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:
What should we start doing?
What should we stop doing?
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.
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:
Trust – do you give it automatically or do people have to earn it?
If you give it – how do they lose it? OR If people have to earn it – how do they earn it?
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™ 1: Talks negatively about teammates behind their backs
Every leader has he said/she said stories where someone says something out of the earshot of another that is perceived as negative. It is no wonder that Patrick Lencioni’s first two dysfunctions in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team are the absence of trust and inability to manage conflict. So how can you prevent this in your team?
Susan Scott makes the point in her book Fierce Conversations that “As a leader, you get what you tolerate.” Complaining requires a talker and a listener. If you listen and let it go you are tolerating it. The best way to stop it is to have zero tolerance for it. When you hear it, encourage the person to address their concerns directly with the person or drop it. If it continues then it needs to be dealt with as a performance issue.
In addition, recognize that most teams and individuals are not skilled at directly giving or receiving negative feedback, which forces disagreements to be internalized or appear as complaints that are passed around people and not directly to them. Make attainment of this skill a priority for your team. Even just reading and discussing the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott will go a long way towards helping people learn the skills that will help bring complaints into the open.