4 Timeless Principles About Building Trustful Relationships

clockIn relationships, time is our most precious, non-renewable resource. It takes large doses of time to develop the rich, lasting, trustful relationships that we all desire, even if we’re afraid to admit it. It’s much easier to settle for surface level relationships through social media because it fits our busy lifestyles. A person can have hundreds or thousands of “friends” or “followers”, yet have very few, if any, deep relationships with high levels of trust.

There are no shortcuts to developing high-trust relationships. You can’t download a trust app to your smart phone to get it, order it from the drive-thru lane of your local fast food joint, or buy it online from Amazon or eBay—it takes time. Second after second, minute after minute, hour after hour. Time…pure and simple.

Here are four principles to keep in mind about the role time plays in building trustful relationships:

Quality Can’t Replace Quantity – Our “always on, always connected” digital culture has elevated busyness to higher (yet false) levels of importance. We wear busyness on our sleeves like a badge of honor, believing it signifies our importance at work or validates our out of control, misplaced priorities in life. We’ve bought into the lie that “quality” time is more important than the overall quantity of time we spend with others. Quality time is great, I highly recommend it. But if I had to choose between spending 15 minutes of quality time a week with those most important to me versus spending 2 hours, I’d choose quantity every time. It’s in those unstructured, relaxed periods of time with people that quality time emerges. Don’t fool yourself by thinking you can develop deep, trusting relationships by choosing quality time over quantity.

Your Use of Time Reveals Your Priorities & Values – I have a surefire way to help you discover what your top values and priorities are in your life—keep a time journal of your activities for a week or two. You may not like what it tells you but at least you’ll know the truth about your priorities. How many hours a week do you spend mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook news feed, surfing the web, playing video games, or watching TV? None of those things are bad in and of themselves, but when they come at the expense of investing time in what we say we value (our children, health and fitness, friends, faith, etc.), then they have become activities that distract us from fulfilling our higher purpose.

You Reap What You Sow – The universal law of the harvest teaches us that we reap what we sow. If we invest the time and effort in cultivating deep relationships, we usually achieve long-lasting, high trust relationships. If we only invest in surface level, casual relationships, that will be what we usually achieve. It’s important to remember there may be longer periods between the sowing and the reaping than what we would expect or prefer. Many citrus trees start producing fruit when they are 2-4 years old, while pear or apricot trees may take 5-7 years before they mature. Not all of your relationships will develop at the same rate. Be patient, keep sowing, watering, and tending. The fruit will come.

You Can’t Get it Back, So Choose Wisely – Most of us don’t give much thought to ever running out of time, mainly because we don’t like to think about death and the end of our lives. Whether it has to do with spending time with our children, investing in our education, or pursuing our career goals, we often devalue time because we feel there will always be more of it available tomorrow. Someday tomorrow won’t come. Each of us has a finite number of days on this earth, and each day that goes by is one less day we have to invest in those we love. The best investment we can make in life is the investment of time in other people. All the stuff we accumulate in life—money, degrees, power, fame, possessions—disappear when we pass away; we can’t take any of it with us. The one thing that will remain after we’re gone is the investment we placed in other people—the love, encouragement, concern, belief, and confidence that those people will carry with them for the rest of their lives and hopefully pass on to others as well. We would do well to heed the words of Psalm 90:12 that says “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” You can’t get time back so use it wisely.

Time is essential to developing long-lasting, high-trust relationships. We all have the same amount of time in a day. The question is, how will we use it?

Posted in Connectedness, Parenting, Purpose, Relationships, Success, Trust, Values | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

3 Warning Signs You’re Leading on Autopilot

AutopilotI often find myself driving my car on auto-pilot. No, my car doesn’t actually have autopilot (although Tesla is testing one that does!), but I’ll find myself mentally on autopilot. Since the vast majority of time when I drive I’m traveling the familiar journey to and from work, I’ll sometimes mindlessly start driving the same route even when I’m intending to go somewhere else!

Over the course of my leadership journey there have been times when I’ve found myself leading on autopilot. Using autopilot is a helpful and necessary tool for airplane pilots, but it’s deadly for leaders. Leading on autopilot is equivalent to “mailing it in” – you physically show up to do the job but your heart and mind are elsewhere.

Here are three warning signs you may be leading on autopilot:

1. Your to-do list is filled with low-impact tactical items – I’m not one to make a big difference between leadership and management, but one of the clear differentiators in my mind is that leaders initiate change and managers react to it. If you find your to-do list is filled with low-impact, tactical items that contribute more to the daily operations of the business, then you may be running on autopilot. Your to-do list should be focused on big picture, strategic items that could make significant improvements in your operations.

There is nothing wrong with having tactical items on your to-do list. Every leadership job has a certain element of administrative or operational tasks that must be handled. The key is the amount of time and energy you devote to the tactical versus strategic parts of your role. You can dedicate more time for strategic items by intentionally planning strategic thinking time on your calendar. Block out chunks of time on a regular basis to think and plan for the long-term needs of your business. Spend time talking to your customers, stakeholders, and other leaders in the organization to help you get a broad view of the landscape of your business. Do your best to take control of your calendar and don’t get trapped in firefighting all the urgent issues that cross your desk.

2. You find yourself in reactive mode all the time – Building on the previous point, leaders who run on autopilot often find themselves surprised by changing business conditions. The autopilot leader easily becomes oblivious to changes occurring around him until the nature of the situation reaches a crises point, forcing the leader to snap back to reality. This happens because the leader was content to react to change rather than initiate it. Leaders have the responsibility to survey the landscape and proactively make changes to position their teams to take advantage of changing conditions, not be waylaid by them. If you find that you are constantly reacting to issues raised by customers, other organizational leaders, or even your team members, then you’re probably being too passive as a leader and letting circumstances dictate your actions. Instead, focus on being proactive and trying to shape those situations to your advantage.

3. You get upset when your routine is disturbed – Routine has the potential to be quite good. It can create powerful habits that lead to effectiveness over a long period of time. However, routine equally has the power to be bad. Taken to extreme, routine becomes complacency. Most people prefer some sort of routine, whether minimal or quite elaborate. We’re creatures of habit and it’s a normal part of our makeup. However, we have a problem when we’re more emotionally and mentally invested in preserving our routine at the expense of adapting our leadership methods to accomplish the goals of our organization. One of the most important competencies for leaders in the 21st century is adaptability. The pace of change continues to accelerate year after year and only adaptable leaders will survive while complacent leaders will be left behind. If you find yourself getting perturbed or exasperated because your routine is being messed with, you may have been running on autopilot too long.

Running on autopilot is great if you’re a pilot, but it’s a bad idea if you’re a leader. Instead, find yourself copilots who can shoulder the burden with you. Leadership doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, an individual sport. Today’s business landscape and organizations are too fast-moving and complex for one person to lead by him/herself. Surround yourself with capable leaders and team members who can fly the plane with you and you’ll find you won’t have any need for leading on autopilot.

Posted in Change, Engagement, Leadership, Motivation, Professionalism, Success | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Leaders Must Identify the Place, Clear the Path, and Set the Pace

bigstock_Sunrise_4172670If you think you’re leading and no one is following,
then you’re only taking a walk.

Leadership is about going somewhere. It’s about getting a group of people to mesh their talents, work together, and move from point A to point B. In order to do that, leaders need to identify the place, clear the path, and set the pace.

Identify the Place – Leaders need to identify where the team is headed. It may be a specific destination, a particular goal, an ideal to strive for, or a vision of the future state the team or organization is trying to achieve. Regardless of what the “place” is, your team needs to know it and you need to identify it. If the leader doesn’t identify the place, the team will wander aimlessly wasting time, energy, and resources on misguided activities. There is a scene from Alice in Wonderland that captures the danger of not having the “place” identified. On her journey Alice encounters the Cheshire Cat and asks him, “Would you tell me please which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where–,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Clear the Path – Once the place has been identified, leaders need to clear the path. The path is the “how” – the strategies, tactics, and goals the team is going to employ to reach its destination. A common leadership pitfall is thinking that identifying the place and declaring the grand vision of the future automatically means people will know how to get there. Identifying the place is the easy part; clearing the path is where the hard work takes place. Leaders need to get their hands dirty by working alongside their team members to develop project plans, chart milestones, clarify roles and responsibilities, and monitor progress along the way. Clearing the path is easier when more people are involved so engage your team in developing the battle plan. Those who plan the battle are less likely to battle the plan.

Set the Pace – Leaders set the pace for the team. How fast or slow the team moves will largely be up to the tempo the leader sets from the front. But setting the right pace takes good judgment and discernment. Move too fast and you burn people out. Move too slow and your efforts fail from lack of momentum. Leaders need to make sure team members know the pace of the race. Is it a sprint, a marathon, or something in between? One of the primary reasons organizational change initiatives fail is leaders try to move too fast. Leaders, by their very nature, are often moving faster than the average team member, and they assume that everyone moves (or at least should move) at the same speed. Make sure you set the right pace so your team can keep up and finish the race strong.

The place, path, and pace. Identify it, clear it, and set it.

Posted in Change, Leadership, Motivation, Purpose, Success, Teamwork | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Do You Have the Constitution to Lead?

The Culture Engine 3Do you have the constitution to lead?

Leadership is a demanding activity that can test your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical constitution. But that’s not the kind of constitution to which I’m referring.

I’m talking about a document like the Magna Carta or the U.S. Constitution. A living, breathing document that clearly outlines the agreements and principles of how something should operate. In this case, your leadership, and in the case of your organization, its culture.

Developing a personal leadership philosophy and an organizational constitution is the driving goal of The Culture Engine – A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace by my friend and colleague, Chris Edmonds. I’ve known and worked with Chris for over 18 years and recommend you take the time to read his book. Chris emphasizes the importance of developing an organizational constitution that outlines the specific expectations and rights of organizational members. An organizational constitution specifies the team or company’s purpose and the values and behaviors that all team leaders and members believe in and commit to. It functions as the organization’s North Star, the guiding light of what is and isn’t acceptable in the organization and how team members will work together to achieve the organization’s goals.

Before you have an organizational culture, it helps to have a clear picture of your own leadership philosophy. Chris outlines several helpful steps leaders can take to develop a deeper understanding of their leadership points of view.

1. Clarify your personal purpose – A few weeks ago I wrote about how to craft your own mission/purpose statement. Chris makes an important point about developing a personal mission/purpose statement: look at your life purpose and values, not just a set for the workplace. Our core purpose and values don’t change based on the role we choose. Chris offers a guided process to help you develop a life purpose statement by answering questions such as “What are your core talents?,” “Whom are you focused on serving?,” and “What are you striving for?” Your personal purpose statement will serve as the foundation for how you express your leadership.

2. Clarify your personal values and aligned behaviors – When you are leading at your best, what values characterize your behavior? Identifying your personal values is good; defining the behaviors that align with those values is even better. For example, if “integrity” is one of your personal values, define what that means in behavioral terms. It might mean you do what you say, keep your commitments, and do the right thing even when it’s difficult. Chris recommends you limit your core values to just three to five in order to create clarity and focus on how you want to act as a leader.

3. Define your values – Specifically defining your values eliminates any question as to what your values mean. In the absence of clear values, you open the door to rationalizing your behavior and create confusion among those you lead as to exactly what you stand for as a leader. Values can mean different things to different people so it’s important to be very clear with your followers about what your values mean.

Once you have created and defined your own personal leadership philosophy or constitution, you are primed to create your team/department/organizational constitution. Chris details a specific process on how to create your organization’s constitution and his book is replete with worksheets to help you through the process.

Perhaps Chris’ most important point is you have to live the constitution. Leaders are the living embodiment of the principles contained within the constitution, and if you don’t live them out, you can’t expect anyone else to do so.

Culture is the engine that drives your organization’s performance and developing an organizational constitution, and operating by its principles, will keep your engine in tip-top shape — and your organization performing at its peak.

Posted in Book Reviews, Culture, Leadership, Values | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Leading in a World Gone Social – 3 Tips for Success

A World Gone SocialWe are living in a world gone social. Social media has fundamentally changed the way consumers purchase products and services, the marketing and customer service strategies companies employ, and the way leaders engage with their people. If you think social media is just a fad or trend for “those young folks,” then you need to catch up. It’s not a trend or fad; it’s today’s reality.

I recently read A World Gone Social – How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, written by Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt. I connected with Ted on Twitter a few years ago. In the time since, we have connected “in real life” and have mutually supported each other’s social media efforts. If there is anyone you should listen to when it comes to social media, it’s Ted. In reading his book, I came away with three implications that leaders must address in order to lead in the social age.

1. Trust trumps all – Trust is the bedrock of any successful relationship, and when it comes to leading in a social world, it’s doubly important. Whether you are leading employees who work remotely, or representing your organization through social media, your integrity is paramount in the social world. Representing yourself in a certain way, only to behave in a way inconsistent with your stated values, will erode trust in your leadership faster than anything else. Leading in a social world is no different from leading in any other context. You need to be trustworthy, honest, ethical, and committed to doing the right thing. The big difference of leading in a social world is that if you aren’t trustworthy, everyone will know it – instantaneously.

2. Freely share your expertise – Social leaders share their expertise freely without expecting anything in return. You get what you give in the social world. If you’re generous and gracious, people will be generous and gracious in return. If you feel compelled to constantly toot your own horn at the expense of others, you’ll find yourself alone and without support. Ted and his Switch & Shift partner Shawn Murphy, have been extremely generous in supporting my social media efforts. They’ve done it without expecting anything in return, but because of their generosity, they have cultivated a tribe of individuals willing to give back and support them. Leaders who give are those who get the most support from their team.

3. Leverage the expertise of your network – Social media has allowed us to connect one-on-one with experts in virtually any field anywhere in the world. Leaders no longer hold all the information and answers in today’s workplace. Your employees can acquire the information they need nearly instantaneously through their social media networks. This changes the leader’s job from one of being a director to that of facilitator. Collaboration is the key to working effectively in the 21st century and there is tremendous power and knowledge in your network.

Social media has opened new doors for leaders to empower their people through sharing information openly and tapping into the vast expertise of their network of relationships. Above all, trust is an absolute essential ingredient for leading successfully in the social world, and that’s a trend that will never go out of style.

Posted in Book Reviews, Leadership, Social Media, Trust | Tagged , , | 4 Comments