Archive for Trust

It’s the Little Things that Matter….

A typical weekend for us might look like this:

There’s a lawn to mow, naturally, and some laundry that needs doing. Perhaps a blazer and a couple of sweaters need dropping off at the dry cleaners. Food shopping, without a doubt, hopefully at some non-peak hour when we won’t find ourselves in a checkout line that resembles the wait for a ride at Disneyland. We might also go to a movie, or perhaps a hike with our dog, Zoe, who manages off-leash commands quite well and loves to play with any other dogs rambling along the trail. We’ll also most likely need to gas up the car and, oh yes, run either a dust cloth or vacuum over our home’s horizontal surfaces.

When Monday arrives invariably someone will ask, “How was your weekend?” to which we’ll likely reply, “Pretty good. The weather was perfect so we took Zoe and headed up to Riddle Brook Park.”

Nary a mention of anything else, and why would there be? All those other things we did (which probably took up most of that “pretty good” weekend) are the kinds of things that everyone does all the time. No one needs to talk about them; they’re assumed.

The time at Riddle Brook Park was wonderful, of course, but was it more important than everything else we did? Not really. All those other things—the routine, run-of-the-mill, gotta-get-done maintenance tasks of life—are the true engines that keeps things moving. Imagine if all we ever did was go hiking, or to the movies, or to concerts. Our lives would suffer rapidly and seriously. All those other things are critical activities, even if we don’t pay them much attention.

Our lives as leaders, it turns out, aren’t that different. Oh, sure: we work hard to have those great events for our employees—the development programs, the holiday parties, the summer picnics. Those are valuable and remembered. But equally valuable (perhaps even more so) are those smaller repeated tasks that keep things running smoothly every single day. The good mornings, the smiles, the one-on-one conversations, the mentoring and coaching sessions, the problem solving meetings…. the time spent, each day, with those who work for us, those who make us, as leaders, successful.

When we maintain our employee relationships we encourage a better life for ourselves and those around us.  It may not be what we remember, it may not be shiny and glossy, and it may not have the same cache as a big celebration or big event, but it’s what makes everything work for us, each and every day.

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Why we call it “Team Building”

Teams are interesting things, shifting and changing both in composition and direction, constantly fluid even while team members work hard to stay focused on a specific set of goals and objectives.

It almost doesn’t matter what kind of team you’re talking about for this to be true. There are famous rock bands, for example, that have changed personnel over the years and have seen their “sound” change along with it, yet the basic goal—producing quality music, remains unchanged. The same holds true for sports teams, pit crews, and the casts of successful TV shows. A good example of the latter is the original CSI which, after fifteen years and numerous cast changes, still pumps out the same solid formula week after week. (And Saturday Night Live has been doing it for forty years, consistently defying one premature obituary after another!)

It’s an absolute fact that teams and team members have a flow to them. And if it’s true for the kinds of teams outlined above, then it must be true for your teams, too.

The difference we often find, though, is that the bands, sports teams, and television casts never seem to be done “building” their teams. They know change is a constant; the makeup of a team can (and will) alter and they can never say that they’re “done” building.

Yet those of us in business sometimes forget that a team is never “built,” but always “building.” We too often allocate time to getting a team off the ground, but then, once it’s up and running, tend to leave it alone. As leaders, it’s important to remember that team-building activities are not “one-and-done” efforts, but ongoing and necessary parts of continued success.

Whether they are rock bands, sports franchises, casts of actors—or organizational constructs—teams compose, compete, perform, and execute, all while in a constant state of subtle flux and change. As leaders, we best serve our teams by never forgetting that building is a process, not an activity, and that truly great teams are those that embrace that process as an ongoing part of growth.

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Changing Thoughts

Change is hard.

I know that all of us in the Leadership and HR fields write about it endlessly, offering sometimes facile reminders like “The only constant in life is that everything changes,” or “To improve is to change.” And those clichés—well-worn because they’re true—are certainly worth remembering.

But we know, deep down, that it’s not quite that simple.

We often write about change as it happens to others: our employees, our teammates, our family members and friends. It’s easy, then, to offer simple advice because, after all, it’s happening to someone else. But when it happens to you, then you remember the truth of just what change really is.

Change is hard.

Try to remember the last time a big change occurred in your life. Perhaps it was a relocation from a place you had lived for many years to a place much less familiar. Or maybe it was a job change, and the trepidation that came from walking in that first day, not knowing anyone at all and suddenly realizing that you were now surrounded by relative strangers with whom you were about to spend eight or more hours a day, every day. Or maybe it was a sadder, more personal event, like the occasion when your first-born left for college and you realized that a voice, a pattern of footsteps, which had become part of you had now wrenched free.

If you’re like the rest of us, then it didn’t much matter whether someone offered you a timeless homily, didn’t matter if someone suggested you plan out what you would do next. If you’re like the rest of us then a big change hit you in the gut, sparked a viscerally emotional response. That was what needed to be dealt with before you could move forward—the feelings sparked by a major change in your life.

I sometimes wonder whether we, as consultants, as professionals, as experts, take the few needed moments to recall that when we help our organizations deal with change, there are very real people dealing with those changes, and most of those people are not thinking about denial and bartering, or Bridges’ famous model, or the precise ways in which communications are flowing from one group to the other. What most of them are probably thinking about—and quite justifiably—are What does this mean to me? and Will anyone listen to me? and What comes next?

We’ve all immersed ourselves in the how of helping organizations cope with change. We need, equally, to remember the how of helping people cope with change. In fact the latter, I would argue, is far more important, for it’s the people that create our organizations. It is always crucial—in any “change project”—that we take the time to talk to people, to find out what they are feeling, to let them know that it’s okay, and to help them through it. Only then can organizations effectively manage change.

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Trust: It’s NOT About Falling Backwards…

In an earlier lifetime I worked with children as an after-school aide at an urban day-care center in Los Angeles. Needless to say, filling every afternoon’s three-hour window with activities both entertaining and educational was quite a task, a task that would have been impossible had we not managed to build the kids’ trust both in us and in each other.

So we fell into each other’s arms.

The exercise, commonly referred to as a “Trust Fall,” has become something of a joke in the arena of organizational training and development. However, the reason for it still holds: people need to build a fundamental trust in each other if a group, team, or organization is to have any chance at all of working to its fullest potential. Teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another.

Building trust happens in a variety of ways, here we share four basic principles:

1) TRUST SHOULD NOT MEAN “LEAVE ME ALONE”

We often act as if truly trusting someone means you leave them alone to do what they need to do. Trust, in this context, equates to unsupervised. Organizational researchers Chris Argyris and Donald A Schön confirmed that this sense of “leave me alone” is part of the definition of trust in the workplace.

While we fundamentally agree that trust implies giving (and receiving) certain levels of autonomy, the “leaving alone” of others with whom you share a deep dependency is ultimately counter-productive. We need each other as customers and suppliers; only by not leaving each other alone can we know that we are working to the organization’s benefit.

2) TRUST IS RARELY UNIFORM

Trust can mean different things in different contexts. The way we trust our peers varies from the way we trust our subordinates, for example, and the trust we have for a silo (“I’m not sure about what they’re doing over in Marketing.”) varies strongly from the way we might trust an individual (“That new web designer really knows her stuff.”).

The customer—supplier relationship requires a unique form of trust, one that says each person will work with candor, regardless of role or position, in ways that ensure each person gets what they need.

3) TRUST AND CREDIBILITY GO HAND IN HAND

It’s hard to imagine a situation in which you would find someone highly believable yet at the same time highly untrustworthy.

The need for credibility as a component of trust suggests that, as a foundational element underlying our customer—supplier relationships, we want (and need) to know that those on whom we rely are up to the task with respect to their skills and knowledge—and they need to know that the same is true of us.

4) TRUST COMES AND GOES, SOMETIMES LIKE LIGHTNING

Perhaps the definitive (or at least most widespread) comments on trust come from Stephen M. R. Covey’s The Speed of Trust. “Trust impacts us 24/7,” he writes, “365 days a year.”

The key point Covey makes is in the title. Trust, it’s true, moves at speed. But it is wrong to assume that the speeds are constant. It takes time to build trust—the building process moves at a slow speed, sometimes inordinately so. But the speed of trust can also be much, much faster when we’re talking about the other direction—the direction of loss. Losing trust can happen as quickly as lightning splinters a towering pine during a summer thunderstorm.

In whatever ways your organization chooses to build trust among and across your employees and teams, we also urge you to keep in mind the particular kind of trust required for Mutual Relationship Mapping.

Mutual Relationship Mapping requires a sense of trust that is based on individuals supplying what others need in a timely manner. It does not require an overriding trust in all of the various intentions, beliefs, values, or credos of others (as some other definitions of trust would argue). It is, quite simply and directly, a trust in the accountability of others to maintain and honor their commitments.

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