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Build Your Culture on Trust By Al Lopus


Three Commitments to Create and Sustain Trust

At Best Christian Workplace Institute (BCWI), we have found three commitments outlined in Robert Shaw’s book, Trust in the Balance,

Lead with Character

In order to earn organizational trust, the leadership needs to fulfill their obligations and commitments. Promises and good intentions are not enough; trust requires competent performance that fulfills expectations.

The track record of achieving results and following through is crucial. A company we work with has trouble with this. One of their core values involves intentionally cultivating diversity. However, they released their international recruiter with no plans to replace him with a person of color. Their actions were inconsistent with a key core value. This has negatively impacted their culture.

To go back to Stephen Covey’s ideas on trust, he gives three ideas on how to improve results and develop trust through actions:

  • Shift focus from “doing activities” to “achieving results.” The language people use should not be “I called the customer” but rather, “I made the sale.” Allow employees to come up with creative solutions to achieve results.
  • Expect to win. Then the self-fulfilling prophesy will work in your favor. Covey notes, “The principle is simply this: We tend to get what we expect – both from ourselves and from others. When we expect more, we tend to get more; when we expect less, we tend to get less.”
  • Develop the strength and stamina to finish strong. It will say plenty of things about your character, especially in an age where quitting is a strong tendency. Even if something looks like it’s heading south, or in a direction you did not intend, stick with it to the end and see it through.

Cultivate Consistent Integrity

At first blush, achieving results and integrity look to be the same.  Both are about lining up actions with words, but integrity encompasses and surpasses achieving results.  The key to integrity is consistent honesty in actions regarding everything a person or organization does.  Integrity is a characteristic, one that inspires trust.

Integrity is consistent honesty in actions regarding everything a person or organization does.

At Compassion CanadaBarry Slauenwhite has integrity by casting a vision for the company’s culture and then enforcing it relentlessly.  He demonstrates trustworthiness and demands it in his employees.

Barry encourages employees to take initiative and recognizes that sometimes ideas flop. But  people aren’t afraid to make or take responsibility for their mistakes. Mistakes are crucial to growth, and Barry can point to progress his ministry has made because of what they learned from their mistakes.

Another key to integrity is transparency in communication.  At BCWI, we toot the communication horn repeatedly because it is so essential to the health and vitality to an organization. A few tips for building communication:

  • Keep employees informed right away; as soon as there is a whiff of something coming down the pipeline, employees need to know about it.
  • Keep the communication going both ways: collect feedback at monthly meetings and have department heads collect suggestions and ideas from their people.

All of this communication allows employees the freedom to voice their opinions and see their ideas being acted upon.  This creates a strong sense of trust in the organization and allows them to increase their productivity. Healthy communication reveals the critical need of fostering mutual trust. This widely beneficial outcome comes to light through the BCWI 360 review process, designed to align a leader’s behaviors and skills with the organization’s needs.

Demonstrate Concern

Leadership has a big responsibility to make sure everyone feels genuinely cared for. They need to express care and concern for each individual employee, for the interdependent work group or department, and for the organization. Employees are not mindless automatons. They want to develop positive relationships with their superiors and coworkers. And they must have faith that the people they report to are taking their best interests to heart.

Often, staff do not see their leaders on a regular basis. As a result, it is easy for staff to feel their leaders do not care about them individually. Personal touch in individual and small group settings is important for people to thrive throughout an organization.

Barry Slauenwhite is a great example of staff care, as he meets one-on-one with each member of the leadership team once a month. Over coffee, or lunch, they talk about their personal lives, intentionally developing a trusting work relationship. Then they move on to business, providing stronger accountability.

The Ultimate Outcome

To create trust in an organization, all three commitments, above, must be developed and cultivated with intentionality and determination. Let me be clear: Creating a culture of trust does not mean that conflict will not happen. When conflict does arise, it can be addressed (and hopefully resolved) without tearing down what has been built.

Healthy environments learn to effectively navigate conflict. Needless personal attacks are off the table, as healthy give-and-take of differing opinions help develop more effective ideas. This can create higher levels of trust and productivity and do wonderful things for your church, or ministry organization.


Al Lopus is the CEO and Co-founder of Best Christian Workplaces Institute, founded in 2002. The Institute provides research-based measurement tools and culture change advisory services with a single vision: to help Christian organizations set the standard as the best, most effective workplaces in the world.


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