Listening at growth companies . . . avoiding TrustBUSTER™ #5

Here is another perspective on TrustBUSTER™ #5 – Tells a lot, listens very little – for the growth oriented companies. (read the previous post on this topic to get the whole picture on the TrustBUSTER™ list

While I am not a fan of using employee surveys as replacement tool for solid management of people, I do believe in them.  For the company that has lots to do because of their growing business, growth company guru Verne Harnish offers and interesting perpsective in his book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.  His perspective is covered in a chapter, and the subtitle to it is De-Hassle Your Organization

The basic message is that the #1 demotivator for people is problems/hassles not getting resolved.  His solution for listening, asking three questions to start:

  1. What should we start doing?
  2. What should we stop doing?
  3. What should we continue doing?

The follow-up is key in any gathering feedback effort, and he covers it masterfully in his book so I will not recite it here.  Harnish markets to growing companies, but any organization could leverage his wisdom.  I love these questions. 

Any questions you would like to add to the list?

Here is what I think. . . TrustBUSTER™ #5 – Tells a lot, listens very little

TrustBUSTER™ #5 – Tells a lot, listens very little

A study was shared with me once that calculated the average time a doctor listened to a patient before making a diagnosis was 23 seconds.  For many of my visits that number has actually proven to be long enough.  But for a complex medical issue, Twenty-three seconds is not long enough.  In my experience working with the results of employee surveys, not enough listening is always a root cause of the top issues.

Here are some broad generalizations on listening. 

  • As people become experts at doing something, they become less adept at listening. 
  • When individuals are rewarded for being great at doing and made a leader, most feel the need to talk louder to make sure things happen.
  • A high salary has to be justified by knowing everything and never letting people see your mistakes.

I will let someone else to worry about the issue of twenty-three seconds for doctors, lets talk about how this applies for leaders. 

LEADERS:  The ability to hear what people need and understand what is going on in an organizations is probably the most important skill a leader will need as they move up the organization.  Recently a client shared with me that they were concerned about the statistic that 60% of people currently in jobs are open to moving to another job as the economy improves.  Their response?  Begin to provide the CEO time to meet with small groups of people so he can hear what they are thinking about.  Listening for leaders is about slowing down.  The cost? Free!

ORGANIZATIONS:  The top three ‘listening’ processes in an organization are performance evaluations, one on ones, and staff meetings.  Why do I say this?  Listening to individuals requires face time in a setting where they are comfortable and the agenda is about them.  Ken Blanchard offers guidelines for one on ones of meeting every other week for 15-30 minutes.  How many organizations do that?  As for performance evaluations, how many managers see this as listening time vs “I have to get through this and get their signature so I can turn it in and get credit for it” time?  Then there is the staff meeting.  Does the agenda promote open listening or lots of talking with no questions or debate?

Do we need to do employee surveys?  They do serve a purpose and there is always benefit in asking people’s opinion. The mistake is leaning on the surveys as the primary way that listening happens in an organization.  It is supposed to be supplemental data to ensure that good listening is happening.

How effectively do you use the ‘big three’ listening times mentioned above?  How would you grade yourself on this TrustBUSTER™?  How would others grade you?

Leadership Time – Chronos and Kairos. Which one guides your day?

I heard something from the pulpit a couple of weeks ago that really got me thinking.  In Greek there two words for time: chronos and kairos. 

Chronos refers to time as we measure it.  It is a quantitative measure.  As a western civilization, we put a great focus on chronos time with productivity tools, phones, emails, calendars, and multitasking.  As leaders we focus on keeping on schedule, preparing as we walk between meetings, and leveraging the help of others to make sure our days are productive and time is well spent.

Kairos refers to time as a right and opportune moments.  It refers to the space in between the chronos or sequential time when something special happens.  It is a qualitative measure.

What are these Kairos moments?  What about someone saying hello and asks us about our weekend?  Maybe it could be a voice disagreeing with something we needed to make a decision on yesterday, or our kids busting into the house to tell us about something exciting that happened to them today.  How about your elderly neighbor who cannot move fast enough to catch you at your mailbox, but is sitting on their porch waiting for a conversation.  It might even be inviting two people working through lunch to come out with you for a bite to eat.

Chronos will get taken care of because we are good at it, but sometime Kairos needs more of our attention.  What can you do as a leader to make Kairos more of a priority?  It is a good time of year to ask this question.

Who me? TrustBUSTER™ #4 – Does not communicate and explain changes/decisions well

TrustBUSTER™ #4 – Does not communicate and explain changes/decisions well

I have had many opportunities to watch ‘trickle down’ communication in action.  In one such organization I worked with the senior leadership team to implement a new performance management tool for all their direct reports.  The decision was made to have each vice president roll out and explain the changes to their people.  The material was put together and given to each executive and a deadline for communicating the information was set.  As the deadline passed I had a chance to talk with a large sample of these direct reports and realized 50% of the executives had not communicated to their teams.  I was asked for my feedback in front of the executive team a few weeks later and I shared this statistic.  They became silent, and from their faces I could tell they were all wondering who had not followed through.  After all, they all saw themselves as a great communicator.

This is an area where the speed of business and the explosion of tools to communicate information has gotten in the way of true communication.  Too often the act of hitting the send button makes us believe that everyone knows.  So often the TrustBUSTER™ list is about perception, and the measure  of communication can be so subjective.  They key to making this TrustBUSTER™ go away is in developing the habit of slowing down work daily, weekly, and monthly to get groups together and share information.  The best resource I have found to explain what this looks like is probably Patrick Lencioni’s book Death By Meeting.  It would be worth reading for any leadership team. 

For a leader looking to understand how well things are being trickled down, here are three things you can do to get a pulse:

  1. Walk around and ask.  This probably seems too basic, but just getting out and asking people what they know or what they do not understand will give you lots of good information.  Questions like “What do you know about . . . ” or  “How is …… impacting you?” or “What kind of results have you seen – positive or negative?”
  2. Be purposeful in communicating change.  At a past organization, for every change initiative we would give all the leaders a sheet outlining exactly what needed to be said and answers to frequently asked questions.  Everyone had a message and the expectation was they would share it by a certain time.  We always spent time at the next meeting discussing what we heard and how people reacted.
  3. Leverage your staff meetings.  As organizations grow adding time for the leadership team to meet seems like overkill to many because “we talk all of the time.”  Hearing something in a quiet room has more impact than a passing comment in a hall.  Create space to debate, decide, and plan next steps so everyone knows how and why the decision was made.

This TrustBUSTER™ goes away when we slow down, seek to understand the perspective of others, and spend time explaining the what, why and how of things.  This is also called leadership. 🙂

trU Tips 9: There is no ‘I’ in team – When and why this is wrong

This is a reprint of the monthly publication called trU Tips – Strategic People Reminders for the busy executive.  To subscribe to receive a monthly trU Tips, click here.

What I’m hearing

Forming teams is not a new concept. It can be, however, a new experience for many entrepreneurial organizations entering their next phase of growth, and for industries such as financial services.  Teams can help raise revenue, keep relationships connected with service, and reduce the risk of having one person dictate the success of the organization.  While the process of team building is simple, doing it effectively is a bigger challenge when the people being asked to join a team are successful largely because of their individual drives.  
 

What it means

“There is no ‘I’ in team.”  Great slogan, but it’s wrong.  When bringing people together who have been successful largely because of their personal drives to succeed, there has to be room for “I” somewhere, or the team won’t work.  It’s unrealistic to ask someone — a top sales person, a driving entrepreneur, a teacher — who has basically worked independently for the first decade of his or her career to change overnight and become a great team member.  Bringing independent-minded people together requires an open and honest conversation focused on defining both individual needs and team goals, then deciding if a balance can be achieved.
 
Building trust is the basic component of performance.  In my experience, trust comes before the other three pieces in a four-step process I call trUPerformance: build trust, build focus, build confidence and build rhythm.  While the last three parts are essential for a great, high-functioning team, trust is the key. Allowing people to process through their individual needs, as well as those of the team as a whole, will promote an understanding of how the team can meet its overall goals while allowing its members to have their own needs met.  In the end, individuals might decide that being part of a team won’t work for them.  Sharing truth allows for good choices to be made.  
 

What you should do

The key in all of this is having a series of conversations with potential team members to identify:
 

  1. A list of what they bring to the team, including strengths and weaknesses
  2. A list of things they want or need from the team
  3. A list of personal reasons for joining the team, including what they see as the group’s goals or potential

Process these pieces by sharing openly, identifying common themes in both individual needs and team goals. Challenge people to identify needs that are purely “Me” goals (e.g., keeping one’s top 20 clients) and those that are “We” goals that benefit the entire team (e.g., offering a more complete service solution to customers).  By systematically going through these conversations, it will become evident whether or not potential team members are compatible, and whether joining the team is the right move for an individual.
 
Need a partner in effectively forming a team that will have a huge impact on your business?  Contact me.   Scott@thetrugroup.com

I like this . . . .(DO NOT) Check Your Personal Baggage at the Door

I like the reminder from this post about how important it is to have people bring their whole self to work.  While one might look at this post and conclude that it provides a reason not to perform the job – I would offer a challenge to look at this another way.  It takes energy for a person to hide things and ‘pretend’.  By allowing for some transparency with your leader it frees up mental energy to focus on the work, and allows for some grace from a leader when needed.  I like this post.

(DO NOT) Check Your Personal Baggage at the Door.

TrustBUSTER™ #3 – Slow to extend trust to others (and Why onboarding matters)

TrustBUSTER™ #3 – Slow to extend trust to others

I was facilitating a team building conversation with a group of twelve people.  Half of them knew each other well and the other half were new team members who were working in regional offices.  For the trust part of the session I asked each person to answer three questions and we went around the room to share answers.  The three questions were:

  1. Trust – do you give it automatically or do people have to earn it?
  2. If you give it – how do they lose it?  OR  If people have to earn it – how do they earn it?
  3. Bonus question:  What are “forgiveness factors for you” – ie.  If these factors are in place you will forgive trustBUSTING behavior.

There were two A-HA moments.  The first was when someone shared her surprise that everyone did not share her answer to the first question.  She thought everyone required people to earn trust.  The second moment was from my perspective at the front of the room.  I saw many of the new people taking note of what their new peers said about trust.  For them, the information being shared was helping them understand how to establish solid relationships in a new organization. 

So what is the impact of being slow to trust others?  I like to focus on transitions(leadership and job) because this behavior will be most evident in the building of a new relationships. 

For a new leader, people will sense your lack of trust because of the questions you ask and actions like taking work away from them or micromanaging.  If they do not know why you are staying so close their likely response will be to lower their trust in you.  This begins the slippery slope of eroding morale and engagement.  It can be fixed, but it will take lots of effort on your part. 

A good move for a leader is just to be open about it.  It could be as simple and direct as saying “I need to see the work your capable of so that I understand what skills you have and what you need from me in terms of support and development.”  By putting it on the table your motives become known and might even provide a way for your new people to manage you by keeping you in the loop on things.  Remember, your people will judge you based on your actions NOT your intentions.

For a new employee, your peers need to get to know you and being slow to extend trust will slow the building of new relationships.  You will need to trust somebody.  When I hired people with low trust (we assessed this as part of the interviewing process) I made specific moves during the selection and onboarding process to earn their trust.  Things like never missing a committed deadline, over communicating, and being transparent about what was happening.  If there is not a onboarding process in place to support your need to build trust quickly, find a way to fulfill your own needs to build those relationships.

For anyone, transparency is the best policy to counteract this behavior.  If you are open it can be handled.  A good onboarding program greatly lessens the effect of this because trust is being built from the beginning and this should cease to be an issue.

TrustBUSTER #2 – Unwilling to admit mistakes or apologize

TrustBUSTER #2 – Unwilling to admit mistakes or apologize

There was an article in our local paper yesterday and it was about a 17-year-old swimmer who got caught drinking and had to miss part of her senior season because of her mistake.  She is a defending state champion and her team lost twice during her absence.  Why I think it is a significant story is that she openly talked about it in the paper and shared how she let her team down because of her choices.  I am sure she told them how sorry she was for letting them down.

This behavior is so important that Patrick Lencioni devotes two questions (out of 15) to it in the assessment he provides as part of his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  The questions are:

  • Team members quickly and genuinely apologize to one another when they say or do something inappropriate or possibly damaging to the team.
  • Team members openly admit their weaknesses and mistakes.

There are two aspects to this: personal character and company culture.  Character is simply about having the strength to recognize what you did was wrong and fix it.  There is lots of learning in and around mistakes.  Being able to see them, apologize, and get on with a different solution results in everyone getting smarter and more trusting in our character. 

If there is one thing a leader needs to remember it is this:  Culture will trump character.  If the culture punishes mistakes, then most will hide them.  A paycheck is a very powerful thing and preserving it will be a priority for many.  The return for an organization that makes it safe to own a mistake is that things get fixed faster and people are more likely to take risks that will be good for your business.  To test this yourself, write down 10 mistakes made people on your team in the last three months.  Then ask yourself:  What was the impact on the company?  What was the impact on the person?  How was it discovered and by who?  How was it resolved? 

When you look at the answers ask yourself – At my company does culture trump character or is character the culture?