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.

TrustBUSTERs – Any of these sound familiar?

Trust is something that is foundational to healthy leaders, healthy companies, and healthy relationships.  But it is hard, especially in times where managers change yearly, communication is sporadic, and a self-preservation mindset still exists from the recent economic slump.  In my experience dealing with companies that are growing or working with limited resources, I see lots of people working quickly and reacting more than thinking things through.  When we are in that mode, our behaviors often erodes trust because we are defaulting to our most natural mode of behavior.  Under stress, we have a diminished ability to flex our work style to best fit the situation or person.  It is rarely intentional, but our actions send a negative message.  In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey makes the observation that “We judge ourselves based on our intentions, but we judge others on their actions”. 

I call these actions TrustBUSTERS.  What if we knew the Top 3 TrustBUSTERS for everyone we worked with and we were aware of the three things we did most often?  How would that impact the trust on our team?  Here is the list of TrustBUSTERS :

  • Talks negatively about teammates behind their backs
  • Unwilling to admit mistakes and apologize
  • Slow to extend trust to others
  • Does not communicate and explain changes/decisions well
  • Tells a lot, listens very little
  • Criticizes decisions AFTER the team has discussed them and the decision has been made
  • Values individual success over team goals
  • Shows little/if any concern about me as a person
  • Does not consistently follow through on commitments
  • Asks team to make sacrifices ($ / time), but does not make same sacrifices

Have any to add?

Emails in CAPS – Here is how NOT to send them

He entered my office with a look on his face that was both quizzical and bothered.  He was wondering why he was here.  In front of me was an email with no four letter words, no inappropriate nouns or adjectives, but lots of capital letters.  He was 24 years old, a hard-driving and successful sales person, and he saw capital letters as a way of conveying how passionate he felt about what he was saying.  Of course, the person who had received this and everyone on his team viewed this as yelling.  He made it through that conversation, but only lasted about three more months in the organization.

In a recent post by Jason Diamond Arnold (see post: http://ht.ly/35a5Nhe chronicles the process of using restraint and time to pull the emotion out of an email so that it does not result in damage to a relationship.  It is a good message and a reminder of how to know when you have crossed the line and show some restraint by NOT hitting the send button.

Let me go one step further – NEVER send an email where the message contains anger, frustration, disappointment, disillusionment, or has the sole purpose of holding someone accountable for actions.   Write it, read it, think about it (I recommend 24 hours), and in the end if the feeling is still there get on the phone or walk over and deal with it.   I have a file full of email arguments that are great material for Dilbert, but would make you shake your head because they all involve executive level leaders.

If you are a leader and find yourself wanting to write one of these emails to your company/department – here is an alternative.

  1. Write the email
  2. Share it personally with your leadership team – what you see, why it frustrates you, and what you want to see.
  3. Ask for their input – Are your observations accurate?  What might you be missing?  What will it take to correct this?
  4. Listen
  5. Listen (this is an important step so I thought I would bring it up twice)
  6. Thank them for their input – and make a decision on next steps – If moving forward with a message to the organization is important, enlist the help of someone else to craft a message and agree (as a team) what the follow-up will be from everyone in the group.

Correcting mistakes or redirecting the actions of many is important to the success of your organization.  But there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.  Emotionally charged emails are the wrong way.  stop it!  (see – no caps, and you still get the message)

Great Followership is a Choice – Why It Matters . . .

I live in Michigan, and if you have read anything about the economy you know we are close to last when states are ranked in terms of economic health.  We have a long journey in front of us.  As we wait for a new governor to start and demand for new/old products to grow I cannot help but think that I am tired of waiting.  Really, what am I waiting for?  We often look to leaders to fix things or make things better, waiting for the right rallying cry or piece of legislation.  In waiting, we make a choice to let someone else figure things out.

Sometimes it is important to recognize what we have many things to be thankful for, and then make the choice to make it better.  I believe this is one of those times.  Here are a few illustrations of  what I mean.

  • A sunny day is a gift.  Going outside to enjoy it is a choice.
  • Children are a gift.   Putting your paper down to listen to them is a choice.
  • Having a job is a gift.  Getting enjoyment and fulfillment from that job is a choice.
  • Having people around you to help you find a job is a gift.  Preparing for the interview and being confident in who you are is a choice.
  • Having a great boss is a gift.  Trusting and supporting that boss is a choice.
  • Being asked your opinion by the CEO is a gift.  Giving a truthful answer is a choice.
  • Your talents are a gift.  Choosing a path/role/project to share those talents is a choice.
  • A paycheck is a gift.  Choosing to smile when you open it is a choice.

The election is over, but we should not wait for new leaders to improve our outlook and get things moving.  As followers, we have a choice.  The ironic thing about becoming a great follower – if we do it really well we end up being leaders.

Startup – 4 Critical Things You Need From The Team You Build

Starting up a business is a crazy time, and a key part of this time is bringing people around you that will help you hit your goals.  Officially your goal might be a revenue number, but unofficially startup is also about getting lots of things done without hurting yourself or those around you.  It is hard, which is why so many new businesses fail to survive.  One researcher concluded that after three years 46% of startups are gone. (see numbers)

The good news is there are people around all of us that are willing to get involved.  As you identify your team it is crucial to define what you will need from them as you start your business.  Here are four needs I have found to be critical, and each one should have a name(s) next to them for you.

1. Help managing the fear: Don Rainey, a venture capitalist in Washington DC named getting used to constant fear as the #1 way starting a business will change you (read blog posting).  Find advisers and partners that understand fear and that you trust enough to be open with.  They should also be people who will push you to get unstuck when fear is holding you back from moving forward.  Managing fear is ultimately your job, but ongoing support from others is critical.

2. The knowledge/experience to help win: Every business needs a little bit of luck, but don’t depend on it.  If there is knowledge you need and don’t have –  find it.  If you are a single person company, find the network or get the experience before you start.  If you are going to market with an idea or product you created, get sales and marketing help. If you really understand your own strengths and weaknesses this part is easy because your business plan tells you the work you have to get done, you just have to get the help to fill in the key gaps.  Move your ego over and get help.

3.  Brave problem solvers: I like the word brave because it creates the picture of a hero who overcomes fear to get into action mode and wins.  Looking back at any startup, there are an abundance of stories where bumps were encountered and unforeseen problems had to be solved.  A great question for entrepreneurs is “Share a problem/challenge you encountered and what you did to overcome it?”  When hiring people in the beginning you will need to hire problem solvers – not problem identifiers or problem creators.  Whether it is through their commitment to learning, sheer will to win, or passion to fix things, they need to see problems as an opportunity to do something special.

4.  Someone to celebrate with: There will be victories.  In those victories are opportunities to high-five, eat some good food, or share a smile.  Having people close enough to your business to know the lows and recognize the work that went into the highs is important.  It might be an employee that likes to cook or a friend who likes to throw a party.  Jim Collins called this momentum gained by reaching and recognizing goals the flywheel effect.  Celebrating successes will allow you to feel the momentum.

So what kind of leadership do they need from you?  See the above list and ask yourself “What can I do as a leader to make sure that need is met?” It is probably worth some future blog space to explore this question a little bit more.  If you have any ideas to add to what I have shared feel free to comment.

Joy: Why It Should Matter to the CEO

I just finished reading Born To Run by Christopher McDougall.  I won’t give you a whole book report, but one part of the story is etched in my brain.  The story is based around a tribe in Mexico called the Tarahumara and their amazing ability to run many miles (50 to 100 plus) at a time.  Legendary running coach Joe Vigil was watching two Tarahumara runners late in a 100 mile race they would eventually win, and it struck him that they were smiling.  Vigil had spent 50 years studying runners and attempting to define the physiological keys that would make people faster, only to discover the last piece to the puzzle for him was character.  As it is stated in the book “Vigil’s notion of character wasn’t toughness.  It was compassion.  Kindness. Love.”  The Tarahumara had never forgotten their love of running, and the joy they felt oozed out of them even after 50+ miles.

Joy is the  key ingredient in opening our hearts, minds, and bodies up for a whole new level of performance.  In Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind he makes a case for the presence of play and laughter in the workplace and the impact it has on innovation and engagement.  What happens when we lack joy in our work? Dr. Stuart Brown wrote in his book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul that younger people suffer the same “crisis of the soul that comes from pouring every moment of your time and every ounce of your being into other’ expectations.”

As a leader, take a pulse of your organization by walking around.  Are people smiling?  Do they approach you to say hello or do they wait for you to say it?  Watch people in your lobby being greeted.  Is there any warmth?  At 5pm, how many cars are left in the parking lot?  How often do you hear laughter?  When you ask the question Why do you work? what kinds of answers do you hear?  How would you answer that question?

Imagine what a day at work would be like if we celebrated just being there.  What if we brought a little of the Tarahumara to work.  Imagine the difference it would make in everything that we do.  The best news for the bottom line – joy is free.  The best news for everyone – joy is a personal choice.

Leadership Lessons – through Art?

I had a moment where I was reminded how my perspective on things is not the only perspective.  I was at Art Prize 2010 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and I was looking at the picture shown here.  It is made out of 520 tiny cups that are 12 different shades of grey and the artist is James Freeman.  So here is the trick with this picture – when you stand close to it all you see is grey cups, with just a faint image that there is a face in these cups.  The farther you move away, the clearer the face becomes.  For me, even moving away the image was never really all that clear.

How did I figure out this was a face?  Well, my 7-year-old took a picture of it and announced to me “Daddy look – it is a face!”  It turns out when take a picture from any distance the face appears.  Apparently the artist created an image that exposes some of the limits to our minds ability to process the different shades of grey and be able to see the REAL image.

So where is the leadership lesson here?  First, a gentle reminder that we often need help in seeing the real truth in anything – whether it is developing personal awareness of strengths/weaknesses/passions, finding the best solution to a problem, or becoming better leaders by knowing and dealing with our own constraints.  Looking through our own eyes have some natural limitations.

Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have a 7-year-old along to look at things a little differently.  Or having a friend take a picture of us (have you taped one of your speeches lately?).  Art reminds us that there are different ways of seeing the same thing, and having the courage to first ask the question “What do you see when you look at this?” is the first step.  The second is waiting to hear the answer or answers, then giving time to consider the possibilities that differ from your own.

I initially just saw a bunch of grey cups.  Thankfully someone else saw the art.  Kudos to James Freeman for the leadership lesson in art. –www.jamesfreemanstudio.com