Shared trust and integrity form the basis for the key resource in a bootstrapping startup: morale. Founders must foster actions and behaviors that build trust in the early days if they hope to create a startup with a culture that will enable it to prosper.
Ten Principles for Trust and Integrity from Adventures in Missions
I have come to believe that morale or esprit de corps is the critical resource for a bootstrapping team. With it they can persist: blending freelancing, consulting work, customer discovery, product development, sales, and customer support.
The simple view is that you can just focus on one thing at a time–develop a product, market it, refine it, scale up–and that a few iterations will get you there. The reality for most is that it’s much harder and requires perseverance as a team.
The teams that persevere bring complementary skills and shared values to a common effort sustained by trust, shared vision and joint accountability. The first ten principles from Adventures in Missions focus on trust and integrity, offering some useful guidelines for building and maintaining trust:
- Integrity in an organization is built by developing trust.
- Trust is the glue that enables a team to function well.
- Trust is built over time through competence, commitment, and care.
- Trust is built as we preserve and build the significance of others.
- Trust is built through bearing each others’ burdens.
- Trust is built through a rapid response to communication.
- Trust is built through humility.
- Trust is built through personal contact.
- Trust is diminished by sarcasm and criticism.
- Integrity means making and living up to commitments.
Principles for Effective Learning and Performance Improvement
The next 24 principles include a dozen that focus on effective learning, innovation, and performance improvement:
- Service begins with listening and ends with consistency.
- Leaders lead by serving their followers.
- Good stewardship of resources is a means of serving the team.
- Achieving excellence is a function of continual improvement.
- People engage in the process of continual improvement by constantly asking, “How could this be better?”
- Failure is good if growth results.
- Peak performance begins with high commitment.
- Training without accountability for results becomes an academic exercise.
- Learning comes through doing (role plays and hands-on practice) followed by reflection.
- Empowerment is the by-product of clear win-win agreements.
- Flexibility and innovation are the primary defenses against a rapidly changing world.
- People are more important than tasks or things.
If your startup is mission-driven, these principles for building trust and fostering learning and innovation will be well worth incorporating into your culture: this requires the founders to set an example with their behavior, to hire for alignment on these values, and to avoid creating incentives that work against them.
Related Blog Posts
- “Entrepreneurship is the Launching of Surprises” which explores George Gilder’s essay “Unleash the Mind” and contains this insight that I think I am building on in my focus on morale as the key resource in a startup:
“America’s wealth is not an inventory of goods; it is an organic entity, a fragile pulsing fabric of ideas, expectations, loyalties, moral commitments, visions.”
George Gilder in “Unleash the Mind“
- Building a Business Requires Building Trust
- Tom DeMarco on Leadership, Trust, and Training
- Seth Godin “Trust Is Even More Scarce Than Attention”
- Selling to a Business Requires Conversations that Build Trust
- Keeping Your Customers’ Trust
- Conserving Trust in a Downturn
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