3 Ways Leaders Create a Culture of Forgiveness and Trust

How are you shaping the culture of your organization?

Recently, one of my team members made an appointment to meet with me. When she sat down, I could tell she was uncomfortable.


Normally she is very upbeat and smiling, however that day she was very somber.

After few minutes of small talk, I asked her if she was okay. She took a deep breath and started to explain we missed a major deadline. Of course, I asked what happened. We discussed the sequence of events and the financial impact.

During our discussion, she apologized and accepted full responsibility. I knew she could read the disappointment on my face. However, my focus was on how to not make the same mistake again.

As she prepared to leave, she thanked me for my support. As I reflected on the meeting, I wondered if my response to the situation was aligned with my vision for the organization. By choosing to focus on improvement, my goal to create a culture of forgiveness and trust was reinforced by my response to the situation.

Yes, I said forgiveness. Why forgiveness? “Forgiveness offers people the chance to take risks, to be creative, to learn and to grow their own leadership capabilities (Manfred Kets de Vries).” According to Merriam-Webster, forgive means:

to stop feeling anger toward someone who has done something wrong, to stop blaming someone; to stop feeling anger about something; to forgive someone for something wrong; to stop requiring payment of money that is owed.

To build a culture of trust, the principle of forgiveness must be part of the fabric of our organization. Why? According to Manfred Kets de Vries, “Forgiveness builds loyalty and good citizenship. People working in organizations that have been instilled with a forgiveness culture are more likely to make an extra effort.”

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So how do we build a culture of forgiveness and trust? In his book How to be a Positive Leader: Small Actions, Big Impact, Professor Kim Cameron recommends three approaches to building a culture of forgiveness and trust:

  1. Expressing Gratitude: expressions of appreciation have dramatic effect on individuals moral and organization
  2. Enable Forgiveness: separate the act from the individual; redefine success and failure; create an environment of support
  3. Facilitate Transcendence: focus on opportunity and possibilities; strive for remarkable performance

To create a culture of forgiveness and trust, develop an environment where individuals are valued for their contribution and mistakes are viewed as opportunities for growth.

How are you shaping the culture of your organization?

Your friend,

Dr. Kim Moore, your guide to leading with confidence!

Dr. Kim Moore

Kim d. moore

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