In virtually every organization that I work with they suffer from the same fundamental shortcoming … ineffective execution. Execution deficiencies come in many shapes, colors and sizes, including poor communication, sketchy planning, lack of teamwork, and ineffective leadership, but the most critical deficiency always comes down to lack of accountability. The team (individually and collectively) does not consistently do what it has committed to do. Certainly, lack of clarity on goals, objectives and project plans plays a role in the execution deficiencies. Likewise, failures to establish clear “ownership” of objectives and plans will often result in execution “misses” (both big and small). However, if team members consistently honor their commitments and hold each accountable for those commitments, then the right things will get done and on time! It’s simple: organizations that excel with accountability consistently execute and achieve their objectives. So what’s the secret?
The secret is trust … the missing ingredient that separates good organizations from great ones. It’s also often mistakenly believed to be present in many organizations, and this self-deception is keeping organizations from moving forward and achieving their goals. Trust (as defined below) is the foundation of open communication, the essence of personal growth and development, and the linchpin for effective accountability. Despite its obvious role in organizational performance, trust is rarely discussed (perhaps because organizations assume it exists) and is even less frequently the focus of organizational training and development efforts.
Why are we so hesitant to directly confront this critical business building block called “trust?” The answer is fear … fear of acknowledging that the most fundamental ingredient for individuals working together is missing in our organization; fear of peeling back the onion to discover the causes of the lack of trust; and fear (mostly with leadership) of being vulnerable enough to invite a discussion around the most intimate of business topics.
One of the primary drivers for the mistaken assumption of the existence of trust is an erroneous definition of trust. Too often we confuse trust with integrity … leadership trusts that its team members are honest, tell the truth (at least superficially), and will not do something intentionally detrimental to the organization. In reality, trust within an organization and among team members comes down to this fundamental question:
Do I trust that your motives and feedback are always driven by your interest in helping me or in helping the organization to achieve its objectives?
If I believe that your motives are focused on me or the organization, then I can’t possibly take your input or perspectives personally. After all, how can I be offended or defensive if I trust that you’re acting in my best interest or the organization’s best interest?
However, when trust is missing or incomplete then team members:
Are hesitant to be honest with each other for fear of offending
- Are ineffective at accountability because of the hesitancy to hold each other to their commitments
- Are not clear about ownership and accountability for projects, initiatives and objectives
- Do not engage in open dialogue and discussion about new ideas, strategies or objectives (including critical challenges and opportunities)
The ultimate result is ineffective communication and execution and your organization fails to achieve its objectives.
Effective organizations engage in open and honest discussions, set clear objectives and ownership thereof, demand firm commitments from team members, and hold each other accountability (at all levels) for achieving stated commitments … and the foundation of all of these execution necessities is trust. If your organization is coming up short in execution, then it’s time to take a close look at your team’s trust indicators. And always remember that trust is given, so be the positive change in your organization by demonstrating, giving and expecting trust. Trust me … it’s a difference maker.