Do Your Leaders Build or Erode Trust? #infographic

Trust is the absolute, without a doubt, most important ingredient for a successful relationship, especially for leaders. Unfortunately, though, most leaders don’t give much thought to trust until it’s been broken, and that’s the worst time to realize its importance.

According to a study by Tolero Solutions, 45% of employees say lack of trust in leadership is the biggest issue impacting work performance. A 2015 study titled Building Workplace Trust reported that only 40% of employees have a high level of trust in their management and organization, and 25% reported lower levels of trust in those two groups than they did two years before.

Many leaders think trust “just happens,” like some sort of relationship osmosis. These people often understand trust is important, but they don’t know what it takes to have their people perceive them as being trustworthy. There are four elements of trust in a relationship. Leaders demonstrate their trustworthiness when they are:

Able—Leaders demonstrate competence by having the knowledge, skills, and expertise for their roles. They achieve goals consistently and develop a track record of success. They show good planning and problem solving skills and they make sound, informed decisions. Their people trust their competence.

Believable—Leaders act with integrity when they tell the truth, keep confidences, and admit their mistakes. They walk the talk by acting in ways congruent with their personal values and those of the organization. They treat people equitably and ethically and ensure that rules are fairly applied to all members of the team.

Connected—Trustworthy leaders care about others. They are kind, compassionate, and concerned with others’ well-being. They readily share information about themselves and the organization. Being a good listener, seeking feedback, and incorporating the ideas of others into decisions are behaviors of a connected leader who cares about people.

Dependable—People trust leaders who honor their commitments. DWYSYWD—doing what you say you will do is a hallmark of dependable leaders. They do this by establishing clear priorities, keeping promises and holding themselves and others accountable. Dependable leaders are punctual, adhere to organizational policies and procedures, and respond flexibly to others with the appropriate direction and support.

Trust enables cooperation, encourages information sharing, and increases openness and mutual acceptance. It creates a culture of safety that leads to greater innovation and appropriate risk-taking. Trust also paves the way for unleashing employee engagement. A 2016 study we conducted showed leader trustworthiness is highly correlated to the five key intentions that drive employee work passion: discretionary effort, intent to perform, intent to endorse, intent to remain, and organizational citizenship.

Building trust is a skill that can be developed. You can learn how to become more trustworthy by being able, believable, connected, and dependable in your relationships, and therefore more trusted by your employees. Trust doesn’t happen by accident. YOU make it happen.

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Musings on Trust and Father’s Day

cropped-trust-156270051.jpgRandom musings on trust and Father’s Day…

Dad’s have a one-of-a-kind opportunity to be a role model of trustworthy behavior. Let’s not blow it!…

Young children need an environment of safety and security to develop a healthy sense of trust. Dads can help cultivate that environment by keeping their commitments. Kids need to know without a doubt that if Dad says he’ll do something, it’s as good as done…

Dads, when was the last time you told your children you love them and are proud of them? Staying connected to your children emotionally is a critical aspect of building trust. Be sure to keep your “I love you’s” up to date…

When your children think of integrity, wouldn’t it be great if the picture they have in mind is of you, Dad? You can be that role-model of integrity by being honest, admitting your mistakes, treating others fairly, and being a man of your word. Don’t blow your integrity for short-term gain…

Feel like you don’t know how to be a good dad because you didn’t grow up with a healthy role-model of a father? I know you how you feel. Seek out others who are great dads to be your mentors and learn from them…

Don’t get down on yourself when you make mistakes. Being a dad is on-the-job training. Admit it when you mess up, apologize, and work to do better next time. Kids are incredibly forgiving…

Consistency is key to building trust. It’s the little things you do repeatedly over time that build a strong bond of trust with your kids. When it comes to trust, the little things do matter…

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! Don’t take trust for granted. Remember, trust is not a destination, it’s a journey. Travel well!

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Spin Belongs in The Gym, Not The Workplace – 4 Ways to Increase Transparency

I have a motto when it comes to honesty and transparency at work: Spin belongs in the gym, not the workplace.

Spinning the truth is a way of shaping our communications to make our self, the company, or the situation appear better than it is in reality. It’s become so commonplace in the corporate world that many times we don’t even realize we’re doing it. We “spin” by selectively sharing the facts, overemphasizing the positive, minimizing the negative, or avoiding the obvious, all in an attempt to manipulate the perception of others. See if a few of these spins on the truth sound familiar:

  • “We are optimizing and rightsizing our human capital.” (aka, We are eliminating jobs and laying off people.)
  • “Quarterly revenue was adversely affected by marketplace dynamics.” (aka, We failed to hit our revenue goal.)
  • “Brian’s strength as a salesperson is developing creative business deals and client partnerships, as opposed to the tactical elements of his role.” (aka, We can’t or don’t want to hold Brian accountable for his administrative responsibilities as a salesperson because he brings in too much revenue.)

Spinning the truth is one of the most common ways leaders bust trust. It also leads to tremendous inefficiencies because people are confused about roles, they duplicate work, balls get dropped, and people resort to blaming others. Poor morale, cynicism, and political infighting become the norm when honesty and transparency are disregarded.

There are macro-level societal events and trends driving the need for greater transparency in the workplace. We’re all familiar with the digital privacy concerns related to the pervasiveness of technology in our lives, and we’ve witnessed the corporate scandals of blatant deceit and dishonesty that’s contributed to record low levels of trust. The global meltdown of trust in business, government, and other institutions over the last several years has generated cries for more transparency in communications, legislation, and governance. Oddly enough, research has shown that in our attempts to be more transparent, we may actually be suffering an illusion of transparency—the belief that people are perceiving and understanding our motivations, intents, and communications more than they actually are.

But at the individual, team, and organization levels, what can we do to build greater trust, honesty, and transparency? I have four suggestions:

  1. Provide access to information. In the absence of information, people will make up their own version of the truth. This leads to gossip, rumors, and misinformation which results in people questioning leadership decisions and losing focus on the mission at hand. Leaders who share information about themselves and the organization build trust and credibility with their followers. When people are entrusted with all the necessary information to make intelligent business decisions, they are compelled to act responsibly and a culture of accountability can be maintained.
  2. Speak plainly. Avoid double-speak, and reduce or eliminate the use of euphemisms such as right-sizing, optimizing, gaining efficiencies, or other corporate buzzwords. When people hear these words, their BS detectors are automatically activated. They immediately start to parse and interpret your words to decipher what you really mean. Speak plainly in ways that are easily understood. Present complicated data in layman terms and focus on having a dialogue with people, not bombarding them with facts. Our team members are big boys and girls, they can handle the truth. Be a straight-shooter, using healthy doses of compassion and empathy when delivering tough news.
  3. Share criteria for making decisions. When it comes to making tough decisions, I believe that if people know what I know, and understand what I understand, they will be far more likely to reach the same (or similar) conclusion I did. Even if they don’t, they will usually acknowledge the validity of my decision-making criteria and respect that I approached the process with a clear and focused direction. Unfortunately, many times leaders are afraid to share information or their decision-making criteria because they don’t want to be second-guessed or exposed to legal risk. We’ve become so afraid of being sued or publicly criticized that we tend to only share information on a “need to know” basis. Sharing information on your decision-making process will help people buy into your plans rather than second-guessing them.
  4. Create communication forums. A lack of communication is often the root of dysfunction in organizations. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and no one seems to take ownership of making sure people are informed. Everyone likes to blame the Corporate Communications department for the lack of information sharing in the organization, but that blame is misplaced. Let me tell you who has the big “R” (responsibility) for communication—YOU! If you’re a leader, it’s your responsibility to create forums to share information with your team. Ultimately, this starts at the top. A President or CEO cannot delegate communications to some other function. It’s the top dog’s responsibility to ensure alignment all throughout the organization and the only way that starts is to frequently and openly communicate. The forums for communication are only limited by your imagination: town hall meetings, email updates, newsletters, video messages, department meetings, lunch gatherings, and team off-site events are just a few examples.

Spin is a great activity for the gym and it keeps you in fantastic shape. However, in the workplace, spin is deadly to your health as a leader. It leads to low trust, poor morale, and cynicism in your team. Keep spin in the gym and out of the workplace.


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Rules for Long-Distance Leadership: An Interview with Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel and Kevin Eikenberry wrote a new book, The Long-Distance Leader, with 19 rules for remarkable remote leadership. This interview focuses on the connections between long-distance leadership and employee experience & engagement based on the book. It is a cool book that will really help you bear the demands of leadership from a distance.

After all the research and writing that went into your new book, what most stands out for you?

I think there are two things that standout. First, only 28% of managers are worried that people are actually “working,” when they’re at home. The fear that people don’t work hard without their manager standing over them isn’t well founded and most people are coming to accept that.

The second thing is that most of the concerns managers have is about their own effectiveness. “Am I doing everything I should? Am I giving and getting the appropriate feedback when I’m not bumping into people in the break room or seeing them at meetings?” The amount of self-doubt and second-guessing that goes on is surprising and causes a lot of stress for people who are already under enough pressure.

What role do you see remote leaders playing in employee’s experience and engagement at work?

One of the themes of the book is that leading remotely isn’t THAT different from leading a traditional team. Managers must engage employees and create good working relationships. The challenge is that we must be more intentional about it. We can’t walk past someone’s cubicle and see them banging their heads on the monitor so we can ask, “is everything okay?”

As leaders, we must make sure we’re really getting a good sense of how engaged people are, both with their work and with their teammates. Whenever you have a coaching conversation (okay, first you have to HAVE coaching conversations) are you asking open-ended questions that allow you to get a sense of how people are feeling about their work, or are you simply focusing on task completion?

“How’s it going?” will just get you a one-word answer that may or may not tell you something useful. Asking, “what would make things better for you?” or “how can I (we) support you?” will help raise issues that can be addressed early.

What are the challenges of the remote leader to engage employees?

There are several, but when it comes to employee engagement, the number one factor is the nature of remote work itself. Many people like working at home, or at least away from the office, because they can “get more done.” In one sense, that’s true—studies show that people who work remotely are more productive. But what they’re working on is THEIR work and tasks. Collaboration, brain-storming and team commitments take a back seat. People control what they can control, which is themselves and their work.

One of the biggest challenges for Long-Distance Leaders is ensuring that employees understand the big picture; how their work impacts the company’s vision and that of their teammates. Then they should help create an environment where people are aware of what’s happening outside their own little bubble. What’s everyone working on? Where do their teammates need help and what resources can you offer the individual that will make it worth reaching out and building good relationships between them and the others on the team?

This stuff is critical, but rarely happens organically. It requires some structure (team building exercises, sharing information equally) to succeed.

Rule 11 in the book states “building trust at a distance does not happen by accident.” How do leaders build trust strategically at a distance?

Trust is built on three things over time:  Proof that we share a common purpose or goal, proof of competence on both sides, and proof of positive intentions and motives. So much of what good leaders do happens by instinct and is based on subtle visual cues. We see someone in a meeting and say, “Oh, Sharon, nice work on that Jackson account.” We see them show up early or leave late, we can see them interacting with their co-workers.

When we work remotely, there is less visible interaction. Leaders need to create opportunities for the team to gather the supporting evidence that underlies trust. How do they know that Sharon is really good at her job? If Bob never contributes on team calls, how is anyone supposed to know that he’s really a subject matter expert on X?

By intentionally helping people gain visibility to the larger workings of the team and organization, you can build trust. If someone does a good job, don’t just tell them when you’re one-on-one, share it with the team. If someone asks you a question, direct them to Bob, because he knows more about that topic than anyone else.

What are 3 good questions good leaders can ask themselves to develop their remote leadership?

One of the models we use in the Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership is the “3-O Model,” So let’s take a question from each of the O’s.

Outcomes:  If we start with the desired outcome for the organization there is a simple 2-part question to ask. “What is it that needs to be done, and if distance weren’t an issue, what would be the right way to tackle it?”  Start with first principles. Under perfect circumstances, what would be the right way to address this question or achieve this outcome? From there you can figure how to do it virtually.

Others: What is the appropriate way to communicate with the others involved in achieving this outcome? Often our first choice for a communication tool isn’t the right one. If I need to coach someone, should that be a webcam call or an email? One is easier and less confrontational, but probably isn’t right for that circumstance.

Ourselves: What do I need to do in order to be more effective working at a distance? This one is tricky because we are used to putting ourselves and our needs last for the good of the team. Servant Leadership is honorable, and it can often mean we work hard and not smart. But if I’m not getting enough sleep, or I am intimidated by certain technology (and thus avoid using it… webcams are a good example) am I working with one hand tied behind my back?

In the book, you talk about leadership being a verb or action. Can you recommend 2 actions a leader can take to successfully engage her remote employees?

Only 2, huh?

Create opportunities for the team to get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Share the spotlight in meetings, conduct “get to know you” exercises and delegate some of the work so that you create the chance for people to work with, and get to know, each other.

Don’t let work become strictly transactional. Too often we find outselves in a hurry, or not wanting to interrupt their “real work.” As a result, we focus on the task at hand and don’t take the time to get to know people and what’s going on in their world. Remember to take a moment to ask relationship-building questions about their personal lives, their families, and how they feel about their work. Write a note to yourself if  you have to. When you’re eager to get a call done so you can move onto the next one, it’s easy to forget to build bridges.

Can you sum up some final words or encouragement or education to help remote leaders enhance their own engagement while having a positive influence on the engagement of all their remote employees?

Rule #1 for Remarkable Remote Leadership is: Think leadership first, location second.” If you stop and take a breath, your path is pretty clear. Think about WHAT you need to do as a leader, whether you’re in the same place or not. Then, given your circumstances, HOW can you be as effective as possible? The answers will become clear, even if the actions to achieve them aren’t your natural (or even first or second) instinct.

I think the book itself is quite remarkable and helpful for all of us who lead remotely. I highly recommend it and believe it will have a strong positive influence on the future of work as we accelerate into the year 2020. Thanks Wayne.

Thanks, David. Kevin and I are grateful for your support of the book.

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