why your team won't trust you

Why Your Team Won’t Trust You – and What to Do About It

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?

team won't trust you

When you say you care about their career, back it up with action. Make sure they have a development plan that helps them grow in the direction they want to go. Regularly encourage, coach, challenge, and train.

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.

Your Turn

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.

build better direct report relationships

An Easy Way to Improve Your Relationships With Your Direct Reports

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 info@letsgrowleaders.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

  1. 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.
  2. Ask your direct reports to complete the quick assessment with as much candor as possible before you meet.
  3. Complete the assessment yourself, based on your relationship with each direct report. (Note, it should be different for each person.)
  4. 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.
  5. Align on one or two specific actions you both agree to do to improve your relationship.
  6. 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.

You can download the pdf of this tool here.

improve your relationship with your direct reports

 

 

How to get your team to trust you

How to Get Your New Team to Trust You

Helping your new team to trust you takes time.

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. But it’s never as simple as that. If you’re good, you may feel you deserve a better reception from your new team. You may warrant a warm reception, 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.

Your Turn

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.

More You Might Like:

10 Questions Your Team is Afraid to Ask

How to Build a Strong Team Vision

How to Encourage Your Team When Results are Disappointing

10 Stories Great Leaders Tell (podcast)

how to lead for results and stop the zombie apocalypse

How to Lead for Results and Stop the Zombie Apocalypse

Lead for results and keep the zombies at bay…

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.”
  • “Why bother?”
  • “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.”

Walking Dead

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 …

Has quit.

They’re a walking tragedy of vital human life stunted and withering away. (Not to mention tons of lost productivity for the organization.)

Tough Love

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
  • no vision
  • 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.

When people:

  • 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.

Start by encouraging the people you see every day. Recognize others for what they’ve done. Begin talking about what your team might accomplish or where it could be. Look for problems you can solve.

We Need You to Lead for Results

Whatever your formal role, we need you to lead. We need people who dare to dream, who show us the way. We need people who will take risks to solve problems that others refuse to recognize even exist.

We need people who ask the right questions, who challenge our thinking. We need people who inspire us, who motivate us, and who encourage us.

We need leaders.

We need you.

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween from Let's Grow Leaders (lead for results and keep the zombies away)

How to Stop Sarcasm at Work

How to Stop the Destructive Power of Sarcasm at Work

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

See Also: Sarcasm vs. Humor in the Workplace

How Your Leadership Style Could Be Stifling Innovation and Problem Solving (Entrepreneur)

Coworker Conflict: 7 Ways to Get Along with Other High-Performers

Coworker Conflict: 7 Ways to Get Along with Other High Performers

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.”

Ouch.

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?

We see it all the time–the conflict, drama and wasted energy between otherwise highly-competent high-performers. Stack ranked performance management systems can aggravate tension, but we often find it’s more complex than an artificial competition.

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.)

The Problem:

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.

The Solution:

Peer feedback is best given off-line. Give your input early, and then you can nod in full support of the enhanced plan.

your competition is mediocrity2. 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.

The Solution:

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.

The Problem:

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?”

The Solution:

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 Problem:

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.)

The Solution:

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.

The Problem:

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.

The Solution:

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.

The Problem:

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.

The Solution:

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

4 Powerful Ways to Get Meaningful Feedback From Your Peers

7 Ways to Lead Friends and Former Peers

4 Ways to Deal with A Toxic Coworker

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

6 Ways to Get the Information You Need to Make the Best Decision

6 Ways to Get the Information You Need to Make the Best Decisions

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:

  1. 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?

  1. 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.

  1. Respond

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Your Turn

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?

Start Here to Inspire Your Team

Start Here to Inspire Your Team

“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.

 

Nothing worked.

Then he looked it at me and said, “If it’s so easy, you do it.”

Uh oh.

I tried redirecting.

No luck.

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.

Your Turn

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?

Be the leader you want your boss to be,

David

trust the trenches

How Do I Get My Team to Trust Me? (Story and Video)

Our 8th Winning Well Principle: Trust the Trenches has so many nuances, all of which I learned the hard way. For me, it wasn’t the delegating, or asking for input, that was the hardest… it was trusting my team enough to be vulnerable. To trust them enough to admit that I’m far from perfect, and having the confidence to know that was okay. I still had vision. And a plan. And we could still win well.

“Because when people see leaders who are real and have real life challenges,
they look at those leaders and say,
“Wow, she’s not perfect.
And I’m not perfect.
And we can still win well together.”

The Hardest Way to Trust the Trenches

I had just been promoted to my first executive job in human resources at Verizon. All the players were new. I had a new boss and an entire new C-level suite to impress. And because sometimes life throws you curve balls, I was also going through a divorce and was trying to navigate an unexpected life as a single mom.

I hadn’t told a soul. My best friends at work didn’t know. And my boss certainly had no idea.

So here’s what I imagined would be said about me. 

Well, we know we can’t talk about this, but…

“This is probably not the right time for her. Yes she’s high-potential, but with all this personal stuff on her plate…”

“I’m not sure she’ll be able to manage the travel of this high-profile role as a single mom.”

“She’s young. Let’s skip this round with her, and wait to see how she handles her new life circumstances.”

So I did what I thought was best and ignored the unspeakable.

Which might not have been a terrible approach. Except…

My First Project in the New Role

My first assignment in my new role was to build a diversity strategy. I was to gather a “max mix” of managers (think race, age, sexual orientation) from across disciplines and cultures to talk about the very real challenges that were limiting our ability to have an inclusive culture.

And it was working.

We had an amazing team. And great dialogue. Scott, the gay man, came out to us for the first time at work–and that informed our strategy.

Sherika shared a few horrible examples of being overlooked as a woman of color–and that informed our strategy.

John, who weighed 400 lbs., opened our eyes to discrimination we hadn’t even considered–and that informed our strategy.

We were on the cusp of presenting our recommendations to senior leadership, when Sherika burst into my office, and shared her truth from the trenches.

“Karin you are a fraud.”

“All this time we’ve been talking about diversity, and what really matters. Scott came out to you and you applauded. I shared my story, and you raised an enthusiastic, ‘Game on… let’s address that.” And John was close to tears in sharing his deal, and you wrote the travel policy into the plan. And there you sat, TOTALLY QUIET, as we discussed the challenges for single moms.

Our single mother strategy is incomplete. And you know it.

Yeah, we talked about schedules and daycare. But what about the fact that executives like you have to hide who they are for fear of being discounted?”

Sherika was right.

Imagine the Difference

Sherika shared, “Karin, trust goes both ways.”

“Can you imagine what would have happened if you had told us the truth?”

“Hey guys, this discussion of single moms is only half the battle. Yeah, we need daycare, and flexible schedules. But we also need to make it safe for people to show up how they really are at work. Without judgement.  I’m a single mom too. I don’t meet the profile we’ve been discussing. AND I’m scared as hell that the minute people find out that I don’t have a husband, all bets are off.”

THAT would inform our diversity strategy.

Trusting the trenches starts with–trusting the trenches to be who you are.

Sherika’s message changed my approach to leadership forever.

To win the trust of your team, you have to trust them to trust you.

Trust the trenches to accept (and even embrace) that you are human being too.

And lead from there.

 

The Powerful Organizational Trust Elixer

It was my second time up a 14er mountain in Colorado. Oxygen was at a premium as I joined my Winning Well partner, David Dye, as he led this mission of mostly first timers up Mt. Democrat. As the self-designated trip photographer, I’d taken some decent shots along the way, including the in-the-dark-before-picture that everyone was counting on.in the dark  So you can image how frustrated I was when I realized that I’d left my camera on the trail  (and all the shots from this trip and the adventure before) somewhere at the midpoint rest stop. Apparently, I’d accidentally exchanged a decent camera and all the memories it included, for a granola bar. David could sense my concern, and looked at me sincerely. “I’m not worried. No one steals a camera… even a left one… on a 14er. There’s an unspoken code.” My inclination was to immediately scramble back down to begin the search. How was he so sure an ad-hoc village of strangers would comply with this “unspoken code?” Another young  hiker overheard our conversation. “I agree. And I’m in. What kind of camera did you lose and where? Text me your number, and I’ll look for it on the way down (we were still on the way up). If I find it I’ll meet you in Denver.”

And So We Continued

Apparently, sometimes the best answer is to trust the culture. As we reached the crest of the mountain I heard the excitement coming from a group of happy hikers who spotted some of my friends who were about 20 yards behind me. “We looked through all the pictures, and clearly you were on the way up, not down, otherwise there would be victory pics. We’ve been watching for your crew the whole way and finally started to see people we recognized.”

What Would It Feel Like To Work in A Truly High-Trust Culture?

When we fear loss, it’s easy to scramble to the next plateau of self-protection. We wonder, why would they help me? Why would they go there? Is there anything here for them to gain? What if we started a new conversation in our teams and organizations? Start where you are. Ask your team.

What would it look like if we had a truly high trust culture?

When I ask teams I work with, this is some of what comes up:

  • When you make a mistake, you know someone will have your back
  • We know everyone’s putting in their very best effort
  • No one wants to steal your stuff or take credit for your work
  • Folks will go the extra mile to help you
  • Good behaviors are rewarded
  • We care about one another as human beings

I’m not sure how the unspoken code on the Colorado 14ers started, but I do know what keeps it going. Hikers know that “people like us” have each other’s backs and don’t steal people’s stuff. How do “people like us” act in your organization. What’s the unspoken code? What do you want it to be? It’s worth the conversation.

Frontline Festival February 2016: Building Productive Workplace Relationships

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about building productive workplace relationships.  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month, we turn our focus to fresh perspectives for leaders. Give us your best fresh insight! Submissions due March 11th– new participants always welcome, please use this form.

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
~ Stephen Covey

Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services gives a unique approach to consider in setting relationship goals for the yearFollow Mary Jo.

Chantal Bechervaise of Take It Personel-ly  reminds us that when there’s a lack of morale, everyone becomes less productive and are not as good at communicating with each other as they need to be. Team work and collaboration suffers. This post provides tips to help improve morale and relationships in the workplaceFollow Chantal.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited knows that criticism can sting. But criticism can also be a blessing in relationships.  Follow Beth.

According to Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership, great bosses come in all shapes and sizes. They work in a variety of industries. But they all make time to touch base a lot and when they do, they make every encounter count toward building relationships. Follow Wally.

We can improve our relationships with others by leaps and bounds if we become encouragers instead of critics.
~ Joyce Meyer

Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials, LLC shares that coaching business leaders and entrepreneurs provides her with a helicopter view of how individual styles affect the “weather” in companies and organizations. There is not a formula to build productive workplace relationships–there are components.  Follow Michelle.

David Dye of Trailblaze reminds us that building your influence and leadership credibility can seem overwhelming and often drive you to counter-productive behavior. He shares two clear and easy-to-use suggestions that will help you build your influence today. Follow David.

According to Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds, effective leaders leverage the very human need for mutual respect and in the process build productive relationships, enhance employee engagement and deliver powerful business outcomes. Follow Julie.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement suggests we figure out where the system isn’t optimized for the abilities of the people and address that by changing the system to take advantage of everyone’s capabilities while limiting the impact of their weaknesses. An important part of that is assuring that interrelationships within the organization are contributing to the organization success (and not detracting from it, which can happen as cultures become toxic). Follow John.

Personal relationships are always the key to good business. You can buy networking; you can’t buy friendships.
~ Lindsay Fox

In the post, Why the mean person you work with may not be that mean after all, Lisa Kohn of Thoughtful Leaders Blog shares that when we view others as people with the best intentions, rather than as opponents with mean motives, there is a greater chance that we will walk out with an improved relationship and better results. Follow Lisa.

Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership shares that when you learn to reframe the way you respond to mistakes, you’ll create an environment that encourages and rewards risk-taking, continuous improvement, and developmentFollow Dan.

Eileen McDargh of The Resiliency Group helps us learn why creating an environment that supports people can go a long way toward firing people up so they don’t “fire themselves out”–but stay.  Follow Eileen

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference observes that human beings are creatures that thrive on storytelling. When we share our stories we connect in the workplace and across generations.  Follow Jon.

The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.
~ Robin S. Sharma

Michelle Pallas of MichellePallas.com  points out that acknowledging the information comes from my perspective…”this is what I believe to be true”…removes the pretense of certainty and opens the floor for discussion. Sincere honesty wins over rumors and back stabbing.   Follow Michelle.

John Stoker of DialogueWORKS  shares that our personal and professional relationships are responsible for our happiness and our success. Taking a moment to ask ourselves specific questions will help us become more aware of the quality and health of our relationships. Being deliberately conscious about what matters most allows us to make the choice improvement. Follow John.

Jesse Lyn Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership says that great leaders are great listeners. Research shows that most people think they’re better listeners than they really are. If you want to be a better listener, focus on developing a listening attitude. Here are five tips that will help. Follow Jesse Lyn.

Dr. Artika Tyner of the Planting People. Growing Justice Institute reminds us that diversity is the thread that weaves our organizations and communities together. The promotion of diversity and inclusion is integral to building productive workplace relationships. Follow Artika.

Communication, the human connection, is the key to personal and career success.
~ Paul J. Meyer

 

7 Fundamentals For Building Real Trust With Your Team

Trust is tricky. It sure looks easy on paper (or a blog post.) But get out in real life, and what seems obvious and easy, suddenly becomes more difficult than securing funding for a corporate hover-craft. The sooner we talk about trust, why it works, and how it breaks down the better. That’s why I always start any emerging leader program by talking about trust.

I’m preparing now for a new emerging leader program for one of my clients. Our first session is called: Trust Matters: Behaviors and Techniques that Foster Trust and Connection. 

As part of the workshop, we’ll focus on these 7 fundamentals and have dialogue about why it’s so hard to pull off, and what to do to increase your chances of success.

7 Fundamentals For Building Real Trust with Your Team

  1. Trust Yourself
    “Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” -Golda Meir   Your team looks to you for clues about whether to trust you. Genuine confidence goes a long way in building trust.
  2. Have a Solid Plan
    “Those who trust by chance must abide by the results of chance.” -Calvin Coolidge
    Everyone feels safer when they know where they’re headed and what to expect. You can’t control everything, but the more solid your plan, the more apt your team will be to trust that you know what you’re doing.
  3. Ask Great Questions
    “The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he asks the right questions.” -Claude Levi Strauss
    The best way to convince your team you know what you’re doing and are paying attention is to ask great questions. Be genuinely interested in what they are doing and why.
  4. Always Tell the Truth
    “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important matters.” -Albert Einstein
    It’s so tempting to spin what’s going on to make it more palatable. But at some point, your team will taste the truth and your credibility will suffer. Of course, you can’t share everything. Sometimes the truth is that plans are still under development and it would be pre-mature to share. Your team will respect that far more than a half-baked, fabricated story.
  5. Give Them Some Space
    “Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him–and to let him know that you trust him.” –Booker T. Washington
    No one likes to be micro-managed, but then again too much space can lead to unclear expectations. Invest in an ongoing dialogue about what level of over-sight and support will achieve the best results.
  6. Admit When You’re Wrong
    “Better to trust the man who is frequently in error than the one who is never in doubt.”- Eric Sevareid
    Chances are when you screw up, your team already knows. Admitting your mistakes goes a long way in building trust and enhancing your credibility.
  7. Be Consistent
    “Trust is built with consistency.” –Lincoln Chafee
    In a turbulent world, people long for as much consistency as possible. Knowing that “If I do x, I get y,” goes a long way in building trust. Sure, circumstances vary. When you’re purposefully inconsistent be sure to explain why.

Building trust takes time and real effort. None of us nail all these all of the time. It’s worth an honest assessment of where you stand and to make a deliberate investment in improving the trust with your team.

Working on your 2016 leadership development strategy? I’d love to help! Please contact me for a free consultation 443-750-1249.

Also, if you have not yet completed my 2016 planning survey, I would really like your input on how I can add more value to you and your organization in 2016. Please click here.