Building Trust. Important…but Different Work.



As popular as the topic of team building, strategic collaborations and comradery feels among the business jargon of the day I can’t help but feel that, as a whole, we are much more in love with the idea of those things than we are with the work required to create such things.

Is it important?  I think so – and apparently consulting and research company “Great Place to Work” thinks so too.  In Fortune Magazine’s recent March 14 issue their research is shared in an article entitled “100 Best Companies to Work For 2017.”  I offer you some snippets of that cover article.

Since 1998, Fortune has been publishing a list of employees’ 100 favorite companies in the country.  The result has been a two-decade tour de force showcasing industry-leading benefits, like Adobe’s six-month paid maternity leave, and mind-bending perks, like Publix’s holiday bonus of up to a month’s wages for supermarket employees.* 

WAIT…what?  Holy cow.  How many companies can do that kind of thing?  I mean – that is great stuff for employees – no doubt.  But for the average, business owning, reader.  Yikes.  That sets the bar pretty high.

But the article continues…

But far more important than any lavish policy or fancy freebie, employees in the organizations on this list say they trust their coworkers and managers.  These companies aren’t just being generous, of course.  Over the years our research and consulting firm, Great Place to Work, and many other scholars have consistently found that the workplaces that score high on metrics of trustworthiness also finish first in profitability, revenue growth, stock performance, and other key business measures.* 


It continues…

“In studying the 100 Best and the nonwinning contender companies for 2017, we found that the more consistent and inclusive an organization is on key factors related to trust, and the more diverse it is demographically, the more likely it is to outperform peers in revenue growth.  Notably, companies that score in the top quartile of success on these metrics enjoy three times the growth of companies in the bottom quartile…”*


Did they just say that building an environment of trust beats six-month maternity leave and one month salary bonus checks?

The short article concludes with this…

“The best work places in today’s climate are organizations where everyone feels heard, fair-ness reigns, social bonds are forged across boundaries like race and class, and people are inspired to reach new heights.”*

Wow.  So if this is true, how much of the work of building trust and trust worthy processes should feel relevant to today’s business owners?  And, just as important (if not more), how much do business owners today have a sense of what is required to create these environments of trust on today’s factory floors or office spaces?

The work of developing people and culture is distinctly different from the work of widget making or service giving.  It requires different tools and different methodologies.  Are they connected?  Yes.  But the work to accomplish trust in a culture does not happen by simply speeding up or slowing down the conveyor belt.

*FORTUNE, March 15, 2017, 100 Best Companies to Work For 2017, Jonathan Calugi, p. 79-80.

Background Check – A Case Study on Multiple Interpretations


Recently I’ve been doing some temporary work for a property management company.  I’m filling in for a property manager while he is gone on vacation.  As you might imagine, the phone rings regularly in our office with questions about available housing.  Most calls go fairly predictably.  Potential clients begin asking about properties and sharing about their needs.  At some point in the conversation I respond with questions about pets, smoking, monthly income and readiness to cover initial costs.  The calls are generally cookie cutter, resulting in a plan to either move forward or keep looking.

But last week I got a call that added a little spice to the formula.

As the phone rang I picked up to start a conversation much like any other.  “I’d like to know about your property on Blue Street” they said.  “Sure.  It’s a two bedroom, one bath with a detached garage” I answered.  “Is that something in the category of what you are looking for?”

Our conversation continued with the typical questions about which of our properties might best fit their needs.  As we moved through the conversation it seemed like this client had an above average interest in moving forward.  I asked my general set of questions and received generally optimistic answers.  This led to the all-important step of moving toward the application.

“If you are interested”, I said, “the next step would be to fill out an application.  You can find it on our website.  I’d encourage you to be sure and fill it out entirely and provide all the supplemental documentation that it asks for.”

“Like what?” the client asked.

“The application will ask for places of past employment.  It will ask for copies of your current pay stubs, from your current place of employment, to verify your income.  It will also ask for references from past rental properties that you have lived in.  Things like that.”

There was silence on the other end of the phone.  After a moment the client spoke.  “Are you going to do a background check?”

“Yes,” I responded.  We do background and credit checks on all of our applicants.”

More quiet.

Speaking slowly the client responded, “You may find some things that don’t look too good when you do a background check on me” they said.  The conversation quickly turned to what I interpreted as an attempt to prepare me for what I would discover if I indeed did a background check.  It felt like they wanted me to have their explanation of their past first – knowing that I would very likely read and hear things that might not shine glowingly on their past.

I assured them that background checks were standard operating procedure for all applicants and that the discoveries found via those checks had weight in clients being approved for properties – or not.

“Okay”, they said in a discouraged tone.  The conversation quickly ended.

I have yet to receive their application.

Final thoughts:  Rather than pronounce a final judgement via this story I’d like to invite you to process with me a bit…

What is your first response to this story?  What principle or insight, in your opinion, is this story trying to support?

How does your response give insight into your own value system?  Which of your values is supported by your interpretation?

Could there be other interpretations supported by this story?  For instance, if one interpretation is that irresponsibility leads to consequences.  What about the interpretation that all of us have things in our past that we would rather others didn’t know about us?  Or the interpretation that the system is rigged against people who need second chances?

NOTE:  I’m not asking you to believe these other interpretations.  I’m just asking you to consider the possibility that they might exist…and that these interpretations might be deeply believed by real people.

And if they are…

What now?