David Marquet - Intent Based Leadership: Create Leaders at Every Level

What’s your organization’s level of trust?

One of the characteristics of organizations that have been successful in developing additional leaders is the degree to which they delegate decision making authority. We have started taking data with a 10-question survey (you can take it here) that asks employees where they see themselves in the organization (what level in the hierarchy) and how much they are trusted to make decisions. We decided to use the subjective verb “trusted” because in a self-reporting survey it seemed to better reflect independent verification for the organizations that took it.

Individual results by themselves are not meaningful but when an entire organization takes the survey we can build a heat map like the following.

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Here is an example from a software company with a decentralized decision making culture. People can choose the software projects they work on, for example. Visits to the company’s office give one a sense of a lot of autonomy among the employees.

This presentation shows the intersection between self reported position and self reported decision making trust. More respondents result in a greener square. Fewer respondents result in a redder square.

Since position runs up the left side and decision making trust runs up the right side, we would expect the bulk of respondents to line up along the middle. In other words, people high in the organization’s hierarchy feel they are trusted more to make decisions about the organization and people lower in the organization’s hierarchy feel they are less trusted to make decisions.

What is interesting to us is the bias in this organization for these responses toward the right, toward the low position; high trust response. There are people responding that they are low in the organization’s formal hierarchy but still feel moderately or highly trusted to make decisions affecting the organization.

We’ve just started collecting this data. We’ve run into a couple limitations. It seems we need a fair amount of data before we can create a meaningful picture (about 50 in an organization) so that limits us. This may create a bias as we can imagine higher levels of trust in smaller companies. There are no definitive results yet but we are hopeful that once we get more data, an organization can compare themselves to their previous readings and compare themselves to the universe of all organizations.

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