In March of 2019, Nebraska experienced the most widespread and devastating flooding of the past half-century. Communities were helpless as levees and dams broke along the Niobrara, Missouri, Platte and Elkhorn Rivers.
Our beautiful rivers became destructive forces of nature that marooned cities, destroyed homes and farmland, eradicated interstate systems and left behind destruction of historic proportions. As water levels receded back from major flood stage, “Nebraska Strong” became a rallying point of fortitude and strength for the state to band together and rebuild.
Within our own organization, the effects were both direct and indirect. Some colleagues directly could not get home to their families, separated by flooded interstates and evacuated towns. Indirectly, many of us know a neighbor, family member or colleague that had their property flooded or destroyed.
In the aftermath, we were reminded of the necessity of trust. We had to trust and rely on each other to push forward.
In a sense, it is just as easy for organizations to reach major flood stages internally. The levee between leaders and employees is one built on respect and most essentially, trust. This levee is breached when trust is lost. It begins small with the first fissures appearing during times of high turnover and low morale, when employees feel uncertain on how to navigate changing waters. Suddenly, one defeatist and defensive attitude spreads and creates cracks in others, turning a happy workforce environment into one of distrust.
The goal is to stop this crack before it compromises the organization, to connect with employees before reaching the critical point.
When working with people we trust we are friendlier, happier and more willing to delegate because we know they will do the work and do it well. We are relieved knowing we have them on our team because we trust them to be a stable force that pulls their weight and contributes.
However, with individuals we don’t trust the results are staggeringly opposite. We feel an obligation to micromanage, an unwillingness to share the workload because we don’t trust them to complete their obligations. Moreover, it fosters unease, anxiety and worry, all feelings that breed organizational dissatisfaction and unrest.
Much as the state of Nebraska is turning toward rebuilding, we must reinforce the trust and respect our organization is built on daily. Trust begins with understanding each other and innately trusting ourselves and our colleagues to do what needs to be done. Trust begins foundationally at an individual level; it begins with me. I trust my employees, so they in turn, trust me. That is what gives an organization strength and the ability to withstand the next flood.