Employee Trust Contributes to Financial Health.

Author:Bailey, Mike
Position:News & Numbers

Trust among the individuals who make up a local government is essential for the organization's financial sustainability For example, imagine a budget analyst who has information that revenues might come in lower than the finance director forecasted. The sooner this information is widely known, the sooner the organization can begin to adjust. If the budget analyst trusts the finance director to accept that information in the spirit in which it is intended, and the finance director trusts the budget analyst's intentions, then the information is more likely to be shared sooner and acted upon. Trust is also critical across departmental boundaries. For example, if department heads trust their colleagues not to treat the budget as a zero-sum game, where some departments "win" and others "lose," then there will be more opportunities for cooperative behaviors that lead to more sustainable finances and great results for the community

Real trust among the government's leadership and workforce, between management and labor, and between policymakers and administrators (to name a few of the relationships where trust can be a factor) is needed to get the best results. However, trust is not a natural phenomenon found across most organizations. For example, an international survey of employees found that only 46 percent place "a great deal of trust" in their employers, and 15 percent report "very little" or "no trust at all." (1) One obvious cause of mistrust is the silo mentality that often characterizes divisions or departments--although this is just one cause. In working to improve results for its community, the City of Redmond, Washington, has learned that trust must be carefully and consciously developed and cultivated.

The city's efforts are based on the work of business management expert and author Patrick Lencioni.


Exhibit 1 shows exactly how building trust improves organizational performance. Real trust--which includes being able to presume others are equally interested in the best organizational outcomes--allows for honest conversations. Real trust enables constructive conflict, or what is often called "pushback." Saying "let me push back on that presumption" allows people to examine alternatives without fear of reprisal or recriminations. This free exchange and debate of ideas brings additional perspectives into the conversation, helping people commit to decisions because they were able to express their perspectives, even if their arguments didn't prevail. Commitment helps reduce the risk of sabotage or a lack of support, and it leads to a willingness to be accountable for results. Accountability can become a way to inject constructive assessments of how well the work of the organization is going. An organization-wide openness to accountability as a way to learn improves overall performance over time. The iterations of routinely assessing accountability and performance lead to improved results--and complete the trust-toperformance cycle.


Although trust is critical, it isn't a natural part of most organizations. Trust has to be developed, requiring thought as to what might work in your organization. First, you might consider if you need outside help; an external expert might...

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