How many people can you trust?

Here’s a little known biological fact about humans: we have the capacity to create trusting relationships with about 150 people.

That’s plenty of room for family members, friends, some colleagues, and a few other people. But how does someone create a culture of trust across an organization of 1,000 employees? Or 100,000 employees?

At my company of 190,000 employees, my advice (from the corporate office) has been to focus our culture efforts on supervisors. Each supervisor has, on average, 8 direct reports. Each supervisor can take actions that will build trust with each direct report. The actions of a supervisor in Riyadh will be different from the ones taken by a supervisor in Tokyo. The best thing I can do from the corporate office is to give supervisors the tools they need to build trust with their team. The worse thing I can do is impose a cookie-cutter approach.

One more thing: trust creates trust. A person who feels trusted is more trusting. So start at the top. Have the CEO extend trust to her team. Let each of her direct reports build that chain of trust with their direct reports. Then, no matter how large your organization is, you can spread that culture across all continents.

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