Trust It, Or Fix It

Trust the Vision. Trust the Plan. Trust the people. Trust the process. Trust the system. Or we need to fix it.

In building a high-functioning organization, we’ve found there is no in-between when it comes to trust. You’re either focused on doing your job, trusting others will do theirs, moving forward in lock-step on a clear path towards a shared vision, or you’re not. Organizations that lack trust have an innate level of dysfunction at their core. This dysfunction acts as an anchor dragging on the power, speed and agility of the organization. So growth slows, talent leaves for more fertile ground, competitors begin to catch up, and if the rising tide of a growing market begins to ebb, the organization begins to collapse.

Trust is the glue and the grease. It’s what creates the bonds between individuals and teams, which can often last a career. And trust is the grease that moves information through the organization. It enables that lock-step action, concentrating the full energy of the organization behind the tip of the spear while remaining agile enough to learn and adapt.

The Warning Signs
When trust is lost, our instinct is to centralize control. This is a clear sign of broken processes, systems or relationships. This clamping down constricts the flow of information, whether intentionally or as a byproduct of natural bottlenecks.

Information empowers individuals to decide, act and collaborate. When the flow of information is slowed- or altogether stopped, individuals become disempowered and unable to influence or make good decisions. At best, they will lack clarity, often leading to poor decisions and further degrading trust.

To avoid being disempowered, or as an immediate fix to a failing process, system or relationship, our instinct is to grab some control ourselves. While sometimes well-intentioned, this triggers the cycle to repeat, creating silos and fiefdoms of control.

A company can operate in these dysfunctional states for a surprising amount of time. But again, dysfunction is an anchor dragging on the power, speed and agility of the organization.

How Trust Is Cultivated & Lost
As Steven Covey described it, building trust is like putting deposits in an emotional bank account. It grows slowly over time, action by action. However, withdrawals happen quickly, with a single act undoing months or years of deposits.

Because trust is built slowly and lost so quickly, it’s critical for leaders to create fertile ground for trust to grow and reduce the emotional volatility that leads to large withdrawals. When leaders sow seeds of distrust or ignore its presence, the rate and size of withdrawals increase exponentially as it spreads to the entire team. This is why the saying “a fish rots from the head down” still rings true hundreds of years after its inception.

Leaders must be hypervigilant in cultivating and monitoring the level of trust in the organization. Again, back to Covey, in his research studying leaders that build trust, he identified thirteen key behaviors:

  1. Talk Straight
    2. Demonstrate Respect
    3. Create Transparency
    4. Right Wrongs
    5. Show Loyalty
    6. Deliver Results
    7. Get Better
    8. Confront Reality
    9. Clarify Expectation
    10. Practice Accountability
    11. Listen First
    12. Keep Commitments
    13. Extend Trust

It’s important to note that it’s the combination of these thirteen behaviors that builds trust. For example, talk straight, but do so with respect and after you have taken the time to listen.

Trust Building Process
There is no quick path to building or restoring trust. It is a way of being, a practice. As Covey defined it, “Trust is confidence born of two dimensions: character and competence.” What is the process for developing character or any aspect of yourself? That is a topic for another day. However, the first step is always the same, START!

Identify trust as a problem. Make it your focus. Become a student: Read about it. Observe it. Measure it. But most of all, act to correct it. You can’t let distrust sit and fester as you work on your character. If there is a process that is creating a lack of trust, make it a priority to fix it. If a leader is cultivating a lack of trust, bring them into your process or remove them. If a system is causing issues, leading to a lack of trust among the team or with the customer, fix it.

A few ways to getting started
The 7 Habits of Highly
The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey
The Advantage

Benevolent Dictator

As strong and principled leaders with a clear vision for the company and its way of being in the world, benevolent dictators drive business strategy and culture from the top down. They are often found behind brands where attention to detail, innovation and customer experience are considered key to success. Benevolent dictators are not to be confused with dictators, as the former’s approach is driven by an abundance of passion and purpose to recreate the world better than they found it, to share their secret with the world and do not derive from an absolute and unrestricted desire for power.

Why Our Name

The Literal – Realizing Full Potential
Full Stream describes, quite literally, a waterway running at maximum capacity. Not flooding, but moving at its maximum beneficial volume and rate. This is also the most productive state for a brand, organization and individual. Our objective is to develop maximum beneficial growth, the realization of full potential.

The Metaphorical – Stepping Into The Stream
We can stand on land or we can be in water; those are our choices. The side of a river is safe and still, the ground beneath us known and stable. It’s a beautiful place that changes slowly, giving us a front-row-view of the perpetual motion of the river. When we step into the river’s full stream, we can no longer stand. Panic, and the river takes full control. Relax, and we find ourselves able to read the path ahead, maneuver through rapids, rest in eddies and flow with the river. When growth is our objective, we have no choice but to step into the stream, embrace uncertainty, harness change, read the subtle and not-so-subtle signs ahead. Having the understanding and tools to flow with the river is what allows us to leverage its energy while enjoying the ride. This is what it means to step into the stream.

Cut ‘em back

Take the dying limbs, the diseased branches, the dried up shriveled stems and chewed leaves and cut ‘em all back. Cut ‘em back till you have the seasoned, proven limbs and branches with a few strong new growths heading in just the right direction. That’s how you support Nature in producing a bountiful harvest.

Some years, when rain and sun are plentiful, we may let things go wild, allowing for new growth to become established. Other years, the tree tells us it’s been all too much and it needs to hunker down and carefully select how limited resources should be put to use. If we listen, if we allow for a step back after two forward, She will provide. If we fight it, if we push for two steps forward, then four, then eight, despite the weather, ignoring the rain or drought, we’ll see the consequences of our imposed imbalance.

These are the laws of nature. We are provided all the signs to diagnose and time our push forward or pruning. The underlying skill this all requires, the one farmers have cultivated for generations, is observation. Farmers know what to look for, where to look for it, and they have the conviction to take decisive action when the data points to clear answers, whether they like those answers or not. Because for thousands of years, the survival of their business has depended on it.

Understanding   

Understanding is seeing clearly what is on the surface and grasping the underlying meaning. Understanding leads to insight because we are able to see a person, place or thing more completely, to see it for who or what it truly is, as well as for how it’s perceived.

Insights and understanding fuel one another, each providing fertile ground for the other. This symbiosis occurs naturally once the mind is trained to shift from its default narcissistic state to being present, truly listening and inquiring.

Insights

Insights are moments of clarity that arise from deep understanding. It is through this clarity that we craft solutions and navigate the various paths forward.

Insights and understanding fuel one another, each providing fertile ground for the other. This symbiosis occurs naturally once the mind is trained to shift from its default narcissistic state to being present, truly listening and inquiring.

Our approach.

Our approach to a project is guided by the state of the organization: the people, processes and systems that generate the brand experiences which, in turn, cultivate brand loyalty (or hinder it.)

People
Organizations are living, breathing organisms, made of living, breathing people. A simple but a powerful notion when an organization must evolve in order to grow. This is why we work with individuals throughout the company from leadership to the front lines. We work in one-on-one, group and company-wide settings to provide clarity. Clarity of purpose. Clarity of place. Clarity of path.

Processes
Organizations prove Aristotle’s assertion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Processes create the synergy that fuels this outsized impact. We collaborate with individuals and teams to design and implement these processes, creating linear pathways for information and actions to flow smoothly through the organization and trigger the needed downstream action or effect.

Systems
Organizations have the ability to scale beyond their physical size by leveraging IT systems. When sourced, architected and implemented with the end in mind, these systems amplify the impact of a single individual and increase speed of processes. We collaborate with internal teams and vendors, working cross-functionally, from procurement to launch to align systems with people, processes and the path forward.

This approach requires us to customize projects to fit the organization and leadership’s desired rate of growth. It requires us to go deep, roll up our sleeves and work hand in hand with your team to build your future state, from the ground up and inside out. This building of foundations from deep within the organization cultivates an individual and collective sense of purpose, autonomy and, if supported, mastery. This allows us to step away while remaining intimately connected to the DNA of the organization – leaving our clients autonomous, but never alone if our advice or services are required.