C-Suite Network™

Bureaucracy or Trust? Choose One!

The old cliché reads, “Actions speak louder than words.”  It’s true.  It’s especially true when a leader wants people to trust him/her.  Besides agreeing on this cliché, can we also agree how important trust is to the performance of a team and performance of an organization?

Successful leaders must be proactive in their approach to managing trust because it has such an enormous influence on what I call the performance troika: organizational performance, employee engagement and on customer experience.  Successful leaders must behave (take actions) in ways that create an environment that shouts, “I trust you!”.  The four key elements of the Autonomy Card can help leaders send this important message of “I trust you!”. 

In May 2018 two brothers aged about 5 and 7 decided to help an under privileged child in a foreign country.  They wanted to sell lemonade on a hot spring day. Mom and Dad thought it was a great idea because it could help teach the boys entrepreneurial business skills, customer service skills, and charity.  What could be better?  The Denver Police disagreed. The Denver Police were forced to disagree because someone called to complain.  The boys did not have a permit and they were selling lemonade too close to a Denver Arts Festival.

In a bureaucracy. young boys cannot be trusted to run a lemonade stand for fear they will not do it according to the rules set up by local bureaucrats.  What lesson are the boys learning from this?  Is it how to be an entrepreneur? How to be a good citizen?  How to care for others less fortunate? NO!  They learned they can’t be trusted by some neighbors and some bureaucratic administrators who have control over economic decisions of a 5-year-old and 7-year-old boy.

A bureaucracy is an environment that is opposite of an environment of trust.  A bureaucracy is an enemy of engagement and customer experience because of its inflexible set of impersonal rules and regulations which demand specific actions.  The rules are more important than innovation.  The myriad of rules prevents creative thinking by individuals especially for responding to the continuously evolving customer needs and expectations.

In environment of trust, individuals make the decisions, from their perspective, that best serve a clear purpose and vision.  This autonomous environment is easy to understand and sends a clear message, “We trust you to make the best decisions!”  A successful leader knows the key elements that provide autonomy and trust.  Leadership is challenging and paradoxical.  You want to have rules, but you don’t want to have a bureaucracy.  Understanding and developing the key elements of The Autonomy Card can help address this challenge.

The Autonomy Card

There are four key elements in the Autonomy Card.  These can allow a successful leader to trust employees while optimizing decision making and innovation.:  1) Clear legal and ethical standards, 2) Clear values behaviors, 3) Clear mission, vision, and strategy, 4) A commitment to optimize customer experience.

If these four elements are clear, and employees admit they are clear, will provide the autonomy that allows them to make decisions and to be engaged.  The Catholics call this subsidiarity.  It’s the ability to make decisions to solve problems at the least centralized and most competent level possible.

Clear Ethical Standards

Successful organizations often have very clear ethical standards listed in an employee handbook.  These rules provide guidance in basic subjects such as company intellectual property, use of company materials and equipment, substance abuse, discrimination, harassment etc.  These are the very basic, are common sense, and are useful as a reminder to all.

Clear Values Behaviors

Clear descriptive behaviors allow employees to know how they will be treated.  For example, if treated with respect, they will have less fear to speak up.  If they will be coached and not criticized they will be more likely to take risks.  If they keep their agreements others are more likely to keep their agreements and everyone will feel safe.  Specifying these behaviors contribute to creating a safe, creative, trusting environment.

Mission, Vision and Strategy

A clear mission explains why a company exists.  A clear organizational vision explains where the company is going and what it will look like in the future.  A clear strategy provides the suggested priorities about how to live the mission and move toward the vision.

Customer Experience (Internal and External)

Consistently providing great customer experiences generates long lasting benefits such as loyalty, referrals, and higher profitability.  This focus includes both internal customers (colleagues) and external customers (those who pay for the products and services).

Once these four elements are clear and employees make an agreement to make decisions consistent with them, it’s time for the Autonomy Card.

The Autonomy Card

If the answer to all four questions is YES, do it!

  1. Is the action consistent with legal and ethical standards?
  2. Can it be done with values behaviors?
  3. Is it consistent with the mission, vision, and strategy?
  4. Will it enhance customer experience?

It may be scary to adopt the Autonomy Card because it sends a clear message “I trust you!” and sending that message requires courage. It is easier to create a bureaucracy than to create a trusting environment.

What if the Denver boys could have been allowed to form and run their lemonade stand? What benefits would it have generated for them, their family, their neighbors and the disadvantaged children?  What would higher trust do for your organization?  Try the Autonomy Card and see.

Check out the interview on C-Suite Best Seller TV to learn more about how to stop leadership malpractice and replace the typical performance review: https://www.c-suitetv.com/video/best-seller-tv-wally-hauck-stop-the-leadership-malpractice/

Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal.  Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.   Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP.  Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.

Latest posts by Wally Hauck, PhD, CSP (see all)

More Articles by Author

Powered By MemberPress WooCommerce Plus Integration