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Why Trust and not Engagement?

It seems a really important question to answer: “Why trust and not engagement?” We at Entrusted Consulting (www.entrustedconsulting.com) believe in reframing the way we work together and are often asked this question.

Turning to a wonderfully written report from the CIPD (Where has all the trust gone. March 2012), I would like to share an extract on why trust is so important in business and our personal lives, now more than ever.

This has been a central question from practitioners, yet conceptually trust is quite a different construct from engagement. Emerging as it has from the positive psychology movement, the term ‘engagement’ has become for practitioners an umbrella concept for capturing the various means by which employers can elicit additional or discretionary effort from employees – a willingness on the part of staff to work beyond contract. Different employers apply different outcome measures to demonstrate its efficacy as a management activity (Vance 2006; Macey and Schneider 2008). Engagement is about giving of one’s energy to an organisation, whether that is on a cognitive, emotional or physical basis (Kahn 1990), almost like an exchange relationship.

On the other hand, trust is about accepting a certain amount of uncertainty but being willing to trust the other party that they will act in a positive way towards you. Trust is about a willingness to make oneself vulnerable in the face of uncertainty or insecurity. Trust is a more personal relationship based on a perception of mutual and reciprocal aims and purpose. It is part of employee engagement, as the MacLeod Task Force ‘Engaging for Success’ acknowledges, but it is a distinct concept in its own right (MacLeod and Clarke 2009).

One simple way of thinking about the difference between trust and engagement is by comparing it with the relationship of marriage. Some days marriage partners can really love each other and some days love each other a bit less. Love is a little like engagement. It is an energy which can have fluctuating levels but for most marriages to work over the longer term each partner needs to trust the other to always have a benevolent and positive disposition towards the family, their home and their relationship. Very often when one party has an affair within a marriage it is often possible for the aggrieved party to love them again but they will report trust is more challenging to repair. Trust, therefore, can be seen as the basis by which people together create sustainable long-term relationships which see them through difficult or uncertain times.

The importance of trust at times of uncertainty is perhaps why we are more aware of it as a concept right now. People are feeling more uncertainty at a societal level and, in some cases, in the workplace. Those organisations which can maintain good trust relations or repair trust relationships will reap the business and operational benefits of trust, of which there are many. One distinct benefit of trust is its link to innovation. Some economic commentators argue that for UK plc to return to growth, restore job opportunities and find ways in which to deliver public services with reduced funding provision, innovative approaches will be key to these three activities within the workplace.

focus-on-organisational-trust

Another reason why a focus on trust is more relevant at the moment is that trust has a moral dimension to it. Engagement does not necessarily carry a moral dimension. In contrast trust does concern a firm’s moral and ethical principles (Becker 1998, Mayer et al 1995, Schoorman et al 1996). Perceptions of trustworthiness include the organisation’s competence (or ability) and predictability (Dietz and Den Hartog 2006), but also focus attention on two ethical dimensions (Searle [forthcoming]). One is benevolence, which emphasises the positive intent towards those who are trusting in them. Another is the integrity of the organisation, which concerns the degree to which they and their managers adhere to general moral standards. Research both conceptually and empirically illustrates that employees prefer to trust organisations that uphold moral and ethical standards (Gillespie and Dietz 2009, Searle et al 2011a).

As you know, I’m keen to explore further Trust and what lies behind achieving this mercurial ‘faith’ in your abilities as a leader. Please do share your thoughts on the subject – I am sure we can all learn something from each other.

Leaders, Hormones and Trust

A recent article by Sarah Amani, Senior Program Manager at Oxford Academic Health Science Network, beautifully distils a view on what makes for a good leader.

Sarah says; After surviving the milestone of working 10 years in the NHS, I thought I would reflect back on one of the most pivotal factors that has influenced my overall experience: Leadership. I approached the selection of this topic with some caution – I am sure most people are probably sick to death of trendy topics like leadership and the various psychosocial theories that have come out over the years. So I thought I would try to approach the topic from a slightly different angle by looking at the chemistry of leadership (bear with me here).

How Leaders are Made

There has always been a debate about whether good leaders are born or made. In a recent video by Simon Sinek titled ‘Why Leaders Eat Last’, he makes a compelling argument that good leaders are made, not born. In a compelling 45 minute video, he lays out some of the biology underpinning great leadership:

  1. A leader is nothing to do with rank.
  2. Leadership is a choice.
  3. Anyone who puts their self interest aside to protect the people next to them and improve things around them is a leader.
  4. It is therefore important to note that not all people in authority are leaders. Some are there entirely to look out for no one else but themselves. This is not leadership.

So what is it that drives good leadership? Well apparently its more scientific that I thought. Bear with me as I try to explain:

Happy Dopamine Hormone

Dopamine - Be Happy

This is the reward chemical which makes us feel good from crossing off tasks as achievements. We feel good when we cross off set goals and plans because our brains release dopamine. This mechanism is used in business and industry to motivate performance via targets. It feels good to get 100% achievement against targets and the buzz from this achievement makes us want to do it again and again to get that same buzz.

However, dopamine comes with a warning as it can be highly addictive. This would explain why the banking crisis occurred – like with all addictions the rewards for achieving targets overshadowed everything else. Bankers were willing to sacrifice everything and everyone to get that next dopamine rush from reaching targets. I can’t help but wonder what implications this has on the use of targets in our healthcare system.

Serotonin - Winning Feels Good

Moving on to another chemical and one which is coined THE leadership chemical: Serotonin is said to be responsible for feelings of pride and status. It is why public recognition makes us feel good. All those awards and public acknowledgements of achievement release Serotonin. This explains why an e-mail with a certificate attachment saying ‘Well Done’ doesn’t have quite the same effect as standing in front of your loved ones, peers and team as you are given an award.

The interesting thing about how Serotonin works in this situation is that at the same time that you get a rush of that Serotonin and fill up with confidence, your peers/boss/team also get a rush of that Serotonin and share your sense of pride for being part of that achievement. This strengthens connections, raises confidence and status but also sets into motion a cycle where we want to repeat that feeling of pride and achievement. So we seek other opportunities to get other awards – to get another rush of Serotonin. This might explain the multi award winning streaks we see with some individuals and teams…

However, the expectations laid out by the actions of Serotonin can also lead to a loss of confidence and trust in our leaders. As demonstrated above, Serotonin strengthens the social contract between a leader and their team. We have no issues with our leaders getting the bigger office or more pay. In fact, the promise of a repeat of another Serotonin rush from a team win, means that most followers voluntarily give their leaders the best of whats on offer and some special treatment too. This is not on the basis of teams believing the leader is necessarily better than the group, but on the premise that the team believes that the leader is there to shield them from danger. Serotonin (and the confidence boost it gives) drives good leaders to run towards danger in order to protect the team. The group invariably grows to believe that they are all in it together and are looking out for each other with the leader at the helm.

Fight or Flight

Saber: Fight or Flight

However, when this social contract is broken – when the person we believe to be our leader sacrifices our safety for their own gain or we feel they have failed to protect us, then this trust is lost. The result of this is a new focus on self preservation. With the trust broken, individuals feel unsafe, they stop going that extra mile to get another Serotonin boost and connections weaken. At the same time, another chemical kicks in and initiates the fight or flight response.

That other chemical is Cortisol – the stress chemical which has preserved our species from the stone age till now and probably for centuries to come. Simon makes the important point that humans have not outlived dinosaurs or the saber tooth tiger because we are stronger or smarter but because we protected each other by working in groups and knew when to fight and when to run. Cortisol is great if there is an imminent threat as it helps us run or fight the danger. As part of our response to danger, Cortisol shuts down systems that are unnecessary for fighting or running e.g. our immune system and the system responsible for growth. This enables our body to focus on fighting or running. Once the danger passes, our Cortisol levels should subside.

However, in organisations and teams where the trust is broken and staff feel unprotected, levels of stress and Cortisol remain high. This means that our capacity for growth and immunity remain low. The result is what we see in teams with people who can’t seem to take anything in or learn anything new. This goes hand in hand with plummeting performance and a rise in sickness. It is not by coincidence that this happens, it is an indication that the environment has become too consistently stressful with no reprieve and no chance for Serotonin or indeed Dopamine to rebalance the trend.

Doing good boosts morale

Doing Good & Physical Connection Boosts Morale

But fear not, this gloomy set of circumstance can be turned around with good leadership involving yet another chemical. Oxytocin is the chemical of love. It is a feel good hormone resulting from human physical contact and connection. It makes us feel safe, valued and loved. We can get a rush of oxytocin from touch – something that explains the feeling of trust we get when we shake hands on a decision and get nervous if someone refuses to shake hands, or from simply sitting together and feeling like we are near someone who gets us.

We can also get a dose of oxytocin from doing good deeds. However, trying to game the system by simply giving money to charity or doing something that takes little time and effort doesn’t work. We don’t get the same rush of oxytocin if we try to game this system and it doesn’t feel as good. This is because the money we give is replaceable. But if we spend time – something we will never get back – then we and the person on the receiving end of that time and effort get that warm good feeling as Oxytocin is released.

The above applies to all organisations – simply telling a member of staff that you will pay money to solve a problem doesn’t make them feel valued. Responding to a call of help or distress with an e-mail saying ‘I care’ doesn’t make the recipient feel valued. However, picking up the phone or walking to that member of staff to ask ‘How can I help you?’ makes them feel valued. This is why I am a firm believer that walking the floor can never be underestimated – it puts the leader in and amongst the team and releases oxytocin – making both the leader and the team feel good. As it turns out, over time, the build-up of Oxytocin in our body protects against Dopamine addiction and improves immunity too so it’s a win-win in my humble opinion.

Summary

So what is the above trying to tell us about leadership? The messages I personally take away are:

  • Leadership is a personal choice made by those who want to improve things around them for the benefit of others -regardless of rank or position;
  • Teams and leaders do not excel in a system which relies solely on targets to drive improvement;
  • Serotonin is the Leadership chemical which primes us to repeat success by using public acknowledgement of achievements to share the sense of pride and build stronger bonds with our teams;
  • Leadership is rewarding but very challenging. Good leaders know that the perks come with many sacrifices. Those who put self-interest before the team and fail to protect their teams from harm lose trust and invariably promote an environment of stress and fear.
  • To drive performance and excellence, leaders need to remember oxytocin and be present with their teams. Take that extra effort to pick up the phone or walk the floor to build/re-build trust and promote the feelings of safety so that people can re-focus on doing their work.

So a big thank you to Sarah for sharing this insight. Interesting in the opening personal perspective and thought-provoking in the use of chemical drivers as a core medium. 

Trust is a tricky thing....

...it can take a company years to build and it can be destroyed in moments

Chris MacDonald Business Ethics Blog @Canadian Business - "Valeant Pharmaceuticals has suffered a crisis of trust over the last few weeks. More specifically, the trust that investors had in the company was substantially diminished in the wake of revelations that Valeant had an unclear but apparently too-cozy relationship with specialty pharmacy called Philidor. The loss in trust in this case was quite concrete, measured by a substantial drop in the company’s share price.

The source of this loss of trust was, as is generally the case, a question about the company’s ethics.

Doing business in the long run absolutely requires ethics. At the very least, doing business requires a degree of mutual respect, embodied in our commitment to getting things from others by offering them what we think they want in return. It also requires a commitment to basic honesty, and a commitment to honour our contracts. These ethical basics are essential because they are the foundation of trust. And if you don’t trust someone—at some level—you’re just not going to do business with them.

If trust enables business, then trust has a real value, in real dollars and cents. So what, then, is the dollar value of trust? I estimate the dollar value of trust, within the global economy, at roughly $102 trillion—in other words, the entire nominal Gross World Product for 2014. Without trust, all commerce on the planet would literally grind to a halt.

The fact that trust is crucial in markets is evidenced by the fact that businesses have come up with such a dizzying array of mechanisms designed to generate trust—everything from brands (which carry reputations) through to warranties, return policies, endorsements and third-party guarantors.

But what exactly is trust? What does it mean to trust someone? Functionally, it’s an expectation that someone will behave in certain ways. Trust is also an attitude—part calculation, part emotion—that involves an expectation of goodwill, or at least good behaviour. It is an expectation that the other party to a transaction will not do us harm. As my friend and fellow philosopher Daryl Koehn once put it, trust is a mean between paranoia and foolish faith.

But what happens when trust is broken? How can a company like Valeant (or Volkswagen, for that matter) regain the trust of consumers and the investing public? There are many ways to rebuild trust, and none of them is quick.

A company that has lost the trust of the investing public is likely going to need to show a consistent pattern of trustworthy behaviour over a substantial period of time. And the focus, here, is on the showing. CEO Michael Pearson has said how important ethics is to the company. And—present appearances aside—that may well be true. But in the light of the current wave of mistrust, the company is going to need to do more. It is going to need to engage in substantial disclosures, far beyond detailing the nature of its relationship with Philidor. In the face of a failure of disclosure, the company may well find that that it needs to engage in more disclosure than any company—even one with nothing to hide—would be fully comfortable with."

The question is, how do organisations diagnose where it has gone wrong in the first place and have specific insights into how the organisation and individuals within them feel.

Does Ethics Matter In Business?

Having 'consulted' for many years in a plethora of organisations from commercial through to public service and charity on areas from leadership, through team working and subsequently high performance cultures, I am left with some common threads that seem to always be present in those that work most effectively.

These include;

What actually are organisations (whether from Commercial FTSE 100s or Church)?

Perhaps it's better to look at them as a 'system' constructed by its members through the interaction of its members. So to be a bit off-the-wall, an organization is just a thought, not a thing. An imaginary construct of what is happening. Fundamentally it works because on the whole people come to work each day to do tasks that, should they agree locally it is right to do and this extends out throughout the whole group, it all works as a whole rather than by 'divine direction' from the physical top.

If leaders do decide what we do and set the vision, then why are we here now? Would they have designed the current position for any one of their organisations? NO.

So, the organisation emerges. The effective partnership emerges.

Ultimately, if individuals interact positively and agree what they do is right, this affects others near them and the overall thing creates patterns that appear coherent and effective – known therefore as emergence – though one has to accept somewhat unpredictable.

 Ethics and the critical role it plays in leadership success.

One critical facet to include of course is the issue of ethics – not so much ethics of the whole organisation, but the ethics of each person in the individual decisions at the most local of levels (1-2-1) through the individual actions we take.

Let's face it, ethics form the basis of trust, and trust is only gained through actions (I see what you do – so you mean it, but only believe you when you repeat it consistently over time).

So the big question is, what do you do if you know this or understand this construct and want to influence and effect good leadership or leadership for good?

Leadership therefore in our context is NOT a 'heroic figure', but more all about the local interactions between human beings. Too many people are pre-occupied with the 'game' and not thinking how to decide what is best, so are engaged in 'politics, persuasion and negotiation' rather than what actually the whole thing is aiming to achieve. So for effective leadership we should stop thinking of pre-designed solutions or ultimate master plans, but more how to influence the 'group' in the 'right direction'.

Excellent leadership (which is in my mind a social phenomenon arising through the interaction between people) is where others recognise you lead and you recognise their roles. Leadership is therefore co-created.

Ethical Leaders therefore must:

  1. Interact locally (regularly)
  2. Communicate to large numbers of people. However remember the interpretation is how it is taken up by local interactions. Pronouncements are but gestures and the effect once again is through local responses – we can't control how it is interpreted.
  3. Understand how it works locally which ultimately is by 'conversations'. Conversations within groups and between individuals.
  4. Realise they are leaders, only if they are sensitive to the situation and able to articulate what is emerging, which helps the group move forward and on.

Ethical Leaders therefore have to:

  1. Widen and deepen communication to help the group move forward
  2. Try and explore what to do in change (options)
  3. Stimulate ordinary conversations in times of anxiety. Why? Because if we don't, people jump to conclusions as they look for safety (or to meet their own agenda).
  4. Live longer with being anxious so they keep the conversations going longer so a solution arises that is far better than jumping to quick fixes and mundane solutions no one in the end believes really work.
  5. Be self-reflective to realise they should not be idealised as this can lead to ultimate denigration – let's face it, Barak Obama realised this when he said he is 'not the Messiah' or has all the answers.
  6. Help others take the next step. 

So, I agree with those that say selection and training of leaders is essential. That same training should open leaders' minds to all these insights and help them understand how to manage this uncertainty, while finding the way forward for themselves and for the group as a whole. We have a portfolio of products and services that can affect leadership for good in your organisation. Should you wish to know more, or even put something in place for your leaders, Entrusted can help you put the right things in place.

Poor leadership = poor adaption to changes

Changes conjure up many feelings and emotions - excitement, anticipation and happiness, but change can often herald reservation, concern, even fear.

While many leaders extol the benefits of change, not everyone shares that enthusiasm.

A client outlined the challenge he saw in taking on his new role as CEO. This challenge revolved around the level of fear he sensed throughout his new organisation. Phrases like "I can see the fear in their eyes" and "deep reservations about the future ahead" were quoted. There will be many reasons for these behaviours a nd this leader faced them as his prime challenge. Without commitment to the journey of necessary change throughout the organisation, he was "on a hiding to nothing".

Poor leadership can give rise to fear. Leaders define, affect and influence the culture of an organisation way beyond their own imagination. Some have no idea of the level of influence their behaviour has on others, not only on their direct reports, but through them on the whole organisation.

Resistance to change can also be due to;

  • Vested interests and personal fiefdoms which work hard to prevent change.
  • Potential organisational blindness to how the outside world really works.
  • Or, team spirit lost in transition.

Every organisation must evolve, adapt and remain sensitive to changes in its industry and others which can undermine what was once a stable and sustainable market. Often leaders read the situation correctly, but then act to bring about change in a way that destroys the very foundations that brought success to the organisation and would have served it well into the future, if only channelled correctly.
So, back to my client. What could he have done? In this instance it was a case of acknowledgement. Acknowledgement of what has passed, how his predecessor in attempting to do the right thing – did wrong. Not wrong in realising that change was necessary, but rather in misunderstanding how to deliver change.

History plays a part in defining the behaviours of an organisation "the way we do things around here", and some recognised capability for change. The very success built into the DNA of the organisation that brought it to the current position, that same DNA would if handled correctly, deliver future success in the 'brave new world'. Listening to those who have seen the journey to this point and asking them the right questions such as "What have you learnt when facing this or that challenge in the past"? and "Which solutions worked, which didn't and why was this the case"? Getting under the skin of the what, why and how the organisation responds to the new, what constitutes the resilience amongst the teams and capability to adapt, change and renew - this is key.

Having listened, questioned and understood, it is as vital to acknowledge that history - the strength that has helped so far - and open the dialogue about what the future holds, what part each person thinks they can play and what do they see as the evolution necessary to meet the future.

None of this should detract from the crucial role any leader plays in doing his or her own strategic thinking, market analysis and all the other critical 'outward looking' actions.  The real talent comes in performing the merger of listening and acknowledging within, with diagnosing and refining the challenges and opportunities without. This results in change for good, lessening the fear.

Fundamental to overcoming resistance to change is the building of trust. We can help with this. Contact – peter.buckley@buckley-partnership.co.uk

The Dark Side of Leadership Reputation

Within the film industry, George Lucas had a great reputation, built partly on his success with Star Wars. As the story goes, wisely he outsourced the original Star Wars sequels to a capable group of screenwriters and directors. Despite the massive success of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, ego and reputation meant he then opted to fly solo as a writer, director, and producer of the prequel trilogy. The resulting films proved that the director had absolutely no understanding of what audiences wanted from the franchise and by neglecting to reflect on what audiences loved about the franchise, Lucas created three boring films that barely qualified as action figure commercials nor made any return on investment.

There are strange, but often repeated outcomes that appear when the board of an organization appoints a leader with a known reputation, who fundamentally isn't up for the challenge itself, but rather approaches their role with total selfishness.

Reputation is a mercurial aspect of perceived successful individuals. Such is the nature of reputation it prompts a discussion and blog in itself... for another time. Suffice to say, in such instances as this it rests on delivering an outcome, often change, that a board considers the holder is able to bring to their own challenge 'at home'. Of course this presupposes the conditions both internal and external match theirs at that time and place, which of course can, and never will, be the same. Yet here they are appointed to the role.

So what are the outcomes of such actions? Firstly, single-minded, selfish individuals are only fuelled in their excess through each and every move, appointment and often increased reward package. Their power knows no bounds. So, to their actions and the long term effects: Change is brought about and while short term leading to perceived success, long term a change takes place in the soul. Soul of individuals, mores and culture.

Short term EBITDA, profit, growth and value appear enhanced, yet underneath a deterioration is happening. Deterioration is the ability of the organization to continually deliver cost savings, increased individual and group productivity and most of all limited creativity.

While these outcomes do not show up in the near horizon of 3-5 year plans, this does not seem to matter either to the incumbent leader nor the board. The inevitable results: Change in the leader. They move on to another challenge, fuelled by their own perceived self-worth and in many instances a knowledge that it is the 'right time' to move on (perhaps before being found out).

For a moment though let us consider what happens inside the organization. A common conversation revolves around 'sitting it out, change is inevitable and while this is the current way, hopefully the soul will prevail'. Of course this is seldom the outcome and instead another change takes place as those that have ability and resolve chose to find employment that offers values and beliefs similar to their own. Others fight to survive by adopting the prevailing behaviours in this 'new order' that can provide them short term success, but actually, in long term, affects their own sense of balance and fulfilment. In terms of delivery, whether achieving targets, results and sustainable creativity and innovation, sadly efforts, campaigns and initiatives fail. Not immediately, but rather they end up being sub-optimal and limited in their sustainability as mentioned. This is mainly as a result of staff not really being committed heart and soul to what the leader really wants, as demonstrated by his or her actions and selfish intent.

What can be done? In truth, this conundrum is best resolved through a combination of decisions and actions, namely;

Board members define what they want from a new CEO. This definition has to include;

  • A previous track record in dealing with challenges similar to their own
  • A clear set of behavioural skills considered important to maintain morale, mores and norms that enable the business to succeed then and now
  • Insight and ability to diagnose and act upon the few, yet critical blocks to improved performance and success going forward.
  • A robust and thorough selection process that takes time to really explore the fundamental motives and strategic intent underlying applicants desire to become the CEO.

Notwithstanding all the above, it is fair to say that these core insights not only apply to the appointment of CEOs, but equally to Directors and leaders throughout organisations. It is simply that the scale of risk and potential long term damage to the organization is greater the higher 'up the food chain' one goes.

'Jive Talking'

I remember when the Bee Gees released the song "Jive talkin'" in 1975. Oh those halcyon days as a teenager with no cares in the world, enjoying school (I actually really did!), and that enjoyment in life extended to most things including sports and playing football that summer in the streets of north London where I lived. Good times indeed. Truth is that at that time I didn't realise what the words really meant to the song, but sensed it was something about double talking and being misunderstood.

Anyway, it was only the other day while working with a client I asked a question to explore further with her why an excellent initiative to bring about innovative solutions to enhance business performance and productivity had floundered. It transpired she had taken the lead in offering to co-ordinate the work we had begun with her team and draw together their support – offered publicly at the time – to return to a final event and share the outcomes. Sadly she announced the initiative had not delivered as expected, although on the original day everyone was both enthused and enjoyed the work. Indeed, they came up with many robust ideas and potential ways of delivering the solutions, but when it came to working with her to bring them into practice she found everyone had a reason not to either reply, commit or even take their level of responsibility, declaring in most instances that they were either too busy or felt their personal priorities took precedence.
While this short synopsis spares any further details to save exposing anyone, it is fair to say these sorts of outcomes are not uncommon. Why do so many initiatives, plans and stated actions, whether around cost-savings, increased productivity or simply improved customer service, flounder?

What is it about making promises when the spirits are high only to back down, finding excuses or simply avoiding doing what we said we would do? It all sounds like "Jive talkin'" to me.
Truth is it doesn't have to be that way. By developing real trust within a team through open dialogue, conversations and discussions that really say what we think and think what we say, followed by doing what we say, consistently, things can be different, promises fulfilled and success achieved beyond the norm. All these simple, yet necessary actions will fundamentally serve as the true building blocks to sustainable trust in relationships, teams and organisations.

Have you had similar experiences? What worked and what actions complement the fundamental principle of trust?

Leading Change

As a leader, do you engage people at the level of spirit?

For this “Thought for Today” I felt a new approach was needed, so I have taken the liberty of providing you first with a short synopsis of a much wider and enjoyable article written by Sally Helgesen. The full article follows later.

Synopsis:

  • The reality is that meaningful, lasting change occurs only when a critical mass of people throughout an enterprise — not all of them, but a sufficient number — begin to approach their work and commitments in a whole new way.
  • Sustained transformation requires transformed people.
  • Leaders can instigate change effort, only to find their efforts stymied by entrenched interests or silos at senior levels.
  • Example of Pope Francis who approaches the difficult-to-reconcile tasks of re-engaging a broad spectrum of grassroots believers at the level of spirit and imagination while also seeking to curb the power of an entrenched bureaucracy that views itself as the true arbiter of church culture.

Leadership
How do you engage people in meaniful, lasting change?

First, a leader needs to create opportunities to build and connect with alternate constituencies in meaningful yet powerful symbolic ways in order to counterbalance vested interests nearer to hand.

Second, rather than telling others that they need to change their ways, a leader seeking transformation must instead personally model a radically open style of leadership that sets the tone for what he or she wants to see happen.

“Transformed people transform people”. St. Francis

Organisations can only be transformed when the people who comprise them are transformed, and people are changed by individuals who engage them at the level of spirit.

Papal Pull: by Sally Helgesen, Strategy & Business June 2015

“Only people of the spirit change things. The rest of us just rearrange them.”

The insightful quote wasn’t uttered by a religious figure, or by a touchy-feely New Age philosopher. Rather, it came from one of the most wilful and domineering figures ever to strut across the human stage: Napoleon.

The conqueror of Europe, whose dominion did indeed prove short-lived, was sufficiently clear-eyed to recognize the transitory nature of his military and political triumphs. But leaders today are often less astute. Although transformation has become a kind of Holy Grail in many organizations, it’s often viewed as an engineering or structural challenge that can be executed from the top: Get all the design elements right, and transformation is sure to follow.

The reality is that meaningful, lasting change occurs only when a critical mass of people throughout an enterprise — not all of them, but a sufficient number — begin to approach their work and commitments in a whole new way. Sustained transformation requires transformed people, as Lou Gerstner recognized when he noted that a reborn IBM could not be run by “the guys in white shirts” who had long defined the company’s culture. Gerstner, who ran Big Blue from 1993 to 2002, began the necessary work of supporting and engaging different people and the same people in different ways. By doing so, he was able to transform IBM from a complacent manufacturer of computer hardware into a more nimble and profitable provider of computing solutions, including services.

Such engagement does not happen by fiat, by a leader decreeing it must be so, although we continue to see leaders who stubbornly go down this path. My own favorite example, is former Hewlett Packard CEO Leo Apotheker’s sudden August 2011 announcement that the entire company — all 300,000-plus people — would on one specified day in September abandon their traditional business model, seize new terrain, and alter their modus operandi. Apotheker’s own tenure lasted about three weeks after this grandiose “Day One” declaration, which sowed confusion and despair in the ranks. The annals of business failure are littered with similar disasters. In the real world, people don’t change because the CEO tells them they must do so overnight.

Sometimes leaders do try to broadly engage people in a change effort, only to find their efforts stymied by entrenched interests or silos at senior levels. One classic example from business history was New United Motors Manufacturing, Inc., (NUMMI) an ill-fated partnership struck in 1984 between General Motors and Toyota. Based in Fremont, California, NUMMI was an effort to help frontline GM workers and supervisors learn the principles of lean manufacturing and the legendary Toyota production system (TPS) first-hand. Though the venture proved transformative for individual participants and resulted in vastly improved quality for the vehicles coming off the assembly line, GM didn’t change much as an organization as a result. The reason? Positional leaders outside the plant saw NUMMI’s innovation as a threat to their way of doing business. The Fremont plant was ultimately shut down in 2010, a year after GM filed for bankruptcy. (In a wonderfully ironic footnote, the old NUMMI site is today owned and operated by Tesla Motors.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about how transformations succeed and fail as I follow the fascinating efforts of Pope Francis to reinvigorate one of the few 2,000-year-old institutions on earth. The Catholic Church as an organization has provided the very prototype of top-down hierarchy since the early Middle Ages, so opening it up structurally is a particularly daunting task. What’s remarkable is the agility with which this Pope, who assumed his post in 2013 after the unprecedented resignation of a long-time Vatican power player who had become paralyzed in his role, approaches the difficult-to-reconcile tasks of re-engaging a broad spectrum of grassroots believers at the level of spirit and imagination while also seeking to curb the power of an entrenched bureaucracy that views itself as the true arbiter of church culture.

In moving on both fronts simultaneously, the Pope reveals his understanding of the two-step methodology required if sustained transformation is to flourish. First, a leader needs to create opportunities to build and connect with alternate constituencies in meaningful yet powerful symbolic ways in order to counterbalance vested interests nearer to hand. This approach was most vividly demonstrated in Francis’s drive to canonize Oscar Romero, the murdered bishop of El Salvador; the move had been blocked by the Roman Curia, the administrative arm of the Vatican, for 35 years. Soon after his installation, Pope Francis — the first South American to lead the church — embraced the effort, creating a groundswell of support across Latin America that included peasant villages, political allies, and advocates of liberation theology who had been marginalized or even banished from the church. In doing so, the Pope created a counterweight to those curial princes in Rome who had viewed the effort as a threat to their personal fiefs and positional power. In May, Romero was beatified — the penultimate step to formal sainthood.

Second, rather than telling others that they need to change their ways, a leader seeking transformation must instead personally model a radically open style of leadership that sets the tone for what he or she wants to see happen. In this spirit, the Pope remained in his modest Jesuit rooming house during his transition instead of moving into the palatial apartment prepared for him. He insisted on personally paying the fee at the desk upon leaving instead of having a retainer take care of it. He wore simple white robes and a skullcap at his investiture instead of the elaborate brocaded cape expected, and he rejected the scarlet slippers that had become a papal trademark. And most famously, he washed the feet of prisoners, including women and Muslims, at his first Holy Thursday service.

By acting as a simple, even humble priest from Day One of his papacy, the Pope demonstrated his understanding of the basic insight of the saint whose name he took upon investiture: transformed people transform people. This is a truth leaders miss when they imagine their positional power alone can compel lasting change. Organiz ations can only be transformed when the people who comprise them are transformed, and people are changed by individuals who engage them at the level of spirit.

This particular transformation effort isn’t finished, of course, and the forces of resistance can be wily and patient. As one senior curial official recently confided to long-term Vatican correspondent John Allen, “Bergoglio [Pope Francis] won’t be here forever, but we will.” That’s an extraordinarily bald and confident statement of faith on the irresistible nature of positional and bureaucratic power in an institution whose purpose, as Francis reminds us, is supposed to be pastoral. But if Napoleon is proved right yet again, the triumph of inertia is likely to be brief.

The seasons change, life is constant change and work... well you don't need me to tell you!

We all look for some certainties in life. This includes aspects of our work life where we feel 'assured', and this is no more relevant than in the behaviours and skills of our leaders and in you as a leader of others.

I just read this short, but insightful article by Heidi Grant Halvorson which encapsulates firstly, why trust is so important a consideration for leaders and, secondly, a number of strategies you might want to consciously consider about yourself:

The Most Important Skill for Great Leaders? Trustworthiness.

by Heidi Grant Halvorson

What makes a great leader? You are probably thinking it's something buzzword-worthy like confidence. Or maybe vision. Or emotional intelligence—you hear about that one all the time. For sure, those are all good qualities for a leader to have, but the answer is actually trustworthiness. Technically, it's not just being trustworthy that is key, but being seen as trustworthy.

The question "Can I trust you?" is always on our minds whenever we interact with other people (particularly when we meet them for the first time) though we usually aren't consciously aware of asking it. Studies suggest that in order to figure out whether or not someone is trustworthy, we analyze their words and deeds to find answers to two questions: "Do you have good intentions toward me—are you a friend or a foe?" and "Do you have what it takes to act on those intentions?"

So how do we find the answers? Decades of research show that we are all highly tuned-in to the warmth and competence of those around us. Warmth is being friendly, kind, loyal, and empathetic. It is taken as evidence that you have good intentions toward others. Your competence—being intelligent, creative, skilled, effective—is taken as evidence that you can act on your intentions if you want to. Competent people are therefore valuable allies or potent enemies. Less competent people are objects of compassion, or scorn.

When your team trusts you as a leader, it increases commitment to team goals. Communication improves, and ideas flow more freely, increasing creativity and productivity. Perhaps most important, in the hands of a trusted leader, employees are more comfortable with change and more willing to embrace a new vision. When your team doesn't trust you, you don't get their best effort. You'll then find yourself unable to inspire, influence, and create real change—an ineffective leader.

When your team doesn't trust you, you don't get their best effort.

We can all agree that trust is good. The problem, however, is that we are so eager to prove that we "know what we're doing" as leaders that we neglect the arguably more important part of the trust formula: proving that we will act with our colleagues' interests in mind. In other words, trust is an afterthought.

Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, author of many of the key studies on trust and leadership, has argued that when you project competence before warmth, you run the risk of appearing cold and eliciting fear from your employees. They might respect you, but fearful employees are rarely able to work at their best. And you certainly can't blame them for wanting to jump ship once an offer to work for someone who doesn't make them constantly anxious comes along.

Fearful employees are rarely able to work at their best.

In a nutshell, being competent is certainly important, but it must be coupled with the sense that you have your employees' welfare and interests in mind and that what they experience matters to you. Think about how you can use the following strategies to up your trust quotient:

#1 Pay Attention

Make eye contact, and hold it—both when you are speaking and listening. Nod from time to time to show you are understanding what's being said to you (and if you don't understand, ask). Smile, especially when they do. And above all else, really focus and internalize what is being said to you—everyone needs to feel that they have been heard, even when you can't give them what they are asking for.

#2 Trust Them First

Human beings have a deeply-rooted tendency toward reciprocity. We are naturally inclined to want to do favours, give gifts, and work to promote those who have done these things for us in the past. And the same holds true when it comes to trust—we are more likely to feel we can trust someone who has trusted us first. So assign tasks and projects that reflect this trust. Socially, share personal (but appropriate!) stories, talk about your struggles and challenges, let them see your fallible, human side. Allowing yourself to be a bit vulnerable is a great way to project warmth.

#3 Show Empathy

As a leader it's easy to have a laser-like focus on the tasks at hand. But take the time to mentally put yourself in your employees' shoes, to really try to grasp their perspective. Use phrases like "I imagine you must have felt..." to convey that empathy directly.

All that said, if you just aren't the warm-and-fuzzy type, and maybe talking about "feelings" makes you uncomfortable, fear not. Evidence suggests that the moral character aspects of warmth—the sense that you are fair, principled, courageous, and honest—are also highly effective for establishing trust. In other words, to get your employees to trust you, be someone they can always count on to do the right thing.

My learning from this, combined with personal observations of leaders and teams over the last 16 years, is that in truth it is easy to spot leaders who are not sincere in their care for others and personal mindfulness and to really 'do it right', honest reflection on your leadership style and skills is critical.

In using the learning from this article the key issue is not to apply each and all these strategies, but more to work to infuse this thinking and practice into your personal 'norm'.

I will be returning to this theme over the autumn and in the meantime, How about you? How have great leaders earned your trust?

The Value of Trust

If I may be so bold, I would like to make a big deal about TRUST as I really feel it is the key to a brilliant team, individual fulfilment and personal success.

So here are some thoughts I’ve gathered on Trust that I hope shed some light on the value of trust.

Trust is the fabric that binds us together, creating an orderly, civilized society from chaos and anarchy. Trust is not an abstract, theoretical, idealistic goal forever beyond our reach. Trust –– or lack of it –– is inherent in every action that we take and affects everything that we do. Trust is the cement that binds relationships, keeping spouses together, business deals intact, and political systems stable. Without trust, marriages fails, voters become apathetic, and organizations flounder. Without trust, no company can ever hope for excellence.

Understanding the meaning of trust allows you to work toward being a trusted and trusting person. The truth is that trust is never guaranteed, and it can’t be won overnight. Trust must be carefully constructed, vigorously nurtured, and constantly reinforced. Trust is established over time, gradually, through a long chain of successful experiences. In the early stages of relationships, whether personal or business, we extend ourselves in small ways and observe the responses to our actions. Then we take appropriate action, withdrawing, maintaining our behaviour, or extending ourselves a bit further each time until trust is established. Although trust takes a long time to develop, it can be destroyed by a single action. Moreover, once lost, it is very difficult to re-establish. Building trusting relationships is a process that can best be described as stacking layers on a foundation one at a time in such a way that each layer bonds on top of the prior one before another layer is added.

In a world where time is a precious resource, where we must often move without having the time to explore all the options, we use shortcuts to circumvent the process. For this reason, an individual’s or organization’s history or track record is often evaluated to gauge how we may be treated in a relationship.

Winning Trust: A Step-By-Step Guide

To expand on what constitutes the building of trust and how each of us wins the trust of others, the following simple four-stage diagram and subsequent explanations should provide you with a clearer picture of not just the value of trust, but the critical components that take time to build upon and enable a truly trusting relationship between you and others, within the team itself, throughout the business and critically with your customers, clients of stakeholders.

It is important I stress that each and every building block is important for the establishment of trust and that there are no quick fixes to achieve lasting trust, but with mindfulness and constant attention to your behaviours, predictability ultimately results and with that faith amongst all participants. It is this faith that would be the ultimate measure for the successful achievement of trust.

Trust: First stage

FoundationTrust Leadership

The foundation, or first stage, represents the beginning of a relationship and depicts the history of those involved. We generally start off with some preconceived notion about others. We meet and develop first impressions about people through the friends we have in common; watching how they treat others; the things they talk about in meetings, while commuting, at parties; and general observations during work. We develop first impressions of companies by seeing an advertisement, getting references from people, or reading articles about them on the Internet.

Trust: Second stage

Support structure | The values on which trust restsTrust Leadership

The second stage represents values that lead to trusting relationships, such as integrity, reliability, and openness. Once these characteristics are demonstrated, they form the support structure of a trusting relationship. When these actions are repeated time and time again, the relationship is strengthened and becomes part of the framework of the next phase.

Trust: Third stage

ConsistencyTrust Leadership

The third stage, consistency, enables us to anticipate probable actions. It provides a certain degree of comfort that helps us to maintain the relationship even through difficult times.

Trust: Fourth stage

From predictability to faithTrust Leadership

The fourth stage is faith. As these layers are stacked on top of the other three stages, everything that came before them strengthens the framework. This is the stage at which actions are so predictable that we don’t consciously have to think about the relationship. At this phase, trust has become so integral a part of the relationship that we expect it to work. At their peak, relationships imbued with trust are bonded together by a faith so strong that it is very difficult to destroy the relationship. It is at this stage that people allow themselves to become entirely vulnerable to others.

To conclude this insight into Trust, I would like to share a short blog post by Ted Colne which talks of why trust is so important for a leader like you in the long run:

Why is trust so important for a leader in the long run?

In a word, faith.

A leader whose people trust her, is someone whose people have faith in her; people who will give her the benefit of the doubt when things go wrong; people who stick with her when she stumbles, or when the group fails as a unit. That faith, that trust, is like money in the bank saved for a rainy day. Without it, a leader’s people will desert her at the first sign of trouble.

This could be physically, as in quitting the team, the business unit, or the company. It could also be emotional, and this may actually be worse. When people come to work disgruntled, they won’t put in their best effort. They’ll infect newcomers with their negative attitudes. Their customers will catch the vibe. So will potential customers, and potential employees. How do you measure sales that don’t happen, or talent that doesn’t come aboard? Yet these immeasurables can spell the slow, painful death of an organization.

On the other hand, it is trust that provides the opportunity to lead the team out of danger when trouble strikes – as it always will, no matter how amazing a leader one is.

For instance…

  • Edison resisted moving from Direct Current to Alternating Current for far too long; had his investors not trusted him, he would have lost control of his company and might have died a failure
  • The people of South Africa trusted Nelson Mandela to lead them out of white rule and into democracy peacefully, rather than through bloody revolution; trust made all the difference to the entire nation

How about you, Mr. or Ms Leader?

Do your people trust you? When you stumble, do they forgive you and remain by your side, or do they roll their eyes at each other and say, “Here she goes again?”

Chances are very high you cannot answer this question properly yourself.

The higher we get on the org chart, the less in-touch most of us are with our people – and most leaders compound this tendency, of isolation-through-position, by surrounding themselves with yes-men or with like-minded individuals.  That means few leaders can trust someone to tell them when their people have lost trust in them.

Who tells you when your baby is ugly? And what is the price of not knowing?

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