And what's the cost? As trust goes down, speed goes down, and cost goes up. Efforts to "spin" or position to restore trust only make the problem worse. Sooner or later, people come to the realization that they can't talk themselves out of problems they've behaved themselves into.
The good news is that the tide is turning on a sea of learning professionals who are intent on instilling genuine trust as their organization's fundamental operating system. And for good reason: In today's global economy, trust is essential to prosperity and is an enormous competitive advantage. For the astute learning professional, the current crisis of trust creates a prime opportunity to create dividends of high trust in their organizations, beginning with the organization's leadership.
Although there are multiple ways to go about it, three high-leverage actions are key:
- Start with yourself. The best way for learning professionals to build trust in their organization's leaders is for them to model the type of trust they want their leaders to inspire. The higher the learning professionals' credibility in terms of character and competence, the greater influence (and permission) they'll have to influence their organization's leaders. Similarly, the more learning professionals model trust-building behavior (such as talking straight, delivering results, listening first, and keeping commitments), the more leverage it gives them in expecting those same behaviors from their leaders.
- Declare your intent. Learning professionals can define and express their objectives and strategies in ways that inspire trust (including both what they're doing and why) and they can encourage and help their leaders to do the same. When leaders share only the what, the workforce is left to guess or project the why, and it typically ends up as a projection of their worst fears. The more transparency leaders create through declaring their intent, the faster they can build trust.
- Get results in a way that inspires trust. Learning professionals can work specifically to translate intent into behavior - into how they do what they do. And again, they can encourage and help their leaders to do the same. By getting results in a way that inspires trust, learning professionals and leaders create a culture of trust throughout the organization.
Learning professionals who lead out in all three areas will have significant influence on instilling trust in their organization's leaders.