Why cultivating trust is nothing less than a strategic evolution

The reaction is always big. When people learn that Our Lady of the Wayside supports 900 children and adults with developmental disabilities throughout eight Northeast Ohio counties, that we have 90 plus homes, over 800 staff or that our transportation fleet is roughly 180 vehicles, their jaws typically drop.

The scope and responsibility is enormous and the agency’s success balances on my ability to make one decision well: who I trust.

Trust is the primary currency between you and your go-to team. By now, you’ve learned the only way you’re going to advance your organization is by fully leaning in to the information and outcomes your team produces. I’d rather be lucky than just about anything else. But we both know luck isn’t a viable business strategy and cultivating trust is nothing less than a strategic evolution.

Here’s my theory of that particular evolution:

Trust and teach: Certainly, trust involves a leap of faith on everyone’s part. However, risk is diminished and reward is maximized when I view myself as one of my team’s key resources. I provide strategy, distribute tools, obliterate obstacles and let them know I fully anticipate distress calls in the process. Armed with that information, they can confidently set expectations. From there, I work with them to embolden them to take on what the agency needs. I promise you, any other approach dooms everyone to failure.

Trust and ownership: It’s a sense of belonging — on both sides of the equation — that moves my team’s work to the next level. Not only is it a sense that they have a seat at the table, but that they know they have the authority to run the table. Belonging, authority and ownership are the fundamental ingredients for personal investment. My position at Wayside begins and ends with my full commitment to the agency’s mission, and I’ve found that everything is exponentially more efficient and effective when my staff is fully invested as well.

Trust and responsibility: A good day is when I can give anyone and everyone the bow for a job well done. An even better day is when someone raises their hand when the wheels fall off and I can work with them toward a viable solution. The best day of all is when my team can see me in the middle of something that went wrong and I can demonstrate the value of taking it on the chin while pivoting to Plan B. Giving people enough room to work — and yes, to fail — is the surest way to give trust the muscle it needs to set the stage for growth.

Trust and verify: The task is assigned. I’m told it’s completed. I circle back to check-in. Quite simply and profoundly, trust is entirely built on verification. It’s a process that require endless patience. However, I’ll happily invest patience in order to possess the luxury of conviction.

Go on now. You have a big decision to make.

Terry Davis is president and CEO at Our Lady of the Wayside