Trust, integrity and empowerment: building blocks of wellbeing

By Bernie McKendrey
Deputy Chair, Institute of Internal Auditors
“Building resilience, ensuring our business culture supports all our people.”

Whilst business change is constant and the new norm, a strong culture built on trust, integrity and empowerment provides enduring foundations.  Culture drives performance - leadership drives culture. A strong open supportive culture, backed by sound assurance mechanisms, provides the safety net and supports and maintains trust and integrity.   

Those in leadership roles must: 

Take time and be accessible (build it into your routine), listen (really listen), engage with all staff, assess the impact, and follow through on commitments.  Those providing assurance want to see this engagement demonstrated and communication from leaders cascaded to the ‘shop’ floor.  Also that feedback and sound ideas for change are safe to bring forward and are adopted (and if not clear reasons for doing so are communicated). 

Ensure there is a demonstrated understanding of a shared and clear vision, and everyone knows how their individual success is contributing to the businesses success and they know why their role is important. Individual effort must align to that of the organisation. Those providing assurance want to see that there is direct linkage from individual outputs to organisational objectives, and that everyone can articulate where their role fits in. 

Ensure everyone feels connected; build community by providing a sense of belonging and keep information flowing – both up and down.  Embrace and celebrate diversity, so group think (the ‘in crowd’) is challenged, and everyone has a voice. Those providing assurance want to see that the range of information provided, is diverse, timely, accurate and fit for purpose. They want to see demonstrated examples of the community created and where challenge has been open, balanced, and respected.  

Create an environment where mistakes are acknowledged and learned from, there is openness in asking for help and issues are addressed together in a collaborative manner. To err is human and bad days are allowed. Those providing assurance want to see that a range of issues have been managed openly (where appropriate) and effectively, and not be told “….. it doesn’t happen here”. They want to get assurance that training, tools and support are readily and clearly accessible and provided. 

Positive culture

A positive culture and healthy work environment is a place where everyone is:

  • Emotionally safe 
  • Enabled, supported and trained to fulfil their purpose and achieve their goals and therefore those of the organisation.
  • Entrusted and enabled to take personal responsibility.  
  • Respected and valued for their diversity.
  • Empowered and supported and provided the necessary tools to stand up and speak out when boundaries are crossed.
  • Respected and empowered to do the best they can but allowed to err and have an off day. 

Leaders must build trust and demonstrate integrity, values, and positive, supportive, behaviour. They need to empower employees, not just engage with them.  Those providing assurance will want to see this demonstrated across the organisation. 

In building trust and integrity independent assurance, as a foundation of strong governance, is key to demonstrating wellbeing and resilience, individually and collectively.   

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