A live poll at the 2013 ASTD International Conference & Exposition reaffirms trust is causing gridlock for government employees at all levels. The good news – trust can be rebuilt if you genuinely try to rebuild it.
Over the past year and a half, my consulting firm has asked managers in local, state, and federal government agencies one question: What is the biggest challenge facing leaders in your agency? After compiling the responses, a top 5 list of challenges was revealed, and they are as follows (in no specific order):
- Managing Change
- Motivating Employees
- Lack of Trust (between Managers and Employees)
- Holding Employees Accountable
- Succession Planning
Armed with this insight, I wanted to know which of these 5 was considered the biggest challenge, and an opportunity presented itself to gather more insight.
I, along with my co-presenter Larry Felix – Director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing – presented “3 Strategies for Effective Government Leadership Programs” at the 2013 ASTD International Conference and Exposition held in Dallas, TX. During our session, we administered a live poll (using poll everywhere) to identify the biggest challenge. The answer was very clear (see results below):
46% – Lack of Trust (between Managers and Employees)
31% – Holding Employees Accountable
15% – Motivating Employees
8% – Succession Planning
With a lack of trust being the overwhelming choice as the top challenge, we asked a follow up question. We wanted to know what level of trust people felt was most prominent in their agency. The results were also very clear (see below):
43% – Negotiated Trust (lowest level of Trust)
36% – Conditional Trust
21% – Cooperative Trust
0% – Unconditional Trust (Highest Level of Trust)
While the number of responses in our conference session was small, the responses mirror what we see in our survey results of hundreds of government managers. Mistrust is a very prevalent problem in all government agencies, and most work is not getting done unless a formal agreement (negotiated trust – the lowest level of trust) is in place to require taking action necessary. As a result, efficiency is seriously eroded which significantly increases the time and cost of getting things done. In short, gridlock reigns in our agencies just as it does in our politics. It doesn’t have to be this way. All of our government clients are taking action to improve trust because they know things speed up dramatically when trust is present. If a lack of trust is present in your organization, I’ve written several articles that can serve as excellent resources for improving trust in your workplace. Here are a few that you can put to immediate use:
Ask any government employee, and they will tell you a large part of their motivation comes from a passion to serve. Managers in government agencies can solve many of the biggest challenges they face by simply focusing on demonstrating trust building behaviors. It takes time rebuild trust and by investing the time and resources to do so, government agencies will be able to deliver more services at a time when the need for their services is steadily increasing.
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