In part 1 we talked about enabling agility through truth. Now we will look at how trust enables healthy agility. But lets start by looking at what trust is not.
The opposite of trust is control. Many companies seem to be afraid of their employees. They setup big deadlines, governance meetings, and long approval processes to keep them in line. So much effort is wasted creating an appearance of control when the reality is that the deadlines keep slipping and people work around the crazy regulations, making more of a mess than before.
A false substitute for trust is apathy. It usually takes the form of me telling you that I trust you, staying hands off, and then getting angry with you for not succeeding. This may provide you agility but it is reckless.
Real trust is hard because it takes work to build it. Trust isn’t blind or given for free. Healthy trust is reasonable.
Reasonable trust starts with hiring trustworthy people. To do this, you need to start by creating good filters in your interviewing process to weed out the kind of people you don’t want. Then, if you can’t find anyone you want to hire, it isn’t because they aren’t out there, it is because you don’t attract them. Fixing this often starts with becoming the kind of person you want to hire.
Once you hire them you need to set them up for success. This starts with being a good listener and yes, it is your job to solicit their opinion. Stop blaming them for not telling you things. If they aren’t coming to talk to you then the blame is on you for not being approachable or not hiring the right person.
Then, based on your open and honest communication, you incrementally build a culture and systems that make the right path the easy path for your employees. You grant them bounded autonomy so that they feel empowered to lead while knowing the clear limits. As this culture and system grows, you will find that you are better able to attract and grow trustworthy people.
This kind of reasonable trust empowers people to respond quickly and safely to change. At first trust doesn’t feel safe, but let’s be honest, were you really safe before? Hire good people, set them up for success, and let them do the job you hired them for.
Erik is an agile software developer in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys working full-stack (CSS, JS, C#, SQL) as each layer presents new challenges. His experience involves a variety of applications ranging from developing brochure sites to high-performance streaming applications. He has worked in many domains including military, healthcare, finance, and energy.