Trust No One

“Trust No One.”

Those were the ominous words I saw recently on a poster promoting the new Harry Potter movie.  In the context of the life and death struggle between the forces of good and evil portrayed in the movie, the warning may well be justified.  However, when that approach migrates from Hollywood fantasy to the workplace, we have a problem.  This is particularly so when your workplace is engaged in an Enterprise 2.0 initiative.  If there is no trust, it’s hard to have community.  Without community, social media tools will struggle to realize their potential behind the firewall.

In a recent post on the importance of trust in community formation, Charles H. Green points to Francis Fukuyama’s book, Trust, which discusses the importance of “social trust.” In that book, Fukuyama defines trust as:

The expectation that arises within a community of regular, honest, and cooperative behavior, based on commonly shared norms, on the part of other members of that community.

He then goes on to explain the great value of trust and community:

The greatest economic efficiency was not necessarily achieved by rational self-interested individuals but rather by groups of individuals who, because of a pre-existing moral community, are able to work together effectively.

It all begins with trust.

In the movie, people were asked to prove their bona fides time and time again before another was willing to trust them. How to do you establish  trustworthiness in a physical or virtual community? Fukuyama tells us that it’s through “regular, honest and cooperative behavior,” resting on a bedrock of shared norms. According to Jeffrey Phillips, trust is earned within the context of realistic expectations and a willingness to work together to achieve a common goal:

Trust has to be earned.  I want to know if we are in error, and I want to fix any mistake we made, any expectation we failed to meet, as quickly and effectively as possible.  Trust should not be predicated on the expectation that your partner will never fail, only that they will do their absolute best to avoid failure, and will admit any mistake and fix the problem as quickly as possible.  Over time, a partner that consistently demonstrates their willingness to work in this manner will gain anyone’s trust.  It is hard to gain trust when there are unrealistic expectations or when there is a blame first mentality.

Overcoming paranoia to create a sense of trust and shared purpose may be one of the biggest challenges for a community manager.  The good news is that most of us long for community, trust and shared purpose.  We just need a little encouragement to achieve it.

[Photo Credit: The Angry Robot]

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Cash or Credit?

Given the economic realities of this year, many firms have found themselves unable to offer their employees material increases with respect to either salary or benefits. So how do you let colleagues know they are valued when you don’t have cash?  It’s simple — use Credit.

When I say “use credit,” I don’t mean to suggest that you give your colleagues IOUs.  Rather, you should find many and varied means of letting them (and others) know how much you value them.  In fact, studies have shown that cash is sometimes the least effective way of motivating others to perform.  So look at this year as a wonderful opportunity to learn more effective methods to manage your team.  Here are some tips:

  • Be unstinting in your praise for work well done by members of your team.  I know they are getting a paycheck to do a good job, but that paycheck provides few of the psychic rewards most people crave.
  • When you are commended for work done by your team, be sure to let your superiors know who on your team shouldered the laboring oar.  (If you are the insecure type who hogs the credit in an effort to shore up your personal position within the organization, let me tell you a secret about this.  When you highlight the excellence of individuals on your team you actually remind others of your good judgment in hiring and managing great people.  The fact that you look generous as well doesn’t hurt one bit either.)
  • When anyone outside your team does a terrific job, thank them.  Better still send a note to their supervisors letting them know (and copy the employee so they know as well).
  • Be straightforward and sincere.  Most of us sense a con when we hear it.  Credit works in lieu of cash only when the emotion and intent behind the praise is genuine.
  • Saying “thx” rarely is sufficient.  If the work done is deserving of praise, then surely it merits more effort from you than is required to write “thx” in an offhand, reflexive manner.  (The only possible exception to this is when you are facing the 140 character limit in Twitter!)

Above all, I’d recommend that you read Charles Green’s fantastic post, Pin the Credit on Someone Else, and adopt that as your modus operandi going forward.  This will be a challenge for the insecure manager, but it will make a world of difference in the way members of the team view their work and their manager.

In this season of gratitude and generosity, try being grateful and generous at work.  It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

[Photo Credit:  chrisjohnbeckett]

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