Trust in the workplace means that managers trust their employees, and that they have both the skills and motivation to do a good job. There are many benefits to be gained from trust as a strategy, according to Tom Georg Olsen.


Olsen is the recently retired CEO of the IT consulting company Miles. He now runs his own company with services such as lectures, mentoring, team development and board membership. The title of Group Servant, which Olsen chose, has been recognized as "Norway's best job title" and it is not without reason that Olsen chose this particular role description. After a research project in collaboration with NHH and Miles, he became convinced that good leaders must first become servants. The organization therefore follows the principles of servant leadership, where trust is one of the main ingredients. Trust is a strategy at Miles, and at TAKE LEAD 2023, Olsen talked about why it leads to success.

- Leaders are completely dependent on trust. We work with people, and a manager's focus should therefore be primarily on human interaction and communication. In football, if the coach "loses the dressing room", it's the coach who has to leave, not the players. I use this analogy in my own business. Our results reflect the sum of all our employees' efforts, not just the manager's," says Olsen.

Olsen goes on to say that the dressing room mentality in football is transferable to the business world. A strong culture of trust is crucial if you want innovative solutions, better safeguarding of talent, increased flexibility, greater speed and, not least, more value for the client.

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What does trust as a strategy mean?

Research also suggests that trust has a positive effect on employee engagement and performance, which in turn promotes collaboration and good results. There are many facets to trust as a strategy. Mats Kristensen, co-founder & Managing Partner of FRONT Leadership, states that the following elements often represent the core of the concept:

  • The manager trusts employees to do their work well without looking over their shoulders.
  • Employees are treated fairly regardless of their position.
  • The manager accepts accidental mishaps/mistakes as part of working life.
  • Employees have full confidence in their manager's integrity.
  • The manager will not knowingly do anything that could harm the employee.
  • Employees like their manager a lot.
  • Employees have an honest dialog with their immediate manager.

Trust always comes with risk - what can you do?

The focus on trust in Miles creates close relationships between managers and employees. It highlights the fact that employees should use their skills in the way they think is best, and that it is allowed to make mistakes because it contributes to development and innovation. Olsen has results to show. Miles has won "Norway's best workplace" twice and is known as one of Norway's most innovative companies. However, he emphasizes that trust is always associated with a certain amount of risk.

- The less cultural differences there are between people, the higher the level of trust. As a manager, I therefore work a lot with something I call "cultural building blocks of trust" that bring people closer together when it comes to key concepts.

First up are values and behavior. Olsen explains that there is no value in values, it is the behavior you see and the sum of the behavior that can be described as the organizational culture. Recruiting the right employees is key and the birthplace of organizational cultures, according to Olsen. Therefore, he is extremely careful about who he hires and conducts a thorough reference check with up to 10 references. Empowering the employees is the next step - here, freedom should be given and not looked over the shoulder. Bureaucracy has no place when trust is the strategy and the goal is to build sustainable relationships. Last but not least, Olsen believes that psychological safety is crucial and a hallmark of a forward-thinking workplace.

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