“When the trust level gets high enough, people transcend apparent limits, discovering new and awesome abilities of which they were previously unaware.” – David Armistead
This past week I had the opportunity to set aside a few days’ time to spend with my executive leadership team. It has been months since the COVID virus forced us all in to operating under a new paradigm, and we had spent the majority of that time in crisis mode working through the numerous issues we were facing as a result. We all felt it was time to step back from the daily battles we have faced and reflect on our efforts throughout the crisis. I thought I would share some of those reflections and our biggest take away – Trust matters.
As a staffing company, this crisis presented one of the worst scenarios we could imagine. That is largely because in economic downturns, our clients will often cut temporary workers first before cutting their own staff. We are able to navigate these downturns largely through diversification of the industries we service. But in a crisis like this, all industries uniformly suffer. So it hit us hard and fast, and it was painful.
To be fair, we have weathered this situation quite well. We were able to move the entirety of our organization (including our technology training offering which had previously been delivered in person) to a completely remote work structure without any disruption. We did lose contractor assignments, but we were able to redirect our efforts to areas where clients were spending money. And despite some staff reductions based on clear performance issues, we kept the majority of our team employed.
But what has been more amazing throughout this has been how we came together as a team. We worked feverishly to address each issue as quickly as possible. We met frequently (4x more often than before), yet each meeting was as productive as the last. We communicated clearly with our fellow team members, over and over and over again, making sure to be as transparent as possible on the actions we were taking and the impact we were seeing across the business.
And in the end I believe we grew to be a much better company. Our productivity skyrocketed. The communication efforts strengthened our culture. Our fear of cash challenges was overcome by aggressive collections and smart spending, allowing us the financial runway to remain not only solvent, but better prepared for the recovery.
I mention all of this to make a point – we struggled through some really challenging times and came out better than before. Why? Well, that was exactly what we asked ourselves in our workshop last week. And of all the takeaways we identified, one stood fast as the primary driver of it all. One word…
That’s right – Trust. It wasn’t because we were smart and made all the right decisions. It wasn’t because we acted quickly (although that certainly helped). It wasn’t because we worked harder than anyone else. No, it was because we trusted ourselves. It was because we trusted each other. It was because we trusted our team. And it was because our team trusted us.
I often speak about the importance of building a team around culture. I use words like passion, purpose, integrity, honesty, and family. No doubt you use them too. But none of these words mean anything if the organization doesn’t trust itself or its leaders. The fundamental element in any successful culture IS trust.
The interesting thing about trust is that it’s not generally given, its earned. You earn that trust over time by what and how you communicate AND by the actions you take as a result. You do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it. And when you fail, you recognize where you fell short, ask permission, learn from it, and do it differently the next time. But in all of this you do it for the right reasons. You do the right thing.
Imagine what your organization would look like if you had that level of trust? Imagine what this world would be if trust was our guiding principle? Love might conquer all, but trust allows us to coexist in a much more profound way.