Building a culture of trust

We talk a great deal about results, delivery and giving our best in the workplace. But what makes that possible? What are the most important factors in achieving results? Well there are several, obviously, but one of the most important in that of trust. Without trust, we don’t get results.

So I got thinking – and when I get thinking I get researching. And when I get researching I get writing!

Seems to me there are 2 key aspects of trust –being able to trust people yourself and also being trusted by others. Obviously we’d love to have both of them nailed. And some people just inherently seem to be trustworthy. But what are they doing that allows them to be trusted?

Three Elements of Trust

In a recent article [HBR], Jack Zenger & Joseph Folkman outlined their “Three elements of trust”. I’ll describe them here .

  • Positive relationships

Seems obvious but we have more trust in people we have enjoyable interactions with. That might be someone who acts as a catalyst for getting things done, someone that is great at resolving conflicts or someone that provides great feedback. Or perhaps it’s someone who’s empathetic nature makes us feel comfortable. Whatever the reason, they make us feel positive, and that leads us to trust them.

  • Good judgement and expertise

It’s much easier to trust someone who comes with a proven track record of expertise and achievements. If you can clearly demonstrate that you know your subject area and how to do your job well then it’s easier for others to trust you. At highly-skilled organisations the base level of job excellence is kinda assumed, but make sure you add value to the calls you’re invited to and that your opinions and ideas make a tangible difference to others. Speed can also be important here. Trustworthy people often act fast to resolve issues, and many times anticipate problems before they happen.

  • Consistency

These are people that you can rely on. You know they’ll go the extra mile if they can, and that they back up their words with action. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was that of “Deliver, Deliver, Deliver”, i.e. carve out a reputation as someone that always delivers and you’ll become an indispensable go-to person for others. True consistency is hard to achieve, we all make mistakes, but if you can build that reliability factor then people will trust in your capabilities. Giving yourself that chance to succeed is key here. Set expectations; keep your commitments and Deliver, Deliver, Deliver. [QA]

While these make a lot of sense, there’s a bit more to it IMHO. So I have some of my own.

  • Don’t be a jerk

We all have a bit of jerk in us. We know when we’ve been unfair to someone. The key is to detect the behaviour coming and squash it at source. Developing emotional intelligence and self-awareness is the key here. Don’t take your bad day out on someone else. If you’re a jerk, then people will give you a wide berth.

  • Equanimity

Rather like the best poker players, you’ll find that key leaders respond in the same way when things are going badly and when they’re going well. You don’t see overreactions or huge displays of emotion. This can come across a little robotic, but really helps when the s hits the f. If you know someone is going to respond to problems with a cool head then they rapidly build your trust.

So those are some factors that you can employ to be seen as trustworthy. But how can you develop your own team or colleagues to be people you can trust? How can you help them?

How to build a trustworthy team culture

  • Autonomy

You have to let people get on with their tasks and resist any urge to micromanage. Give your team the freedom for them to say “hey I got this”, for them to let you detach from the nuts and bolts and trust in their delivery. Just like if you’ve ever tried to do something for a 3 year old child that they can do themselves – they’ll soon tell you “I’ll do it myself!” Maybe an adult won’t be so honest so it’s up to us to provide our teams with the autonomy to be able to take action and deliver [WNEXT]. Obviously then they need to deliver of course! J

  • Freedom to fail

I have no problem with my team failing. As long as they’re trying new things, developing new ideas and fixing problems. Creating an environment where we can all safely try out new methods is key to being trusted. I know the team doesn’t want to fail, and for the vast majority of cases, wont fail – but when they do it’s cool with me. I’ve worked in teams where the slightest error is ruthlessly punished, and it stifles innovation completely. See this post for some other thoughts on this topic. [BIZLIB]. Obviously we have to ensure failure doesn’t become a habit or a default outcome, but a good team will self-police this.

Trust vs Control – do big organisations get it right?

These days, many firms are super-highly regulated. The price for misdemeanors from non-trustworthy people is high [RTRAD], for the individuals and the firm. So you’ll probably have a LOT of governance. Mandatory training, compliance checks, risk reviews, market conduct – the list goes on. And sometimes it seems we spend too much time on governance, and not enough actually getting things done. I’ve heard it referred to as a source of frustration at a number of places that I’ve worked.

I’ve got a mixed view on this. The key risk and governance items are absolutely required, and often mandated by regulators. So we just need to get on with them. Automate where possible and seek to optimizeJFDI. However there are times when restrictions do seem influenced by a lack of trust. E.g. rejection of conference presentations because someone, once upon a time, did a bad job. Or blocking social media sites by default meaning we can’t access handy training resources e.g. SlideShare, YouTube etc.  Or excessive scrutiny of expense claims in case someone hasn’t followed policy. Even dressing appropriately for the workplace. All of those are not a problem with the right person. A trustworthy professional knows not to display client information in their presentation. They know not to be updating their Facebook page whilst on a conference call. They know the guidelines regarding expenses, and they certainly know not to wear their favourite Metallica t-shirt in a client meeting. 🙂 If they don’t, then they’re not the calibre of person your organisation needs.

So should we be concentrating more on hiring the right attitudes, rather than tarring everyone with the same brush? For sure it would be cheaper to have genuine trust in people rather than implementing complex controls [FORBES]. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Ok that’s it. Thanks for reading.

Supporting references

[HBR] https://hbr.org/2019/02/the-3-elements-of-trust

[QA] http://qaspire.com/2010/07/21/5-ways-to-build-trust-lessons-from-a-conversation/

[WNEXT] https://whatsnextpodcast.libsyn.com/rising-up-against-the-diminisher-with-liz-wiseman

[BIZLIB] https://www.bizlibrary.com/article/bizlibrary-values-freedom-to-fail/

[RTRAD] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_trading_losses

[FORBES] https://www.forbes.com/sites/keldjensen/2014/12/08/control-is-good-trust-is-cheaper/#518fc721322f

You’re a manager, but are you a coach?

Hello all. Thought I’d take a few mins to continue my series on leadership. Check out some of my other posts on Emotional Intelligence etc.

This one is about management and in particular, how management is a distinct skill from the oft-used discipline of “coaching”.

We hear a lot about management. About what makes a great manager, what makes a bad manager and how to develop your own management skills. And that’s important. Effective managers are vital to the success of a firm and also to developing and maintaining a cohesive team. In fact I’ve often seen that people don’t usually leave jobs, they leave managers.

We also hear a lot about coaching. Managers are encouraged to act as coaches to get the best from their teams, but often the specific skills involved in coaching are sometimes not fully understood.  The terms “managing” and “coaching” are also often used interchangeably, incorrectly in my opinion.

Managing refers to the task of overseeing the work of others, be that a team or a project.

Typically we see management responsibilities as

  • Delegating tasks and work items
  • Providing feedback
  • Monitoring performance
  • Onboarding and orienting new staff
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Resource planning
  • Status reporting and tracking

That’s very different from coaching. Coaching is much more of a two-way process between the coach and the employee which aims to implement and refine a framework that empowers the employee to develop their own skills in the areas of attitude, judgement, motivation and emotional intelligence.

Great coaches excel at the following

  • Listening, absorbing and understanding points of view
  • Asking probing but open-ended questions that encourage the employee to think
  • Providing feedback
  • Fostering behavioural change, initiated by the employee
  • Showing empathy and high emotional intelligence
  • Recognizing strengths and focusing energy on refinement
  • Helping the employee develop a natural support framework

I always think of my role as a coach first and a manager second. Sure we need to get the job done, and management skills are critical to that, but it’s also vital for me to develop a team that feels empowered to take charge of their own career. Coaching helps people to build those critical frameworks to self-support and self-manage, which gives the employee a much greater sense of satisfaction than merely following management direction. Seeing individuals join a team and then using coaching techniques to develop that person is one of the most satisfying aspects of my role, especially if that person then begins to naturally coach other team members or peers.

So I’d always encourage managers to have a strong focus on the coaching aspects of their role. Managing people enables them to get the job done, but coaching people develops the leaders of tomorrow.

As always, comments invited.

Cheers, Paul

Further reading

https://venturefizz.com/stories/boston/management-vs-coaching-whats-difference

https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/05/01/know-when-to-manage-and-when-to-coach/

Emotional Intelligence – The Secret Sauce for your Career

Hi,

Back in the day I was a young, bullish upstart, with an over-inflated opinion of myself. I’d come to work, think I was the bees knees and then watch as others moved past me in their careers. It was always someone else that got the promotion, or the great feedback, or the pay rise. How could that be? I just couldn’t work it out. Why were these people leaving me behind? What was the differentiating factor? It was all just so unfair!

Then as I got more experienced and read more it became clear that these people all had one thing in common. A secret sauce for success. Something that is present in almost all successful people and absent in many people that struggle. That magic ingredient is Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

EQ as a term was popularized in the mid-90s by journalist Daniel Goleman and is loosely defined as the ability of an individual to recognize, manage, and adapt their feelings to situations, and use those feelings to achieve success. Something that as a young gun I thought I had full control of, but was sadly mistaken.

When the whole EQ subject clicked into place, my career started to rocket. Everything changed. I delivered, I got on with people, I influenced and achieved. I managed conflicts and improved relationships. I gained more friends. Results were transformed. I enjoyed my work again.

EQ is a complex subject so I won’t attempt to explain it all here, but in a nutshell there are a handful of key components that I’ve found most valuable.

 

1. Awareness of self, others & situation

The first step in controlling emotions and EQ is to be able to recognise the current situation. How is your behaviour coming across to that person right now? How will that email comment be interpreted? If I do this, what might the outcome be? We all know the people that cause a scene by shooting off that angry email without thinking – that’s a sign of low EQ. The high EQ response is considered, thoughtful, calm and measured and ALWAYS achieves better results.

Next is to be able to recognize the mental state of others. A common example is being able to spot when someone may have lost control of a situation and looks ready to shoot that angry email or make a silly comment. The high EQ person would spot that, and then gently intervene to prevent an escalation. That’s classic awareness of others / situation.

 

2. Empathy and humility

A common characteristic of effective leaders, empathy isn’t just being able to listen. It’s about placing yourself in their shoes and not just responding with your own experiences or opinions.

For example, a team member may be having a hard time at home with illnesses and wants to speak to you.

 

Colleague: “I’m really struggling. My child is ill and it’s causing me a lot of stress. I’m finding it hard to sleep.”

Low EQ response: “Ah that’s bad. My son had a bad illness last year as well. I had to take time off and it was really stressful for my family. I’m still not recovered, maybe I need a holiday”

High EQ response: “Ah that’s bad. I’m really sorry to hear that. It must be really difficult for your family. Have you thought of taking some time off or seeking help from HR? There may be things we can do to help. “

 

A world of difference in the responses. And it’s not just verbal, body language can play a large part. Having a level of empathy is key to achieving results from your teams.

And then there’s humility and equanimity. Don’t get over excited when things go well, and don’t get too down when they go badly. Stay calm and in control. Hard to do, especially when it all hits the fan, but a key characteristic of people with high EI.

 

3. Social skills

High EQ leaders work tirelessly on their communications skills, conflict resolution and being able to give and receive constructive feedback. They regularly praise others for their achievements over taking credit themselves. They genuinely enjoy seeing their colleagues achieving great results

 

4. Motivation

The high EQ leader is motivated to succeed, believes in their own abilities, and is constantly striving to learn more and improve.  They set goals, monitor and manage performance and demand consistent excellence from themselves and their colleagues.

The best high EQ leaders set such a high example with quality of work and interpersonal relationships that they inspire and affect change without even trying. You’ll regularly find the best way to increase standards in a team is to lead by example.

Obviously there’s more to it than this, but those are the components I’ve had the most success with. Of course I’m not perfect and have to continuously work on my own EQ, but if I was asked to name the main factor that allowed me to progress professionally, it would be Emotional Intelligence.

Regards, Paul

Further reading

https://www.hrzone.com/perform/people/emotional-intelligence-do-you-know-the-four-basic-components

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/tracy-crossley/10-reasons-why-emotional-_b_6770864.html

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daniel-Goleman-Emotional-Intelligence-GOLEMAN/dp/9382563806