Trusted Connections

Blog Trusted Connections

People in audiences I have spoken to on the topic of High Reliability Organizing will often ask afterwards, “HRO sounds like what we want to be doing. But I’m not sure we really can!” When I ask them to tell me about what they like about where they work and the people that they work with, they often reply with, “That’s weird. I thought you were going to ask me, “Why can’t you?” But you want to know what I like!?”

I want to get to know people through the good and meaningful relationships they have created with others. Through their positive stories we can get a sense of what is strong in their environment that they already anchor to. These are foundational connections to build on.

“People with a strong sense of connection to others are more cooperative, empathetic, enthusiastic, optimistic, energetic, and better problem-solvers. Build the “Connection Development” elements of vision, value, and voice in your organization” (Stallard 2007).


Intentionally Create a Connection Culture

“Culture is the predominant beliefs and behaviors shared by a group of people. A connection culture therefore, is a culture that embraces the necessary beliefs and behaviors that enhance connection among people and meet universal human needs.” (Stallard 2007)

Vision + Value + Voice = Connection

In a connection culture people have Vision when everyone is united by common values, proud of their unit’s reputation, and motivated by their mission.

Value exists in an organization when everyone understands the basic psychological needs of people, behaves in ways that appreciates their positive, unique contributions, and acts to help them achieve their potential.

Voice exists in an organization when everyone seeks the ideas of others, share ideas and opinions honestly, and safeguards relational connections.

Michael Stallard writes about a current next step in the evolution of organizations because people are recognizing that, “Most organizations today have become masters of task excellence, that is hard, quantitative, and analytically oriented aspects of business implicit in areas as Six Sigma (a statistically oriented quality improvement program) and competitive benchmarking (the practice of comparing objective measures such as sales, profits, and inventory level to those of one’s competitors). Unfortunately, organizations that focus on task excellence alone will fail to meet the basic human psychological needs that maximize employee’s contributions to the organization.” Some leaders are beginning to see that with “task excellence” alone, success is fleeting. (Stallard 2007)

When we adopt the mind-set that we are in a community with one another through mutual respect, we begin to build internal relationships that create trusted colleagues rather than internal competitors. I know that the reality is that we may not like all of our co-workers. But creating a healthy self-esteem, mutual respect and strong working relationships, is common sense, yet often uncommon in practice.

Leaders know that their main responsibility is to inspire the people they lead.

Vision represents the cultural element of inspiring identity in both individuals and in their organization in ways that satisfy the sense of purpose, significance and pride that we all crave. Without it, people just show up for duty, do what they have to, and look forward to the weekend, their vacation, or retirement.

Many of us are truly fortunate in that we are bringing something new to the world, or have an opportunity to significantly improve what we have been given charge of. Some of us have a history filled with stories, images, facts and figures, sayings and quotable quotes. Share that history and the challenges you currently have repeatedly, keeping this inspiring identity in front of your team. People need to see that their unit’s identity adds something to their personal identity.

Human value in a culture is, first of all, about treating people with respect and dignity, and second, about empowering them to achieve their potential. Leaders need to identify and remove the obstacles that make people feel devalued. Delete what devalues by:

  1. Eliminating disrespectful, condescending and rude behavior.
  2. Going easy on criticism.
  3. Minimizing unnecessary rules and excessive controls.
  4. Eliminating excessive signs of hierarchy.
  5. Getting rid of devaluing managers.


Add elements that enhance people’s value by:

  1. Making a human connection with as many people as possible.
  2. Treating and speaking to employees as partners.
  3. Helping employees find the right roles.
  4. Educating, informing, and listening to employees.
  5. Decentralizing decision making.
  6. Recognizing the human need for work/life balance

All of these efforts to remove what devalues and increase what does value people will increase trust in your people, among work groups, and between units throughout your organization. Stephen M. R. Covey writes in his book, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything,

“Trust impacts us 24/7, 365 days a year. It undergrids and affects the quality of every relationship, every communication, every work project, every business venture, every effort in which we are engaged. It changes the quality of every present moment and alters the trajectory and outcome of every future moment of our lives – both personally and professionally.”

“Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t; rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create – much faster than you probably think possible…I contend that the ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust is not only vital to our personal and inter-personal wellbeing; it is the key leadership competency of the new global economy.”


Written by David A. Christenson, MA, MSc, Ph.D. Candidate
CEO Christenson & Associates, LLC DBA O4R: Organizing For Resilience

Article originally posted by David Christenson to his Linked In pages October 13, 2015



Covey, Stephen M. R. (2006). The speed of trust: The one thing that changes everything, Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Stallard, Michael Lee (2007). Fired up or burnt out: How to reignite your team’s passion, creativity, and productivity, Thomas Nelson, Inc.