Trust in the System

Joel Peterson

When people understand what they’re expected to achieve, and that they’ll be given credit for success, they can focus on objectives and outcomes, not just tasks. They can trust the system. Here are four suggestions for creating an organizational culture in which trust is secured by accountability.

President Harry Truman famously kept a sign on his Oval Office desk that read “The Buck Stops Here!” What most people don’t remember is the other half of the message: The side facing the president read “I’m From Missouri.” A native of the Show-Me State, Truman knew that when you’ve been entrusted with power, you’re accountable for how you use it. That meant “showing” results — and never passing “the buck.” Harry Truman made accountability a political brand.

Trust grows when expectations are unambiguous. People need to know what winning looks like and where they stand on the path to victory. Trust comes with a scoreboard, with clarity around how results will be measured. Having no gauges is a setup for confusion. When people know what they’re expected to achieve, they can focus on doing it rather than on trying to figure out what matters most. They can trust the system.

If a basketball coach is focusing on offense, the metric will lean toward the points his team puts on the board. If he’s …

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"Whatever does not destroy me makes me stronger."

- Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche