For want of a Relationship, Trust was lost,
For want of Trust, Innovation was lost,
For want of Innovation, a Company was lost,
For want of a Company, an Economy was lost,
And the Republic was not far behind.”
… Frank Wantland July 17, 2017 Blog
Over the past few days, I have been reading a new book by Ed Luce (2017), The Retreat of Western Liberalism. Partisan politics aside I found a remarkable reference and quote (p.38) from Adam Smith, yes that Adam Smith, the 18th century author of The Wealth of Nations. But this was a reference to a different book by Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). In this book according to Luce, “Smith sets out why capitalism works best in societies where there are high levels of trust between its participants. When social trust falls, the cost of doing business rises.”
In stress-filled organizations in which trust is a long forgotten dream, there is little incentive for risk, especially for putting out a really different idea. Everyone keeps their head down, keeps to him or herself and conforms to the norms and rituals of the company. No one dares to express the childlike clarity of the young boy in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
The cardinal sin of all is to fail, to make a mistake, or not have the answer when it is demanded. Talk about isolation, without trust there are no arms to catch you when you fall, no safety net. Even more importantly, the result is defensive behavior, the unwillingness to take responsibility and the inability to learn. It is a survival reflex. And it does not have to be this way.
Even when the organization is stressed and there is chaos “out there”, the exceptional leader defends the creative climate that he/she has built for his piece of the organization. She is the buffer that absorbs the shock waves and encourages her people to rely on one another to rise to the challenge and do exceptional, innovative work in spite of the turbulence. They will only do this if they have come to trust you. I remember times when I physically intervened when I heard my bosses footsteps headed toward my group, and so do the people who worked for me.
Trust is based on relationships and an unspoken bond and barter system that only comes with continuous contact. People want and need a feeling of stability at least in their group. To establish the environment for sustained innovation, please start at the beginning. Talk to one another. The leader is the safety net and the reward will be a desire to stay and the opportunity for exceptional innovation.
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