Want a Culture of Trust and Engagement? Get Back to Human

Technology and social media has allowed us to be more connected than ever before, yet our society is suffering from an epidemic of loneliness. How is that?

Our technological tools have allowed us to be more collaborative, increase efficiencies, powered innovation, and allowed us to tap into information and knowledge at record speeds and levels. At the same time, those devices and technologies have given rise to a collective sense of distraction among its users, provided constant interruption, and replaced strong relational bonds with weak ties. It has also contributed to record levels of disengagement and low trust in the workplace.

In his newest book, Back to Human—How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation, Dan Schawbel details how technology is isolating us at work, and he provides a road map for how we can develop more human-focused workplaces by fostering connected relationships on a personal, team, and organizational level.

In order to develop a connected and engaged workforce, Schawbel recommends leaders focus on four factors: happiness, belonging, purpose, and trust. Research has shown that employees who consider themselves happy at work are more likely to refer new candidates to the company, brag about the organization online, work harder, and are less likely to jump ship. Schawbel cites the research by Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, who found that happy employees have an average of 31% higher productivity, 37% higher sales, and are three times more creative. Simple acts of kindness, getting to know employees on a personal level, and helping employees with work-life balance are all ways to increase happiness.

Engaged employees also feel a sense of belonging to the organization. Humans are pack animals, and we like to be affiliated with organizations that appreciate our contributions and share our sense of values. So often we get focused on strategies and goals that we forget to develop a sense of community in our workplace. Studies have shown that when employees feel a lack of belonging, depression is more common, problem-solving skills deteriorate, and effectiveness on the job declines. Schawbel says leaders can foster belonging by scheduling social events, having team lunches, and creating an environment where people feel free to share information about their personal lives.

Purpose is the third element of engagement that Schawbel suggests leaders focus on. When you have a purpose, you feel that you matter and that you are contributing to something larger than yourself. Having a clear purpose provides energy and direction, and it’s the fuel that keeps you going when life is busy and challenging. The tips Schawbel offers for creating purpose include helping people connect their work to the benefit it provides your customers. Bring in a customer who has been personally affected by your team’s work so they can hear and see the difference they are making. Another strategy for creating purpose is help employees understand the why of their work and how it supports your organization, customers, or the world at large.

Finally, the fourth element of an engaged workforce is trust. Many leaders think by virtue of them being the boss they are trusted by their employees. Wrong. It’s not the employee’s job to give trust; it’s the leader’s to earn it. Establishing authentic, caring, and appropriately vulnerable relationships is a primary way leaders build trust with their team. You can be a technical genius at your job, honest as the day is long, and follow-through on your commitments every time, but if you don’t show any sense of personal care or connection with your team, they will always keep you at arm’s length. Trusted leaders behave in ways that demonstrate the four elements of trust, and when employees see their leaders have their best interests in mind, they will not only trust them, but will pledge their loyalty and commitment as well.

Schawbel makes the point that technology isn’t all bad, but we should be more human and less machine. If we want a workplace where people engage their hearts and minds, and trust their peers and leaders, then we need to leverage technology to develop more human relationships of substance rather than connections of convenience.

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10 Signs You’re Leading From the Rear View Mirror

rear-view-mirror

As I drove home recently, the freeway transitioned into a city road and I eased up behind a gentleman in a black Mercedes. He immediately slowed down significantly below the speed limit in a not so subtle attempt to tell me he didn’t want me following too close behind. I slowed down, all the while observing him eyeballing me through his rear-view mirror. Still not satisfied with the distance between our cars, he continued to pump his brakes and slowed down even more, to the point of holding up traffic several cars deep. Continuing to drive significantly below the speed limit, the grumpy Mercedes driver kept his attention focused on the rear-view mirror instead of watching the road up ahead. I switched lanes to pass Mr. Grumpy Pants and watched him as I drove by. He never took his eyes off the rear-view mirror as he proceeded to do the same thing to the next driver who moved up behind him.

The grumpy Mercedes driver got me thinking about how easy it is to lead by looking through the rear-view mirror instead of the front windshield. What I mean by that is we can get so focused on what’s happened behind us that we forget to look forward to the opportunities ahead of us. Here are 10 signs you may be suffering from rear-view mirror leadership:

1. Your natural response to change is “That’s not how we do it around here.” Change brings out interesting behaviors in people. I’ve found most people don’t mind change as long as it’s their idea, they’re in control of it, and it benefits them in some way. But most of the time, though, change is thrust upon us in one way or another and we have to deal with it. Rear-view mirror leaders usually fixate on what they’re going to lose as a result of a change and they expend all their effort in trying to prevent or minimize the impact. Forward-looking leaders search for the opportunities of growth and improvement that will result from change. It’s our choice as to how we respond.

2. Things are never as good as “back in the day.” I’m a nostalgic person by nature and am susceptible to this attitude or line of thinking. However, I’ve learned by experience that the past is a fun place to visit but it’s a bad place to live. Nothing new ever happens in the past. There’s no growth, improvement, or change. Our jobs, organizations, and industries are not the same as they were 20 years ago. We have to stay relevant with the times, personally and organizationally, or risk becoming relics of the past.

3. You’re pessimistic about the future. Sometimes it’s hard to be optimistic about the future, especially in today’s day and age. If your outlook on the future is dependent upon the performance of the stock market or the headline news, then you’re in trouble. The best leaders are dealers of hope. They maintain an optimistic view of the future, keeping focused on their purpose and core values, and putting forth a vision that encourages and energizes their team.

4. You’re focused on maintaining status quo. I’m not one to make a big stink about the difference between leadership and management. Leaders have to manage and managers have to lead. But there is one key difference that I think is worth noting—leaders initiate change whereas managers focus on maintaining or improving the status quo. Status quo leadership is often about looking in the rear-view mirror, making sure everything occurred exactly as planned. Forward-looking leadership involves surveying the open road and charting a course to move the team to its next destination. There will be occasional wrong turns, rerouting the course, and asking for directions. It will get messy and chaotic at times. But it will never be status quo.

5. You micromanage. Micro-managers tend to not trust people. Since trust involves risk, micro-managers default to using controlling behaviors to minimize their dependency on others. They want to maintain power so they hoard information, don’t involve others, and make all decisions of any consequence. Micro-managers tend to believe they know what’s best and will act in ways to keep themselves in the center of any conversation, meeting, or activities in order to exert their influence.

6. You spend more time assigning blame and making excuses than focusing on what you can control. Rear-view leaders are consumed with what others are doing or not doing, and almost always believe their lack of success is a result of factors outside their control. “If only Marketing would have provided us with the right kind of collateral that appealed to our clients…,” or “If Operations hadn’t delayed in getting that order into production…,” and “Customer Service does a horrible job at client retention…” are the kinds of blaming statements or excuses you often hear from rear-view leaders. Proactive leaders understand there will always be factors outside their control, so they spend their energy focusing on what they can influence and trust their colleagues to do the same.

7. You wait for someone to tell you what to do instead of taking the initiative. Failure to take initiative is a symptom of rear-view mirror leadership. Because rear-view mirror leaders are focused on the past, what others are doing or not doing, or focused on maintaining the status-quo, they are often caught watching from the sidelines when they should be actively involved in the game. Do you find yourself surprised by decisions that get made? Find yourself out of the information loop about what’s happening around you? If so, you might be sitting around waiting for someone to tell you what to do instead of taking the initiative. Find a need, meet a need. See a problem, fix a problem. That’s what forward-thinking leaders do.

8. You have a graveyard of relationships that are “dead to you.” It’s easy to run over people when you’re not looking where you’re going. Precisely because they’ve been leading by looking in the rear-view mirror, these kinds of leaders have often neglected to invest in relationships across the organization. They have “written off” people for one reason or another, usually in an attempt to exert power and influence to preserve their position and authority.

9. A lack of possibility thinking. If your first response to new ideas is to find all the ways it won’t work, you’re a rear-view mirror leader. Critical thinking and risk mitigation is necessary when considering a new concept, but if the ideas that come your way never make it past the initial sniff test, then you may be shutting yourself off to new possibilities. Instead of shooting holes in the ideas your team brings to you, try responding with this question: “How could we make this work?” You may be surprised at how much energy and passion it unleashes in your team.

10. You have an “us vs. them” mentality. Do you say “we” or “they” when referring to your organization and its leadership? Whether it’s done consciously or subconsciously, rear-view mirror leaders tend to disassociate themselves from the decisions and actions of their fellow leaders. Being a leader, particularly a senior or high-level one, means you represent the entire organization, not just your particular team. You should own the decisions and strategies of your organization by phrasing statements like “We have decided…” rather than “They have decided…” because it shows your team that you are personally invested and committed to your organization’s plans.

The grumpy Mercedes driver couldn’t see he had a wide-open road ahead of him to enjoy because he was too focused on what others were doing behind him. Don’t make the same mistake as a leader. If any of these ten signs ring true, you may be spending more time leading by looking through the rear-view mirror instead of the front windshield.

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Join me at the Eclectic and Exciting Free HR Virtual Summit – Thursday November 8

I am so pleased to be part of such a great and eclectic group of speakers at the HR Virtual Summit #HRVirtual18 on Thursday November 8th. Look below to see the amazing groups of speakers, titles, and topics.

My session is at 12PM Pacific Time. To register for my session or any of the sessions below visit: https://www.bamboohr.com/virtual/?utm_source=Ev-DZinge–HRVirtSum18

Keynote: Ben Peterson — 3 Steps to More Influential HR

8:30 PT

Jon Wolske

Culture and Service – How to WOW in all directions

Kimberly Jones

Be a Talent Acquisition Superhero

Leela Srinivasan

EX meets CX: The Rising Partnership between HR and Marketing

Dana Brownlee

The Unwritten Rules of Managing Up: Surviving (and Thriving) the “Difficult Boss”

Bindu Lokre

Consciously Unbiased

Katrina Kibben

How to Write Better Job Descriptions

Dr. Tanvi Gautam

Narrative as a Powerful Tool for Digital Transformation

Toni Thompson

Culture Adds: Attracting the Best Talent with Your Employer Brand

9:00 PT

Kevin Kruse

AI for Manager Training: Lessons Learned Building a Leadership Coach with IBM Watson

Dean Pichee

Changes, Challenges and Choices: The Future of Workplace Learning

Stephanie Angelo

Mastering Intentional Strategic Thinking Skills for Maximum Impact in Your Organization

Michael Bungay Stanier

The Five Real Reasons Managers Don’t Coach

Sonya Sepahban

Workplace Diversity and Inclusion: Raise the Bar with a System Approach

Costa Michailidis

How Creative Problem Solvers Save the World

Jack Altman

Performance & Engagement. Better Together

Cassie Whitlock

Culture + Total Rewards = Winning EVP

9:30 PT

Keynote:  Adam Grant — How to Navigate a Culture of Diverse Thinkers

10:00 PT

Len Strazza & Andrew Norton

The Importance of Getting New Hires Ramped Up Quickly

Josh Tolan

How To Supercharge Your Hiring with Video Interviews

Keri Ohlrich

Be an HR Warrior

Dr. Susan O’Malley

Three Leadership Lessons from an Emergency Room Doctor

Kelly Charles-Collins

Out of Many, One Workforce: How Diversity & Inclusion Unlocks Innovation and Drives Market Growth

Lydia Frank

2018 Compensation Best Report Findings

Ryan Sanders

Caring for the Whole Employee

Julie Ann Sullivan

Catalysts of Culture – Visionary Leaders Activating the Employee Experience

10:30 PT

Aaron Huang

4 Tips to Scaling Employee Communication in the Modern Tech-Enabled Workforce

Leah Brown

Staying Power: How to Keep your Employees Longer

Tina Robinson

Technology is not the ONLY Solution: Bust the Myths about HR Technology that Keep HR Transactional, Disempowered, and Longing for Radical Transformation

Margaret Spence

We Need You to Lead Us: Radically Transforming Your Approach to Developing Women Leaders

Jason Shen

Using Case Studies and Take Home Projects to Reduce Bias in Hiring and Recruit Diverse High Performers

Stella Grizont

How to Master Difficult Conversations at Work

Amanda Haddaway

Your Employees Hate Your Performance Review: Here’s What to Do About It

Julie Jeannotte

How to Build an HR Team People Actually Want to Come To

11:00 PT

Keynote:  Julie Coucoules — The Evolution of Modern Recruiters

11:30 PT

Graden Hudson

Using Communication Apps to Engage Employees

Maisha Cannon

Strengthen Your Sourcing with 3 Simple Strategies

Amy Gallo

4 Steps to Decide How to Handle a Conflict

Lori Kleiman

Lets Talk Leadership: 5 Steps to Making an Impact

Stacey Gordon

Inclusionomics: The Cost of Unconscious Bias

Erica Pepe

I Usually Never Respond to These

Neil McKinnon

Embracing the (Virtual) Reality

Srinivas Rao

Designing Your Environments to Increase Your Productivity and Creativity

12:00 PT

David Zinger

Engage the Moment: How You Can Make the Most of Moments at Work for Yourself and your Organization

Kuba Kucharski

Refactoring Tech Recruitment: Tips From an Engineering Leader

Liz Weber

Become the Strategic Business Partner Your Organization Needs!

Dawn Cacciotti

Strategic HR Leadership: Yielding Positive Business Results

Simone Morris

Don’t Ignore me: How to be All-Inclusive when Building Relationships

Tracy Stuckrath

Discrimination in the Workplace: What’s Food & Beverage Got to Do with It?

Jamison West

Nurturing Purpose Through Performance Development

Dan Schawbel

Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation

12:30 PT

Keynote:  Julian Treasure – How to Create a Listening Organisation

Keynote:  Johnny Taylor – Writing our Own Future

1:00 PT

Dr. Erika Tierney Garms

Building Brain-Friendly Workplaces

Amy Berman

Achieve Your HR Goals and Grow Your Business By Leveraging AI, Text Message, and Live Chat

Liane Davey

The Good Fight: Productive Conflict in Day-to-Day Business

Dr. Marcia Reynolds

Building a Coaching Culture

Jose Velasco

SAP Autism at Work

James Lord & Rick Palaia

Transitioning Candidates to Employees: How to Maintain a Positive Experience

Robert St-Jacques

Uncovering the ROI of Your Performance Management Program

Rich Fernandez

A Future-Ready Mind: Useful Mental Habits for an Age of Uncertainty, Complexity, and Disruption

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Research Shows These Are The Top 5 Characteristics of Servant Leaders

In their academic paper Identifying Primary Characteristics of Servant Leadership, researchers Adam Focht and Michael Ponton share the results of a Delphi study they conducted with scholars in the field of servant leadership.

A total of twelve characteristics were identified, five of which were agreed upon by all of the scholars polled. These five most prominent servant leadership characteristics were:

  1. Valuing People. Servant leaders value people for who they are, not just for what they give to the organization. Servant leaders are committed first and foremost to people—particularly, their followers.
  2. Humility. Servant leaders do not promote themselves; they put other people first. They are actually humble, not humble as an act. Servant leaders know leadership is not all about them—things are accomplished through others.
  3. Listening. Servant leaders listen receptively and non-judgmentally. They are willing to listen because they truly want to learn from other people—and to understand the people they serve, they must listen deeply. Servant leaders seek first to understand, and then to be understood. This discernment enables the servant leader to know when their service is needed.
  4. Trust. Servant leaders give trust to others. They willingly take this risk for the people they serve. Servant leaders are trusted because they are authentic and dependable.
  5. Caring. Servant leaders have people and purpose in their heart. They display a kindness and concern for others. As the term servant leadership implies, servant leaders are here to serve, not to be served. Servant leaders truly care for the people they serve.

To a large degree, these findings mimic the results of polling that The Ken Blanchard Companies conducted with 130 leadership, learning, and talent development professionals who attended a series of servant leadership executive briefings in cities across North America in 2018. Topping the list was empathy, closely followed by selflessness and humility. Also mentioned multiple times were being authentic, caring, collaborative, compassionate, honest, open-minded, patient, and self-aware.

Both lists can serve as good starting points for HR and L&D executives looking to bring an others-focused culture into their organizations. What’s been your experience?  Feel free to enter additional characteristics of a servant leader in the comments section below.


Interested in learning more about bringing servant leadership principles into your organization? Join us for a free webinar on November 15!

Dr. Vicki Halsey, vice president of applied learning for The Ken Blanchard Companies and author of Brilliance By Design, will conduct a presentation for leadership, learning, and talent development professionals on 3 Keys to Building a Servant Leadership Curriculum.

In this enlightening webinar, Dr. Halsey will connect servant leadership characteristics to competencies and share best practices on how to design a comprehensive curriculum for your organization. You can learn more here. The event is free, courtesy of The Ken Blanchard Companies.

This article was written by my colleague David Witt and originally appeared on LeaderChat.org.

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