It’s the time of year where many of us are talking about what we want to lose—a few pounds, some bad habits, a toxic relationship. Today, I’m sharing some ways (I’ve learned the hard way) about what you might gain—or regain—after one of the most challenging leadership years in a while. By investing in a few vital (and actually not really that difficult when you think about it) actions, you can gain more trust and connection with your team.
7 Surefire Ways to Gain (or Regain) Trust
Here’s a start which I know (sadly from personal experience) will work well. What would you add?
1. Admit a mistake.
Not just a small one. I’m going to assume you do that every day. Is there a decision you regret? A strategic move that took the team down a rabbit hole? Or perhaps you let your personal stress bleed into your work, and were harsher in that meeting than necessary.
It’s okay. We’ve all been there.
The truth is when you screw up, your team already knows. You will gain more trust and connection by admitting what you regret and helping the team to move past it.
2. Stop doing something stupid.
I’ve yet to work with a company where folks couldn’t list the “stupid” things they are still doing for stupid reasons.
Want to gain more trust from your team? Pick one of those things and figure out how to stop doing it.
I bet if I asked you to describe the leaders you most admire, or your favorite boss, we’d only be a few sentences in before you told me a story about them standing up for something that mattered.
You can be that person.
You know that thing you’re not saying because you’re too afraid? If it really matters, figure out a way to say it well.
4. Forgive a grudge.
I know. This is a hard one. But you know who you’ll gain the most credibility with if you can pull this off? You.
There’s huge value in knowing you’re the one that can take the high road and give someone a second chance.
5. Open a door.
The most credible leaders are ones who help people when they have nothing to gain. Building a reputation as a door-opener is a great way to catalyze credibility, not to mention karma.
6. Have a real conversation with your boss.
I was exchanging stories with an old boss the other day about times where we had found ourselves being the only ones having the tough conversations with our bosses. That audacity has served us both well over the years, and has helped me build the muscles I need to now be a successful consultant. If you want to be more influential with your team, work at being more influential with your boss. Gain credibility by being the one who will own the ugly and work to make it better.
And guess what? If you do it well, your boss will start proactively coming to you asking for advice.
7. Mend fences with your peers.
I get it, this is often the most challenging. After all, it’s not you, it’s them 😉 Maybe that’s true. But your team needs to know you can get things done up, down, AND sideways. If you want your team to trust that you have their best interests at heart, do what you can to put aside the politics and past frustrations and work to foster trust and collaboration with your peers.
What are your favorite ways to gain more trust with your team?
This week on Asking For a Friend Live, I’m delighted to bring you special guests, Laura Cole,Lee Rubin, and Meredith McCreadie sharing their expertise and experiences on building trust and connection in remote teams.
Asking For a Friend: How to I Build Trust and Connection in Remote Teams?
You won’t want to miss the moment at 28:45 where Laura maps Lee’s story using her amazing application of Haesun Moon’s Dialogue Quadrants.
You’re working hard and want to win. So do your co-workers. You think, “we’re all on the same team, so why does everything we do seem to sabotage collaboration?”
Ironically, it’s usually the well-meaning, high-achievers that inadvertently sabotage collaboration.
When you’re that focused on winning, it’s tough to remember that the competition isn’t in the guy in the left Zoom window, it’s mediocrity.
If you’re a manager of rock star managers who are all driving one another crazy, start by ensuring you have truly interdependent goals, and eliminating stack ranks that pit peers against one another.
Much of the time when collaboration breaks down, it’s because everyone is playing the game they’ve been told to win—which actually is a zero-sum game. If your structure says I have to lose for you to win, don’t expect your high-performers to collaborate.
Beyond that, we’ve found the next best way to jump-start collaboration is to make it safe to talk about what’s sabotaging it and what to do instead.
9 Mistakes that Sabotage Collaboration
So if you’re struggling with your peers, or have a team of managers who like one another well enough, but are competing instead of collaborating, try addressing these common mistakes that sabotage collaboration.
See what resonates and talk about a path forward.
It might surprise you how quickly people fess up, “Oh, that’s me. I’m definitely the guy with unbridled tenacity.”
1. Thinking Your View is THE View
When everyone is heads-down focused on getting things done, it’s easy to see lose sight of other people’s perspectives.
We see it all the time. HR sees compliance training as the most important thing—with lots of good reasons. Sales thinks HR has lost their mind to even consider doing training at a time like this. Customer service needs sales to stop making promises they can’t deliver on.
Everyone’s right, everyone’s frustrated, and everyone’s finding it hard to accomplish their most important priorities.
2. Over-advocating for the Home Team
Of course, advocating for, and defending your team, is generally a good characteristic. Your team wants to know you have their backs. It’s also important to keep a realistic and balanced perspective.
Sometimes the best person for that coveted special assignment isn’t your box nine candidate. Sometimes it’s YOUR team that screwed things up and the best next step is to apologize, not defend. And yes, sometimes the bigger bonus needs to go to the guy on the other team who knocked it out of the park—even though your team has been working hard too.
3. Hoarding Talent
When you’ve spent significant time developing your team, it can be difficult to let them go to another team or department—even if it’s in their best interest, or for the greater good of the organization. After all, who wants to be the farm team for the rest of the company? But when you keep talent to yourself, you limit opportunities for your people—and overall performance suffers.
How can we encourage more collaboration for talent development and staffing?
4. Shutting Down Ideas
In our Courageous Cultures research, 67% of the respondents operated under the notion that “this is the way we’ve always done it.” And those same managers just as likely to shut down ideas from a peer.
5. Unbridled Tenacity
When you know you’re “right,” it can be tough to figure out how to also be effective. When you disagree in front of an audience, particularly if that audience is your boss, even if you’re right, your peers may feel like you’ve thrown them under the bus.
6. Not Spending Enough Time Together
It’s easy to under-invest in coworker relationships. Leaders tend to focus on their team and boss first and hope the peer relationships will evolve naturally. Just like any human interaction, coworker relationships take time and energy to grow properly. In addition, peer relationships are naturally tricky since you’re often competing in a stack rack, for resources or for senior leader attention.
7. Not Asking For Help
When you know your coworkers are slammed, it’s hard to ask for help. But if no one asks, how do you know how to be most helpful?
8. Not Acknowledging One Another’s Contribution
Okay, suppose they did help you. And now you’re getting praise for your great work, but forget to mention their support. Now they’re ticked off.
9. Withholding Best Practices
Often high-performers will share ideas and best practices when you ask for them, but are too busy (or competitive) to do so proactively.
Or they don’t share because they don’t want to look braggy. Meanwhile, people are wasting time spinning their wheels because they’re unaware that a coworker has already figured it out.
Talking about these common problems that sabotage collaboration (even in the abstract) can help you find a better path forward to better teamwork to take everyone’s performance to the next level.
Your Leadership Promise Might Not Be What You Think
In the age of Twitter and Instagram, you hear so many people talk about “authenticity” – but what does that actually mean for you as a leader? It’s probably not awkward social media posts. Recently I interviewed master-performer, emcee, and keynote speaker, Jason Hewlett, about authenticity. For Jason, authenticity is all about keeping your leadership promise.
Your promise is what makes you uniquely you. Here’s one example:
Maybe you don’t sing – it’s not my thing (though Karin Hurt does), but you definitely have a unique set of characteristics, talents, and values that make you the leader you are when you’re at your best.
For me, it’s teaching. My promise, the part of me that is so authentically me, is that I will invest in people and help them become the best version of themselves. It’s why I do the work I do. When I don’t live up to that best part of myself, I don’t lead well.
Teaching is my leadership promise; what’s yours?
One way Jason suggests you can identify your leadership promise is to think about who you promised yourself you would be when you were early in life. Are there areas where you’ve let that authentic-you hide? If so, it’s a great place to look for your leadership promise.
When you’re wondering how to show up authentically as a leader, think about the commitment you’ve made to your team. You might have made it years ago. Maybe you’ve never said it aloud. Regardless, that’s the authentic you. Own it and you’ll have more influence with your team and positive impact in the world.
Check out Jason’s interview – he’s an incredible example of what it means to keep your promise. Then, I’d love to hear from you – leave a comment and share with us: What is your authentic promise to your team?
When your team won’t trust you, that’s job number one.
If there’s one realization every leader can take to heart from the pandemic and social-political turmoil gripping the United States right now, it’s that you cannot lead without trust. Civil society requires trust; people must be able to trust those who they entrust to make policy and enforce the laws. When that trust is violated, the results are heart-rending. When people live in fear of authorities because of the color of their skin or can’t trust medical advice and policies because of overt political manipulation, collaboration and progress are impossible.
The same holds true for your business leaders. When your team won’t trust you, results break down, relationships dissolve into suspicion, your A-players leave, and those that remain do the least they can to get by.
In our research for Courageous Cultures, one fact that stood out to us is that when you have a culture of trust, participation, mutual respect, and valuing everyone’s contribution, people don’t need much courage. However, the less trust you have, the more courage it takes for people to show up with solutions and micro-innovations.
The challenge most leaders face is that they feel like they’re trustworthy. We’ve heard it many times:
“I care about my people, I’m doing everything I can, I think I’m leading with integrity, but I don’t understand why the team won’t trust me.”
Frequently, the reason trust breaks down is that the leader focused on one element of trust, but missed one or more important aspects. There are three common problems that erode trust.
As you think about these causes, keep in mind that you might not have been the one who caused the issue. It may have been the leader before you or prior life experience.
3 Reasons Your Team Won’t Trust You
1. They doubt your intentions.
People don’t feel that you care about them. They feel like you’re using them to get results. They’re just a replaceable part in the machinery of your work.
What to do about it:
While some leaders can be callous and view people this way, in our experience, most do not. But, many leaders struggle because their team doubts their intentions. Building this kind of trust starts with self-reflection.
Why do you lead?
Is it for the money? For the prestige? For the power?
If these are the reasons you took the job, you’ll start with a trust deficit. People know when you’re in it for yourself. They’ll also know and trust you when you’re doing it for the purpose and the people.
Once you sort out your motivations and get focused on results and relationships, pay attention to how you communicate. What do your actions say?
When you say you care about the team, can they see you make choices that are uncomfortable for you, but that helps them to be more effective? Some leaders we’ve seen do this best show up for the toughest assignments and inconvenient shifts. Without saying a word, they say, “I’m in this with you.”
When you say you care, does that mean you’ve taken the time to know your team as human beings? What are they struggling with? What matters to them? What energizes them?
2. They doubt your follow-through.
Do what you say you will do—sounds easy, right? But leaders get themselves in trouble with this aspect of trust all the time.
There are several problems here. The first one is a personality issue. Some leaders talk in terms of general intentions or ideas. If this is you, you might say, “That’s an outstanding idea. We can totally do that.” You mean it as an enthusiastic affirmation that it’s a good idea worth exploring.
But what your team heard is, “We’re doing that.”
Now, when you don’t do it, you’ve lost their trust. In their eyes, you’ve become a leader who doesn’t mean what they say.
For other leaders, the road to broken trust is paved with good intentions. If “I meant it when I said it” is a regular mantra for you, you’re probably over-extending and saying “yes” too often.
What to do about it:
Get to know your people and how they understand your words. Be aware of what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. If you’re speaking in terms of intentions and possibilities, make that clear. Eg: “That’s an outstanding idea and I would love to explore it and see if it could work.”
If you’re caught in the trap of saying “yes” too often, start by reframing the issue. You’re saying yes to make people happy, but you actually disappoint them. Saying no is a little pain at the moment, but hurts far less than the disappointment of dashed hopes.
There will always be times when you can’t follow through the way you intended. When this happens, take responsibility and own what happened. When you show up with the confidence to take responsibility and humility to acknowledge that you didn’t meet their expectations, your team will trust you more (as long as it’s not an everyday occurrence).
3. They doubt your capability.
They know that you care and they can count on you to follow through—but can you get it done?
What to do about it:
This is where your competence, knowledge, and skill come in. Do you understand the issue well enough to take action? Do you know how to navigate your organization’s politics and stakeholders to get things done? Are you able to hold the team accountable for commitments? (And if you tolerate any pattern of abuse, harassment, or discrimination, forget about anything else until you fix that.)
If you struggle with credibility, consider limiting your new commitments and focus on developing the skills to get the results you need. This is where a mentor, coach, or training can help you.
When you’re new to a role, don’t hide your ignorance. Rely on your team to share their expertise and help you learn everything you need to know.
One More Thought When Your Team Won’t Trust You
We talked with a manager in a recent live-remote workshop who had made a mistake a year ago. He’d done everything he could to make it right for his team. Even so, one of his team members continued to bring up the manager’s year-old mistake, using it as an excuse for their poor performance.
In these situations, when you’ve done everything you can, and you’ve still got one person who doesn’t trust you, it’s time for a direct conversation about the problem. Trust goes two ways. You’ve owned what happened and done everything you could to make it right, now you need to be able to trust that they’re going to do what they need to do. It’s okay to ask if they can do that. If they can’t, it’s time to find a new place for them.
Remember, when your team won’t trust you, it’s always your problem—even if you inherited the mess and didn’t do anything to cause it. You can’t change what happened to your team before, but you can earn their trust now.
Micro-innovations, problem-solving, and customer service all begin with trust. When you match competence with caring and commitment, you’ll earn your team’s trust and they’ll be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt when things don’t make sense.
We’d love to hear from you: leave us a comment and share your thoughts about what happens when your team won’t trust you and how you rebuild the trust.
Even if you have an open door, and are constantly asking your direct reports how you can improve, chances are your employees are holding back.
Particularly if you’re generally a great boss, they figure “Why complain? It could be so much worse.”
Most employees we talk with have ideas for how their boss could be more supportive. And yet, when we ask them if they’ve had that conversation with their manager, most of the time the answer is “no.”
In fact, when Karin was teaching a leadership course in a top MBA program, she asked her students if they had ideas on how to improve the effectiveness of their relationship with their manager. As you can imagine, every hand in the room shot up with a lot of knowing chuckles.
And then when she asked how many of her students had shared at least one of those insights with their managers, only one student raised her hand.
If these fast-track (not shy) millennials, serious about their success, were holding back, it’s probably a good indicator that others are too.
And, if you’re like most managers we talk with, it goes the other way as well. You know your relationship with your direct reports could be better. Perhaps you’re not getting the support you need in a particular area. Or communication is breaking down in some way. Maybe you need more ideas or for them to challenge your thinking.
But it’s hard to carve out the time to have that conversation, so you settle for “good enough.”
An Easy Way to Open Up the Communication With Your Direct Reports
We use this tool with managers in some of our long-term leadership development programs to open up two-way communication between leaders and their direct reports. We thought it might be helpful for you too. If you give it a try, we’d love to hear how it goes. Drop us a line at email@example.com.
Why the Tool Works
The tool is designed to reinforce the reciprocal nature of the manager-employee relationship.
It’s not just about what the manager is doing well or could do better, or what the direct report is doing well or could improve.
Both the manager and the employee rate the effectiveness of the relationship on the same dimensions.
The tool is designed to encourage both parties to take responsibility for co-creating the relationship and the results they produce.
How to Use The Tool
Explain why you think this is an important exercise. It’s important that your direct reports feel safe and know that you are genuinely open to the dialogue. If the basic trust is not yet there, work on that first. This is an advanced communication tool that requires a foundation of trust.
Ask your direct reports to complete the quick assessment with as much candor as possible before you meet.
Complete the assessment yourself, based on your relationship with each direct report. (Note, it should be different for each person.)
Schedule a one-on-one meeting with each of your direct reports to discuss and celebrate where your relationship is working well, and identify areas for improvement.
Align on one or two specific actions you both agree to do to improve your relationship.
Schedule the finish. Set up a time in the future (a month or so out is probably best) that you will meet to discuss progress.
Do you ever wish your new team would talk to your last team? That would save so much precious time. If you could just get your new team to trust you, you’d get on to making your usual magic. You know you’re good, and you deserve a better reception from your new team. But they don’t know you, the last guy was a jerk (or a superstar), and they’re still recovering.
7 Ways to Get Your New Team to Trust You
1. Don’t Badmouth their Last Manager
If they had a poor leader before you, the more you listen, the worse the stories will sound. Or perhaps they had a superstar whose shoes you need to fill. It might tempt you to trash the guy before you. It may feel good and make you feel like a hero, but you don’t want to go there. Build your credibility on your own merits. No good ever comes from tearing down another person. Besides, you never know the whole story. Listen, reflect the emotions you hear (eg: that sounds like it was frustrating – or awesome), then let it go, and focus on your leadership. And while you’re listening …
2. Go One by One
The best way to get to know a new team is one person at a time. Invest deeply one-on-one. Learn about what they need, what they want, and what they most yearn to give. Get to know each person as a human being.
3. Listen and then Listen More
One powerful listening technique begins as you meet with each team member individually. Ask each person these vision-building questions:
At our very best, what do you think this team can achieve?
What do we need to do to get there?
As the leader of the team, how can I help us get there?
These questions get everyone thinking about the future, not lingering in the past.
4. Share Stories
The team longs for signs you are credible and competent. Share a bit about your leadership track record of results—framing it with stories of what your previous teams could achieve (not what you achieved). You want them thinking about how awesome they can be, not how awesome you are.
5. Get Some Early Wins
Find two or three achievable goals that will help create a sense of momentum. Nothing builds credibility faster than success. Generate some early wins to build confidence.
6. Let them see you
Tell the truth. Be vulnerable. Let them know who you are, what scares you, and what excites you. Show up human. Your new team needs your authenticity.
7. Prove That They Matter
As you get to know them as human beings, meet each person where they are. Help the person who wants exposure to get visibility. Help the one who wants to grow to learn a new skill. Take a bullet or two when things go wrong. Give them the credit when it goes well.
The team needs to know you care about them and their careers at least as much as you care about your own. First impressions matter, for you and for them. Don’t judge their early skeptical behavior, or assume they’re disengaged or don’t care. If they sense your frustration, that will only increase their defensiveness.
Every relationship takes time and getting your new team to trust you is no different. When you invest deeply at the beginning, you’ll build a strong foundation for long-term, breakthrough results.
We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment and share your #1 way to help your new team to trust you.
They’re the phrases that should send a shiver up your spine if you want to lead for results. I’ve heard them from team members in every industry imaginable. You might recognize them:
“I’ve just stopped trying.”
“I give up.”
“Just go along to get along.”
“When someone bothers to tell me what to do, then we’ll worry about it.”
“What’s the point?”
“It doesn’t matter what you do.”
“They don’t care, so why should I?”
“Everything they say from the stage don’t mean anything for me and my life.”
Every time I hear one of these, I shudder.
These are the words whispered by the walking dead – maybe they haven’t left your team or company yet, but there’s no life left in them. They’re just shuffling through the day, going through the motions, like zombies.
If you have people in your team or organization talking this way, one of two things has happened:
1) You have discouraged your team by failing to lead.
2) You have a very negative team member who will be discouraging the rest of the team. (And they’re still there because you’ve failed to lead.)
Either way, it’s time for you to lead. Every person wandering around …
thinking that their effort makes no difference …
feeling that no one cares …
feeling frustrated and refusing to take responsibility …
They’re a walking tragedy of vital human life stunted and withering away. (Not to mention tons of lost productivity for the organization.)
If you want to lead for results, I applaud you. We desperately need good leaders.
But leadership means responsibility. If you have disheartened people on your team who have stopped trying, that’s on you. The reasons are usually straightforward:
a lack of encouragement or appreciation
outright hostility and abuse
absurd systems prevent them from being effective
no autonomy or ability to make meaningful decisions
they don’t trust you or one another
These are a leader’s responsibilities. And if you’re leading, you’re responsible.
Lead for Results
As every reader of Winning Well knows, you can treat people well and lead for results. They’re not mutually exclusive. In fact, they go together.
are empowered to make meaningful decisions …
understand the purpose behind what they’re doing …
trust their leadership and their team …
feel appreciated for what they do …
feel they’re making a difference …
are held accountable for their contribution …
They own the outcomes, are energized, proactively solve problems, and personally invest in what they’re doing.
Which team member would you rather have?
Where to Begin?
1) If you are leading a team that shows signs of the zombi-fication, honestly assess your motivations.
Are you leading for results and relationships?
If not, I invite you to start small. Pick one area—perhaps encouragement—and honestly show appreciation. Or maybe start by removing a frustrating system that prevents people from doing their best work.
The point is, don’t change everything all at once. You can’t do it and you’ll frustrate yourself. Start small.
If you’re not sure where to start and you have any team members you can trust to give you honest feedback, ask them. Or do a DIY 360 evaluation and pick just one thing—the most frequently occurring item and address it.
People are remarkably graceful. When they see you work on being effective, your credibility soars.
2) If you are in an organization characterized by the zombies, build a cultural oasis.
An audience member asked us recently, “Can you talk about the danger of sarcasm? Our VP uses it all the time. It ruins presentations, derails meetings, and shuts people down.”
We thought, “We know that guy.” We bet you do too.
Sure, a quick wit used well can energize the team and lighten the load. But a sarcastic remark meant to belittle those who don’t dare fight back diminishes confidence, degrades trust, and leaves folks looking for the nearest escape route.
Why is sarcasm so rampant in the workplace? Why would a manager demean someone they’re trying to “motivate?”
Why Sarcasm is So Dangerous
It creates shame in the target. People will do almost anything to feel good about themselves. If you shame a person when you have positional power, you have put them in a difficult “fight or flight” position.
You get the opposite of what you want. A very skilled self-aware person might come and talk to you about it, but otherwise, they’ll find another way to “get even”—perhaps they resort to similar “humor” behind your back, undermine you, or reduce their work effort.
You give permission for everyone to do it. Before long, your clever comeback has turned into a caustic workplace where negativity reigns. (At the extreme, this can even cause human resource problems with hostile work environments.)
It doesn’t build anything. You might make someone stop doing something by being sarcastic and shaming them, but you’ll never create a new positive behavior this way.
You limit creativity. Consistent sarcasm creates an atmosphere where no one will try a new idea. The risk of failure and incurring shame is too great.
It drains energy. We do our best work when we’re in “the zone”—feeling competent, challenged, and ready to do our best. Sarcasm and humor at another person’s expense create doubt and negative energy.
It destroys trust. Your team needs to know you have their best interests at heart. Even if you do, sarcasm makes them wonder.
How to Be Effective and Funny
Start with results: When you’re tempted to use sarcasm, stop and ask yourself what you really want. What results do you look for? Encourage, inspire, teach, coach, show…these are always more effective than sarcasm.
Address issues directly: Never use humor to deal with behavior or performance problems. As we’ve seen, it creates more problems and does nothing to help the situation. Address these issues directly and professionally.
Use humor effectively: Any comedian can tell you that there is always one safe target to make fun of: you. Self-effacing humor displays humility and tells your people that you don’t feel you’re better than they are and that you don’t take yourself too seriously. It builds trust because people know you own your problems and understand your own shortcomings.
Deal with your Own junk: If you’re carrying around hurt or insecurity and regularly mask it with sarcasm or making fun of others, take some time to reflect on what’s going on there—maybe work with a coach. If it’s deep, talk with a counselor.
Clean-up: If you have potentially hurt others in the past, apologize, and make it right.
We love to laugh and we need far more of it—but if you’re a manager or seeking to influence others, avoid sarcasm or making fun of anyone (except yourself) and watch your credibility grow.
You’re passionate about your work and you’re nailing your role. You’re working hard and your results are on fire. And then in the middle of an otherwise raving performance review, your boss brings up the conflict you continue to have with another high-performing coworker.
“You’ve got to work on being a better team player.”
You’ve always prided yourself on building healthy relationships. But you’ve got to admit, the tension isn’t good. Not to mention, your team can smell it too. How can you expect them to work as a team, when you can’t get along with your peer?
If you’re neck deep in conflict with a high-performing coworker, watch out for these behaviors.
7 Common Sources of High-Performer Coworker Conflict (and what to do instead)
1. You challenge them in front of others (particularly your boss.)
Your peer brings up a new idea at the staff meeting. You shoot it down with five reasons it won’t work. She’d mentioned the idea to you before the meeting and you had smiled and nodded. The truth is you weren’t really paying close attention. Now that you are really listening you’ve got some legitimate concerns.
Your co-worker feels belittled and bruised as she climbs out from under the bus you didn’t even know you were driving. “Why didn’t you tell me when I asked you before?”
You didn’t mean to be a jerk, you just want to get it right. The boss agrees with your concerns and once again praises your quick thinking.
Peer feedback is best given off-line. Give your input early, and then you can nod in full support of the enhanced plan.
2. You withhold best practices.
The Problem: You’re trying some wild and crazy ideas, and you don’t want to share before you know they’ll work. Or you got busy and forgot to share. I know you’d never purposely withhold your great ideas, but your peers may not have the same interpretation.
Let folks know what you’re up to. If it’s half-baked, describe the batter and promise updates. Peers trust peers who share what they’re doing.
3. You take the credit.
When the praise is coming your way, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion and just say “thank you.” And your co-worker is watching all this thinking “Are you kidding me, he’s not even going to mention all the work I did?”
This one is easy. Say “thank you” AND take a step back to consider and recognize your co-worker’s contribution.
4. You react poorly to feedback.
The surest way to lose friends and alienate people is to reject their feedback. If you stop hearing, they’ll stop talking (well, at least to your face.)
Be gracious and open to what they have to say. Pause to consider. If it’s stupid, shake it off. But always take the high road and thank them for their input.
5. You hoard talent.
You’ve nurtured gaggle of A players, but now you’re afraid to let them go. You’re sure to put the best talent on your projects and give the leftovers to support other objectives.
Have regular talent reviews with your peers and talk about potential next steps and developmental moves. Make a collective plan.
6. You don’t connect at a human level.
It’s easy to under-invest in co-worker relationships. Leaders tend to focus on their team and boss first, and leave peer relationships to naturally evolve. Co-worker relationships take time and energy to grow properly.
Go to lunch. Get to know them. Ask about their kids and hobbies. Do all the same things you do to connect with your team and boss. Understand their career aspirations. Ask how you can help. Side bonus, they’re likely to ask how they can help you too.
7. You don’t ask for help.
The Problem: You know they’re busy too, so you don’t ask for help. The trouble is that can make you look arrogant, or aloof.
The Solution: Understand their skills and ask for advice, or even support. There’s no greater form of flattery.
Like all relationships, it takes time, energy and deliberate focus to build trust and improve communication. It’s easy to think coworker relationships matter less than your direct reports, but often they matter more. Imagine the exponential impact of harnessing the collective power and support of other high-potential coworkers, channeling that wasted conflict into powerful collaboration.
Your turn. What advice do you have for building better relationships with a high-performing coworker?
A Few More Insights on Building Better Coworker Relationships
Mark stared at the floor, his jaw clenched in frustration. He wanted to make the best decisions, but…
I was sitting with a leader who had just crashed and burned. He’d made a decision that had cost him his reputation and maybe his job.
He looked up at me and with a quiet whisper, Mark asked, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
The sad part was that it didn’t have to happen this way. People in his organization knew it wasn’t a good call. He had everything available to ensure that he made the best decisions…
But he never heard their feedback.
He was known for an explosive temper, for belittling and shaming people who saw things differently than he did, and he only ever asked people to validate what he thought.
In short, he never knew how to Channel Challengers.
Many people in positions of power often sabotage themselves and create environments where no one will tell them the truth – often difficult truths about themselves.
If you want to achieve breakthrough results, however, you’ve got to make the best decisions possible. To do that you need to have as much relevant information as possible.
6 Ways to Get the Information You Need to Make the Best Decisions
Here are six ways to Channel Challengers and ensure you have the truth and get the feedback you need to make the best decisions:
Ask for the Truth
Regularly encourage dialog in your team. Ask people to teach you one thing you didn’t know. Become a person known for caring what’s really going on. Does what you hear match what you see?
Say Thank You
When someone shares a hard truth, especially about you, thank the person for having the courage, taking the time, and caring enough to share it with you.
If you ask for input, take time to respond. Even if the ideas aren’t actionable, when you acknowledge that the ideas were heard and considered, you increase the likelihood of hearing more in the future.
Never Ever Shoot the Messenger
If someone has the heart and courage to bring you a difficult truth, even if you vehemently disagree, bite your lip. If you attack them, they won’t bring you another concern.
Find Your Truth-Tellers
There are people who understand their team, environment, or processes and are willing to voice their observations. Find these people, keep in regular communication, and let them know you value their observations.
Look In the Mirror
If you suspect you are not hearing the truth from those around you, it is time to look in the mirror and examine how you are interacting with others. I would bet you are not doing one or more of the first four items on this list.
If you are struggling to see it, ask others for input, find a mentor, or consider a leadership coach.
It may take time, but if you consistently Channel Challengers by asking for the truth, showing gratitude for input, and responding to it, you will earn trust, gain credibility, and have the information you need to make the best decisions.
Leave us a comment and share: How do you ensure you hear the truth from your team and colleagues?
“David, it’s a mess.” Barb ran her hand through her hair and sighed. “It’s tough to inspire your team when trust is so broken.”
She frowned and continued, “I’ve been here 20 days and have met with people at every level and every department, asking what it’s going to take to turn things around.”
What a Mess
Barb had been appointed interim CEO by her Board of Directors after two executives in a row had resigned at the Board’s request. Employee retention had dropped to an all-time low in the history of the company, their finances were a wreck, and their institutional reputation was in jeopardy.
“One thing that keeps coming up.” She frowned. “Over and over again, I’ve heard these stories – about how people were told to do things with no explanation, how policies were set and then ignored by executives and those they favored, while everyone else was punished if they didn’t comply, and how no one saw or heard from their leaders apart from all-hands meetings or sudden, secretive disciplinary meetings.”
She shook her head, “These leaders were MIA and there’s no trust left anywhere.”
Can We Go Practice?
This conversation was fresh in my mind when Sebastian, our eleven-year-old budding magician asked if I would take him to a downtown street frequented by tourists so he could practice his magic skills.
If you’ve ever met Sebastian, he’s the epitome of “outgoing.” People frequently use the words “fearless” and “precocious” when talking about him. Nevertheless, when faced by the prospect of approaching strangers on the street (with me observing from a safe distance), he froze.
Stage fright set in. The fear of rejection paralyzed him and this normally outgoing kid turned into a shy wallflower.
I encouraged him to give it another try. I identified some likely prospects who looked like they wanted to be entertained, and I shared how success often is found on the other side of rejection.
Then he looked it at me and said, “If it’s so easy, you do it.”
I tried redirecting.
I protested, “I didn’t ask to come out here.”
He handed me the cards.
“I’ve already done this, I don’t need the practice.”
He folded his arms and tapped his foot expectantly.
I took the cards and scanned the crowd, searching for a friendly face, while fending off eleven-year-old heckling.
Finally, I found a likely prospect and proceeded to perform one of Sebastian’s tricks for a teenage boy, his mom, and his sister.
Ten minutes later Sebastian had earned a couple of dollars, lots of laughs, and was talking about how fun it was to perform for people.
Inspire Your Team: The Fundamentals of Trust and Inspiration
As we walked home, I asked Sebastian what had changed for him that allowed him to go for it.
“I didn’t think I could do it, but…” he smiled, “when you did it, you showed me it was possible.”
Sebastian and Barb had identified two sides of the same leadership truth: when you want to inspire your team, your example sets the tone, builds trust, and makes the impossible possible.
Barb’s discovery of dysfunction was a vivid reminder of the importance of trust.
Can your people look at you and see you doing what you ask of them? Do you embody the “why” behind the “what” you ask of your team? Do you treat people consistently, justly, and transparently?
Most leaders we work with will say that they want to do these things.
They intend to live this way…but.
They get busy. They’ve got so much to do that they don’t take time to lead by example. They assume people will “just get it” or that someone else will make the connection and explain why this is important. Or they get impatient with the process, let their frustration get the best of them, and make poor employment decisions.
If you want to inspire your team like Barb ultimately did: listen, lead, let them see you doing what you say, and trust them. Before you move to mission, common purpose, and the more “glitzy” elements of inspiration, these are the fundamentals to inspire your team.
As Sebastian reminded me that afternoon as he shuffled his cards: you never outgrow the need to lead by example.
Leave us a comment and share how you inpsire your team: How do you ensure that you lead by example, even when you’re busy and overwhelmed?