Drive Innovation through a Culture of Trust
Countless management books, seminars and programs offer insights into how leaders can develop trust within their organizations. Their consistent theme—“It begins with you”—is certainly valid, as leaders must model trust and set an example for their people. Success depends on a personal campaign of inner reflection, values assessment and emotional intelligence. Training can be effective and rewarding, but much of the focus, and effectiveness, often stops there.
Leaders develop trust in their team to enable them to rely on others to do the right thing. They do this by observing people’s character and behavior over time and gaining confidence in them. They earn trust by consistently displaying personal integrity, accountability and concern for others.
Trust, in fact, is the most potent tool in a leader’s arsenal, asserts JetBlue Airways Chairman Joel Peterson in The 10 Laws of Trust: Building the Bonds That Make a Business Great. Trusted leaders are more productive, profitable and prosperous. Their people are more engaged, passion and loyalty soar, and the overall work ethic is enviable. The organization sees lower turnover, waste and inefficiency.
Trust is not just for the C suite
While we’re often led to believe that trustworthy behavior will permeate the work environment like ripples in a pond, this trickle-down theory is overly simplistic. As Gallup studies reveal, employees trust their coworkers even less than their leaders. Organizations cannot reach their full potential until leaders establish a culture where employees trust their coworkers. Leaders may require assistance from a professional executive coach to achieve this goal.
When there is distrust throughout an organization, creativity and innovation are greatly diminished. Brain science shows that when people distrust their co-workers, the amygdala – the part of our brain associated with the “fight or flight” response, gets triggered. When the amygdala is triggered, it puts our prefrontal cortex – the “executive” part of the brain associated with rational thinking and creativity, on lock down. From an evolutionary stand point, this response makes sense. When we are out hunting or gathering, and a shadow passes overhead, survival dictates that we respond immediately, without stopping to analyze whether it was a predator or simply a fast moving cloud.
To make matters worse, once our amygdala goes into high gear, it activates the limbic area of the brain – where all those past memories of similar situations are stored. Once that has happened, it dredges up similar threats and weaves them into the movie we are producing about the person in front of us whom we don’t trust. Once that has happened, we go into protection mode, and it’s nearly impossible to have an open, engaging, free flowing conversation about anything, much less be able to come up with new ideas and innovations.
What can we do to begin to re-establish trust?
The first steps are to look at ourselves, and work to increase awareness of when we are experiencing what Judith Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence calls an amygdala hijack. She suggests the following ideas to help sideline signals from the amygdala:
- Notice how you respond to threats – fight, flight, freeze or appease
- Notice patterns, do we always choose the same response?
- Choose an alternative behavior at the triggering moment (ie; deep breathing..)
- Become more aware of our responses and realize we have choices (journaling helps)
- Recognize the patterns before they happen, and interrupt the pattern.
Ultimately, we want to work to actively transform the fear into trust. Transforming a company culture from one of fear and distrust to one of openness, collaboration and deep trust, has transformative impact on the overall success of the business.
Need help with transforming your company culture into one of trust? Get in touch or take our complimentary assessment.
Personal Responsibility – Your Choice
A sense of personal responsibility seems to be a thing of the past, here and in many other places in the world. We want a label for every behavior and every sniffle. If it’s a ‘thing’ then we don’t have to take responsibility for it.
Its not my fault I’m late for work, I have ‘snooze syndrome’. Its not my fault I get angry in traffic, I’m afflicted with road rage. Its not my fault I can’t grow my business, the economy is bad. Its not my fault I can’t find good people, the economy is good.
“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment and learn again to exercise . . . personal responsibility” – Albert Schweitzer
What does responsibility mean anyway? We often confuse it with commitment. Lets look at the word itself: ‘response + ability’ = means literally the ability to choose your response. The operative word in that description is “choose”.
According to Stephen Covey, “Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise’.”
When we place blame outside of ourselves for our disturbance, our life situation and ultimately our happiness, we become numb and unaware of ourselves. We don’t even have to make the effort to come up with our own disturbance anymore, just go home and turn on any news channel – they’ll tell you what you should be upset about today and who to blame for it.
Anonymous quote: “I never met a man who was just late…”
This lack of responsibility is even rewarded in our court system. I read a news story about a woman who successfully sued a clothing store because it failed to prevent a small child from running around the store, and she tripped over him. Near the end of the article, it casually mentioned that it was her child. Seriously?
So what does it mean to take responsibility, to choose my response? The first step is the simple awareness and acceptance that you are responsible for creating all aspects of your life and your businesses. Accepting this personal responsibility is choosing to accept that we have the “ability” and the choice, to “respond”. Only by first accepting responsibility can we change the outcome, change ourselves, and change the world.
Responsibility – The big 3 – you’re responsible for:
- everything you do;
- everything you don’t do;
- how you respond to everything else
That third one is the challenge for most people. Think of a situation where you last got upset or had an emotional response to something. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Got it? OK good, now imagine that instead of becoming angry, frustrated, sad etc.. you could choose to just accept that the thing had happened, and maintained a neutral or even positive attitude about it? I know, you’re thinking that’s impossible. I’m just asking you to consider the possibility right now that you could chose to have a neutral response, or no response at all, you don’t have to do it, just consider the possibility. How would that feel? Would you feel empowered? What if you carried that possibility and the empowerment with you every day? How would that impact your quality of life? How would it impact your relationships? These are questions for you to consider slowly and thoughtfully.
The empowerment of choices can even be fun, and opens your eyes to new ideas and opportunities you hadn’t even given yourself the space to consider before. Once you can take responsibility for your choices, and react neutrally if they don’t work out, you are free to do anything. If a choice doesn’t work out, great! You can just be free to try another one without any attachment to the one that didn’t work out how you imagined, or have any negative feelings about the result.
What if having true happiness and contentment in your life was simply a choice? What if you didn’t have to make more money, work harder, get a better house, better job, better car, better spouse?
What if we could just choose to be happy and content?
You can. Its not easy, but its possible. The first step is acceptance. Acceptance of what is, and acceptance of your ability to choose your response.
The second step is to begin to separate the things you are reacting to, the things – out there – from your emotional responses which all happen inside you. Recognize that the car, house, job etc.. are all things out there. The reaction you feel is inside of you, not out there.
The third step is to consider that the things – out there – are not what is causing your disturbance. What if it was actually the other way around? What if your inner unresolved issue is what is creating these so called external upsets? What if ownership of the disturbance creates a golden opportunity to heal the true source of the upset that exists only within one’s self? That is a subject for another blog. . . if you can’t wait until then, get in touch.
How Does Communication Impact Your Business Results?
Leaders and business owners often look at communication as a ‘soft skill’ that they don’t have time to develop. They simply don’t recognize the bottom line cost of poor communication. In a survey of 400 corporations, an estimated $37 billion is lost due to poor communication and misunderstanding. But leaders who DO focus on effective communication strategies in their business have 47% higher returns to shareholders, lower turnover and more highly engaged employees, according to the Holmes Report.
And these are the impacts of simple transactional communication. According to Judith Glaser, author of “Conversational Intelligence” there are three levels of communication. The higher levels of communication are based largely on development of trust. When we trust, and focus on solutions, we feel free to share and develop our ideas. If we don’t create an environment of trust and collaboration, the people with the best ideas will leave and go to companies that do.
“The single biggest illusion about communication, is that it has taken place”
– Judith Glaser
For entrepreneurs, effective communication can be the difference between failure and success. If you want your company to succeed, here are 5 ways to improve:
1. Email is for the exchange of information
There are many great tools for productivity and disseminating information to your team. Don’t confuse these tools with communication. Generating ideas, fast decision-making and team collaboration take real face to face interaction in an environment that supports sharing and trust.
2. Ensure your team knows the company brand purpose & vision
Every single employee at the Ritz Carlton knows the company’s vision, mission, cultural values and credo. Those values are baked into the daily operations of the company, so it is easy for employees to connect their actions to the higher purpose. If your team does not know where you’re going, they can’t follow you. If they don’t see the connection between what they are doing daily, and the overall goals and direction of the company, they become disengaged and unmotivated.
3. Stay flat
In a flat company team members are free to communicate with anyone, without fear of stepping on toes or reprisals. As the business leader, do your best to keep an open door policy. Set aside specific hours to close the door to work on projects or have private conversations. Fluid communications allows for much greater flow and exchange of ideas, delivering better results in less time.
4. Make communication part of your rhythm
Set up regular schedules for meetings and conversations. Have regular weekly or even daily huddle team meetings. Have regular weekly phone calls with the sales team if they are in the field. Even if you don’t think you have much to talk about, once you get the conversation started, you’ll often be surprised at what happens. Even if you are a company of 2 people, regular communication makes a difference.
5. Communication is a two way street
Introduce the WIFLE (What I Feel Like Expressing) process to your team. Your employees need to feel heard. They need to be given permission to express what is on their mind, without interruption, judgment or reprisal. Regular use of the technique can cut meeting time in half and uncover problems and opportunities you didn’t even know existed.
If you need to learn more about how to do a WIFLE, just let me know.
Why Set Goals?
I spent the day yesterday with some of Orange County’s smartest small business owners. Why are they the smartest? Because they took nearly an entire day to step out of their business to work ON their business. They set goals and created their action plan for the next quarter. And because they do this every quarter, they will always beat their competition.
In the process, they also learned how to be better business owners, and that is even more important. As Jim Rohn said, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your business”.
In his book, “What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School,” Mark McCormak made an interesting discovery about a graduating MBA class. Within the group, 3% had written goals, 13% had thought of some goals and the balance were just thrilled to be out of school (I am sure you remember those feelings).
The interesting part was what happened ten years later. The group that had non-written goals were making TWICE in the field compared to the 84% of those who had none. The group with written goals was making TEN TIMES what the other 97% were making on average.
Writing your goals down is critical to achieving them. It does several things. First, it makes them real. When you can visually see something, and keep it visual (not locked away inside your computer) it becomes more real and you’re that much closer to making it a reality.
Second, it tells your brain that your goals are important to you through your Reticular Activating System (RAS). Your RAS is the filter through which nearly all information enters your brain, it controls your attention. For survival purposes, it responds to your name and anything that looks like a threat. It also alerts you to anything new or out of the ordinary. The great thing about it is that it works automatically – but you do have to tell it about your goals, by writing them down, and reading them regularly. Detail out the steps necessary to accomplish them. Then your RAS will recognize them as important, and it will go to work for you, allowing through anything that looks like it could help you achieve your goals.
Write down ALL your goals you have for the next year. Then, find someone to share them with and have them check up on you monthly to see if you are making progress. Have them hold you accountable, and give yourself rewards for completion.
TIP: Make milestones and chip away at each goal a little everyday so the overall picture doesn’t seem so overwhelming, and you get positive rewards more frequently.
Follow these simple steps, and it won’t be long before you are making TEN TIMES more than your competition.
Don’t miss the next opportunity to step out of your business for a day to set goals for your business!
How to Get Your Team Engaged
Is your team engaged, enthusiastic, motivated, and committed; except for the 8 hours they work for you?
You can hire people, you can fire people, and you can tell them what to do. What you can’t do is make them like what they do. Some business leaders are content with having an unhappy team. If they just do their job, then their mental state is superfluous. This line of thinking is not only wrong, but it is entirely counterproductive to the continued survival of a business. Gallup has run some excellent reports that demonstrate the performance difference between engaged and disengaged employees. They identified many benefits that engaged employees bring to the table: motivation, innovation, and a willingness to take on more responsibility within the company. So how can you keep your team engaged?
That level of team engagement contrasts greatly with employees who don’t even want to be there. They do their jobs, but they never put in more than the bare minimum of effort. Don’t expect them to ever go outside of what their job description requires. If there is a chance for them to skip out on work without getting fired, they’ll take it. Obviously, you don’t want to have a team that consists of these people. But without the right knowledge of how to motivate a team, you’ll find yourself unable to inspire your employees to go above and beyond the basic requirements.
A great company cannot exist or grow without great employees, and there are steps you can take to mold them into the people you want to have working for you. These tips are proven methods of getting your employees engaged in what they do, and anybody can learn to apply them.
1) Keep Your Team Engaged: Be a team, not a dictatorship
Every ship needs a strong captain, but that doesn’t mean that you should spend every second reminding your employee who’s the boss. Your employees look to you for guidance, but they also want to feel as though they are part of a team, and you will pitch in when needed to get the job done. It’s very tempting to just give orders, or worse, rattle off long lists of directives that you just don’t want to do. If you give the directive and then pitch in to reach the goal, you’ll show your employees that they are all part of a team, and they sink or swim together.
2) Keep Your Team Engaged: Give them a chance to shine
It is true that some people are placidly content with being a cog in the wheel. I’m sure you know of at least one person who is sitting in a job they are relatively indifferent to just so they can collect a pension in twenty years. Those that fit that mold will gravitate towards jobs that give few chances to stand out and plenty of job security. For those who want to achieve more, they will never settle for a job pushing pencils all day. These more ambitious employees are always looking for a way to prove to you that they are capable of so much more than low-level work. Denying them this opportunity will either push them to greener pastures, or if they can’t/won’t quit, cause them to become disillusioned with what they do.
If you find somebody who wants to prove themselves, let them. But give them room to fail as well, give them the objective, then let them figure out how to accomplish it. An employee who shows the initiative and drive to better themselves is a person that will bring your business an incredible amount of value. Don’t waste this potential.
3) Keep Your Team Engaged: Don’t take them for granted – show your gratitude
This goes beyond a simple “thank you”, although those two words can have quite a bit of power in themselves. If your employees feel like their contributions are not recognized or rewarded, then they will feel little incentive to go above and beyond in what they do. How you show this gratitude is as important as the action itself, because a perceived token gesture is even more insulting than a lack of a reward at all. Put another way, if somebody comes up with a million-dollar idea and you give them a monogrammed lanyard as a gift, don’t expect that person to stick around. Rewarding achievement is the flip side to punishing failure, and a balance between both is necessary to craft the ideal team.
As intuitive as these three traits seem, you probably know from personal experience that a lot of managers don’t quite know how to implement these strategies effectively.
If you find yourself having difficulty reaching your employees, get in touch to find out how my Engage and Grow program can turn your employees into high performing leaders within your company. Start with a free employee engagement assessment survey.
Top 10 Tips on Leadership
What’s the difference between leadership and management? A manager tells people what to do and advises them on how to do it. A leader inspires people to achieve great things, and encourages and motivates them to find ways to do it. Yes managing is faster in the short-term, but leadership is the only way to leverage yourself and cultivate your ideas beyond what you can personally accomplish.
Here are 10 simple things, that you can do, starting today to be a better leader:
- TALK ABOUT THE FUTURE – Leaders think about the future and help others see the future. As Mark Collar says, “Leaders teach people to dream, not just execute”.
- TEACH SOMEONE SOMETHING – Leaders are engaged in their organization and committed to growing organizational capability. Nothing sends that signal stronger than taking a moment to teach someone something.
- SEEK OUT A NEW IDEA – Actively look for ideas and then champion them in the organization. This says a lot about your ability to accept change as a leader.
- TELL SOMEONE THEY DID A “GOOD JOB” – Leaders are not afraid to hand out praise when a job, large or small, is well done. This builds not only enthusiasm for the work, but trust in your management.
- GET MAD, THEN GET OVER IT – Leaders all have passion for the business and sometimes this passion turns to anger or frustration. This shows you are only human. An effective leader has the capacity to move beyond emotion into constructive action.
- MEET SOMEONE NEW IN YOUR ORGANIZATION – Get out of your office and say “hello,” to someone new in or near your group. It’s guaranteed that you will learn something and it is visible proof to your organization that you care.
- SAY “YES” – Leaders aren’t afraid to make a commitment, to make a choice, to move on. Find something where you can say “yes.” Nothing says you trust your organization more than the power of agreement.
- ACTIVELY LISTEN – Many of us talk about being good listeners, but few of us are really good at it. The next time you have the opportunity to listen to someone, use clarifying and confirming skills, but don’t offer a point of view until the presenter says, “What do you think?”
- BE ENTHUSIASTIC – Leaders have enthusiasm and energy. They transfer this energy to the organization and the business issues at hand. Practice being outright enthusiastic about an idea and watch how people change.
- HAVE FUN – Leaders typically enjoy what they are doing, no matter how tough the task. People want to follow someone who enjoys what they are doing.