“Trust me!’ We’ve all heard it, and probably said it. But how do you build a culture of trust at work, or in a classroom? David Langford and host Andrew Stotz talk about how inclusive decision-making inspires trust, and leads to better outcomes.
0:00:02.5 Andrew Stotz: My name is Andrew Stotz, and I’ll be your host as we continue our journey into the teachings of Dr. W Edwards Deming. Today I’m continuing my discussion with David P. Langford, who has devoted his life to applying Dr. Deming’s philosophy to education, and he offers us his practical advice for implementation. Today we continue our discussion of Dr. Deming’s, 14 items that he discusses in New Economics about the role of a manager of people after that manager has been through the transformation. This is on the third edition of The New Economics on page 86, and in the second edition on page 125. Now, today we’re talking about point 10, which is a simple and short point, and it reads as follows, “He creates trust, he creates an environment that encourages freedom and innovation.” So we decided to title, this one, “Trust Me.” David, take it away.
0:01:02.3 David Langford: Thanks, Andrew. Good to be back again. So, yeah, this point it seems simple when you just read through it, and it seems logical like all managers of people would want to create trust with their people, but it’s not like it happens automatically, [chuckle], and I think a lot of managers of people do things inadvertently, hopefully they’re inadvertently, where they create distrust and stress, etcetera. One of those most obvious things is performance evaluations, “Trust me, and then I’m going to rank you amongst people in the department, and then we’re going to have a prize for the top person and/or a bonus or something else within that.”
0:02:03.6 DL: And people learn that you’re not really interested in improving the product, the service, the classroom, the function of what’s going on, you’re really interested in who’s pleasing you. [chuckle] And that’s how you get a promotion, and that’s how you move up is like, they’ll… The old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” And, I think that’s really the heart of what Deming’s getting at here, that you’re supposed to create an environment of trust. And it doesn’t just… It’s not a pill you take and where you just all of a sudden you can say to people all you want to “trust me,” [laughter] but it’s over time, when you find out, “Are you trustworthy?” And if you prove not to be trustworthy, either you can’t keep things confidential or you talk behind people’s backs, or you, you know, any of those kinds of things, over time people start to realize you’re not somebody to be trusted.
0:03:16.3 DL: I often heard Deming say things like, “If you create an environment where people can’t trust you, pretty soon you’re only left with the people who can’t get another job.” [laughter] “Can’t go someplace else, because you’re just not trustworthy.” Well, the same thing happens in a classroom, a classroom teacher that is not trustworthy and can’t build trust among a classroom of students, won’t get the very best from those students. Pretty soon they’ll only do what the teacher wants to be done, and then that’s it. They won’t think on their own. They won’t… Deming is talking about they won’t become innovative in what they’re doing, because you’re not a trustworthy person managing the class. And so how do you do that? How do you build trust over time? Well, a big part of that to me is involving people in the decision-making process. On the previous points, in this section that we’re working through, Deming talked about, the role of a good manager and a leader and etcetera, and those kinds of things. Ultimately, you still have the formal position, right?
0:04:43.2 DL: And it’s your job or in some cases, you’re next on the line, if you don’t make a good decision. But the more you can involve people in that process of making decisions, number one, you’re going to come out with a better decision, because you just get more brains looking at a situation in ways that you just never thought about before. And number two, it’s sort of a double-edged sword, not only did you get a better decision but whatever decision you do come up with gets implemented to a higher degree. So when I’m teaching teachers to do this with classrooms with students, I always tell them, you know, if you involve students in a decision-making process, and let’s say that it doesn’t turn out well, it wasn’t a good decision.
0:05:42.8 DL: You win both ways, right? Because it wasn’t just your decision. And it’s the same way with a manager in a company. If it’s just your decision and something doesn’t work, people will just let it fail, they’ll just let it not work because they had no part in it. They don’t really care if it works or not. And they’ll just let you, gladly let you fail in some cases and not bail you out. But if it’s our decision and we all use some tools and processes and took the time to actually work through and figure out the best solution to something, then if things start to go wrong, people, because they have such strong trust in you and the organization, they’re going to pick up the pieces. They’re going to do stuff to make even a bad decision work, because they have ownership in it, and they’re a part of that process.
0:06:45.3 AS: I wanted to briefly talk about trust because, it’s such a interesting word and concept that I think we may just brush over. I remember reading a book by Dr. William Glasser called “Reality Therapy”, and he worked with prisoners and others through his psychiatry. And one of the things he always talked about is that a key sign of mental illness, which he didn’t… He actually said there was no such thing as mental illness. He said basically the issue was that that person did not have a trusting relationship with anybody, and therefore it was so hard… So then all the mental problems and emotional problems they went through were coping mechanisms.
0:07:29.8 AS: And that really rang true. And I think about my friendships with my best friend, Dale, who we run – he runs the coffee business. And I think about the relationships with my mom and dad and my sisters, and I can say none of them ever betrayed my trust. And I think I thought that was normal. But when I talked to my father just before he died, I asked him, “What is the accomplishment” of many accomplishments, including getting his PhD and being successful and all that? And he said to me… I said, “What is your number one? What are you most proud of?” And he said, “I built a trusting family.” And now as I’ve grown, you know, and I’ve looked at that more, I really realized that is rare. And I want to just highlight that trust is rare.
0:08:19.2 AS: And the second way I want to highlight that is that, I teach in my ethics course, which I just teach ethics and finance all the time at university and for CFA, what I say… I ask people to raise their hand. I ask them, think about how many people you truly trust. If you had a really… And I want everybody who’s listening and viewing, let me ask this question. How many people do you truly trust? If you had a secret, something that you did not want to get out to the world, but you felt like you needed to tell somebody, how many people would you trust? And the answer to that after asking thousands of people that question is about one or two. And my point, and I say academic research can oftentimes be interpreting surveys. That’s a survey. That’s some research. And what does it tell us? It tells us that trust is rare. And so when I hear the word trust, and I think about what he’s saying, “He creates trust, he creates an environment that encourages freedom and innovation.” I think that’s extremely hard thing to do, and it’s not happening much in this world.
0:09:38.5 DL: Well, you want that freedom and innovation because in a company that’s creating new products or new ideas or things like that, and people are freely distributing or giving you those ideas. And so unless you have that sort of fertile ground for creating new ideas and innovation, you’re just not going to get there. It pretty much means that everything has to be a top-down decision-made process of doing something. And you want tremendous growth. It’s the same way in a classroom. It’s interesting that we think that, “Oh, we have to do great trustworthy kinds of things.” But it happens in such simple ways. Like a teacher might say, “Oh, well just take 10 minutes to finish this.” And, uh, then a half an hour later they return back to what they were working on and stuff. Students quickly learn, you’re not trustworthy, [chuckle] 10 minutes means 10 minutes. And I often tell teachers, just have a little stop watch or a little timer or something, and when you do something like that and you say, “Okay, we’re going to take 20 minutes to work on this,” then just set a timer. It’ll keep you on, trustworthy, and it’ll keep them on track as well and people will know, okay, we’re there.
0:11:15.5 AS: Yeah. And I think the other thing I would say is when you’re standing in front of a group of students teaching you have to really understand that they trust almost no one. And so…
0:11:26.1 DL: Yeah, that’s true.
0:11:26.3 AS: They’re observing your every action. And I say that they trust almost no one from my survey of people that I’ve been surveying asking this question. And maybe even ask your students, ask them a question such as, “How many people do you trust?”
0:11:44.2 DL: Yeah. Well, I’ve been involved as a student myself, and an assignment was given or a timeline, “Have this by Friday or be ready to discuss this by Friday.” And then you get to Friday and the teacher doesn’t follow through. And you’ve put in all this work and effort to be ready for Friday. And it’s, “Oh, well, we’ll just put that off until Monday.” Well, you’re not building trust, you’re actually taking trust away. Stephen Covey says, “You’re not adding to the bank of trust.” [chuckle]
0:12:17.5 AS: And it is a bank and it is cumulative. One last thing about trust that I was thinking about is, you know, for managers right now in businesses, and I’m sure it’s the same in education, it’s all about KPIs and measurements. And one of the real destructive things of these measurements is they destroy trust, because the manager of people is sitting behind a desk looking at a chart and graph and not understanding a person’s situation and basically blasting them. I think that it’s possible if we could get to where some managers want to be, that you could implant some sort of electrical stimulus, so that if somebody doesn’t hit their KPI, you just give them a volt, you give them a shot of electricity and say, “That’s a reminder that you haven’t, didn’t hit your KPI.” And I think about the relationships that I have of trust, and none of them were built through KPI. So I like the…
0:13:23.8 DL: No point, they already you have it.
0:13:26.1 AS: Yep. Maybe a good ending point. Anything you would add?
0:13:30.5 DL: Yeah. No, it’s just on the surface this seems so simple. But what Deming often talked about Profound Knowledge, and the word profound means deep knowledge and understanding. So it’s taking these points that he accumulated basically over a hundred years. And he makes it so simple, “Hey, just think about this, just do this and things will get better.” So, trust me.
0:14:00.8 AS: Trust me. So I’m going to wrap this up by first asking the listeners and the viewers, how many people do you trust? And I want you to think about the people around you. Are they any different than you? They probably trust one or two people. And some people will say, “I trust no one.” And an important part of this point, number 10, is to recognize that trust is rare and rare is valuable. David, on behalf of everyone at the Deming Institute, I want to thank you again for the discussion. And for listeners, remember to go to deming.org to continue your journey. Listeners can learn more about David at langfordlearning.com, and this is your host, Andrew Stotz. And I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Deming. I just never get tired of this quote. “People are entitled to joy in work.”