For many years, when I was in the corporate world, we struggled to increase levels of engagement. We knew trust was always at the center of employee engagement metrics. We made significant efforts to improve feedback loops, performance reviews, and communication. For all of our efforts, we hardly moved the needle on trust — at all.

We know that organizations with higher levels of engagement are more creative, innovative and happier. So, why is it that we don’t invest more time discussing trust as the key ingredient for a successful, sustainable, ever growing business or organization? Does it take too long to develop trust among people? Or is it easier than we all think? Is your work environment conducive of trust? Is it an extension of someone’s life? Or is it a place for someone to wear a mask and perform a role, perhaps completely different than their natural self?

I recently started a new company, Nuvanna, and decided to make answers to those questions a cornerstone to building the culture that I want: people-centric, transparent, authentic, helpful, and an extension of someone’s life.

In order to start the process I had to look myself in the mirror, and ask the question(s):

Are you willing to give up control and trust individuals unconditionally, by letting them know what the real goals are?

Are you willing to let people self-manage and take on new responsibilities, tasks and drive them without your input or oversight?

Are you willing to let the company be someone’s life extension?

It wasn’t difficult for me to answer yes to these questions. It also wasn’t difficult for me to start that process in a start-up environment. From hiring my own team to engaging contractors and collaborators, this has been a focal point for me from the inception of the company. However, it hasn’t been all that smooth. Mismatch of expectations is something to watch for, particularly when you are dealing with remote team players with whom you don’t interact with on a regular basis. Despite best intentions from all parties, it’s inevitable to have disappointments and frustration. Not for lack of trust but lack of clarity of expectations and outcome.

Disclaimer: it is still early to claim results but it has been a lot of fun and rewarding watching my team members grow and expand from their “presumed roles”.

Some Early Lessons I Have Learned…

The first step: The people you are working with are trustworthy! The problem is you. It all starts with you! Start from a place of trust and focus on the outcome that you want. Make that crystal clear and release the temptation to control and oversee.

Walk the talk: Actions speak louder than words. When you say to someone, it doesn’t matter what time you get to the office or leave — Mean it! Avoid giving mixed signals, people sense that and often comply with unwritten rules.

Give them their space: Create an environment where your teams can bring their full selves to work! Even if it’s in gym clothes and purple hair. This is who they are and this is who you hired! Don’t make the mistake of letting someone wear a mask to fit a role or model. It’s short lived.

Total Ownership: Empower them and give them authority to create, decide, and empower others.

You will likely be asked: “What if it’s not perfect? What if someone betrays that trust?”

Well, I know it won’t be perfect all the time. But be persistent, be patient, remember the first person who you must trust is yourself to relinquish control, and empower them to do what is right.

It works!

Today’s digital world and social networks are conducive to a more agile and responsive organization, that promotes transparency and openness. It allows teams to fulfill their own purpose, while achieving business goals, and blending work/life in a continuously creative experience.

You have to be comfortable with the change that will naturally come with it. It will shift your focus from controlling to empowering, from profits to purpose, from hierarchy to networks, from planning to experimenting, from privacy to transparency.

People-Centered Management Systems are hardly a new concept. When I was studying engineering in the late eighties, Ricardo Semler (also Brazilian), was pioneering many employee-friendly practices at Semco, a trailblazing company in Brazil. His management style evolved through decades of experimentation, and proved to be an amazing success. The company experienced unprecedented levels of growth, even when the rest of the country was going through massive recessive periods. The interesting thing is that it’s an example that few other companies have attempted to follow. Why? Because it means giving up control.

Fortunately, today more companies like Spotify and Patagonia have experienced huge success using similar practices. So, it is doable and it is profitable; it is more friendly, it is more human, it is more fun, and it is what I chose to do at Nuvanna.

Are you ready for that first step?

It Starts With You! Have Fun!

Alvaro Vaselli is the Founder and CEO of Nuvanna, a start-up that combines his 20+ years of leadership in product design and material science in sleep products with his passion to help others achieve a more balanced life.

As an entrepreneur, innovator, and team builder, he inspires people to live a more balanced life that includes better sleep, mindfulness, positivity and gratitude. Alvaro is committed to providing best-in-class, innovative products with thoughtfully created and expertly curated resources.

Connect with Alvaro on Twitter and Linkedin.

Originally published at on February 15, 2017.

Originally published at