Leading with Trust

Three Circles of Trust

If you’ve seen the movie Meet the Parents, you probably remember “the circle of trust.” Robert De Niro’s character, Jack, a former CIA agent and overly protective father, is obsessed with making sure his future son-in-law Greg is a trustworthy and honorable husband for Pam, his only daughter. From his point of view, a person is either in or out of his circle of trust; there’s nothing in between.

Effective leaders have learned to have multiple circles, each with varying degrees of trust, depending on the people, context of the relationship, and the circumstances involved. Consider these three circles of trust:

The outer most circle is the Community and is the group of individuals that you would consider your acquaintances. Perhaps you’ve met them a few times, may know their names, and occasionally interact with them such as the clerk you regularly see at the grocery store, your plumber, or the teachers at your child’s school. This circle is characterized by the lowest degree of trust which tends to be based on the norms of the context of your relationship. There tend to be  rules, policies, procedures, or contracts in place to prevent one party from taking advantage of the other. There isn’t anything wrong with this level of trust. It’s appropriate for the transactional nature of your relationships in this circle.

The Crowd circle contains those relationships that have a deeper level of trust characterized by personal knowledge of each party. A relationship moves from the Community circle into the Crowd by demonstration of trustworthy behavior over time to where the parties involved can reliably predict each other’s behavior. This is the circle where you would typically find relationships with your team members, co-workers, or social organization associates.

The innermost circle is the Core. This is the circle of trust reserved for the closest relationships in your life such as your spouse, family, and best friends. This level of trust is characterized by the parties knowing the hopes, dreams, fears, and insecurities of each other. These relationships have the highest levels of trust because they also have the highest levels of vulnerability. Over the course of time these relationships have experienced increased amounts of personal disclosure and the parties have developed a history of respecting and protecting the vulnerabilities of each other.

Contrary to what’s portrayed in Meet the Parents, there isn’t just one circle of trust. Our relationships are too varied and complex to fit into a one-size-fits-all approach and successful leaders have learned to extend and cultivate the right amount of trust depending on the given circle of the relationship.

What are your thoughts? How would you categorize your circles of trust? Feel free to share your comments.

Have Your People Quit and Stayed? Twelve Factors of Employee Engagement

Everyday the spirits of millions of people die at the front door of their workplace. There is an epidemic of workers who are uninterested and disengaged from the work they do, and the cost to the U.S. economy has been pegged at over $300 billion annually. According to a recent survey from Deloitte, only 20% of people say they are truly passionate about their work, and Gallup surveys show the vast majority of workers are disengaged, with an estimated 23 million “actively disengaged.”

This issue presents a tremendous challenge for organizational leaders. Even worse than dealing with the effects of people who leave your organization, you have to manage these disengaged workers who have decided to “quit and stay.” You’re still paying them to under-perform and ultimately undermine the effectiveness of your organization!

Research by The Ken Blanchard Companies on the topic of Employee Work Passion has uncovered 12 factors that help create a culture of engagement. These 12 factors fall into three categories: Job Factors, Organizational Factors, and Relationship Factors. Integrating these factors into your leadership and organizational practices will help foster an environment where employees are more committed, productive, and engaged in their work.

Job Factors

  • Autonomy – People need to feel empowered to make decisions about their work and tasks. They need to be in control of their work and the ability to achieve their goals.
  • Meaningful Work – Your employees need to know that their work matters. How is it connected to making a difference? How does it help them and the organization succeed?
  • Feedback – Engaged employees always know where they stand regarding their performance. Do you offer timely, relevant, and specific information about their performance?
  • Workload Balance – Having too much work and not enough time to accomplish it all is demotivating. Experiencing peaks and valleys in workload is normal, but when the peak becomes the norm, people quickly become resentful and feel like they’re being setup to fail.
  • Task Variety – Each person is different in regards to how much variety in work tasks meets their motivational needs. Some people are motivated to do a minimal number of tasks over and over again. Others need more variety. The key is to find the right fit for people in regards to the variety of their work.

Organizational Factors

  • Collaboration – Does your organizational structure and policies foster cooperation among individuals within a work unit or across departments, or does it encourage competition and the withholding of resources?
  • Performance Expectations – People want to know what is expected of them. Does your organization have systems in place that allow employees to clearly know what’s expected in terms of the level of quality and quantity of their work outcomes?
  • Growth – Do employees believe that your organization fosters opportunities for career and job growth? This is increasingly more challenging as organizations become flatter and there is less hierarchical growth “up the ladder,” but smart organizations are finding ways to allow for employee growth through other avenues.
  • Procedural Justice (Fairness) – Are decisions made fairly and equitably? Are rules applied equally to everyone in the organization, or is there a culture of bias or playing favorites?
  • Distributive Justice (Rewards) – People need to feel that the distribution of rewards and compensation are commensurate to the effort they put out and the results they achieve at work. A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

Relationship Factors

  • Connectedness with Colleagues – Like the theme song from the old TV sitcom “Cheers” says, “You want to go where everybody knows your name.” People need rewarding interpersonal relationships with their coworkers to be fully engaged on the job.
  • Connectedness with Leader – Employees want and need a supportive and personal relationship with their boss. Of course this varies by personality types and other factors, but everyone wants to have a positive and productive relationship with their leader.

On January 25, 2012 at 8:00 a.m. PST, The Ken Blanchard Companies is hosting a free Leadership Livecast and I’m excited to be one of 40 thought leaders who will be presenting on the topic of “Quit and Stayed.” Over 5,000 people have registered to attend and I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about how you can address this workplace epidemic.

Six Ways to Power-Up Your Employees

Would your employees say their relationship with you makes them feel more powerful or powerless?

I’ve been pondering this question since I read a recent blog article from Liz Kislik on the topic of “speaking truth to power” where she made a statement that hit me straight between the eyes: “Leading — real leading — requires helping others find their power instead of squelching it.”

So how can I…how can WE as leaders…help others find their power? I think part of the answer lies in helping our employees find autonomy and control in their work and self-confidence in their abilities.

Here’s six practical ways we can help our people move from feeling powerless to powerful:

1. Give them public opportunities to shine — It’s easy to get trapped in the daily grind and just let people toil in the shadows. Leaders should look for opportunities to sing the praises of their team members to other leaders in the organization or let them showcase their talents in cross-functional teams, projects, or public presentations.

2. Let them make decisions — Don’t micromanage your employees. There’s no quicker way to make people feel powerless than to rob them of their ability to make decisions over their own work. Constant micromanaging develops a mindset of learned helplessness among your employees and inhibits their ability to learn and grow in their role.

3. Ask for and incorporate their feedback into your decisions — Simply asking others for their thoughts and opinions signals that you respect what they bring to the table and you recognize that you don’t have all the answers. Contributing to decisions and the direction of the team allows your employees to feel they have power to influence their own work environment.

4. Be a straight shooter — Being evasive or vague in your communications can create the perception that you’re trying to hoard  information, power, and control which leave people feeling powerless about their situation. Giving and receiving honest feedback builds trust and confidence with others because they always know where they stand with you and that gives them a measure of power and control over their current reality.

5. Give them leadership opportunities within the team — Whether it’s formal or informal, giving employees a chance to experience leadership positions is a positive step toward empowerment. I’ve seen a number of instances where someone who was thought to not be of “leadership caliber” was given the opportunity to lead and turned out to be a fantastic leader. Sometimes people just need a chance.

6. Let them fail — It’s easy to want to protect our people from failing. Whether we want to spare them from the pain or we’re reluctant to let go of control in the first place, we often don’t let our people get in situations where they have the potential to fail. Part of empowering our team members is letting go of control and allowing them to experience success and failure. Failure is a great teacher as long as we’re willing to learn, and that’s a key role of a leader – helping your people learn from their mistakes.

It’s our job as leaders to find ways to “power-up” our employees so they gain that sense of control and ownership of their work which leads to higher levels of commitment and engagement. What are some ways you’ve helped your people develop and embrace their personal power? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Top 100 Thought Leaders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Escondido, CA, January 12, 2012 — Trust Across America has selected Randy Conley, Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies, as one of North America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders on Trustworthy Business Behavior for 2012.

Trust Across America is dedicated to unraveling the complexities of trustworthy business behavior and believes these people collectively represent a group that can genuinely transform and reverse the cycle of mistrust in business.

According to Barbara Kimmel, Executive Director, “This year’s recipients once again include leaders from the public and private sectors as well as authors, consultants, researchers and academics. Each recipient has made an extensive, positive contribution to building trust in business.”

The full list of honorees can be found here.

The Top 100 Thought Leaders represents the culmination of three years of research. Trust Across America sought the counsel of and requested nominations for this honor from over 150 professionals across the nation. The list was narrowed through an extensive vetting and independent judging process. As leaders of The Most Trustworthy Public Companies in America, these ten CEOs were included in the list.

According to Barbara Kimmel, “The honorees are inspiring organizations to look more closely at their higher purpose…to create greater value for, and trust from, all of their stakeholders. We congratulate all of these leaders whose work is shining a spotlight on the importance of trust and providing a roadmap for everyone to follow.”

Trust Across America™ (TAA) is a program of Next Decade, Inc., an award-winning communications firm that has been unraveling and simplifying complex subjects for over 20 years. TAA provides a framework for public companies to improve trustworthy business practices, as well as showcasing role models that are exhibiting high levels of trust and integrity.

Does Your Culture Breed Success? Four Lessons From Michigan’s Brady Hoke

What a difference a year makes! Almost exactly one year to the day, I wrote a blog article titled What Killed The Coach? for LeaderChat.org, where I detailed the cultural missteps taken by Rich Rodriquez that led to his firing as head football coach at the University of Michigan.

Since that time, Brady Hoke was hired to come in and turn around the program and he just finished his first season with an 11-2 record and a Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. One of the main reasons that Hoke was hired at Michigan was his former ties to the program as an assistant coach and his appreciation for the culture of the school and football program.

Hoke used the power of Michigan’s culture to reverse the course of his team and set them on the path to success. Here’s four lessons we can take away from Brady Hoke’s experience that can help us in our own leadership journeys:

1. Respect the past – Brady Hoke always speaks in glowing and reverential terms about the history of Michigan football. He shows a deep respect and appreciation for those who came before him, and he understands that he and his team have an obligation to continue the winning tradition at Michigan. We should honor those who have laid the foundations for our success and help our people understand that we have a responsibility to continue the winning ways for those that follow us.

2. Enlist the support of team leaders – When asked about the keys to his success this year, Hoke repeatedly mentioned the influence of the Seniors on the team. He spoke about how the Seniors bought into his philosophy and served as examples for the rest of the players on the team. When implementing change in our organizations, it’s critical that our team leaders, whether they hold formal leadership positions or not, are on board.

3. Create team rituals – Shared experiences build the bonds of culture and help to reinforce the ideals that we’re trying to foster within our organization. Hoke ended each of his team practices or meetings with the cheer “Beat Ohio!” in reference to Michigan’s end-of-season game against their biggest rival, Ohio State. Hoke also had a countdown clock installed in their training room that counted down the days, hours, and minutes to the game with Ohio State. Team rituals reinforce what it means to be a part of our organizations, the expectations we hold for each other, and the common goals that we strive toward.

4. Keep the focus on the team, not the leader – Unlike most football coaches, Brady Hoke doesn’t lead his team out of the tunnel before the game, he runs behind them. It’s his way of keeping the spotlight on the team and not himself. He knows that it’s the team that actually plays the game and they’re the ones that deserve the attention and focus. We as leaders need to remember that our role is to set the vision and direction, then prepare, train, and coach our people to higher levels of performance. But at the end of the day, they are the ones who are performing on the front lines and deserve the limelight of success.

Organizational consultant Stan Slap likes to make the point that the original sin of leaders trying to implement organizational change is failing to respect the power of the culture to bury you. A culture is the simplest operating system in the world and it makes all decisions based on a shared belief of survival and prosperity. It makes those decisions based on the actions of leadership and whether those actions support or contradict their stated values. If the culture believes supporting those values is in the best interest of their survival and prosperity, they’ll give everything they have to make it happen.

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