Friday, January 18, 2008

The 4 C's of Trust

This is my attempt to be like John Maxwell I guess. I had to develop this article for an overnight senior manager's weekend back in October and from then it has evolved into this, which actually was just published in one of our trade partner's newsletters. There is still more work to be done and hashed out, but this is the bare bones beginning of a concept that I think is important and kind of revolutionary for my company. But here it is in all of its glory for now and just keep in mind that revisions will be coming :).

You can’t get there without

Developing Teamwork within your organization cannot be done without first developing organizational Trust.

Together Everyone Achieves More” ~ John Hall, Branch Manager, Signature Companies

“There may not be an I in TEAM but there is in FIRE.” ~ Dennis Monte, Vice President, Business Process Improvement, Signature Companies

Teamwork is a common topic in many organizations, but it is in reality rarely found within them. The last four years at Signature Companies, we have set many cultural organizational goals, but it wasn’t until this past February that the most important organizational goal became teamwork! Signature Companies is an organization that I am immensely proud of and I believe that we are a very good company. Yet, as good as we may be, I still felt that we had yet to make the leap to being a great company. There are many great and dedicated individuals that work at Signature, but the potential we have to operate as a great team had not yet been realized.

During this time our senior management team began discussing how to create teamwork. In reading Leading With the Heart by Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University, it became apparent that in order to build TEAMWORK, you first need to build organizational TRUST. Teamwork, speed, and organizational efficiency flow from an organization full of people who have trust-based relationships. Trust between people breaks down communication barriers and allows the business to focus on its strategic goals.

In preparing for a recent offsite strategy meeting, I asked my assistant Lauren Taggart to put some thought into this issue and summarize three books that have been key in our journey as an organization (Leading With the Heart by Mike Krzyzewski, Winning by Jack Welch, Good to Great by Jim Collins)[1] as well as the website to present to our senior management team. Lauren reviewed the above materials and developed the concept of the 4 C’s of Organizational Trust: Candor, Connection, Competence, and Character. The 4 C’s of Organizational Trust, when practiced consistently, become the foundational pillars upon which an organization can build effective teamwork. Without these four building blocks, teamwork and trust become empty, nebulous concepts that do nothing to improve the performance and success of an organization.

There are many books and articles that discuss the benefits of honest, transparent, and clear communication between individuals. All of these words are synonyms for candor, one of the 4 C’s of Trust. The open dialogue that candor creates improves the speed and efficiency of an organization. However, just as there are many obstacles to creating trust with customers and within an organization, there are also many hurdles to the practice of candor. One of the problems with candor is that it poses the risk of alienating people who do not want to hear the truth or reality of their situations. Another problem with candor is that it cannot be practiced without mutually respectful relationships between two people. If a person cannot value another’s strengths and treat him or her daily with respect, then candor serves no purpose other than to point out another’s flaws and erode any kind of trust between the two parties. Candor also cannot be practiced digitally or in a memo format – meaning that in order for candor to truly be effective and build trust, it must take place on a face-to-face platform. Ultimately, candor and trust have a symbiotic relationship. One builds on the other, creating clear channels of communication between people, and simplifying situations that were seemingly insurmountable. By taking a risk and communicating in an honest, straightforward manner, trust is created between individuals and problems solved.

Genuine relationships, or what we call connection, also build trust between people. When people take the time to engage with another person and simply care about the other person, a foundation is built between the two. A mutual respect develops and the two people come to realize that they can rely on the other. Truly getting to know another person, beyond the outer surface that everyone projects, develops an even deeper trust and respect that allows these two people to communicate candidly with one another – which in turn develops more trust and builds a team. Trust cannot exist between people who do not connect with each other. And if trust does not exist between these two people, they become burdened with constantly having to both “read between the lines” and figure out the subtext, or they have to double-check the other person’s work, which slows the speed and efficiency of the organization. Connection therefore is critical to the development of trust with customers and within an organization.

The character of a person determines whether or not trust is created between two people. If people are accountable for their actions, keep their commitments, admit their mistakes, listen to others, and are truthful in all their dealings, they build a layer of trust, not only within their organization, but with all of their relationships. The integrity, the character, of a person will determine the amount of trust that colleagues and customers place upon him or her.

The last of the 4 C’s, competence, is the ability of a person to perform in their job, continuously improve that performance, and consistently deliver results, creating another platform upon which trust grows. If a person cannot perform in their job, the natural result is that his or her coworkers do not place any trust in them and are constantly double-checking that person’s work. Instead of a trustworthy, independent, self-managed worker, you have a worker that needs to be micro-managed. A worker who is not competent saps the energy out of his or her manager and takes time and focus away from issues that need to be dealt with in order for the organization to achieve its goal. Trust is eroded by incompetent people. The trick then becomes recognizing what competencies workers possess and placing them in the right job that utilizes these competencies.

When an organization has a high level of trust within it, clear, candid communication is present among a set of high-performing, competent people who genuinely care, connect, and respect each other and demonstrate personal integrity on a daily basis and they perform as a great team. As Signature’s journey over the past four years demonstrates, this does not happen overnight. Trust and great teamwork take time to develop the highly functional relationships in which honesty and candor are seen as virtues and not personal slights. Trust at its core is a risky enterprise. But when the 4 C’s of Candor, Connection, Character, and Competence are in place promoting trust and teamwork, there is nothing that the organization cannot accomplish.

This concept has proved immensely helpful to our senior management team as difficult personnel decisions had to be made due to the trying market conditions we all face. In the end, though the market remains weak, our organization is getting stronger every day as a result of living and promoting this philosophy.

John Lombardozzi
President and CEO
Signature Companies

[1] Leading With The Heart by Mike Krzyzewski: This book really brought home the notion of teamwork and how Coack K has developed it with his highly successful basketball teams at Duke. What I learned from this book is how important Trust is to the development of Teamwork.

2.Winning by Jack Welch: This book taught me how important Candor is in improving speed and efficiency in an organization.

3. Good to Great by Jim Collins: This book gave us the passion to define and focus what our company is all about. We developed our HedgeHog Concept to be “The Best Turn-Key Supplier, Period”. As it relates to this discussion, it introduced to us the importance of the “Right People on the Bus” concept.

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