Leading with Trust

Father’s Day Special: Five Leadership Lessons From Being a Dad

Being a dad has been, and continues to be, one of the greatest joys of my life. I’ve experienced tremendous highs, suffered through some lows, doubted myself, learned much, and have been stretched to grow in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I first started this journey twenty years ago. The same could be said for my journey as a leader!

As I reflect on the lessons that have taught me to be a better father, I realize that many of the same principles apply to being a trusted and successful leader. Here are five leadership lessons I’ve learned from being a dad:

  1. There’s no substitute for time — I’ve learned that “quality” time is just a convenient rationalization to justify our busyness and to ease our guilt from not spending “quantity” time with our kids. The “quality” happens in those unexpected moments during the “quantity.” Being a leader requires spending large amounts of time with your people and not isolating yourself in your own little world. Devote yourself to investing in the growth and development of your people and you’ll reap the rewards.
  2. Set clear expectations — Part of being a good dad is setting clear expectations for his kids. They should know what’s expected in terms of their behavior and attitudes, and what the consequences will be (either positive or negative) for meeting or not meeting those expectations. Your people at work need the same clear expectations regarding their performance. They need clear targets with identifiable rewards or consequences. It’s not fair to judge your people (or kids) for their actions if they weren’t clear on the goal in the first place.
  3. Be the example — Being a dad means setting the right example for his kids and the same is true in being a leader. Your attitudes, the tone of voice you use in speaking to others, your work ethic, and the way you treat people are just a few of the ways you will influence your people. Just as a child will observe and often imitate every move of his dad, your people are always taking their cue from the actions of their leader. Make sure you’re leading well!
  4. Have fun — It’s easy to get bogged down in all the stress and anxiety that comes with being a dad, but I’ve learned to have fun and enjoy the journey as much as possible. Leaders need to remember to take work seriously, but not take themselves too seriously. Laugh at yourself, keep the mood light, and don’t be afraid to have fun with your staff. When the stressful times come, your people will be more willing to put in the extra effort that’s necessary.
  5. Validate them — One of the primary roles of a father is to validate his children. A father’s approval imparts a tremendous amount of psychological and emotional confidence in a child that empowers him to grow in confidence and faith in his own abilities. Your staff needs your approval as well. When your people know that you accept them, desire the best for them, and will do whatever you can to help them succeed, you will have their loyalty and commitment in following your lead.

Leading and managing adults at work is obviously not the same as parenting children, although some days it can certainly feel that way! However, the principles one uses to be a successful father (or mother) can be equally beneficial for success as a leader. Just like being a father, the key is being consistent in your approach and having the best interests of your people in mind.

By no means are these five principles a definitive list. I’m curious to know what lessons you’ve learned from being a parent that apply to leadership. Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment. Happy Father’s Day!

“Situational Crying” – An Effective Way to Build Trust?

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, made news recently when she admitted to crying at work during a speech at Harvard Business School. Sandberg said,

I’ve cried at work.  I’ve told people I’ve cried at work. And it’s been reported in the press that ‘Sheryl Sandberg cried on Mark Zuckerberg’s shoulder’, which is not exactly what happened. I talk about my hopes and fears and ask people about theirs.  I try to be myself – honest about my strengths and weaknesses – and I encourage others to do the same. It is all professional and it is all personal, all at the very same time.

My colleague, Maria Capelli, sent me and several other colleagues a link to this article which prompted an interesting email discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of showing emotion in the workplace, especially from a leadership perspective.

Maria said that “Being vulnerable, not only as a leader but as a fellow co-worker, can help build trust.  Being real/authentic can help build credibility.  I am not saying we should all start crying at work – it’s situational. As long as it’s not disruptive or frequent, I think it’s perfectly healthy.  And besides, suppression of our emotions for long periods of time cannot be healthy for the mind, body and soul.”

Our colleague, Susan Fowler, co-author of our Situational Self Leadership training program and our soon-to-be-released program, Optimal Motivation, mentioned that the real “F” word in corporate America is “feelings,” and the interesting paradox leaders are faced with when regulating their emotions: Is not crying when you want to a form of self-regulation, or is crying and owning your emotion a form of self-regulated courage to be honest in the workplace?

I agree that a critical part of building trust is being vulnerable and authentic, and sometimes that involves showing emotion in the workplace, within reason of course. I think Susan brings up an interesting connection between self-regulation, managing emotions, and being emotionally intelligent. My experience is that people who are emotionally intelligent and good at self-regulation have the ability to express the appropriate emotions at the appropriate time. Those who are challenged in those areas seem to be the ones that go overboard which leads to being known as emotionally unstable and unpredictable. Being reliably consistent and predictable in your behavior is a key component of developing trust with others.

Emotional intelligence is a critical success factor for succeeding in today’s business world. A recent survey by CareerBuilder showed that hiring managers are increasingly looking for candidates with high EQ’s because they are more likely to stay calm under pressure, handle stress better, and approach workplace relationships and conflict with greater maturity and sense of perspective.

There’s no doubt that showing the proper amount of emotion, in the right place at the right time, can be a key to building trust. The key is for leaders to develop the emotional intelligence and maturity to properly discern when the timing is right and when it’s wrong. As my colleague Maria said, “it’s situational.”

If It’s Broken, Do You Fix It or Throw It Away?

When you have something that’s broken, do you fix it or throw it away? Many of the products we buy today, especially electronics, have become disposable commodities that are more cost-effective to replace than repair.

Unfortunately, this same attitude has transferred over to many other areas of lives, particularly relationships. If a relationship no longer works for us, we’re quick to throw it away and look for another one to replace it. In describing the generational attitude of her parents who recently celebrated their 35th anniversary, an acquaintance said “they are of a generation that when something broke, they fixed it instead of throwing it away.” She was specifically talking about their view on relationships, not possessions.

It got me thinking about the value we place on relationships at work. When a relationship needs repairing in the workplace, what’s your instinct? Do you try to fix it or just throw it away?

Relationships have an inherent value that goes beyond the surface-level, transactional nature of workplace interactions, and each exchange you have with a co-worker is an opportunity to enrich or degrade the relationship. My friend Jon Mertz recently wrote a blog article about the importance of understanding the type of “wake” you leave behind in your interactions with others. People interested in building high-trust relationships understand the importance of leaving behind a wake of integrity, sincerity, and authenticity in their associations with colleagues.

When it comes to repairing a broken relationship, if it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.

Granted, it takes two people to be in relationship, and if one party isn’t willing to fix what’s broken, it may not be possible to fully repair it. However, the only thing that each of us ultimately controls is our own actions. Leading with trust means reaching for the greater good that exists within us, placing a premium value on our relationships, and making the effort to repair what’s broken rather than throwing it away. Relationships aren’t easily replaced.

The Incredible “Sulk” – Four Ways to Overcome Envy in the Workplace

The Incredible Hulk, one of the Marvel Comics superheros featured in the recently released film The Avengers, is a raging beast capable of great fury and destruction. Whenever the mild-mannered Dr. Bruce Banner experiences certain negative emotions like fear, anger, or terror, he succumbs to those feelings and transforms into the Hulk, leaving a wake of destruction in his path.

Envy has the same potential for damage in the workplace by transforming you into The Incredible “Sulk” – someone with a sullen, silent, inwardly focused negative self energy that wreaks havoc on yourself and others. Envy is a feeling of discontent or covetousness a person feels in regards to another person’s success, advantages, or possessions, and causes you to sulk, feel sorry for yourself, and make you downright miserable. If left unchecked, envy creates resentment toward others, leads to fractured relationships, and causes low morale and a loss of productivity in a team environment.

I coach others, and have personally used, the following strategies to overcome envy in the workplace:

  • Don’t play the comparison game—The number one way to make yourself miserable with envy is to compare yourself to other people. There will always be someone who appears to have it better than you, whether it’s that recent promotion, title, new office, or cool new project at work. In addition to not rightfully acknowledging the successes or achievements of others, when you compare yourself to others you’re actually denying or discounting all the wonderful gifts, talents, and abilities you bring to the table. Focus on “blooming where you’re planted” and don’t waste energy by obsessing about what other people are doing.
  • Count your blessings—I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.” Envy robs us of happiness because we get focused on what we don’t have, and that negative emotion leads to a downward spiral in our thinking. I’ve found it helpful to periodically make a list of all the things I’m grateful for in life because it’s an eye-opening experience to realize how good I’ve got it. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude through prayer, meditation, or other spiritual practices is also helpful in combatting envy.
  • Avoid gossip—Gossip is the conduit for envy to poison a whole team. Human nature tends to gravitate toward the negative anyway, and gossip is an easy way for people to seek solace and comfort from others. Rather than being cathartic and healing, gossip is divisive and destructive and it doesn’t do anyone any good to talk about people behind their backs. We’d all be better off if we remembered and practiced some of the first words of wisdom from our parents: If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
  • Focus on personal growth—When feelings of envy start to crop up, it’s a perfect time for self-examination. Ask yourself why you’re feeling envious and don’t stop at the first answer; keep asking “why?” For example, suppose I’m feeling envious of my neighbors because they have an RV Camper and I don’t. Why am I feeling that way? Because I wish I could go on camping trips like they do. Why do I wish I could go on camping trips? Because I want to nurture and deepen family relationships. Why do I want to do that? I want my children to have great experiences and memories of their childhood. Ok, so that’s a great reason…now what I can I do to accomplish that? Maybe I can’t financially afford an RV, but I can certainly do other things to accomplish my goal of creating family memories. I’ve taken the negative emotion of envy that had the potential to damage the relationship with my neighbors and turned it into a positive step in my own personal growth.

Envy is an incredibly destructive force that leads to personal unhappiness and negativity within a team. Taking a positive, proactive approach to identifying and rooting out envy will help you lead a more satisfied and productive life at work and keep you from turning into The Incredible Sulk.

Have you dealt with envy in the workplace? What did you do? Feel free to share your experiences and comments.

Memo to Leaders: Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Memorandum

To: Leaders Everywhere

From: A Fellow Sojourner

Subject: Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Dear fellow leaders,

It has come to my attention that we are our own worst enemies. The lack of our effectiveness and success is primarily due to our own stupidity and failure to get out of our own way. We tend to get wrapped up in our own little worlds and forget that our primary goal is to influence others to higher levels of performance. We forget that the energy we bring to our team through our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual presence is what sets the tone for their morale, productivity, and well-being.

It’s time to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. Here are three key checkups I suggest you perform:

Check your attitude — If you come to work acting like Mr./Ms. Grumpypants, how do you expect your team members to act? They’re going to act just like you. Remember, when you’re in a leadership position, you’re always under the microscope. Does it get tiring? Yes. Is it reality? Yes. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice, so try putting a smile on your face, remember to say please and thank you, catch your people doing something right, and spread a little sunshine to your team. You’ll find that it’s contagious.

Check your ego — Get over yourself. You’re really not that big of deal (everyone else already knows it so you might as well admit it). Our oversized egos are often the primary culprits of our undoing. A little bit of power can be intoxicating, and if you don’t manage it properly, you’ll find your head growing bigger than the rest of your body. Make sure you have some “truth-tellers” in your life that will keep you down to earth by speaking the honest, hard truth about your performance even if everyone else thinks you walk on water (they really don’t think you can walk on water, they just flatter you by pretending they do).

Check your motives — Why did you sign up for this leadership gig anyway? Was it to make more money? Was it the only way to move up in the organization? Do you like to boss people around? Or were you interested in helping people learn, grow, and achieve their goals? While you’re checking your motives, you might want to examine your core values as well. Whatever values you hold dear are probably the driving force behind your motives and behaviors. Get your values and behavior in alignment and you’ll be a leadership dynamo.

Being a leader is a tough job and it’s not for the weary or faint of heart. Don’t make it harder by acting stupid. Use your brain. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Thank you.

Leading With Trust – Four Fundamentals of Success

I was recently talking with a friend about the critical importance of teaching the fundamentals when coaching baseball. Baseball is a game built on basic, fundamental skills. No matter the level at which the game is played — Tee Ball, Little League, High School, College, or Professionally — players continuously work on learning and refining the fundamental aspects of the game. From the proper way to field ground balls, the basics of a good batting swing, correct pitching mechanics, or smart base running techniques, there are certain skills and competencies that must be practiced and mastered for a player to achieve success.

The same is true for being a successful and trusted leader; you have to focus on the fundamentals. Perusing a list of book titles in search of the keys to effective leadership can leave you feeling overwhelmed and hopeless as to where to start. We’re encouraged to do so much: Lead with heart, lead with soul, get out of the box, find the leader within, follow the irrefutable laws, adhere to the timeless principles, leverage your strengths, eliminate your weaknesses, develop the right habits, start with ‘why’, start with ‘how’, lead with vision, lead from the trenches, etc., etc., etc.

Yet beyond all the hyperbole, fluff, clichés, and modern-day snake oil leadership remedies, the most basic fundamental of becoming a successful leader is leading with trust. What does it mean to lead with trust? It means:

  • Lead competently — A fundamental of being a trusted leader is to be good at what you do, both in terms of developing your competence as a leader as well as being a high performer in your technical role. There are no shortcuts to success. It takes hard work, discipline, and constant growth and learning.
  • Lead authentically — Successful leaders embrace and build upon their uniqueness and don’t try to be someone they’re not. It’s wise to glean knowledge about what makes other leaders successful and to incorporate those practices into your own leadership philosophy, but don’t be a copycat. You’re not Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, General Patton, Mark Zuckenberg, or any other host of people who may be held up as different leadership models. It sounds simplistic, but it’s true what our parents have always told us – Just be yourself, there’s no one else like you.
  • Lead with integrity — Successful leaders know that at the end of the day the only thing they have left is their integrity. The fundamentals of successful leadership start here: Be honest, don’t lie, behave ethically and legally, keep your word, follow-through on commitments, be dependable. Get this wrong and it’s impossible to lead with trust.
  • Be other focused — To borrow Rick Warren’s opening line of his book, The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” Leadership is about other people, not about yourself. Leading with trust means you realize that leadership is about influencing and developing the people around you. You invest your time and energy in helping them succeed, and when that happens, you succeed. Self-focused leaders erode trust and lose the commitment and loyalty of their people.

Leading with trust is a lifelong journey that plays out in the simple, everyday interactions leaders have with their people. Through practice and refinement of these leadership fundamentals, leaders will enjoy successful, strong, and lasting relationships built on trust.

I’ll be exploring this topic in more detail when I co-host the #LeadFromWithin TweetChat with @LollyDaskal on Tuesday, April 24 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific/8:00 p.m. Eastern. Feel free to join me, Lolly, and hundreds of other leadership practioners and teachers as we discuss what it means to lead with trust.

No Leadership Fear: Five Guidelines to Deliver Feedback for Results

Giving effective feedback on behavior or performance strikes fear in the heart of many leaders. This past week I spoke on this topic at the Ken Blanchard College of Business at Grand Canyon University, and when I asked audience members why this was the case, I heard reasons like this: fear of confrontation, a desire to avoid conflict, uncertainty about the way the receiver will react, or a lack of confidence and competence in their own abilities to deliver feedback in a constructive, positive way.

Receiving feedback is a natural part of life and it allows us to interpret our behavior and circumstances and make any necessary adjustments. If you touch a hot stove, what happens? You feel the heat and burn your fingers…that’s feedback! If you play golf and hit your drive into the pond…that’s feedback! If you make your wife angry and she forces you to sleep on the couch…that’s feedback! (And the subject of a different blog!)

Feedback is information about past behavior, delivered in the present, which may influence future behavior. Before you deliver feedback, you should assess the quality of the relationship with the receiver. Is there mutual respect and a good level of trust? Have you given feedback to this person before? If so, how did he/she react? Do you know their story – hopes, fears, struggles, family background – that influence the way they “show up” at work? If you don’t have a solid relationship with the receiver, the feedback will probably fall on deaf ears. Work on improving the relationship before delivering the feedback.

You should also check your motives before delivering feedback. Are you giving information, making a request, or making a demand? Are you hoping to improve the person’s performance or satisfying your ego by making a point? Make sure your motives are in the right place before delivering the feedback. Also, make sure there was clarity on the goals, roles, or expectations on the part of the receiver. It’s not fair to give someone feedback on their performance if they weren’t clear on what was expected in the first place. Leaders have to take responsibility for examining whether or not they set the receiver up for success or failure.

Once you’ve prepared, make sure you’re clear on the right type of feedback you need to deliver to produce the results you desire. There are four basic types of feedback:

  • Feedback on “What”—Feedback that provides objective information about results, end product(s), or outcomes
  • Feedback on “How”—Feedback that provides objective information about the process or way results are obtained
  • Praise—Emotion-revealing feedback designed to encourage certain desired behavior in the future
  • Disapproval—Emotion-revealing feedback designed to extinguish certain undesired behavior in the future

When you’re ready to deliver the feedback, it’s important you follow these basic guidelines:

  1. Give feedback on behaviors that can be changed, not on traits or personality. For example, saying “Sally, the way you interacted with that customer was unprofessional” isn’t very helpful in allowing Sally to know what to do differently. “Sally, you need to say ‘Hello’ to each customer when they walk through the door, introduce yourself by name, and offer to answer any questions” is much more specific and helpful to Sally.
  2. Be specific and descriptive, don’t generalize. Think of giving feedback as the front page of the newspaper, not the editorial page. Keep it focused, concise, and to the point and avoid rambling or going off on tangents.
  3. If possible, give feedback immediately. Perceptions change over the course of time and opens the door to misunderstandings or different interpretations of events. The longer you wait between the time the behavior occurs and when you give feedback, you run the risk of the “leave alone, ZAP!” problem: the receiver thinks everything is fine until, ZAP!, he/she gets zinged with some feedback about something that happened long ago. That creates resentment, animosity, and erodes trust.
  4. Control the context. Choose the right time of day, a neutral location, be calm, keep your emotions in check, and regulate your body language to make sure you provide an environment that will support the success of your message and not hinder it.
  5. Make it relevant and about moving forward. Dwelling on past behaviors or events that are unlikely to reoccur damages trust and inhibits your ability to provide constructive feedback in the future. Keep the feedback relevant to the situation at hand and focus on what needs to change in the future.

Trust earns you the right to give feedback, and trusted leaders have learned to deliver feedback in a way that enhances the relationships with their people as well as improves their performance. If leaders are committed to building trust and following these common sense guidelines, they need not have any fear about giving feedback.

Interview with the One Minute Manager – Three Secrets to Build Trust

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to interview the One Minute Manager for a blog article I wrote for LeaderChat.org. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of The One Minute Manager. With over 13 million copies sold in 37 languages, it’s one of the bestselling business books of all-time and continues to inspire leaders around the world with its practical wisdom on managing people. The elegantly simple techniques of One Minute Goals, One Minute Praisings, and One Minute Reprimands have enabled leaders and managers to be more productive, satisfied, and prosperous in their jobs.

I was particularly interested in the One Minute Manager’s (OMM) thoughts on what today’s leaders should be doing to build trust. Here’s what we discussed:

Randy: Congratulations on the 30th anniversary of your story being published. You must feel very proud.

OMM: I’m humbled that Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson felt my story was worth sharing and took the time to write a book about it. I’m gratified that it’s helped so many people.

Randy: I’m interested to know what you think leaders should be doing to build trust with their followers and stakeholders.

OMM: Well, I think having trustworthy relationships is the number one priority for leaders, and the three secrets support a leader in achieving that goal.

Randy: I thought the three secrets were techniques for managing people more effectively. Explain to me how they help leaders build trust.

OMM: One aspect of building trust is being competent in your role as a leader, and certainly practicing the three secrets displays your competence. Specifically, the first secret, One Minute Goals, allows leaders to build trust by setting clear performance expectations. People are more apt to trust you as a leader if you’re clear with them on what you expect them to do. Unclear expectations result in miscommunication, wasted energy, and ambiguity, which ultimately leads to mistrust of the leader.

Randy: So tell me how your second secret, One Minute Praisings, helps leaders build trust.

OMM: One of the easiest ways to build trust with others is to catch them doing something right! Recognizing and rewarding good work are key trust-building behaviors. When you take time to praise others, it shows that you value their contributions and you want them to succeed. If you fail to recognize the good work of your people, or even worse, hog the limelight and take credit for their work, you severely damage trust in the relationship. One Minute Praisings communicate care and concern, and when your people see that you care about them as individuals, they trust that you have good intentions toward them.

Randy: It’s amazing to see how One Minute Goals and One Minute Praisings support building trust. The third secret, One Minute Reprimands, seems a little counter-intuitive in regards to building trust. Help me understand.

OMM: On the surface it may seem counter-intuitive, but in reality, a One Minute Reprimand is another way of showing that you care about people and you want to help them succeed. When you give a One Minute Reprimand, you are reprimanding the behavior, not the person, and you’re giving the reprimand because you want to prevent that person from suffering the same mistake again in the future. People trust and respect leaders who give them honest, yet caring feedback about their performance. Leaders that hold themselves and others accountable create a culture of safety, security, and clear boundaries, which acts as a breeding ground for trust. A One Minute Reprimand is honest and caring feedback which is essential to have in a high-trust relationship.

Randy: Thank you for spending time with me. Your One Minute Secrets have helped me in my career as a leader and now I see how they’ve also helped me build trust with others.

OMM: It’s been my pleasure and I ask you to do just one thing: share it with others.

People Have the Right to Remain Stupid – Three Principles for Over-Controlling Leaders

I would like to propose a workplace version of the Miranda Warning. You’re probably familiar with it, but if not, it’s the warning given by police officers in the United States to criminal suspects before they take them into custody and question them. The Miranda Warning (aka, Miranda Rights) goes like this:

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”

My workplace version of the Miranda Warning is to protect employees’ rights to make their own decisions and to remind over-controlling leaders to back off, quit grabbing control (because you think your way is the best and only way), and let people choose their own course of action. Here’s my workplace Miranda Warning that a boss should be required to give an employee before swooping in to take control:

“You have the right to remain stupid. Anything you say or do can and will have natural consequences involved for which you will have to assume full responsibility. You have the right to seek my advice prior to making this decision but you are in control of your own choices. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”

I developed this workplace Miranda Warning after reading Tim Sanford’s book, Losing Control & Liking It. A few weeks ago I wrote an article based on Sanford’s approach to handling issues of control in relationships, the essence of which is learning to better understand who is truly in control of a situation and letting that person take responsibility for it, rather than engaging in a struggle for power and control.

Empowering your employees means letting go of control. You’ve hired them to do a job so they should have the appropriate amount of autonomy and control in performing their work within specified boundaries. Letting go of control means trusting your people to make the right decisions, yet understanding that ultimately the choice is up to them.
Sanford offers three principles for leaders to remember when giving up control to employees. These principles serve as a self-regulating mechanism for all of us when we’re faced with making decisions:

1. You live and die by your own choices. There are many people and circumstances that influence us on a daily basis, and many of those things are out of our control. Yet we have control over how we choose to respond to those situations. When my kids were younger I would always get a chuckle when they would say “You make me so mad!” which invariably was in response to me not letting them do something they wanted to. The truth is that I didn’t make them mad, they chose to respond in an angry fashion when they didn’t get their way. We all have the ability to choose healthy, life-affirming choices, or negative, destructive choices.

2. You can choose smart or stupid. Since we live and die by our own choices, we have to decide whether we want to choose “smart” or choose “stupid.” Sometimes the choices are easy – legal vs. illegal, moral vs. immoral – but sometimes choices come in shades of gray. It’s these gray areas where leaders often get uncomfortable and choose to step in, take control from the employee, and make the decision themselves. That only serves to demoralize employees, create resentment towards the boss, and bottleneck every important decision with one person. Leaders have to learn to trust principle number 3.

3. There’s always somebody or something whose job it is to make your life miserable when you choose stupid. Whether you call it karma, cause and effect, reap what you sow, or just natural consequences, if we choose “stupid” there is eventually going to be a cost that has to be paid. Maybe the cost is an upset customer, a disappointed colleague, or a missed deadline. Those are difficult situations, but sometimes that is what’s needed for someone to fully grasp and learn from their mistakes. Leaders that habitually jump in to rescue employees to prevent or minimize mistakes can actually be creating a co-dependent relationship or excusing poor performance. Sometimes it’s best to let people experience the full consequence of their actions.

It can be scary giving up control, especially for a leader. We have a preconceived notion that we’re always supposed to be in control, but the reality is that there is very little that is directly under our complete power and control. That’s why we have teams. We need the diverse skills of many different people to complement each other and produce something better and greater than anything we could do alone. But that means letting go of control and doing our best to help people choose “smart” over “stupid.”

The Language of Trust Begins with the ABCD’s

I remember teaching my children their “ABC’s” by singing the Alphabet Song. As you read this I’m sure the tune automatically starts playing in your mind and you’re tempted to sing it out loud (it’s ok, go ahead…no one’s watching). I recall my kids’ eyes sparkling and a wide smile breaking out on their faces when they were finally able to recite all 26 letters of the alphabet and cap it off with “Now I know my ABC’s, next time won’t you sing with me!”

Learning the alphabet doesn’t just happen automatically, it takes intentional effort and repetition over a long period of time. Yet when you look back on your childhood, chances are you probably don’t remember the instant when you realized you had learned the ABC’s. It just seemed to happen, and after a while of knowing the alphabet, you couldn’t ever remember not knowing it.

Many people think trust “just happens” in relationships. That’s a misconception. Trust is built through the intentional use of specific behaviors that, when repeated over time, create the condition of trust. The TrustWorks! ABCD Model illustrates the four elements of trust that leaders need to focus on to build trust with others.

Able – Demonstrate Competence. Leaders show they are able when they have the expertise needed for their job. They consistently achieve results and facilitate work getting done in the organization. Demonstrating competence inspires others to have confidence and trust in you.

Believable – Act with Integrity. Trustworthy leaders are honest with others. They behave in a manner consistent with their stated values, apply company policies fairly, and treat people equitably. “Walking the talk” is essential in building trust in relationships.

Connected – Care About Others. Being connected means focusing on people, having good communication skills, and recognizing the contributions of others. Caring about others builds trust because people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Dependable – Maintain Reliability. Dependable leaders follow through on their commitments. They respond timely to requests and hold themselves and others accountable. Not doing what you say you will do quickly erodes trust with others.

A fundamental step in learning any language is to master its alphabet and learning to speak the language of trust is no different. The TrustWorks! ABCD Model is the alphabet of trust, and using behaviors that align with each of the four elements is “speaking” the language of trust. For a more thorough discussion on the importance of trust in relationships and organizations, and the TrustWorks! ABCD Model, I suggest you download the white paper Building Trust.

Discover Hidden Talent – How Many Jeremy Lin’s Are Sitting on Your Bench?

The sudden rise to stardom of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin has taken the sports world by storm over the last two weeks. Seemingly from out of nowhere, Lin has gone from a no-name bench-warmer to the darling of New York and the NBA, leading the Knicks on a seven game win streak. During his last seven games, Lin has averaged 24.4 points, 9.1 assists and 4.0 rebounds, all the while reviving a moribund team, moving them up two places in their conference standings.

The talking-heads of the sports world have been proclaiming that Lin was a complete unknown who came out of nowhere to achieve this success, but the reality is, Lin was a known commodity who just needed a chance. Coming out of high school in Palo Alto, CA, he was offered the chance to walk on at Stanford, Cal, and UCLA, but chose instead to attend Harvard where he was a standout player. Although he went un-drafted by the NBA, he was signed as a free agent by multiple teams and played in the NBA Developmental league before finally getting his chance to start with the Knicks. It simply took him being in the right place at the right time for him to showcase his skills.

Lin’s story serves as an excellent leadership reminder when it comes to talent management. How many potential Jeremy Lin’s do you have sitting on your bench?

People Just Need a Chance
Our organizations are filled with people who have a wealth of talent that is left untapped. How do you explain the worker who toils in anonymity all day long only to go home at the end of the day and excel in a given hobby (sports, music, art, etc.)? Why do we not tap into some of those skills and abilities in the workplace?

A little over a year ago my organization started experimenting with in-house, high-end, multimedia productions. It was amazing to see the latent talent that existed in our company. People came out of the woodwork from various departments to lend their expertise, such as camera operators, video editors, script writers, and web designers. All these folks needed was an opportunity to showcase skills that weren’t being fully utilized in their current roles.

Don’t Stereotype People
There’s no doubt that Jeremy Lin has been stereotyped. Lin is frequently described as “deceptively quick” or “stronger than he looks,” as if an Asian-American isn’t supposed to be quick or strong. U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, who played basketball at Harvard, knows Lin, and has worked out on the court with him said “This is classic low expectations and, frankly, stereotyping. He was under-appreciated and under-recognized. The fact that he’s Asian American, those two things are absolutely linked.”

In our organizations we frequently stereotype people based on personality assessments, job roles, or competency models. There is nothing wrong with these tools, but if they’re utilized to pigeon-hole people we run the risk of limiting people’s potential. My organization is a big user of the DISC assessment, which profiles people based on behavioral preferences. I’m an “SC” on the DISC, meaning I tend to be more of an introvert, prefer steady and structured environments, follow-through on tasks, don’t like sudden change, and pay attention to the details and quality of my work. For years I was thought to be a “behind the scenes” person until I was given an opportunity to MC an all-company awards ceremony. Afterward people couldn’t believe how well I did in that role and were asking me when I was going on the public speaking circuit! Little did they know that I had a tremendous amount of experience of public speaking and teaching both large and small groups in my church.

Take a Risk
It’s easy to get trapped in sticking with the tried and true. Leaders often have their “go-to” guys that have proven themselves trusted and reliable to get the job done. We stick with them because it’s less risky than giving a new person the shot at the choice assignment. A key part of being a successful leader is developing the talent around you. That requires taking a risk and giving people the opportunity to succeed.

A member of my staff was recently given an opportunity to lead a client-project review during an all-company meeting. She worked with the project team to develop a theme for the presentation, based on the movie The Matrix, and she beautifully orchestrated an outstanding presentation. Her colleagues were amazed at her professionalism, presence, and poise, and since that time she’s been in high demand for other internal projects that require those same skills. Was it risky to put her in that position? Yes. Did it payoff? Big time!

A Star is Born
How many Jeremy Lin’s do you have sitting on your bench, just waiting for an opportunity to shine? Leader’s aren’t just responsible for bringing in new talent, they also need to look for ways to uncover and unleash the talent that’s already present in the organization.

“Everyone who thinks this an overnight success fundamentally gets this wrong,” Duncan said in an interview with USA TODAY. “Jeremy has been very good for a long time and just never quite had the opportunity.”

Don’t stereotype. Take a risk. Give someone a chance. Who knows, you just might have a superstar hiding in your midst.

Lose Control and Like It – 4 Ways to Handle Responsibility and Control

You really don’t have as much control as you think you do.

Leaders like to think they’re in control of a lot of things, because after all, that’s why they’re in charge, right? They’re responsible for making sure the work gets done correctly, on time, and on budget. So if they’re responsible, then dog-gone-it, they’re going to be in control! The reality is that responsibility and control are spread among all the team members you lead, and effective leaders learn to distinguish when they need to assume responsibility and control and when it needs to be left to the team member.

I recently read Losing Control & Liking It, by Tim Sanford. His book is specifically about parenting teenagers (I have two boys, 19 & 15), but speaking from experience, leading and managing people is often like raising teenagers so the principles definitely apply!

Sanford explains that when we look at our interactions with people and events, we can split them into two categories: What you can control and what you can’t control. We’re defining control as that which you have direct and complete power over. You may be able to control certain aspects of situations or influence people or circumstances, but when you consider that definition, you really only have control over yourself—your actions, attitudes, values, emotions and opinions. We like to think we have control over our employees, but that’s just an illusion. They are in control of themselves.

Another way to categorize our relationships with those we lead is by responsibility: What you take responsibility for and what you don’t take responsibility for. Responsible is a compound word: response-able, meaning “able to respond.” The only things you are able to respond to are those that you legitimately have ownership or control over. Friction develops in our relationships when we try to take responsibility for those things we don’t control or when we choose to shirk our responsibilities for those things we do control.

When you overlay these categories of control and responsibility you have a grid of four ways of interacting with others regarding issues of control and responsibility

TOSS – You could describe TOSSers as lazy, irresponsible, untrustworthy, avoiders, deniers, or blamers. These are folks who would rather “toss” responsibility to someone else, rather than assuming responsibility for behaviors or outcomes that are under their control. This is probably the most unhealthy of all the four styles and this type of behavior causes chaos and discord in organizations.

HOLD – HOLDers take responsibility for what is under their control. Trustworthy, honest, authentic, reliable, and dependable are all words that would describe these people. This is a healthy way to interact with others over issues of control and responsibility. No blaming. No excuse making. No shirking of responsibilities. Relating in this manner breeds confidence and trust in your abilities and in others.

GRAB – In an effort to control the uncontrollable, GRABers choose to take responsibility for people and things out of their direct and complete control. Micromanager, manipulator, intimidating, co-dependent, or martyr are all adjectives that describe a person who uses this style. Leaders often fall prey to this style of relating because they think they can “fix” people or situations. GRABing control may result in short-term wins, but over the long haul it stunts people’s development and creates a state of learned helplessness.

FOLD – FOLDing is a healthy way of relating to others regarding control and responsibility. When you practice this style it means you mind your own business, you’re honest with others about what’s your responsibility and what’s theirs, and your trustworthy enough to be counted on to respect the proper boundaries of control and responsibility. Relating in this style means you fold your hands and let the consequences fall where they may, even if it may be painful to stand by and watch.

Your goal as a leader is to influence your people, not control them. Provide them with the necessary training, tools, and support to enable them to be in control of achieving their goals. More often than not, those who are in control of their work will accept responsibility for what they produce. If you find yourself dealing with people who choose to “toss” responsibility of their shortcomings to others, resist the urge to “grab” control and try to fix the situation. HOLD your ground or FOLD your hands and let others learn from their experiences.

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