Quote of the week
“…you can behave yourself out of problems … and the best way to do it is to do what you say you’re going to do.”
A few years ago, my colleague Paul Crookall and I wrote a report examining social media and its impact on large public sector organizations. (You can find it at http://www.ipac.ca/knowledge/Publications.)
A point that arose from our consultations was that if public sector organizations are to embrace these new tools, then managers will have to learn to trust employees to use social media sensibly.
One reason that employee trust is lacking is risk. Our bureaucratic, hierarchical decision-making organizations have multiple checks and balances in order to minimize risk. And that, to some degree, is sensible.
But at the same time, they send a signal to employees that the organization is worried about them innovating or stretching their abilities to promote change.
Another reason that employee trust is at a premium is power. From our consultations we coined the term “clay layer,” referring to managers that are reluctant to share decision-making with their employees because it takes away power from themselves.
Trust has many dimensions, of course, and as leaders we have to balance appropriate oversight with blind trust. If we distrust everyone, we may end up burdening ourselves will inefficient and cumbersome oversight procedures. If we trust everyone implicitly, we may be abdicating the responsibilities that come with leadership.
The cost of the lack of understanding of how trust works in our organizations is efficiency and productivity. Efficiency suffers because no modern day, high-performing public sector organization can centralize all power and decision-making in one place and remain effective.
Productivity also suffers. If it’s true that we will need to recruit high-quality knowledge workers to the public sector, then we will need to give them our trust so they can work at the level that we expect them to. No trust, and they will just do the low-risk, non-innovative minimum.
On June 11, Stephen M. R Covey will be in Ottawa for a half-day session on trust. He is the author of the book Smart Trust, and he will demonstrate how we can use the concept to improve organizational performance.
Public sector leaders who care about their organizations and their people should go. To register click on http://cge.itincanada.ca