New video: The balance of trust and control

The latest in the series of videos from Global Integration is by Kevan Hall, author, speaker and CEO of Global Integration, and covers the thorny issue of the balance between trust and control.

Abridged transcript:

One of the key challenges that we (Global Integration) have found in managing matrix, virtual and global teams and organizations is finding the right balance of trust and control.

We see trust and control as two sides of a balance: the more I trust you, the less I need to control you; the more I control you the more I undermine trust.

In matrix, virtual and global working, there are many factors that subtly undermine trust. We work with colleagues across barriers of distance, cultures, time zones and working through technology in complex organization structures:

  • In matrix teams we may have competing goals and multiple reporting lines;
  • In virtual teams we may be working with people we have never met face-to-face and communicating mainly through technology;
  • In global teams we may be working across additional barriers of cultural differences and time zones.

All of these can cause misunderstandings, delay and potential conflict. A lack of trust can lead to high staff turnover, a lack of innovation and risk-taking and slow and expensive decision-making.

Our clients tend to be very well run multinationals, so they rarely have a major systemic problem with trust. What we do see, however, is a subtle undermining of trust and confidence caused by misunderstandings, competing priorities and a lack of face-to-face contact.

When managers are not confident and when trust is undermined, they tend to increase control – and we often see an increase in central control when we increase the amount of matrix, virtual and global working in an organization.

In the past, trust was a free by-product of proximity: people who worked in the same location got to know each other over lunch and coffee, and trust problems were easier to spot and resolve. Today, we may rarely meet face-to-face, and most communication is done through technology. Trust is harder to build and problems can be hard to solve.

In a matrix, virtual and global training, we look at specific research on how to build trust and relationships remotely and help build the skills and tools needed to develop, maintain and repair trust in the way we operate.

Trust is also essential to empowerment: managers will not delegate to people they don’t trust.

As well as actively building trust, we also need to look at our control mechanisms.

We train people to track escalation, to coach people remotely and to build the real capability and mutual confidence that is required for true empowerment to happen in these complex working conditions. We also have helped teams and individuals to systematically review and eliminate unnecessary control mechanisms.

By actively building trust and working systematically on our control mechanisms to make sure we are decentralising decisions and actions as far as we can, we can make complex organizations, faster, less expensive to run and more satisfying to work in.


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