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Trust, Culture and Ralph Waldo Emerson

Something I have realized in my own personal and professional life is that almost all good projects and programs involve personal relationships and trust.

I believe this is what great culture is about. Ultimately, it’s about loving the people you are with, and the purpose you and they pursue.

Instead of a group of workers, a group is more like a family or small community.

The secret to realizing this vision? Personal relationships, shared purpose and trust.

Working in an environment of trust enhances the quality and speed of work, with no duplication and the team working in sync and in flow.

Why is this true and how do we reach this culture?

I start with the great insights of the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.”

Great people make up great teams. Netflix says that great places to work are made up of people with stunning talent.

In creating our teams, we should pay more attention to the personal values of a person, as opposed to only their professional accomplishments. People first, CVs second.

Then we need to hold people really accountable to the personal value standards we set. Remember, it is what we do, not what we say, that is critical.

Jay Barney, a very successful business school professor, once said two things I remember well.

The first is that the only sustainable competitive advantage for an organization is complex interactions between people – culture.

The second is that we should pay strict attention to personal values as much as performance. High performing, poor value people are cancer to their organizations and should be addressed quickly.

In addition to these keen insights, I also think that folks need to feel safe in exploring, failing and learning. The organizations that care about their teams and behave this way almost always do well and attract smart and creative people.

This is what I think is so special about West Virginia University and West Virginia. People are honest, authentic and want to do good for others. It is in our fiber and DNA.

Many are starting to believe West Virginia can be a beacon for others to follow.

We are awakening as a state and I am excited. It won’t be easy or fast, but it is coming – from the coalfields to the capital to the university.

The great people of this state are the foundation of the bright future we see for West Virginia and the world.

One step at a time.