March 4, 2013
“Some may think one of the strangest things to do is believe in a stranger, but if not one stranger believed in us, once upon a time, where would we all be today?… someone did it for you.” – Anne Kreamer
Kind of makes you think, right? This statement is borrowed from a great blog called Make a Stranger Believe in You. At first, I thought it sounded ridiculous but I did want to read more. After finishing the article, I realized that trusting strangers, especially at work, is something we should do every day.
Unless you work at a very small organization, there’s no way you’ll ever know all of the staff. Often we have to make decisions based on information received from far off departments and faceless individuals. Each time this occurs, we make an implicit judgment to believe in that stranger and their work. It’s these implicit judgments that allow companies to excel.
Now I’m not saying that you should blindly believe everything that comes across your desk, but with a healthy resolve, I believe we owe it to ourselves, and the success of our organization, to trust the strangers within our organization.
Interaction Associates (2012) conducted a study about the value of trust, leadership and collaboration within an organization. This study found that companies considered “high performers” had P/E ratios 28.5% higher than average/low performers.
According to Interaction Associates, high performing organizations:
- Trust their employees and acknowledge them for the work they do. They create a shared sense of commitment and responsibility and allow open channels for ideas and opinions to flow between colleagues within the organization.
- Have leaders that effectively communicate strategic direction. They make sound decisions even when the situation is ambiguous and they provide focused, balanced and timely feedback to teams and individuals.
- Ensure that employees are aware of decisions and appropriately involved. They’re willing to share information and have the interpersonal and group skills needed to collaborate.
Of course these are attributes that every organization strives for, but in order for them to occur, they require one binding factor: all employees believe in the company and feel they are working towards the same collective purpose – whether they know one another or not.
To achieve this trust in strangers you need to:
- Be genuine and authentic. Share ideas, criticisms and goals with colleagues, peers, and leaders that you may not know.
- Recognize and embrace personal vulnerability and ask for help from others even if you’ve never worked with them before.
- Recognize and believe that strangers with a common goal can accomplish more together than apart.
So the next time you’re pondering why your organization is struggling to reach the “high performing” zone, consider whether you truly believe the strangers in your own organization. Are you authentic with them even if they may not think the same way you do? Do you ask for help when you need it from others you don’t know? Do you feel that you and that guy in HR are both trying to make the organization a better place to work?
Great teams and great organizations are built on a common belief in purpose and people. So the next time you get a call from somebody in finance you don’t know, don’t let it go to voicemail. Pick up the phone and believe in that stranger.
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