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Create a Culture of Innovation with the 10 Laws of Trust

Trust is the currency of business success. Here's how to build it into your corporate culture.

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Leading organizational change to create a corporate culture that delivers continuous innovation is one of today’s most strategic business imperatives.

But how do you do that?

We’ve seen what happens to companies when customers lose trust in their brands – just think Target (data breach), Chipotle (E. coli outbreak), and Facebook (selling user data). But how does trust relate to employees inside of organizations and corporate cultures?

I wrote extensively about how to create a culture of innovation in my last book, The Invisible Advantage. And every now and then I come across certain people who really get the topic. One such person is JetBlue Chairman, Joel Peterson, author of the book The 10 Laws of Trust.

Peterson believes that every organization can embrace a set of principles to increase organizational trust levels internally – which can, in turn, make a big difference for productivity, innovation, and the retention of people. Above all, high-trust organizations increase general levels of happiness and confidence in making decisions, not to mention taking risks to get more innovation.

Here are ten ways to increase trust in your organization:

  1. Start with Personal Integrity. This is the sine qua non of intentionally building trust. Above all, having integrity means doing what you say you’re going to do. It means that there’s no gap between action and utterance. And it means that public and private behavior are consistent.
  2. Invest in Respect. Trust grows out of respect for individuals manifested in simple, daily interactions, often reflective of listening without agenda.
  3. Empower Others. Mistrustful organizations are preoccupied with keeping people from doing their worst, while high-trust organizations focus on empowering people to do their best–granting trust in increments and expanding it with results.
  4. Measure What You Want to Achieve. Only when people know what’s expected can they have confidence to act rather than trying to figure out what might matter. With proper metrics, people learn to trust the system.
  5. Create a Common Dream. Trust will develop when a shared dream brings each member of the team together in the pursuit of something meaningful–particularly when team members have had a chance to shape and own the mission.
  6. Keep Everyone Informed. Leaders must communicate lavishly. This means no spin. It means sharing facts simply, persuasively, and thoroughly. It means dealing openly with bad news as well as good news.
  7. Embrace Respectful Conflict. Respectful conflict refines ideas. Making sure the best idea wins–not the most powerful person–allows disagreement to generate better ideas and promotes a sense of teamwork deep within an organization.
  8. Show Humility. High-trust leaders see themselves as stewards–guiding people, assets, and decision making. Humility makes it possible for a leader to build for a future s/he won’t see–ensuring that the best elements of the culture and strategy endure.
  9. Strive for Win-Win Negotiations. Most conversations have an element of built-in, if subtle, negotiation. The enlightened leader knows that all negotiations are serial, not episodic. They know they’re building a reputation for high trust that will follow them throughout their careers.
  10. Fix Breaches Immediately. Trust is a leader’s most valuable currency. It is, of course, at risk from misunderstandings. These must be fixed immediately, lest they harden into a permanent wariness. Finally, if the breach is willful or rooted in an ethical violation, the best approach is to terminate the relationship, forgive, forget and move on to investing in future high-trust relationships.

In today’s environment, many people distrust politicians, corporate executives, and the institutions at the foundation of society. But we all have the power to influence others – by acting with integrity and bringing to life our positive values. Focus on building trust and you just might build a better organization, and world.

Soren Kaplan is the bestselling and award-winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an affiliated professor at USC’s Center for Effective Organizations, a former corporate executive, and a co-founder of UpBOARD. He has been recognized by the Thinkers50 as one of the world’s top keynote speakers and thought leaders in business strategy and innovation.

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