posted 25 Jul 2006 in Volume 9 Issue 10
Leadership, trust and knowledge sharing
By Carol Kinsey Goman
Trust is the belief or confidence that one party has in the reliability, integrity and honesty of another party. It is the expectation that the faith one places in someone else will be honoured.
Trust is the foundation for collaboration. It is the conduit through which knowledge flows. Without trust, an organisation loses its emotional ‘glue’. Trust is a two-way street. Leaders must be trusted – but they also must be trusting.
The following is a story I tell in my “Leadership is Collaboration” programs. It’s how Bob Buckman reinforced a knowledge-sharing culture based on trust.
Buckman Laboratories has been in the specialty chemical business since 1945. Under the leadership of Robert H. (Bob) Buckman, it also became a world-class, knowledge-sharing organisation. Bob would tell you that converting a command-and-control organisation into a networked one was not without challenges. But by 1994, Buckman Labs had jumped into full-bore knowledge sharing: new software and connectivity had been installed, most of the associates were equipped with laptops, and online forums were up and running.
To honour and reward the top 150 people from around the world who had done the best job of sharing knowledge with the new technologies, a ‘fourth wave meeting’ was held in Scottsdale, Arizona. The meeting was three days of fun, celebration and work – specifically, critical discussions about business trends and strategies. It was also the setting for the following story:
Through the entire conference, a man wearing shorts, a T-shirt and sandals sat at the back of the room, chronicling the meeting on his laptop and sending live messages onto the forum for the rest of the company to read.
His name was Mark Koskiniemi. About midway through the meeting, one of the organisers (a manager) approached Mark and asked him to stop sending out notes on the meeting. Mark refused by saying he didn’t feel that was appropriate. When the organiser suggested that the request to cease came from the top, Mark countered by saying he’d appreciate hearing it personally.
A few minutes later, a break was called and Mark found himself face-to-face with Bob Buckman. Here is how Mark recalls the conversation:
Mark: Hello, sir.
Bob: Mark, I understand that you have been posting notes from the meeting on the Forum. I have to say that I have not read them, but are you sure that is such a good idea?
Mark: Do you trust me?
Bob broke into a big smile, nodded slightly and nothing further was said about Mark’s continued reporting of the events.
There were two results from Koskiniemi’s reporting:
1. In all, he sent more than 50 forum or e-mail messages related to the reports coming from the meeting;
2. Koskiniemi (who is now head of Buckman’s operation in Australia and New Zealand) experienced the power of trust: “If knowledge sharing is built on trust, then to me this moment over any other demonstrated that Bob Buckman really trusted the associates of Buckman Laboratories to take the company forward,” he said.
Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., speaks on collaboration, change and leadership to business, association and government agency audiences worldwide. She can be contacted by e-mail at CGoman@CKG.com or via her website: http://www.CKG.com.