Successful leaders build trust. Building trust is something you must do. Trust underpins every relationship in the workplace – between boss and employee, between colleagues, and between businesses.
Trust isn’t something that is inherent; it must be forged through consistent action. While there are many ways to become a trusted leader, here are some recurring themes. I’ll call them the “Five Cs.”
A committed leader is someone who is loyal to the cause, the vision, and the team. They persevere despite setbacks.
When a leader is committed, they build the trust of those around them by staying present, engaged, and positive. Commitment is the number one thing a leader can demonstrate to build trust.
A trustworthy leader is connected to those who look up to him. They resist the temptation to get bogged down in the day-to-day grind. Nor will they become neglectful of those who depend upon him.
They never come off as distant or detached in their leadership role. There is a willingness to take some time away from their daily commitments to get to know their team members in a meaningful way.
Therefore, this helps the team see the Leader as a trusted person who cares about them and values their involvement.
A great leader gets to know their employees, listens to their concerns, and responds in a meaningful way – each and every time.
This doesn’t mean coddling them. A trustworthy leader expects their team members to perform their jobs professionally. But a trusted leader knows that no one is perfect. People make mistakes, suffer hardships, and sometimes just need to know that someone cares.
A great leader “has the back” of each member of her team.
Consistency for a leader is key. A trusted leader maintains a calm and collected demeanor, even under fire. Their staff are therefore more likely to approach the Leader with their great ideas, as well as with their legitimate concerns.
By maintaining consistent expectations, and reacting in a consistent manner, he/she builds trust with his team.
An impactful leader invests time in getting to know the issues, expands skills, and participates in continuous learning. He/she doesn’t pretend to be an expert in all things.
They surround themselves with skilled, knowledgeable people and relies on their expertise. Employees trust the leader for being straightforward and honest.
The Sixth “C”
There is actually one more “C”. That is communication. A great leader communicates clearly, concisely, and coherently.
If you want to know even more about diving into the Black Box of building trust within your team, I have a dedicated model that explains a proven process. This model has been used by Fortune 100 companies as well as small businesses of many types. To learn more, visit the story of Building High Trust HERE.
Nobody is perfect, right? At least that is what you often hear.
Yet Madison Avenue and Hollywood would have us think otherwise. Perfect style, perfect skin, perfect smile, perfect hair. The list is endless.
Psychologists can make a career out of helping people who feel inadequate under such conditions and falsehoods. The truth is we all suffer some imperfection.
Standards at Work
Do you work in an environment where perfection is the measure of your performance? Maybe a score of 100% is the goal but seldom do any of us reach such perfection.
As a leader, how do you really view those around you; the people who work for and with you?
Enter Psychological Safety
The good folks at Google underwent a two-year study known as Project Oxygen to explore what made up high performing teams. The number 1 finding was something they called psychological security.
We’ve all been in meetings and, due to the fear of seeming incompetent, have held back questions or ideas. I get it. It’s unnerving to feel like you’re in an environment where everything you do or say is under a microscope.
But imagine a different setting. A situation in which everyone is safe to take risks, voice their opinions, and ask judgment-free questions. A culture where managers provide air cover and create safe zones so employees can let down their guard. That’s psychological safety.
Google found that teams with psychologically safe environments had employees who were less likely to leave, more likely to harness the power of diversity, and ultimately, who were more successful.
The Leader’s Role
First, lofty goals and great expectations aside, I see leaders dealing with grace when employees come up short.
Trust among employees begins when the Leader makes the effort to “have their back”. The way you do this may vary depending upon the environment you manage.
Here are five other ways to consider.
Demonstrate engagement by being present at meetings and during one-on-one sessions. (Hint: close the laptop)
Show understanding by recapping what you’ve heard. This accrues to becoming an empathetic listener.
Be inclusive in an interpersonal setting by sharing or revealing your own thoughts and values. Step up when one team member turns negative on another team member.
Expand your decision making by including your team. Invite the input, exchange the input and acknowledge the input.
Lastly, you can show confidence and conviction in decisions without becoming arrogant. Speak in your team’s ‘one voice’. Show the team that their contributions matter once the decision has been made. Explain the differences, but encourage the further effort to keep building team consensus.
Perfect Imperfection again
All of these thoughts bring us back to the idea of dealing with perfect imperfection at work, at home or with others around us. Becoming a leader who recognizes the need for dealing with this common situation will set you apart from others.
Question: What do you do to embrace perfect imperfection?
Two business owners were talking. One was having a pretty good run with his new, and growing business. The other had suffered a series of bad turns and hard luck.
The one with the better business asked, “So now do you feel like an entrepreneur?”
The other answered “Heck no. I feel like a pile of manure.”
Running your own business is not for the faint of heart
It takes a whole lot more than a smart new idea to make a business tick. If yours is a wild and disruptive idea (think Uber and AirBnB) you may truly have some potential, but you will quickly find that the details of finding money to make money and managing everything can really be a bigger challenge than you ever expected.
Several times a year I speak to audiences on college campuses. After my talks, I get the usual line of attendees who want to ask questions, make comments, and otherwise share things.
It never fails that I get a student or two who is convinced they will conquer the business world as we know it with their new idea. I ask them to explain. So far I have never heard anything earth shattering.
I am not sure if that is because we don’t teach enough creative thinking or whether we are truly failing to impart the full truth about what it takes to make a business go.
Sidebar: As I write this, it occurs to me that many of the more famous entrepreneurs of our modern era never went to college or never finished (think Gates and Zuckerberg). I digress.
Getting the Entrepreneurial Bug
There are those among us who are natural entrepreneurs. Others get the idea after spending too many years working for others. For me I caught the bug early in life. I watched my single Mom quite a stable, secure job to live her dream.
Mom was a gifted interior designer. She did that work for other companies before setting out on her own. Slowly but steadily she built a well-respected and thriving business. Solopreneur she was long before that was a thing.
I wrote about the 10 things she taught me. See that article here.
I’ve had the opportunity to start three businesses and three non-profits. Each one was a labor of love. Believe me when I say I didn’t do it alone.
Somewhere along the way mentors had taught me one key principle. Ideas are great, but before you commit big resources (and energy) test it with several faithful advisors.
If you can get them interested, then you might have something. Otherwise, it’s just a dream.
To All the Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Here are my simple rules of entrepreneurship.
DO – live your dreams, but be smart about it. Test your ideas with a few trusted advisers. Be open to their honest feedback. Tweak your plan if it looks like you must.
BUT – don’t get totally discouraged. Dogged determination does create some very exciting possibilities. (I still don’t understand how Jeff Bezos survived the first 10 years of Amazon).
EGO – Your ego is good when used the right way. Watch who you alienate as you grow your idea. You will need friends sooner than you think. NEVER take yourself too seriously.
There is a story about Thomas Jefferson when he was
President. He and a group of close advisors rode horseback across the
countryside. They came upon a river swollen by recent rains.
On the bank was a man without a horse. He gazed at the river
not knowing how he would get across. One by one the men on horseback started
across. Each making it to the other side.
Finally, it was Jefferson’s turn. The man asked if he could jump on with Jefferson and ride across. Jefferson obliged.
Once everyone was across, one of the other riders asked the man why he chose Jefferson; asking if he knew Jefferson was the President.
The man said, “President? I didn’t know that. I just knew
his face said YES while all you other guys’ face said NO.”
If you’re in a leadership position, do you have a YES face?
Think About It
Think about the times a senior executive presented a new plan or a new vision but had a stern, perhaps sour face; a NO face. How hard was it to believe in the plan?
Look at the picture below. Which people could you relate to the best?
Executive leaders need to think about their face when they make announcements, hold discussions, and conduct meetings. The look you have says much more than the words you speak.
Tell Your Face
I had a coaching client who was sharing with me the great excitement
of the new job he just got promoted into. He was gushing about the team and the
opportunity. He was assuring me he had great admiration for the people and the
purpose. Yet he shared this whole story with a stoic face; no grin, no emotion,
just power words about the positive aspects of the opportunity.
When he was finished talking, I asked if he really believed all
the things he just told me. He assured me YES!
I said, “Then tell your face.” He was stunned. He wasn’t sure what I meant. I explained.
His content was positive, but his context was wrong. The
look on his face lied about the message.
Think about this the next time you need to talk with your team or your crew. Get your face in line with the message.
If this makes sense, leave a comment. Tell us about a time when you had to get your “Yes face” on.
Merry Christmas! This year, Christmas Day falls on my usual blog post publishing day.
I have to tell you as a writer, I always struggle to craft a Christmas message.
First, I think I know my audience. I am keenly aware that many of you do not acknowledge Christmas nor celebrate it because of its “Christian” basis.
I respect that. Yet, as someone who was raised in a so-called Christian household, the wonder and blessing of Christmas are deeply entwined in my DNA.
What I think may be valuable during this holiday season is a reflection on the mystery and wonder that a young person finds in Christmas. More importantly, I am reflecting on the impact such an experience has many years later in life. At least it does in my life.
A Magical Time
At my house, Christmas was magical. The promise of surprises from Santa, mixed with the amazing foods, and special celebrations that might just pop up with no notice mad being a kid at Christmas a joy that was worth thinking about the other 364 days.
As I look back on those moments I’ve tried to analyze and dissect the makings of the wonder. The best I can conclude is that there was a special hope that flowed as the undercurrent of the whole experience.
Hope was seldom denied. Oh sure, some of the packages didn’t contain the toy I was certain was wrapped there, but what was found in the wrapping was often much more than even my imagination could muster.
It is that childlike hope I have held on to. Even at my age, Christmas can still bring that out again.
Business Leaders Take Notice
If you are a business leader, don’t take away anyone’s hope. Sometime you might not be able to fulfill every wish of every employee, but you don’t have to crush their spirits in announcing changes or turning down requests.
Remember, your best people still have their own dreams. Use the excitement and energy that might come with those dreams to harness greater commitment and help improve productivity.
Heck, you might even make a New Year’s resolution to celebrate small wins more often with your folks. You’ll be amazed at the goodwill just that act of empathy can create.
So there I said it again. However, please hear my plea. Be a leader who supports hope and encourages those who work for you to celebrate their victories.
Find ways to make working with you something to be excited about. Sure you can’t produce surprises every day of every week, but you can promote the individual joy that comes with knowing when you’ve worked hard and made something happen. Let your people have that and know that. They will celebrate with you.
It just seems we can never get away from change. It’s an ever-present topic that leaders and business owners struggle to manage and survive. What is so darn hard about managing change?
Lately, I have been surrounded by various types of change. It seems every one of my clients, my volunteer efforts, and even portions of my personal life are facing major change events. Situations range from major organizational change being implemented by a Fortune 100 company to executive moves/retirement, staff shakeup at a nonprofit, and the upcoming birthday of a five-year-old grandson. Change is everywhere.
It’s not a surprise that I carefully observe each of these situations with guarded optimism coupled with caution and anticipation. Why? Because I’ve been around the block enough times to see people’s reactions coming a mile away, yet it cannot be stopped.
We face change at work, at home, and in the community around us. Couples watching kids grow and leave the nest face daily change moments. That sweet cuddly toddler becomes a terrible two or thirteen. Then it’s off to college or work. Relationships get tested, sometimes broken.
As we begin to think about finding our special someone we face changes in meeting new people and trying to establish the right relationship. Too often people ignore big red flags in choosing their relationships. Why? Because change is too painful after a certain amount of time is invested. I love that thought. Invested in a bad relationship. Really? I digress.
Why don’t people handle change very well? It’s an age-old problem that scholars and technicians have tried to solve. I’ve read articles from brain surgeons who have theories about synapse firing in the brain and chemical changes brought on by change (fight or flight syndrome anyone?).
More important to me is the key question: what should a leader do in the winds of change?
The Job Description
Leaders by definition execute on things. That’s why we’re called executives. The CEO is the chief executive officer; the head guy for making change happen. Our role and job description churns change. Yet we have to be sensitive to the impact of change. There is a clear and present problem with effectuating change while controlling the chaos that ensues.
The dynamic doesn’t change. Regardless of how big the organization or the charter it may be formed under, the people on the team either thrive or dive with change. Leaders can and should make the difference.
Far too often I see the chief executive or at least the senior officer get sucked into the energy being spun up by the pushback from the team. Either they overreact or they become paralyzed. I’ve seen both of these scenarios in the situations I mentioned above.
It’s All About the Fear
From my experience, the biggest noise in the face of change is all about fear. Most people fear the unknown. The new guy or the new structure or the new policy or the new program sets fear in high gear. Very few of us get excited about change.
Moving away from the known to the unknown is the biggest problem I see.
For the new manager who is thrust into a role where change has been ordained from above, as in the case of corporate reorganization, people don’t blame the corporation, they blame the boss.
In mergers, the “winning” side usually takes the lead in making things settle in, but that comes at the angst of those who came over from the “acquired” firm. Yes sometimes the buyer is sensitive to these aspects and places leaders from the opposite side into key roles, but the shakeup is just that, a shakeup. Trust is crumbled and must be rebuilt.
Every person who takes on a new role faces the same thing. The team wants to know who you are, what you think, and how you operate. If the predecessor was highly regarded by the staff, the new guys get points off just for not being the old guy. The trust has to be rebuilt.
Better is Not Always Better
I’ve seen situations where an outgoing person gets replaced by someone who is supposed to upgrade the role. Those changes impact the way things were. Even when the former person was considered a marginal performer in a role, the new guy has to overcome an unfair bias. It doesn’t matter how talented or gifted the new person may be, the crew expects nothing to change.
If things do start to change, feelings get hurt. It’s that fear thing again.
When your status quo is not quo anymore (bad grammar, but solid thought), you start to imagine things that may never become problems. Change causes that kind of irrational logic.
What’s a Leader to Do?
There are several key things I recommend. I think they speak for themselves.
Face the music. Realize change does cause unrest. Deal with it.
Don’t give in, but let the people have their voice. Talk through the concerns.
Work hard on building trust. Lead don’t push.
Avoid taking sides early. Be objective. Get both sides of the story before making any declaration.
Manage up when you have to. The executive who mandated the change might not realize what they have launched.
Keep communication lines open. Demand free flow of discussion about the changes. Don’t let opinions fester and brew.
Shine the brightest light you can on what surfaces as the biggest problem.
Invest in a high-quality brandy for after work (OK I’m getting silly now, you get the picture)
Change is GOING TO HAPPEN
No one lives in a vacuum. There will be change. Leaders must do more to embrace the recognition of this absolutely guaranteed aspect of moving a business, a relationship, or a team forward. The way we deal with change becomes a big yardstick for how effective we might be as leaders.
PS – I’ve got more thoughts about living through change coming later this week. Stay around.
[reminder]What are some of the ways you manage change where you are?[/reminder]