How do you create, and more importantly, instil trust in your organization? It’s an important issue, considering our research shows only 65 percent of managers feel clear about the accountability that has been delegated to them. That means over a third of the managerial workforce doesn’t have the clarity they need to do their job.
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Accountability and trust have different meanings, but one is necessary for the other to build stability and open communication. How is accountability related to trust? When employee “A” and employee “B” are unknowingly accountable for the same work, what is the nature of the relationship that you can expect to develop? It’s not going to be positive, because two people are independently and unknowingly working on the same thing. It is evident that there has been a lack of communication; work has been overlapped which can lead to conflict, performance comparisons and unnecessary competition, and an overall lack of trust resulting in effective accountability has been instilled.
Accountability and Authority Frameworks Must Be in Place
Interdependence of work is predominant in organizations, meaning many positions are dependent on others for success in their work. When interdependence is high, however, there also tends to be high role conflict. One rationale is that a lack of clarity and accountability leads to conflict. When there is no framework in place for how works moves through the organization, people are left to make up the rules as they go along. Similar to the “Rules of the Road” that govern driving an automobile, when there are no stoplights and street signs, sheer chaos results. The same is true in an organization.
Trust Needs to Be Built
There’s something else that happens in organizations where there are no “Rules of the Road” or defined frameworks for accountability and authority. Over time, managers and even non-managers develop non-trusting relationships, as they can no longer depend on colleagues to provide the support they need for success in their work. In addition, they are unclear about how to delegate and account for work. In every organization, from the CEO down to the front line employees, the opposite needs to be facilitated and nurtured. Accountability and authority frameworks must be in place to allow trust to be built and reinforced rather than eroded.
The Multifaceted Role of Trust in the Organization
Although a simple concept, trust is a critical component in successful organizations. At its most basic level, trust ensures that if I say I’m going to do something, I will do it. It also infers that if I need input from someone else, it’s available when promised. Sometimes trust is knowing that the work you’re doing isn’t being duplicated, or if you’ve been asked to lead a project, that it’s with the right accountability and authority so that you can be successful when using your best judgment.
High trust in organizations is an outcome of clear accountability and authority frameworks. Organizational “rules” provide information that allows people to work more effectively, highlights the need for mutual employee dependence, and outlines the process of effective delegation. Accountability and authority frameworks are liberating. They provide the structure by which people can use their judgment and take initiative to get work done more consistently and efficiently in order to help the organization attain its strategy.