Winning Trust and Building a Winning Culture

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I have been thinking about the work environment with my mentor, Philip Viljoen. In this article, I show how the principles contained in the following books combine to form a winning culture:

Let’s start with some naming conventions. When our titles change, there are also significant changes in the way we think – we experience a paradigm shift. Do not believe me? See what happens when you use the wrong designation against someone’s name. Instead of employee and employer, I refer to Company People. Instead of “manager/employer” and “worker/employee/operator” we should refer to coaches and players. The assumption, of course, is that I am referring to good coaches and good players. Would a company not want good coaches and good players as company people?


The trust relationship between the company players and coaches must be in place before any meaningful engagement. For company people to have trust, they must work on their character and their competence. Character is built by transparency, respect, straight talk, righting wrongs, loyalty, extended trust and seeking first to understand then to be understood. When people think win-win, they can be both considerate and courageous. People who are both considerate and courageous can talk straight. Courageous people can right wrongs. Whereas, when people are considerate and feel appreciated, they feel respected. To make people feel appreciated company people must use the appropriate language of appreciation because some people feel appreciated when they receive words of affirmation, spend quality time with someone, benefit from acts of service, receive tangible gifts or when they are physically touched appropriately.


One way of extending trust is to form a stewardship agreement between the players and coaches. A stewardship agreement consists of clear expectations (born out of beginning with the end in mind and putting first things first), clear consequences, accountability, resource availability and guidelines on what is allowed and what is not allowed. The essence is that the player is held responsible for the results without being prescriptive on how the results are obtained unless specific methods are out of bounds. When the consequences are clear, the company people are self-disciplined. Keeping commitments also allows coaches to extend trust. Keeping commitments is the result of company people putting first things first and being proactive.


When company people get better at what they do and fulfil their stewardship agreements, they deliver meaningful results. Company people grow competence when seeking first to understand then to be understood, extending trust, delivering meaningful results and confronting reality.


Company players and coaches work in harmony when they improve their competence, work synergistically, and focus on global improvement. The harmonious relationship between players and coaches is also the result of company people understanding the rationale behind different decisions, having a high level of trust between coaches and players, and when company people have found their voice and inspire others to find theirs. In short, company people have public victories, meaning they have moved from independence to interdependence. Moving from independence to interdependence is the result of working synergistically. Working synergistically requires people to think win/win, seeking first to understand then to be understood and having private victories – moving from dependence to independence. The private victory is the result of people being proactive, putting first things first and beginning with the end in mind. All this only fed by sharpening the saw.


A clear common vision statement aligns the company people. A vision statement consists of a meaningful purpose, a picture of the future, a common understanding of the company’s ranked order values, and acknowledgement that principles govern. The description of the future incorporates the needs of the main stakeholders (owners, company people, customers, and suppliers) and the four human endowments (spiritual, mental, social/emotional, and economical). Goal alignment, role alignment and a shared understanding of company values lead to sensible procedures. Sensible company procedures, a focus on teaching and training and upgrading of knowledge, skills, processes, and infrastructure lead to the company building capacity.


While we are considering the winning company culture, we can also consider the fact that people want to live a full life. The PERMA model helps understand what gives people a full life. When company people make deposits in each other’s emotional bank account and have a meaningful purpose, the company people experience positive emotions. Having a meaningful purpose also cause the company people to be engaged and work synergistically. The result is that the company people deliver meaningful results, which cause them to experience well-being and happiness and thus live a full life. Living a full life, together with experiencing well-being and happiness, leads to the company people being motivated.


The TOC way of achieving meaningful results follows a different route. This route starts with the company people applying TOC thinking. Some of the basic tenets of TOC is that every situation is simple, every conflict can be removed, people think win/win, and every situation can be substantially improved. These four tenets cause people to think clearly. Thinking clearly and sharpening the saw give company people the stamina to overcome failures. Thinking clearly also leads to the belief that there are many opportunities to improve throughput and that company people can work synergistically. And these lead to people delivering meaningful results.


Many good initiatives fail in the execution phase – this does not have to be the case. Applying TOC thinking leads to a focus on global improvement, which means the team focuses on wildly important goals (WIG) with global impact. TOC thinking also implies managing according to throughput accounting practices, which takes operating expenses, investment, and throughput into account. Thus, company people use sensible global lead measures. To ensure successful execution, the company people track progress against lead measures on a sensible team scoreboard. Company people review the scoreboard in weekly meetings where the team holds each other accountable and make new commitments. The new commitments add to the company people clarifying expectations. Once the team starts influencing the lead measures, and the lead measures are predictive of meeting the wildly important goal, the company people deliver meaningful results.


For the company people to continue to be motivated, the company must have a sound performance management system. With the shared vision in place, the coaches coach, according to the agreed ranked value system. The shared vision also ensures that the company people use sensible global lead measures. The performance management system consists of performance planning, coaching and review. Performance planning consists of setting up one-minute goals based on the stewardship delegation/agreements. The coaching involves catching the company people doing things right and giving one-minute praising, redirection, or reprimands.


The coaching is also based on matching the coaches’ leadership styles with the development levels of the players. Company players with low competence and high commitment are coached with high direction and low support. Company players with high competence and high commitment are coached with low direction and low support. Company players with low competence and low commitment are coached with high direction and high support. Company players with high competence and variable commitment are coached with high direction and low support. Coaches show directive behaviour when they teach, observe, provide frequent feedback, and make decisions. Company coaches show supportive behaviour by listening, being involved, facilitating, and encouraging.


Thus, we have a motivated team of company people who are not demoralised by a lousy performance management system—yielding a winning Company.

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