Posts

Culture and Kindness

This week I presented to an amazing group of education and health care leaders – an organization called Ever Active Schools: professionals who are committed to building programs in our schools that will get – and keep – kids healthy. I always get inspired when I am with a group of passionate visionaries who are truly shaping the future. And what wonderful values: kids and health. As I spent the day with this group, one conversation stood out. I asked one of the old-timers in the room what he did. “I get asked to do workshops for schools on bullying,” he replied. “But I don’t do workshops on bullying. I do workshops on kindness. Instead of bullying, we need to focus on being considerate of each other. Kindness will then dissolve bullying.”

Now that’s wisdom. For the past few days I have been reflecting on the application of this simple truth. Not only could we use more kindness in all of our cultures, we could all benefit from concentrating on the positive, instead of attacking our problems by focusing on the negative. Where have you turned problem into a solution by focusing on the positive side? I’d love to hear.

Building Bridges Of Trust: Your #1 Leadership Priority

“Trust is the new currency in life. It is critical to a productive workplace. Trust lies at the heart of every team, organization, and community, because without trust, you have no relationship.”

From the book Bridges of Trust: Making Accountability Authentic, by David Irvine and Jim Reger.

What is the most important thing on any team? Think of all the various teams you have been on in your life – sports teams, school teams, family teams, or teams in your workplace. Our experience is that teams that have high levels of trust are better in every way – they are more productive; they are more creative; the energy is high; people are motivated to be on them; and they are more fun! Contrast this to the experience of being on a low or no trust team and we’re sure you will agree with us that the difference is not incremental – it’s huge.

Trust enrolls people in a worthwhile vision. It then enables full passion, commitment, freedom, energy, health, effectiveness, and engagement. Trust makes everything happen in organizations. If you can earn and build trust,  you can lead. If you can’t, you won’t be a leader. It’s that simple, and it’s that complex.

Questions that assess trust

  • Can they deliver results?
  • Do they stand by me under pressure?
  • Do they tell me the truth?
  • Do they fulfill their promises?

Seven Things We Know About Trust

  1. Trust cannot be commanded, coerced or controlled. It can be only invited and earned.
  2. Trust is a function of three primary qualities:
    1. Character (your trustworthiness);
    2. Competence (your skill level); and
    3. Connectability (your ability to connect with people).
  3. Trust is a rather delicate flower. What can take years to build can be destroyed in one action.
  4. Trust is not a prerequisite; it’s an outcome. It takes courage to trust. While trusting people can be risky, not trusting people is a greater risk. Blind trust is naïve. Mature trust, on the other hand, has lived through betrayal and responded with courage.
  5. Trust in others begins with self-trust. You won’t trust others beyond your capacity to trust yourself.
  6. Trust must be constantly earned.  It’s like a chequing account; you have to keep making deposits if you want to have something to withdraw.
  7. You don’t have to be perfect to be trustworthy. You simply have to be honest, sincere, and willing. Most broken trust can be repaired.

Seven Ways To Build Trust

  1. Be accountable. Accountability – the ability to be counted on – is, in many ways, the foundation of trust. Think carefully before you make a promise. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Then honor your agreements.
  2. Be Competent. This is a given. If you are leading a team of engineers, you aren’t going to be trusted if you claim to be a competent engineer unless you can demonstrate this. When I consult with a team of engineers, my competence comes from my reason for being there. I better be a great presenter or workshop facilitator. I had better have done my homework to research their culture, their industry, their organization.
  3. Be Honest. Tell people what you know, and tell them what you don’t know. People will see through dishonesty and inauthenticity. When I work with an organization such as the RCMP, I obviously can’t build trust on my ability as a police officer. What I can do is tell them that, and let them see that I’m an expert in leadership development, the people side of their work when they aren’t policing.
  4. Extend trust. Trust presents a paradox in that it needs to be earned, but to be earned, it has to first be given.  Yet trust, without the facts to base it on, is naiveté.  That is why trust is often given in small amounts over time.  As we experience success trusting an individual, we are more and more willing to trust further. Behaviour begets behaviour. Trusting others invites trust. Make trust a conscious objective.
  5. Deliver results. If I want to establish trust with a new client, what is the one thing I can do to make that happen quickly? Deliver results.
  6. Learn to connect. Your capacity to build trust ultimately depends on your capacity to connect. Listen at least twice as much as you talk. Take time to understand before being understood. Let people see who you are, which allows them to like you, not just respect you. The key in relationships is to be personal. Acknowledge feelings. The key is not just walking around; it is opening up, paying attention, and being in touch. People really don’t care how much you know until they know  how much you care.
  7. Be in touch with reality. Know about what goes on in the “meetings after the meeting.” Get down to the cafeteria. Know what people are talking about in the hallways. Do your homework to know what is really going on inside people – when they don’t have to be polite.

What’s your experience of fostering trust in your workplace or home?

“Trust is the new currency in life. It is critical to a productive workplace. Trust lies at the heart of every team, organization, and community, because without trust, you have no relationship.”

From the book Bridges of Trust: Making Accountability Authentic, by David Irvine and Jim Reger

What is the most important thing on any team? Think of all the various teams you have been on in your life – sports teams, school teams, family teams, or teams in your workplace. Our experience is that teams that have high levels of trust are better in every way – they are more productive; they are more creative; the energy is high; people are motivated to be on them; and they are more fun! Contrast this to the experience of being on a low or no trust team and we’re sure you will agree with us that the difference is not incremental – it’s huge.

Trust enrols people in a worthwhile vision. It then enables full passion, commitment, freedom, energy, health, effectiveness, and engagement. Trust makes everything happen in organizations. If you can earn and build trust,  you can lead. If you can’t, you won’t be a leader. It’s that simple, and it’s that complex.

Questions that assess trust:

  • Can they deliver results?
  • Do they stand by me under pressure?
  • Do they tell me the truth?
  • Do they fulfill their promises?

Seven Things We Know About Trust

  1. Trust cannot be commanded, coerced or controlled. It can be only invited and earned.
  2. Trust is a function of three primary qualities: 1) Character (your trustworthiness); 2) Competence (your skill level); and 3) Connectability (your ability to connect with people).
  3. Trust is a rather delicate flower. What can take years to build can be destroyed in one action.
  4. Trust is not a prerequisite; it’s an outcome. It takes courage to trust. While trusting people can be risky, not trusting people is a greater risk. Blind trust is naïve. Mature trust, on the other hand, has lived through betrayal and responded with courage.
  5. Trust in others begins with self-trust. You won’t trust others beyond your capacity to trust yourself.
  6. Trust must be constantly earned.  It’s like a chequing account; you have to keep making deposits if you want to have something to withdraw.
  7. You don’t have to be perfect to be trustworthy. You simply have to be honest, sincere, and willing. Most broken trust can be repaired.

Seven Ways To Build Trust

  1. Be accountable. Accountability – the ability to be counted on – is, in many ways, the foundation of trust. Think carefully before you make a promise. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Then honor your agreements.
  2. Be Competent. This is a given. If you are leading a team of engineers, you aren’t going to be trusted if you claim to be a competent engineer unless you can demonstrate this. When I consult with a team of engineers, my competence comes from my reason for being there. I better be a great presenter or workshop facilitator. I had better have done my homework to research their culture, their industry, their organization.
  3. Be Honest. Tell people what you know, and tell them what you don’t know. People will see through dishonesty and inauthenticity. When I work with an organization such as the RCMP, I obviously can’t build trust on my ability as a police officer. What I can do is tell them that, and let them see that I’m an expert in leadership development, the people side of their work when they aren’t policing.
  4. Extend trust. Trust presents a paradox in that it needs to be earned, but to be earned, it has to first be given.  Yet trust, without the facts to base it on, is naiveté.  That is why trust is often given in small amounts over time.  As we experience success trusting an individual, we are more and more willing to trust further. Behaviour begets behaviour. Trusting others invites trust. Make trust a conscious objective.
  5. Deliver results. If I want to establish trust with a new client, what is the one thing I can do to make that happen quickly? Deliver results.
  6. Learn to connect. Your capacity to build trust ultimately depends on your capacity to connect. Listen at least twice as much as you talk. Take time to understand before being understood. Let people see who you are, which allows them to like you, not just respect you. The key in relationships is to be personal. Acknowledge feelings. The key is not just walking around; it is opening up, paying attention, and being in touch. People really don’t care how much you know until they know  how much you care.
  7. Be in touch with reality. Know about what goes on in the “meetings after the meeting.” Get down to the cafeteria. Know what people are talking about in the hallways. Do your homework to know what is really going on inside people – when they don’t have to be polite.

What’s your experience of fostering trust in your workplace or home? What is your leadership priority?

Protecting Your Employee Talent: New Challenges For Organizations

As the economy turns, how do you protect your employee talent asset? After eighteen months of layoffs, wage freezes and increased workloads, employees are feeling tired and disheartened, ready to jump ship for better opportunities.

According to a recent survey by Right Management Inc, six in ten employees intend to pursue new job opportunities somewhere else in 2010, and another 21 percent say “maybe” and are already networking toward it.

This is a time you have to be conscious of and commit to re-earning trust. Even your engaged workers are aware of opportunities elsewhere, and your best employees are mobile. People are always attracted by career development opportunities, attaining work/life balance, or working for a creative culture. If leadership doesn’t provide these things, then workers will seek them elsewhere.

Although there is a sense of entitlement with these demands, the good news is that this pressure can push our organizations to be better places to work.

How are smart employers going to inspire workers to stay and be engaged? By being in touch with employees. Here are a few ways to establish and rebuild trust.

Pay attention to your top performers – those that you want to keep – and don’t take them for granted:

  • Provide meaningful work. Restate the organization’s vision and how the contribution of these leaders – regardless of their position – is connected to the overall organizational goals.
  • Seek their input on how they feel about their job, management, and the organization itself.
  • Find out what they need to move from being worried to being completely engaged. Listen carefully to their ideas for making this a better place.
  • Support them to determine their future goals and highest aspirations; what matters most to them, and provide action plans to help them reach those goals.
  • Help them take on responsibilities that are aligned with their talents and passion.
    Recognize your key people. Make it a point to let them know how much they are valued and how much value they bring.

Be transparent:

  • Share corporate and financial information at monthly meetings.
  • Have “up close and personal” sessions, giving staff company news and updates, and allow time to field questions on any topic, from the organization’s growth to peoples’ vacation plans.
  • Let people know where you stand and why decisions are being made – enlist their input.
  • Get your key employees involved in critical decisions and discussions wherever possible. Help them feel they are a part of something and are needed to succeed.

Ramp up your commitment to mentoring, and ensure that people are getting the support they need to succeed, grow, and develop pride.

Expose your best employees to senior leadership through opportunities for mentoring.

Consider job rotations to give employees experience in other areas.

Allow high-potential workers to handle special projects or work on high-potential accounts.

Support your best people in taking risks.

Reconsider rewards.

If your company was forced to implement pay cuts or a wage freeze that you can’t afford to reinstate, find other ways to compensate staff: days off, flexible working hours, or even product discounts. Get to know what motivates individuals, and do what you can to show your commitment to them.

Remember that your best people are the ones that can always get a job anywhere, but if they trust you to have their best interests at heart, they will be committed to the organization. More than anything, people want to belong and contribute to something that is lasting. The payoff is that as you see signs of life in the economy, you will see signs of life in your employees. It is inspiring to have people wanting to step up, rather than step out.

Building A Work Culture By Design

David Packard, one of the co-founders of Hewlett Packard and creator of the HP Way said,

“It has always been important to create an environment in which people have a chance to be their best, to realize their potential, and to be recognized for their achievements.”

He and his business partner, Bill Hewlett, understood the vital importance of culture when they built a company with the intent to have a competitive advantage. They understood that if you are committed to attracting and keeping the best people, providing the best possible service to customers, getting a grip on results, and staying profitable – long term – then you better be committed to building an aligned culture.

The passion and promise in our work is to build cultures of trust that attract, inspire, and unleash greatness.

What we have learned about culture includes:

  • While goals give you direction, culture gives you the energy to get there.
  • You already have a culture, even though you may not be aware of it or able to clearly articulate it. Culture answers these questions: What is my experience of being here? What is our way of doing things? What do we value? You are going to have a culture anyway, so why not have a great one.
  • If you are committed to attract and retain the best talent, culture will be the most important investment of your time and resources. This is because your best people have a low tolerance for compliance and insist on engagement. The talent pool is not only shrinking, those within it are educated, connected, and grounded in the idea of personal choice.
  • They want to be appreciated, acknowledged and loved. They want opportunity. They want to work with people who are non-judgmental, willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, willing to listen and mentor, willing to trust and willing to stand for their success. A tall order but that’s the new reality.
  • Culture is not what people say, but how they behave. It is shaped one person at a time, usually starting at the top. People are watching all the time and if it is perceived that there is more reward for delivering organizational results than there is for how those results are achieved, then people will either disengage or disembark.
  • You can either create your culture by default or design. If you are committed to create your culture by design, somebody has to make the decision about the kind of culture you are going build, and everybody needs to understand the process you are using to build it.
  • While it is always easier to build than it is to change one, changing a culture is always possible.

Ten Steps To Building An Aligned Culture

Leaders of a culture or subculture live at any level of an organization. They are what we call “culture makers.” Culture makers are people within a culture who are committed to building a better environment around them, and thus are deciding to be leaders (with or without a title). These could be entrepreneurs, divisional leaders, department heads, non-profit or team leaders, committed employees at any level, or even parents. It is these culture makers that we focus on to build an aligned culture. So here, in abridged form, is our process for building an aligned culture.

  1. Define your culture. Decide on the scope of the culture that you are committed to build – that lays within your sphere of influence. Is it your company, department, division, community association, team, family?
  2. Define your leadership team. Identify your 5-6 key leaders – allies that you will depend on to build your culture. These will be people who have the positional power, capacity, and commitment to make it happen. Be sure you have a Chief Emotional Officer on your team: a person with the positional power as well as the passion (a monomaniac with a mission) to take accountability for the culture.
  3. Get alignment at the top. Identify your core values that you, as a leadership team, are committed to living. Have an “offsite” leadership meeting to ensure that you are all committed to living the values, first with each other and then with your entire culture. If you are a “subculture” – a culture within a larger system, you will want to take the larger organizational cultural value statements and make them real for your culture.
  4. Develop a team “code of conduct” with your leadership team. Once you have decided upon your core values, you will need to develop a process that outlines your promises to each other: how you will hold yourself and each other accountable for living these values. This is about turning values into specific expected behaviors.
  5. Assess Alignment – And Connect to Reality. Decide on a process for assessing your current alignment between your “vision,” your “claim,” and your “reality” as an entire culture. In order to do this you will need to pay attention to the “visible” culture and the “real” culture – your current reality. You may need to take the time to get into the hallways, the coffee conversations, etc. to get to the grapevine and current reality.
  6. “Roll out” your values with your entire culture. Once you are clear about the current alignment, meet with your entire team. With your leadership team at the front of the room, outline your vision for this culture, your core values, your assessment of the current reality and the degree of alignment you see between your vision, your claim, your reality, and your leadership code of conduct. Explain how you expect to be held accountable for living these values as positional leaders – your promised actions as a leadership team.
  7. Have each of your leadership team members define – and build – their own leadership teams.  Meet with each member of your leadership team and help them define their own leadership teams and go through the same process with their respective teams. This will continue throughout the culture until, ideally, every person is eventually assigned to a “leadership team” or at least closely affiliated with a leadership team.
  8. Engage your employees – at every level. Begin and sustain the process – and build trust – through the power of courageous conversations. Create conversations around your values. Turn conversations about values into mutually agreed upon actions and promises. Tell the story. Shine the light. Acknowledge when and where individuals lived one or more of your values. Repeat the message.
  9. Define how you will convey to stakeholders outside the culture how you will live your values. How will you convey your values to your customers? What needs to be written in your marketing materials/website, etc.?
  10. Get your values into every system. Bring values into your hiring processes, your performance management system and HR practices. Only promote leaders who are living the values. Make it tough to not live the values.