Magazine article Policy & Practice

It's a Matter of Trust

Magazine article Policy & Practice

It's a Matter of Trust

Article excerpt

In my travels as a trainer and consultant to many of our member agencies, the theme of trust comes up often as we explore challenges and opportunities for strengthening performance and culture. Leadership teams in human service agencies across the country are citing trust, and often the lack of it, as a major reason why staff, stakeholders, and communities do not fully support or effectively participate in change efforts designed to improve client outcomes.

Trust, therefore, matters greatly to the destiny of American public human services. Yet like so many concepts related to organizational effectiveness and leadership, "trust" is difficult to define, so efforts to improve it have been infrequent or difficult to initiate.

That is why the APHSA recently scanned for new models related to defining and building trust in organizations. We have come up with one model that we believe can be of great benefit to our members as they attempt to improve trust in their organizations. In this article I will describe one in some detail, and then discuss how human service leaders can immediately apply this learning to advance their organization.

Just published is Megan Tschannen-Moran's book titled "Trust Matters: Leadership for Successful Schools" (Jossey-Bass, 2004). The parallels between public human services and public education are significant: marginal control over resources and choice of clients; tremendous scrutiny by the public; and difficulties in attracting, retaining, and developing staff.

The other parallel is that those leaders who take trust-building seriously can and will achieve extraordinary results despite these environmental challenges, while those who are not trusted will be confounded with organizational difficulties despite the level of other resources at their disposal.

In Tschannen-Moran's model, trust can be defined as being an interrelated composite of five more specific elements: benevolence, integrity, openness, reliability, and competence. The first two elements deal primarily with relationships and how they are handled, while the latter two deal primarily with tasks and how they are handled.

Benevolence is all about caring and good will, and the trust level generated by benevolence is the perception by others that one will act in their best interests out of that care and good will. Put simply, people who are kind and thoughtful about others tend to be trusted more.

Integrity is a similar notion, but it focuses primarily on honesty and authenticity. If one's word or promise to others is seen as not having any hidden agendas, if it can be taken at face value, then that person is perceived as having integrity. …

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