We are in this together . . TrustBUSTER#10 – Asks team to make sacrifices, but does not follow

TrustBUSTER #10 – Asks team to make sacrifices ($ / time), but does not make same sacrifices

Something good came out of the most recent recession – shared pain.  When organizations have to cut as deep as they did, people saw the ‘shared’ part of it.  Money and other perks went away, so the pain from all parties was shared in most cases.  Here are three things that causes this TrustBUSTER and two ways to make it go away.

What causes it?

  • Executive – Sees the perks as entitlements.  Cars every two years, club memberships, assistant to pick up dry cleaning, or maybe the box at the local sports venue.  Is it part of your base compensation?  No.  Is it a performance bonus? No.  Is it something that is earned because of the stress and personal sacrifices made for work?  Probably the closest thing to a reason there is.  What employee will empathize with the last reason?  Enter TrustBUSTER #10.
  • Employee – Sees their work as the hard stuff and wonders what their boss actually does to earn their money.  Printing executive pay scales sells papers.  Piling on the working class for spending too much time complaining does not.  Studies have found that compensation is not a motivator, but can be a demotivator if there is a perceived inequality.  The only wisdom I can offer is my experience hearing leaders wish for their old job back.  It is not as easy as it looks.
  • Both – “If you could only walk in my shoes for a day!”  There is a TV show called Undercover Bosswhere the owner of a company spends a week doing frontline jobs in their company as an anonymous new hire.  I am not sure if it is all real, but it shows the impact of leaders getting their hands dirty once in a while.  Sam Walton was famous for visiting Walmart stores to interact with people directly.  I am guessing this one was not as much of a problem for him.  Too bad there is not a show allowing people to be a leader for a day.

Two solutions:

  1. Leader – get out of your office and talk to people – A chief nursing officer once shared conversation she had with a new nursing graduate.  The RN asked “Who drives you to work?”  An innocent perception of inequality.  Makes you wonder how many people thought that but were afraid to ask?  It is impossible for a CEO to know everyone, but the more you focus on people seeing you in normal situations the more you will be seen as a person and not a primadona.  Being seen in the cafeteria or the lunchroom a couple of times a week makes you  accessible and normal.  Take it to the next level and try sitting with non-executives when you eat.
  2. Look for chances to get to know your leaders – Your leader asks you to lunch?  Go.  Is there a corporate function?  Go and seek out leaders to meet and hear what they are thinking about.  When you get a chance to ask them questions, here are a few:  What have you learned lately?  What are your favorite things to do what you are not working?  What are the things that keep you up at night?  What do you want me losing sleep over?  

This trustBUSTER goes away when leaders and followers get to know each others.  For leaders, it is harder to implement a one-sided sacrifice when those on the short end actually have a name.  For followers, seeing leaders as people helps to alleviate some of the us versus them thoughts that fuel this TrustBUSTER.

I care… really! TrustBUSTER™ #8

TrustBUSTER™ #8 – Shows little concern about me a person

When I stand in front of a room of leaders and ask the question “How many of you care about your people?”, 100% of the people raise their hands.  I believe that 99.9% of leaders care about their people.  (I will save a discussion about that .01% for later)

Recently, I led a group discussion around trust that divided 30 people into four groups based on personality type.  I provided them with the TrustBUSTER™ list and asked them to identify one behavior on the list they saw most frequently from the other three styles.  One group received feedback from all of the other groups that #8 was the behavior that tripped them up.  The group receiving this feedback was the task focused/achievement oriented group.  This is the same group that 60+% of executive teams fall into based on my past experience.

Why does this happen? A manufacturing supervisor once shared this wisdom with me, “Intentions without action equals SQUAT”.  In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey makes the point that “We judge ourselves on our intentions.  We judge others based on their actions.”  Both quotes lead to the same conclusion, if people don’t see it they don’t believe it.

As a leader, how do you bridge the gap between your actions and the perception of the people reporting to you?  Here are three ways to keep this TrustBUSTER™ from tripping you up:

  • Self Assessment: Test your knowledge of your people by asking these questions.  What are the names of their spouse/children?  Where do they live?  What non work activities are most important to them?  What is the biggest event going on in their life right now?  Take a moment to evaluate how you answered these questions.  This is pretty basic stuff, so if you missed anything you need to spend more time with your people.
  • Monday/Friday rule:  Spend time on Friday connecting with people to hear about their week or upcoming weekend activities.  Spend Monday hearing how the weekend came together or what they are looking forward to during the week.  (take a few notes after each conversation if you are like me and forget things)
  • Find a partner to help:  If you are an executive chances are you have way to much to do and connecting with your people is not a strength.  Find someone around you that will remind of key dates for your people(birthday, anniversary) and keep a pulse on what significant things that are happening with those in your team or department.  Enlist their help to remind you of opportunities to connect.

TrustBUSTER™ #6 – Criticize decisions AFTER the team made them – How to handle the 3 most common situations

TrustBUSTER™ #6 – Criticizes decisions AFTER the team has discussed them and the decision has been made

I still remember the situation vividly.  Early in my career I went to a meeting, listened to the discussion, and heard the decision.  I went back to my desk and did some more analysis(things I should have done before the meeting), realized that I had a different opinion, and went back to the leader with my concerns.  He was visibly frustrated and let me know that we had already discussed it.  It was a lesson in being present for a discussion vs being engaged in a discussion.  I had been there, but not contributing like I should.

Later in my career I heard a different story from a senior executive.  He shared a decision that had been made by his peer that he did not agree with.  His comment was “It was his decision so I will give him some rope.  He will run into problems eventually, then we can discuss bailing him out.”  His strategy was to let his peer fail (without giving him the right kind of help) so that his plan would ultimately prevail.

In both cases it was not a lack of discussion, but a lack of open and honest dialogue by all the parties involved.  The result, people leaving the table with individual agendas that trumped the team agenda.  Nothing erodes trust faster than failure to listen, failure to share opinions, and failure to support decisions made by your team.  Here are the three standard situations you will see happen on a team, what the issue is, and what the leader should do to ensure the person stops doing this TrustBUSTER™.

  1. Openly criticizing people/decisions after the fact = criticizing = character issue = Action:  Direct warning (job loss)
  2. Questioning decisions after the fact = criticizing = character or self-confidence issue = Action: Need more info . . .
  3. Bringing more(new) data after a bad decision = criticizing = takes guts = Action: Thank them for finding the information, then explore – Why did we not have this information?

This is one of those behaviors that highlights something Stephen M.R. Covey shares in his book The Speed of Trust, which is “We judge others based on their actions and we judge ourselves based on our intent.”  This is an especially critical message for the kind but timid person on your team that does not speak up.  Their actions create trust issues with their teammates.

The key question for a leader when this happens – How can I lead differently so this TrustBUSTER™ never becomes an issue?  The key action is to deal with it quickly and directly because it will grow like cancer in your team.  Secondly, look also at your meetings and evaluate if you are creating time for key debates to happen or if decisions are just being unilaterally made and not discussed.  Finally, if you see this happening between two departments in your organization, examine the relationship of the leaders of those groups.  Likely the departments are mirroring the leaders.  In any case, address it directly and be willing to change the leaders if it does not stop.