A friend of mine is writing another book, this one a book of poems and essays. In reviewing it, I thought this particular essay and closing poem were worth sharing.
He is writing this book as he has traveled the country these past 24 months. While the observations and thoughts are directed to us as citizens of this nation, they are grounded and validated by a rich history of experience in business and the organizations behind those businesses. The first portion of the essay addresses his belief that culture is fundamental to sustaining a competitive advantage and that trust is the bedrock on which culture does or does not deliver that advantage.
You will read how Chip transitions from those lessons he learned as a business mentor over several decades to the application of those lessons beyond our companies to us as citizens of this democratic republic.
He addresses the link between trust and culture within our families, communities, and the country. He makes the case for being intentional about the establishment of one to build the other while asking us to ask ourselves whether our leaders are doing a good job of being trustworthy and advocating for what he describes as the Trust Triangle of Democracy.
Enjoy the read and ponder the perspective. Let me know what you think.
John P. Foster
“All organizations are a reflection of their leadership. Culture starts at the top. It is either creating a culture of trust or distrust.” Chip Webster
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Peter Drucker
“Creating trust requires thoughtful risk and precise execution: make a specific promise, and keep the promise.” Glenn Waring
The level of trust determines the level of progress that can be made. We are either building or destroying. There is no middle ground.
In my many years of working with business leaders on their strategies and tactics, it became obvious that culture is the most important underlying ingredient in a company’s success or failure and is too often ignored. However, not just in companies. Culture has a big impact on families, cities, and nations. It is as important as national defense. In a way, it is a domestic defense against self-destruction.
Today the United States has a culture problem. We aren’t on the same page. We are talking at each other, not with each other. (Yelling might be a better descriptor.) We aren’t communicating. Without communication, there is no trust and no common vision of what we are trying to accomplish as a nation. Citizenship requires voting in leaders who communicate their vision, serve their constituency, and help all citizens create a brighter future by uniting us.
There are as many definitions of culture as there are consultants and books on the subject. One simple definition is “how we treat each other around here”. Another is “how connected we feel to each other”. Others include, “What’s taboo?” or “who gets to have power?” Do we care about culture or are we just passing through? Do we walk by litter in the parking lot or do we pick it up and dispose of it? Do we treat the assets of the community as if they are our own and take good care of them? Do we feel respected, connected, and cared about?
My first corporate headquarters job was with Sears in Chicago (you may remember them – at that time they were the number one retailer in the world). In visiting stores all over the country it was obvious each store had its own culture. Arriving before the store opened for business, while walking through the loading dock door, halfway across the sales floor, up the escalator, and to the corner office to meet the store manager, one could feel how happy their staff was. Did they say, “good morning”, were they busy straightening the shelves from last night’s business, and were they happy to be there? Or just hanging on until payday, feeling little connection to the store or the customers. Before reaching the corner office it was obvious what kind of leader I would find there. It ranged from the powerful, dynamic, energized leader to the gruff angry old bear. The store reflected the personality of that leader. In visiting over a thousand businesses the following years it was the same. You could feel the culture starting at the front door. And that has been true of other types of organizations and families.
The level of mutual respect and trust is an important ingredient in culture. Having facilitated many strategic planning / team-building sessions for organizations, we would identify the biggest barriers to their success. And always the biggest barrier was honest straightforward communication. Good transparent communication is a key element of culture and leads to trust. Trust is the foundation of a strong culture. Our national culture is broken, we don’t trust each other! We have become further detached from each other and not communicating in an effective way.
As a nation, we are having a crisis of trust, in each other and our institutions. Only solid leadership can start the healing process. The degree of honest communication will determine the level of trust.
THE TRUST TRIANGLE OF DEMOCRACY
CAN WE TRUST YOU?
Can we trust you
Can we trust you to
Act in the best interest of us all
Act to uphold the Constitution
Act to sustain our national strength
Do you understand what is at stake?
Do you put the nation ahead of your ego?
Do you put the nation ahead of your need to be reelected?
Do you put the nation ahead of your personal gain?
Can we trust you to
Not pander to a few
Not pander to the lobbyists
Not pander to the wealthy
Not pander to the special interests
Can we trust you to keep us free and equal?
From Chip Webster’s, A Passion For Life
Written By: John Foster
John Foster has 30 plus years of distinguished leadership and management experience with multiple companies at various stages of development across several fast-paced industries.