The Importance of Trust in Business

July 6, 2015

Trust in business

Trust is essential to getting anything done.  How it is expressed makes a huge difference in how things go, however, and it’s one of those things you can ignore (though you may do this at your peril).  I always told my kids “trust, but verify”.  Trust is earned through consistently following through on your commitments, and trust grows stronger over time if it is not betrayed.  While it is often spoken of as if it was an absolute, it is actually a continuum stretching from complete and absolute trust to complete distrust.  Even the heinous criminal is trusted to an extent, though it may only be that we trust that they are untrustworthy.  High levels of trust are required for effective business relationships, however.

If you hire someone you often expect them to do work you cannot, and micromanaging them (a common response to a lack of trust) reduces your productivity as well as theirs.  For maximum effectiveness (theirs AND yours) you need to be able to trust them completely.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep tabs on how they’re doing, however.  After all, if you are their supervisor or manager you may need to clear bureaucratic obstacles for them, arrange for needed training, give strategic direction and reasons why the work needs to be done, help them better understand the customer and customer’s needs, or otherwise help them do their best, but getting “too deep in their shorts” is a counterproductive waste of time.  Over time and with good communications you will see how they work and better understand how trustworthy they are.  If there is a problem it will soon be evident, at which time it can be dealt with.  Given that, it is always best to hire people you can trust, and then trust and enable them so they can do their best work.

Trust is not complicated, but it is essential.  In a parallel to the old saying “if you’re not having fun, why are you doing that?” I say “If you can’t trust me, why did you hire me?”  Micromanagement implies the subordinate is untrustworthy, but mentoring suggests the employee is worth the time and energy invested, and this implication can easily improve their performance as much or more than the mentoring.  That suggests that the basic attitudes of the supervisor play a big part in how subordinates perform and improve, and trust by a superior can improve employee performance, while distrust can undermine it..  As the sign in the picture says, “I am passionate about doing the best job I can, but if you persistently ignore me, second guess my decisions, or make my decisions for me my only recourse will be to “plod” and “do what I’m told” (and be depressed).”  The latter scenario occurs all too often in business, and works against effective operations and profitability.

As always, I appreciate your comments. — Tim


New Thinking is Emerging About Recruiting and What Makes a Better Job Ad

April 24, 2015

All my life, through approximately five careers, I have had to read and respond to many poorly written recruiting ads, and also listen to the complaints of people working in everything from tiny start-up companies to major multinational corporations that they weren’t getting good candidates.  I have observed that sometimes a single ad overwhelmed the human resource department with so many responses that it was impossible for them to find the good candidates among the “piles” of applications, and yet that ad was held up as “extremely effective”.  Improvements in recruiting concepts have long been needed, but it appears they are finally coming about.  So what works better than just posting a job description in the media or on the company web page? Read the rest of this entry »


Smart Project Endings Add Serious Value

December 8, 2013

Failing to effectively end projects can have high but hidden costs.  Some companies are so buried in the latest and hottest project or in “fighting fires” that they fail to close projects constructively.  In doing so they not only miss opportunities to generate extra value for the company and everyone involved, but also to maintain the quality of management information (financial and other types) and prevent or limit cost overruns. When projects aren’t formally ended some workers may go on working on them unaware that it is time to move on to other work.  Other workers may find reason to continue to charge the project for their time, especially if they run into a slack period without enough work to keep them busy (which happens naturally in many product development organizations or in highly seasonal work).  This is especially likely where “charging overhead” has a negative stigma attached to it and project charge codes are not shut off.  There are many ways that project endings provide value, however, if they are timely, well planned, and properly executed .  Here are a bunch of them: Read the rest of this entry »


Which is Better? A Budget with “Challenge” or a Budget with “Reserve”?

November 26, 2013

In the defense contracting world budgeting is typically done under a rigorous “earned value management system” (EVMS) that usually includes keeping aside 10% of the budget for use as a “management reserve”.  This can then be doled out in bits and pieces as needed to fund changes in what needs to be done (“scope” in the project-organized world) and solutions for problems that arise during the course of business.  It also allows people within the organization to cope with unexpected changes without feeling like they are endangering the project or organization when they have to ask for more funding.  They all still have to do what they can to stay within budget, but it gives the appearance that upper management accepts that unexpected changes happen and are going to be reasonable in helping people dealing with them.  That’s not how budgets are typically presented in the rest of the business world, however. Read the rest of this entry »


Knowledge Injection: Jeff DeGraff on Organizational Culture and Competency

January 17, 2013

A YouTube posting by a group to which I subscribe (BigThink) caught my attention: Jeff DeGraff presenting a talk on what makes organizations high performers, including the nature of personality types and management styles.  Many organizations fail to select the best managers but would do much better if they studied this and similar messages.  I recommend viewing it, and welcome your comments. 

Thanks for reading and commenting.  — Tim


Where Does a Manager’s Value Come From?

December 11, 2012

The value produced by managers is difficult to quantify and varies greatly.  For the most part, the value a manager produces depends a lot on their personality, which is a product of their attitudes about people, the work at hand, and their general background and experience. Since the essence of the job is the coordination of the efforts of others, communicating effectively and maintaining the commitment of others who will get the work done are of critical importance.  In corporations it is rare for a manager to produce much product-related value by themselves.  The real value of management is in uniting people who know what to do in coördinated efforts that multiply the value of individual results.  Other ways a manager can contribute are in development of strategy, bringing in outside knowledge including customer and business environment-related information, removing inhibitors to productivity, and generally enabling people to contribute to the satisfaction of customers and the success of the business, however they might be able to do this.  It is important to recognize that approach is an individual thing, and different managers will have different ways of dealing with people and issues that may be equally effective but strikingly different to the observer.  Read the rest of this entry »


Business Process Standardization in Complex Organizations – Making It Work

April 9, 2008

Standardization of internal business processes, like any other tool (and a concept or procedure can be viewed as a tool), can be a double-edged sword. It can have many benefits if used properly, or can be harmful if poorly designed or misapplied. One of the great challenges for any organization, especially large ones within which many divisions produce different products for different markets, is knowing when and where to standardize processes, structure, and tools. This entry is intended to address standardization in the most difficult circumstances: large corporations with many, diverse divisions. To clarify, horizontal divisions might consist of a marketing group who define customer needs, a design group who dream up products to meet those needs, an engineering group who design the parts of the products and make sure they fit together, a production group who assemble the products in quantity, a logistics group that transports products to customer locations, and a sales group to complete the transactions with customers. Vertical divisions could exist to address parallel product or customer types, or unrelated products that shared other synergies such as a common resource or common technologies. So what do you need to know to use standards effectively? Read the rest of this entry »