Trust, Information, Belief in People—the Keys to Best Cultures

By Sid Scott

There never seems to be a scarcity of ideas on how to create the most productive workplaces and the best cultures. Often leaders, whose organizations have experienced quick growth and financial success, attribute these triumphs to some unique, efficient process that they themselves implemented, rather than giving credit to the efforts of the whole workforce, the growth in the economy, or just the success that can come from being in the right place at the right time. My contention is that the most successful companies are built on mutual trust, honest information, and a belief in people rather than on new, top-down, more for less, processes that increase worker output in order to satisfy customers.

Managers and motivation. From my perspective, so much has been written about motivation and the belief that persons in positions of power have the means to motivate others with less ambition to do things, even if the others don’t want to do them. No matter how much is written to counter the belief that strong leadership is the key to successful motivation, some just don’t understand that the majority of motivation we all experience comes from within us rather from without. Further, when self-motivated people work together for the same things, success follows.

Consider this, when you arrive at the workplace each day, do you wait for your manager or supervisor to tell you what needs to be done? Sometimes, maybe, but I surmise that if you’ve been doing your job for a while, you know what needs to be done, and go about doing it to the best of your abilities. I’ve asked this question to multiple groups of people at all levels, and consistently they agree that their own motivation is mostly an internal thing. They further agree that managers can help by providing the encouragement, the tools and the support needed to do their jobs. At the same time, most folks also say to me that leaders have to be careful to not demotivate others as workers often have been in times past. But there are others who might disagree.

If we study the history of management, Frederick Taylor’s name appears as the early innovator of what has been called Scientific Management. His focus was to use measurements of workers to manage and increase productivity by rewarding the best performers and punishing those who were not able to make the grade. Although much of Taylor’s beliefs were long ago discarded, it amazes and disturbs me that some companies still cling to Taylor’s methods in 2015. They do so in order to dazzle customers with their speed, to increase profits at the expense of workers. A recent article in The Economist is titled: Digital Taylorism, A modern version of “scientific management” threatens to dehumanize the workplace. If you read it, be prepared to be shocked. (The Economist: Digital Taylorism)

Creating a good job and a trust-building workplace. Thankfully, there are many good examples of companies around that understand that the people who work inside the organization are still our best source of company success, innovation and long-term survival. Often, I’ve quoted another Frederick—Frederick Herzberg, a psychologist who abhorred Taylor’s scientific methodologies, and worked to help managers understand that they can increase employee motivation by creating better-structured jobs and workplaces. He stated it this way, “Motivation derives from people having a sense of achievement, recognition, responsibility and opportunities for personal growth.”

Examples of good companies that know how to create good jobs and positive cultures show up annually on Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. Seventy-one of the companies are U.S. for-profit stock corporations and half of them, as noted by the National Center for Employee Ownership, have broad-based employee ownership plans. Herzberg would be proud of these companies, because they approach management and culture in positive ways he would support.

Generally, the companies that make the list, do so because they have all or most of these characteristics:

  • A supportive environment
  • Encouragement for learning and training
  • A culture that is risk free and non-threatening
  • A clear, shared vision
  • They give passionate customer service, and
  • Employees trust the people they work for.

Many of the leaders in the 100 Best Companies are focused on workplace culture as a competitive tool. Typically, they genuinely listen and craft policies and programs to suit today’s workforce. Marriot, which has appeared on all 18 of the 110 Best lists, has this philosophy, which most of the other organizations would support, “Take care of associates, and they will take care of the customers.”

Who can we trust? It’s not easy to create a company that can make the 100 Best list, but even if we don’t make the list, we can learn from their experiences and apply them in our own organizations. My belief is the first place to start is focus on building a culture of mutual trust. Why is trust the key? Because, without trust, the workplace relationship falls apart, and leaders and non-leaders are at odds.

A long time ago, I figured out my checklist for trust. It goes like this for me.

“I can trust people who:

1) Are honest and tell it like it is, sharing the good and the bad,

2) Do what they say they will do,

3) Are not afraid to admit their mistakes,

4) Respect and encourage ideas from others, and

5) Share the credit and the rewards.”

I trust you have a similar list.

Sid Scott
Sid Scott, Scott Consultants, LLC

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