to lose that, so they report abuses by their colleagues.

Government tends to be at one end of the spectrum, with the “web of rules.”

And at the other end is Nordstrom, whose employee handbook says simply: “Use good judgment in all situations.” That’s a pretty extraordinary rule. They didn’t start with it, out of the blue, because people weren’t ready for it. They recruited, trained, coached, mentored, to build to the point where, if someone got out of line, it wasn’t out of place for others to say, “hey, that’s not how we do things around here.” In most cultures, that rule would be out of place and abused, and that practice would be seen as “ratting.”

To get there, you need to build trust, clarify expectations, practice accountability. With rules, you get minimum effort. But if you get enough of the many to help weed out the few, it works. They hold themselves, and others, accountable – more than that, they become “stewards” with a sense of ownership. Once the many have made the shift, it creates its own momentum, and is seen as helping reinforce what is valued, rather than as ratting. If not, then the few dominate the culture.

The problem is that many “ethics” solutions focus on compliance – follow the rules. As a result there are complex policy manuals. People can be duplicitous or even brutal in how they treat others, but unless they’re caught fudging an expense account or violating some other measurable rule, most companies typically won’t do anything about it. “Rules cannot take the place of character,” Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve has noted.

It’s difficult to change large organizations as a whole, so focus on the work units, build islands of high trust, and then build enough of them to transform the organization.

“Speaking truth to power” is a Canadian expression that combines two behaviours you recommend: “talk straight” and “right wrongs.” I heard of a manager who said, “If you admit to a mistake, you’ve just made a second one.” How can we both admit to mistakes, and advise superiors when we think they should rethink what they are doing?

If you make a mistake, there are costs. But if you hide it, the costs, when it surfaces, are greater. In the long run, admitting and correcting is more sustainable. And you build credibility. Think of the cost of mistakes and breaches of trust as a “tax.” If you delay that tax, disguise or deny the problem, you pay more later. You get taxed for the wrong and then for the cover up.

Admitting mistakes is not common practice, but it is common sense. You need to build your credibility, build the four core competencies of integrity, intent, capabilities and results. Admitting a mistake, apologizing, and righting the wrong may seem like a weakness to some, but it is actually a great strengt

About this author

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Management
 
OTTAWA, July 31 – CPA Canada, (Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada) announced their Public Sector Conference ,...
 
The majestic sequoia is a species of redwoods that is among...
 
The Government of Canada was the nation’s largest employer with 274,370...
 
A Globe and Mail journalist made an interesting observation of trade...
 
According to the 2018 Mercer Global Talent Trends Study , 39 per cent of employees would leave...
 
The Ontario Public Service (OPS) is at a crossroads. The 2018...
 
Summary and Recommendations Labour markets in Canada and around the world...
 
Buying Social. Responsible sourcing. Ethical procurement. Sustainable procurement. Whatever name you...
 
In this episode, Lori Turnbull discusses the positive side of disruption,...
 
When consultant Scott Eblin started working on The Next Level in 2004, he was...
 
The “Magic Loogie” scene is vintage Seinfeld. It is a pastiche...
 
Carpenters and electricians have tools: hammers, saws, pliers, plungers and flashlights....
 
Lately, all levels of the Canadian public service have devoted much...
 
The word ‘dysfunctional’ is often used to describe individuals, families, relationships,...
 
When James Cattell, a delivery manager at the UK’s Department for...
 
Kotter International found that 90 per cent of managers and employees...
 
In this episode of CGE Radio, J. Richard Jones talks with...
 
In the 5th century BC, Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem....
 
In the spring of 2018, the Auditor General of Canada, Michael...
 
A few years back, consultants with ghSMART told us the biggest...
 
Wildlife Biologist, professional hockey player and public servant, born and raised...
 
At work, we are often trying to satisfy a bundle of...
 
Large-scale change occurs when a sizeable body of people gets behind...
 
We all ask why governments fail, often spectacularly, to carry out...
 
Why is strategic planning so dreaded? How often do we actually...
 
As the resettlement of Syrian Refugees exemplifies, government programs, currently running...
 
Over the last several months, as a participant in the OCG’s...
 
High in the Arctic, the Inuksuk is a timeless cultural symbol...
 
At the 2017 IPAC conference in Charlottetown, George Ross, Editor-in-Chief of...
 
Can government remember? Is it condemned to repeat mistakes? Or does...
 
‘Elephant in the room’ is a metaphorical idiom for an obvious...
 
Compared to audit professionals and their preoccupation with “independence”, evaluation specialists...
 
Having a clear definition of success is one of the key...
 
Time is of the essence for Alice’s White Rabbit. In business,...
 
Professional development is tremendously important to members of Canada’s public sector....
 
The International Civil Service Effectiveness (InCiSE) Index project, a collaboration between...
 
Yogi Berra, Maurice (The Rocket) Richard, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, and...
 
Three years before his death in 2011, Jack Layton released a...
 
In today’s workplace, individuals increasingly face dynamic and difficult challenges that...
 
We are happy to share with you the September 2017 issue...
 
The health care system in Canada, known as Medicare, is publicly...
 
In March, the Canada Revenue Agency’s website was shut down by...
 
The answer my friends is blowin’ in the wind … BOB...
 
Water is essential to sustain all forms of life and more...
 
We are thrilled to offer the July/August issue of Canadian Government...
 
We are happy to share with you the May/June issue of...
 
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in issuing its annual review of...
 
In about two weeks, APEX will be holding its 2017 Symposium...
 
As governments around the world move towards the digital transformation of...
 
Cost estimation is becoming an extremely important skill within government due...
 
We have all heard the sayings: “Home, sweet home”; “There’s no...
 
Risk is always present in any undertaking, no matter the size...
 
As Canada’s government agencies strive to improve delivery and efficiency under...
 
Last year, procurement Minister Jody Foote was prompted by the swirling...
 
Bill Gates once said that “Technology is just a tool. In...
 
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are part of the new global “Agenda...
 
Laskey Hart guest hosts CGE Radio this week with a summary...
 
With baby boomers continuing to hang onto their office desks and...
 
In every industry, the competition for the talent pool is on...
 
The Conference Board of Canada recently published a report titled Leveraging...
 
While internal auditing has been considerably strengthened in most jurisdictions in...
 
Rules and accountability are helpful in developing and standardizing processes but...
 
Cyber-attacks threaten Canadian individuals and companies every minute of every hour....
 
Ontario’s provincial government needs to act fast in building a coordinated...
 
The bootleg fentanyl overdose crisis that is sweeping across Western provinces...
 
The association representing more than 42,000 physicians and medical students in...
 
A study conducted by Robert Half, the world’s largest specialized staffing...
 
A recent report suggests several strategies how governments and the private...
 
The latest information from IBM Cloud covers: Consolidating Complex Environments Consolidating...
 
In order to find out which strategies and priorities CFOs are...
 
A small but rapidly growing number of businesses have started hiring...
 
Sometimes it’s not the job that counts, but what comes after....
 
The possibility of mail delivery disruption on Friday this week loomed...
 
CFOs around the world are changing – but an EY survey...
 
There’s a fine line between confidence and naivety – a line...
 
Around the world, more and more workers are seeking employment. At...
 
Canada Post today warned the public about the potential for a...
 
In a little more than a year, Canadian banks and lending...
 
Digitizing certain aspects of the hiring process appeals to both employers...
 
As populations grow and age, the demand for services increases. As...
 
As a consultant, I work primarily with private sector organizations including...
 
On June 7, over 40 senior executives from within the public...
 
Dispersed organisations can be very powerful structures. There is ample evidence...
 
By Nicole Verkindt Despite growing up in a small town in...
 
The agency responsible for safeguarding the Pentagon and several other buildings...
 
The actions and decisions of public servants have consequences for the...
 
By Jason Zhang  The best way to cost effectively manage the retention...
 
Protests by irate taxi drivers, roadside scuffles involving cabbies and Uber...
 
He is often referred to as the federal government’s first “chief...
 
By Michael Murphy Not all assets can and should be equally...
 
When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes...
 
People caught a glimpse of the work of partisan advisers in...
 
Copyright owners have struggled to protect their intellectual property since the...
 
Canada’s largest organization advocating for retirees from federal, police and military...
 
Here’s some bad news for organizations contemplating projects that have something...
 
The adoption last year by the Canada Border Services Agency of...
 
Two years ago, Bixi, a not-for-profit, para-municipal bicycle-share firm of the...
 
The melting Arctic ice caused by climate change is opening up...
 
The Prime Minister is now well into the consolidation phase of...
 
Canadians expect their public services to be delivered in a way...
 
It appears it was not just the Mounties that were affected...
 
Every reputable learning institution offers leadership development training nowadays. So why...
 
Many programs at all levels of government provide funds to community-based...
 
Nearly half of Canadian organizations are falling behind on implementation of...
 
If you want to improve your management procedures, search Google. No,...
 
A while back there have been numerous media reports about the...
 
Q: Where is Comptrollership going? Comptrollership in the Government of Canada...
 
Performance auditing can lead to more efficient, effective, and economical program...
 
Rushing to keep up with deadlines but never getting ahead is...
 
The idea of converged infrastructure and converged systems in the datacentre...
 
Hackers are zeroing in on users of SSL/TLS encryption and no...
 
That the new Liberal Government has embraced ‘open government’ is hardly...
 
Meet Bob Heart.  He is an outstanding employee who works hard...
 
A new study released yesterday, Securing the C-Suite, Cybersecurity Perspectives from...
 
The bloodletting at once-mighty Canadian mobile tech giant, BlackBerry continues as...
 
There is no shortage of examples of businesses that effectively used...
 
Rogers Media announced yesterday cost-cutting moves that will see some 200...
 
Microsoft, on Tuesday, ended support for older versions of Internet Explorer...
 
Written by Tim Wacker Almost a quarter century ago, when most...
 
Last week the Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, reported that...
 
Written By Jason McNaught The Public Service Alliance of Canada was...
 
A leader’s credibility begins with personal success. It ends with helping...
 
Written by Donald Farmer Too often, we base Business Intelligence today...
 
Written by  Gail Vallance Barrington Anyone who has commissioned a program...
 
In late July, Amazon startled investors with the tiniest of profit....
 
Skills International, a global talent and career management firm, has launched...
 
When it comes to training, statistics show small businesses are more...
 
Today, TD Canada Trust released the results of a survey studying...
 
Management has its upsides, but no one said it would be...
 
Independence has long been regarded as a cornerstone of the auditing...
 
Congratulations. You’ve achieved professional recognition for your performance and the public...
 
In 2011, PwC began a conversation with global defence leaders on...
 
Canada is a diverse nation, in language, culture, geography, and, ultimately,...
 
Public sector organizations are under increasing pressure to identify all risks...
 
The government of Canada has implemented several measures over the past...
 
The economy is sluggish…oil prices are down…stock markets are up but...
 
Whether at the territorial, provincial or federal government level, internal audit...
 
On a cold, grey Sunday afternoon last November, about 2,500 residents...
 
An organization’s reputation can take years to build but it can...
 
Change definitely happens, and it is happening faster and faster as...
 
On October 30, Ontario began second reading of the Public Sector...
 
commentEmail””:””ipfrazer@ipfconsulting.com”” Related posts: Turning complexity into dexterity
 
The success of organizations, and the Canadian economy, is directly tied...
 
In the well-known children’s story, an Emperor falls victim to the...
 
The Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman is a small operation...
 
I think the ombudsman needs to be independent, because without independence...
 
Today’s business environment changes rapidly to adjust to evolving conditions and...
 
There’s a cloud looming over public sector employers in Canada. Baby...
 
“”corporate governance”” Related posts: The Right Stuff: Competency...
 
The best internal auditors actually are really good managers first. I...
 
In the middle of an empty field on the edge of...
 
The recent controversy about the actions of some staff members in...
 
Most professionals don’t need more than a sentence at a cocktail...
 
Recent research by the Institute of Internal Auditors Canada aims to...
 
Today’s tasty hamburger bun is a marvel of industrial cuisine and...
 
In this last week before Christmas and the holidays, this is...
 
As part of the Public Policy Forum’s university lecture series, Mel...
 
Respecting, processing and cross-pollinating thoughts from diverse cultures will advance team...
 
When is it that a politician becomes part of the governing...
 
It is something that few senior managers spend much time thinking...
 
It’s been a busy couple of weeks on the information, privacy...
 
In 1996, a new budget watchdog, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, was...
 
The publication of Donald Savoie’s latest book, Whatever Happened to the...
 
The Ontario government is moving forward with the creation of a...
 
He blew up the factory! Jack Welch, as CEO of General...
 
There is no doubt that the challenges faced by governments are...
 
When printing press technology was diffused through Europe, adult literature preceded...
 
The Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada (PSIC)...
 
After the Auditor General’s (AG) report was released on April 30,...
 
Entering 2013, Canadian employers and unions, public and private sector alike,...
 
In the U.K. system, Permanent Secretaries are what we call Deputy...
 
As both a management consultant and a Boston Marathoner who was...
 
I believe that the greatest challenge and opportunity for management is...
 
The Asian Development Bank estimates that the global demand for infrastructure...
 
n Saskatchewan, a drug shortage team in the Ministry of Health...
 
Three decades ago, the federal public service was proportionately larger, generally...
 
We are living in a period of rapid change and limited...
 
US public sector employees don’t trust their management to do the...
 
The news of Mark Carney’s nomination as the new Governor of...
 
Following Singapore’s independence in 1965, the controversial leadership of Lee Kuan...
 
Over the past few years, the preparation and delivery of the...
 
In healthcare, cost-cutting can result in cutting what is valued most...
 
For over 20 years Colin Bennett has been exploring issues of...
 
Even before controversy shook the organization to its foundation, Ornge was...
 
It will be the largest international multi-sport event ever held on...
 
We’ve all seen the headlines – BC Ferries, Ornge, la Caisse...
 
It can happen, and it’s noteworthy when it does. Government, business...
 
There seems little argument in the wake of the financial crisis...
 
Kevin Page’s mandate as the first Parliamentary Budget Officer comes to...
 
Governments are challenged to meaningfully mitigate the effects of the financial...
 
Canada is facing a huge financial challenge brought on by massive...
 
For the past one hundred years, democratic states have been moving...
 
It’s so much easier and less painful to learn from the...
 
Mandated by Congress in late 2010, the U.S. federal government is...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.4 April 2007 "The potential to lead is in...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.2 February 2007 The Connecting the Dots series is...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.2 February 2007 For too many managers, "crisis" is...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.3 March 2008 Organizations communicate "what the real game...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.2 February 2007 Canada’s Performance 2006 is the sixth...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.1 January 2008 The furor over the $300,000 that...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.2 February 2008 Community Safety and Correctional Services is...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.3 March 2008 If you spend much time at...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.7 September 2007 "If the Public Service, as a...
 
When pondering leadership, we immediately think of exercising our influence downward...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.1 January 2007 "How can I be held accountable...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.1 January 2007 Leadership How would you describe your...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.2 February 2008 Let’s say you’re a senior manager,...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.5 May 2007 How often has a new employee...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.1 January 2007 Perhaps it’s a legacy of the...
 
The public service strives to achieve positive outcomes with appropriately targeted...
 
Last fall, Alberta’s Employment and Immigration department posted online the workplace...
 
Managing public sector organizations requires living with high levels of complexity...
 
The significant challenges created by the global recession have had a...
 
Saskatchewan, like other provinces, spends almost half its budget on healthcare....
 
Building project management and business transformation capacity is critical to advancing...
 
You’ve heard it many times: public service leaders are accountable for...
 
Citizens want to talk to politicians and policymakers to explain what...
 
Dans le monde d’aujourd’hui, les entreprises, les organismes et leurs clients...
 
if possible I would love to ask you a few other...
 
En parcourant tous les diagrammes techniques qui couvrent des cartes murales...
 
On pense souvent que la fonction publique devra recruter un grand...
 
Jumeler les compétences opérationnelles avec le souci du service, les aptitudes...
 
La complexité des programmes publics ne date pas d’hier. Nul ne...
 
Après avoir consacré trois années à la mobilisation des employés et...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.9 November 2007 The new expenditure management system announced...
 
As the Public Service Commission of Canada celebrates its 100th anniversary...
 
With the hotly contested Canadian and American elections behind us, the...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.8 October 2007 A few weeks ago, the federal...
 
Like most people, public service leaders intuitively understand the value of...
 
As the global economy struggles to regain some forward momentum, Canadian...
 
This will be a defining budget for Stephen Harper. It will...
 
It is difficult to determine when the debate about the need...
 
For the next few years, the federal government’s overarching agenda will...
 
Much of the current conversation about the federal government’s economic agenda...
 
Are you a good boss? Or a bad boss? Or a...
 
Most government executives, most of the time, are focused on dealing...
 
Lee McCormack, ancien cadre supérieur du gouvernement, est directeur de la...
 
Henry Mintzberg is Canada’s most celebrated management thinker. He and colleagues...
 
Stephen M.R. Covey has sold 600,000 copies of The Speed of...
 
Comment les cadres et les élus des villes dirigentR09;ils les services...
 
A decade ago Canadian Blood Services took over a troubled agency...
 
Ne vous fiez à personne de plus de 30 ans, déclarait...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.10 December 2007 Demographics and technology, two of our...
 
In 2006 the world was feeling the aftershocks of a number...
 
The Independent Blue Ribbon Panel on Grants and Contributions called for...
 
Au Canada, le secteur bénévole et à but non lucratif vit...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.4 April 2007 Robert Parkins, editorial director, met recently...
 
Bill Greenlaw is the elected president of the Institute for Public...
 
In the past two decades, the nature of the state has...
 
Have you ever asked yourself the question: ‘How would I evaluate...
 
In recent months, the attention of Canadians has been focused on...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
OTTAWA, July 31 – CPA Canada, (Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada) announced their Public Sector Conference ,...