5 Ways to Strengthen Trust With Weak Ties

I would describe our meeting as a roll of the dice. Perhaps someday we will upgrade our relationship to “weak ties,” but yesterday we were just 2/850 at the Great Ideas Conference chatting through our freebie Hyatt sunglasses over lunchtime brisket and gluten-free potato salad. “Joe,” the CEO (named substituted for anonymity and rhyme), seemed genuinely intrigued by our LGL mission. He works with significant innovators (with a capital I– think people who will invent the next product you must have and will be willing to spend too much for.)

“Karin, what I’d be most interested to hear from you is how you build trust with weak ties. We depend on that. Getting true innovators to connect with and trust one another online and around the globe is a vital ingredient of real progress.”

Game on. I’ve got perspective (as Granovetter’s strength of weak ties theory is arguably my favorite communcation theory of all time), but I’m sure our LGL tribe is up to the challenge. Let’s go help Joe (and others ready to go) make positive change in our world.

5 Ways to Strengthen Trust With Weak Ties

All the components of the Green’s trust equation still apply (credibility + reliability + intimacy/ self orientation)

1. Share expertise (Credibility)

Share your good stuff. Showing up with real expertise will attract other curious and innovative souls. The more people are talking about your ideas, the higher the probability of being introduced to other experts with complementary or challenging views.

2. Respect Others Consistently (Reliability)

I’m always amazed at the stupidity of those who check out credentials before helping. Or treat folks differently based on letters behind their name or klout scores. Discriminatory respect ignores the strength of weak ties theory. Treat everyone with deep respect and you’ll be known as the “really great guy (or gal)” others “just have to meet.” The brother of the intern you met in the forum may turn out to be just who you need on your next project.

3. Do What You Say (Reliability)

It’s certainly easier to blow off a commitment to a weak tie than a colleague. You don’t have to help everyone, but if you say you will, do.

4. Be Real (Intimacy)

Don’t be a snob or tell us how wonderful you are, just show us through your ideas and engagement. Share a bit about yourself as a person. Be honest about where you’re stuck. Whether you’re around the world or sitting in the cube next door, human beings want to work with other human beings.

5. Give generously without expectation (Self-Orientation)

If you’re just out for yourself, people will smell it and tell their weak ties. Social media makes it easy folks, to warn the world. In my own collaborations, I’m consistently being warned of when to steer clear. “Trust checks” are often only a DM (Twitter Direct Message) away. (See also:  7 Reasons Collaboration Breaks Down.)

People trust people who know what they’re doing, who show up consistently with a generous heart. Be that guy, and your weak ties will quickly tighten into trusted bonds of true collaboration.

Other LGL Fun

Karin Hurt, CEO

I’ve had some fun with media interviews this week. A Fortune article on the hottest job trends, and Blogging and Marketing Tips by Experts on FirstSiteGuide and a round-up of most vital leaderhip characteristics. Tip: Blogging is a great way to give generously. Check out Matt Banner’s updated guide to starting a blog here.

5 Reasons to Lose a Battle- And How To Lose It With Grace

If I had to pick a side, I would have chosen hers. But picking sides was entirely beside the point.

The other guy’s heels were dug in deeper than skis sunk in a tree well of deep powder. No amount of convincing was going to change his mind. “It’s time to let it go.” I offered. “This battle is not worth winning.

“But I’m right, she insisted.”

That’s entirely possible. But the battle was weakening the relationship, and was making the project much less fun. When projects feel hard, they seldom blossom with creativity which is what we needed most. Plus the wasted energy was exhausting all of us.

Should the other, older and theoretically more mature guy have been the one to succumb? Perhaps. But he didn’t. Age isn’t necessarily a leadership competency.

And so I offer our collective wisdom from the scar tissue from this battle. I’m book marking this page as a reminder to myself as well. Battle losing is never handled.

5 Reasons to Lose a Battle

1. To maintain your dignity.

This may sound counterintuitive, but trust me, no one shows up at their very best when they’re spitting teeth mad. Even the ugly words that you’re saying on the inside ooze toxins from your pores.

2. To enhance your reputation

Others are watching how you handle the small battles. People respect (and look to follow) leaders who get the big picture and focus on the end game over minor irritations and disagreements.

3. To win the war

Getting mired down in the debate over the small stuff will drain the energy for what matters most.

4. You might be wrong

Just saying.

5. To preserve the relationship.

In long-term collaborations it’s almost always true that it’s more important to preserve the relationship rather than win on some minor point. Even if you’re majorly ticked off, consider the satellite relationships that are impacted by your disagreement.

How To Decide If a Battle’s Worth Losing

Members of our online community weighed in with some initial advice. I hope you’ll add yours.

Carey Green:

I find a simple question is helpful at times like this. ” Will my insistence on being right benefit or bless this person or advance our cause?” 

David Dye:

The phrase I use is “Do you want to be effective…or “right”?” As a leader, your team exists to achieve results. That, and the leaders you leave behind you, are the measures of success. More of than not, insistence on being ‘right’ prevents you from achieving either of those outcomes.

7 Reasons Collaboration Breaks Down

Great ideas come in halves,  these are the words I hear often from my LGL en Español partner, Kay Valenzuela. I believe it.  Work is enhanced by true collaboration. One of the best parts of my entrepreneurial journey has been the amazing collaborations, in writing, in business, in shared passions.

I’ve got four deep collaborations in process now, including writing a children’s picture book with Alli Polin  and the launch of a Parent’s Guide to Leadership (a free ebook downloadable from the sidebar.)

I’ve also had a few false starts.

Here are my lessons learned. I look forward to hearing yours.

  1. Misaligned Passions –Collaboration works best when you’re both deeply in it to win it. Your shared passion fuels inspiration. If one or the other of you is less of a zealot, sooner or later the spark will fade.
  2. Propinquity- Joining up with the usual suspects or the guy next door, simply because of convenience limits possibility. Go slower and cast a wider net when looking for potential partners. When you stumble on chemistry search deeper. Sure working with partners around the globe is logistically more tricky, but becoming easier each day due to amazing technology.
  3. Score Keeping – Real collaborators don’t keep score. They’re too engaged in the cause to count who’s doing what. The focus is on the end state.
  4. Surface Respect – For true collaboration to blossom mutual respect must run deep and thick.  It becomes slippery when one or the other feel superior.
  5. Fuzzy Communication- Collaboration requires a constant flow of real-time communication. Don’t rely on email or chats, look in each other’s eyes, even if it’s over Skype.
  6. Short Term View- True collaborators value the relationship over the small stuff. They’re willing to let go what really doesn’t matter and spend time seeking to understand differences that do.
  7. Rigid Boundaries – True collaboration involves doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Toe stepping goes unnoticed or is met with a real time discussion.
  8. Mismatched Talent – The best collaborations involve diversity of talent– pairing up with folks who amaze you (and are amazed by you.). If  anyone is not bringing enough to the party, resentment and conflict are imminent.

When To Stand Your Ground

“Pete” a leader in a new job with a substantial increase in scope and scale, asked me this seemingly simple question: “How do you know when to stand your ground?”

I knew he needed more than my first instinct of “just go with your gut”.

“I’ll stand my ground. And I won’t back down.”

Knowing when to stand your ground is a fine art. Digging in your heals at the wrong time will damage your credibility and impact. Yielding when you shouldn’t, makes for weak leadership and dangerous results.

When To Stand Your Ground

Sometimes it’s clear. If it’s unethical, immoral, illegal, or a violation of human rights, stand your ground, get support, and do what’s right. Jacquie Garton-Smith shares:

It’s reasonable to stand your ground when you have carefully, comprehensively and constructively evaluated the alternatives and it remains clearly the way to go. Good to demonstrate you’ve been open to the options even if the final decision is the same. And of course sometimes a better way becomes evident.

When to Back Down

Of course there are times when backing down is the obvious choice. Backing down makes sense when relationships trump the issue at hand, you need more data, or your team or experts know more. Sometimes ideas are worth giving a try even when you’re skeptical.

Stand Your Ground: Decision Points

But most of the time it’s more murky than that. It’s particularly challenging when your values conflict with company values. I asked some members of Lead Change Group to weigh in:

Consider Your Values – John E. Smith

It seems that two sets of values are in play here: The organization’s values and your personal beliefs about right and wrong. When both are threatened, the decision is easy; you should dig in and insist. You will do so with the full backing of your organization. I think the same can be said when your personal values are threatened, but not organizational values. In these cases, personal considerations around cost loom much larger. In other words, standing your ground may cost you and only the person who may lose can make the decision whether the risk to them is worth the fight. When organizational values are threatened, but not your personal values, I think this is more difficult. You might be called on because of your position to stand fast and fight about something which you have little or no investment. “Standing fast” implies some real passion, and you cannot fake passion at least in my experience.

Seek First to Understand – Chery Gegelman

Reflect a softer light of truth – visualize a candle – on (more complex) issues, giving people time to draw near, to listen more intently, to ponder, to understand and to come to their own conclusions. Being a beacon in a situation that requires a candle is viewed as an over reaction, often times people feel judged, they pull away and nothing changes. Being a candle in a situation that requires a beacon is an under-reaction and will not move people to action, so the risk grows. For more read here

Find the High Ground – Mike Henry Sr.

I catch myself trying to always find the highest ground to make my stand. The organization’s success may require me to do something a harder way than simply “my way.” Sometimes a key to standing my ground this time may be based on credibility I’ve earned from previous episodes. So I try to “stand my ground” when I believe I am on the highest ground and be a valuable team player in every other case.

Take the Long View – Susan Mazza

I think the key to making a good choice comes down to being able to distinguishing the difference between when you are standing for something that really matters for the future vs. digging your heels in to be right or prove a point in the moment.

Focus on Effective over Right – David Dye

Leaders who insist on being “right” sacrifice relationships and results. Standing your ground for principles and values is important – both for the organization and the individual. Standing your ground for the sake of preference or convenience often damages the relationships and fails to accomplish the needed results.

Unlikely Collaboration: The Secret To Success

Trying to describe effective collaboration is a bit like describing true love. You know when you’re in it. It feels wonderful, but it’s hard to describe to anyone outside the relationship. And like love, you can get burned by sexy potential collaborators who don’t play straight.

Unfortunately, such scenarios leave scar tissue that scares many away from potentially amazing future collaboration. Much is lost when you’re afraid to connect. If you’ve been burned, it’s worth understanding why, and trying again.

A Collaboration Success Story

Last week we brought 2 dozen people from 6 competing companies together to discuss common leadership challenges. I contract with all of them to provide customer service. Staying very diligent to the right side of the law (no discussion of contracts, terms and conditions, or competitive secrets), we held a think tank on common leadership concerns.

  • How do you inspire call center reps to care deeply about customers?
  • How do you find time to coach and develop when the queue’s backed up?
  • How do you build better leadership in a young front-line team?
  • How do we leverage technology to communicate more effectively?
  • What can my team do to be more helpful as the “client?”

The passion in the room was palpable. As common frustrations surfaced, competitors shared their leadership best practices, followed by brainstorming and collective planning. Everyone was focused on getting better results and doing the right thing for the customer.

“What if we had a week where we all concentrated on developing our leaders around this difficult challenge.” “What if we you produced inspiring videos to reinforce the vision each month?” On the breaks, leaders would pull me aside and affirm the approach: “This is fantastic, it’s great to know it’s not just us; Everyone’s in the same boat; It’s awesome to collaborate on these challenges.” And my favorite: “No other client of ours ever does this, they should.”

What is True Collaboration?

What made this work? What’s missing when collaborations go South?

Collaboration works when:
  • Vision is bigger than ego
  • Everyone has something to gain
  • The mission is clearly defined
  • Parameters are established
  • Leadership is shared
  • No one keeps score
  • People play by established ground rules
  • Folks takes time to get to know one another as people
  • Strengths are leveraged
  • It’s okay to put on the brakes as needed
  • Dissent is encouraged and accepted
  • Contributions are recognized

Unleashing Breakthrough Results

Many of the approaches we take to solving problems, do just that. Solve problems. That works, until the next problem comes along. To build long-term results, requires more. Unleashing your team’s potential leads to breakthrough results.

I’ve been intrigued by the unleashing approach described in the new white paper, Unleashing the Future of Work.

This highly collaborative methodology empowers teams to dig deeper for answers– working together to find synergistic solutions.

“The cornerstone of Unleashing™ is emphasizing the journey as an essential change and learning process rather than simply devising and implementing a solution. For it is through this journey that individuals learn and develop their ability to think strategically, collaborate and take action. This approach aims to engage and stimulate people as they go along, creating self-efficacy, empowerment and commitment in the individuals and teams. Its focus is both on the organisation as a whole and on the individuals.”

Unleashing Framework

The research-based unleashing approach, is closely aligned with the philosophical approach we’ve been discussing in our LGL community. For example:

  • “Purpose as basis for strategy” vs. “Shareholder value as basis for strategy” (and driving shareholder value in the process)
  • “Shared strategic direction” vs. “Strategic planning”
  • “Adaptive strategy execution” vs. “Strategy implementation”
  • “Learning through action” vs. “Classroom training”
  • “Process innovation” vs. “Process optimization”
  • “Mentoring, self-directed career development” vs. “Metrics-based performance management”

I asked white paper co-author, Therese Kinal, about the inspiration for their research:

“My co-founders Robert Thong, Corrina Kane and I realized that traditional approaches to Management weren’t working anymore and our industry was doing as much harm as it was good. In many organisations innovation was dead and employees had little or no understanding of their company’s strategy and they certainly didn’t feel personal ownership and excitement about making it happen. Companies had tried to solve this through structural changes, sending their people on leadership development training or hiring innovation firms to do it for them. Consultants were forcing through simplistic solutions to complex problems.”

If you’re looking for creative ways to unleash the powerful potential of your team, it’s worth a read. Share your comments and insights with the LGL community.

Collaborative Competition: The Extraordinary Power of Trash Talk

Collaborative competition inspires. Seeing “them” inspires “us.” Competition makes work fun. Unless, it doesn’t. Stay on the right side of trash talk.  Create collaborative competition to inspire your team.

A New York State of Mind

I ran a 2000 person sales team so did the guys in New York. They were the “ones to catch” on some metrics. In others we led the way. We studied their playbook. They studied ours. We both sent “spies” to learn more. We left voice mails talking trash. My cellphone rang tunes of “New York State of Mind” and “I love New York” reminding every one of the competition.

Of course, the vision was bigger. Competition was play. We traded “players.” Benchmarking became a game. Both teams grew. The bar rose. Both teams achieved. Work was fun.

Collaborative Competition

  • inspires
  • unifies
  • finds fun
  • sparks creativity
  • improves
  • shares

Unhealthy Competition

  • hides
  • loses
  • stifles
  • diminishes
  • creates stress

Creating Collaborative Competition

“”If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: Be cooperative.”
~unknown

Leverage competition to drive collaboration. Make collaboration a competitive game.

Here’s how…

  • Align intent
  • Interact
  • cross-pollinate
  • Share playbooks
  • Mandate sportsmanship
  • Speak well
  • Talk a little trash
  • Keep a scoreboard
  • Celebrate small victories