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MANAGEMENT: Building Trust – Putting the Heart Back Into Business
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Take a moment if you would, grab your favourite drink and journey with me on the value of trust in the work place. If you were to describe a low trust working environment, which words or pictures would you use? Maybe write them down. What particular feelings do you come away with as you imagine this setting? Now, do the same for a high trust environment. Do you notice any differences?
 
If you take the two situations you have just envisioned, what effects might each one have on say employee retention, training costs, product/service quality, problem solving, decision making, or any number of real life issues we face every day in our companies?  Which environment would you feel mostly engaged in as a leader or employee? My guess is we’d both choose the atmosphere of high trust! 
 
Rather than looking at reasons why organisations of low trust exist, I would like to walk with you through six core beliefs that are essential in building a culture of trust within your company.  Cultures of high trust, are communities whereby honour, hope, purpose and gratitude flourish, and where leaders and managers foster freedom, courage and influence.  (These may have been some of the words you chose in describing your culture of high trust). 
 
As a trainer, I often get requests from various leaders and HR managers to come and change the behaviour of a given group of people within an organisation. I usually ask how long the leader and team have been together. It is often quite a few years. Given such enquiries I kindly respond that turning their team around is not likely going to happen, as behaviour modification takes time and to date they haven’t been too successful at seeing that happen.  
 
That said, I usually follow by stating that all is not lost, because he who has the most hope, has the most influence. Hope is a powerful thing! Here’s why; it’s really not about my behaviour, or your behaviour.  Behaviour is simply an outcome, the physical or verbal result of something deeper.  It is in fact controlled by my attitude, which in turn is strongly influenced by my beliefs. What I believe about myself and those around me is at the root of my behaviour. And beliefs are something we can influence and even change!  Indeed, I am full of hope that we can influence the beliefs of your team!
 
Stephen Covey, in his book The Speed of Trust (www.speedoftrust.com) has a treasure trove of success stories, statistics, and studies on the value of trust, and the cost to companies of low trust. Low trust, Covey suggests, is the ultimate cost in life, organisations, and even in families.  Low trust is evidenced in the working relationships and behaviour of your staff, often accurately reflecting what they believe about themselves, what we as their leaders believe about them, and possibly even what we as leaders believe about ourselves.
 
Now picture your current work environment, is it a low trust or high trust environment? How would you describe your relationships at work? What behaviours suggest one or the other? What attitudes and beliefs might you consider to be the source of the organisational culture that is evident? Is it possible to create and sustain an environment of high trust?  I believe it is! Let’s explore these six areas together.
 
● Provision: Identifying and addressing the appropriate needs of your staff

Try making a list of the needs of your people (from the factory floor up to the top). Everything from the basic physical needs of food and shelter, to the deeper needs of purpose, belonging, intimacy, etc.  
◎ What needs can (should) we meet as a company and team?
◎ What needs can we:
    - Be aware of and facilitate? 
- Refer to another source?
- Defer completely?
 
● Protection: Making the workplace as safe as possible

Which areas would you list as needing protection at work?  Obviously the physical environment is an important one, but what about the emotional and relational security of your team? Bill Gates once told his team at Microsoft that they were not failing enough! When last did you hear such a message in your company? The reality is, that being given permission to fail like this can only happen in a relationally safe environment.
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◎ What makes a work place safe for people to try new things? How do leaders respond through their attitudes, emotions and behaviours when mistakes are made? Is it safe to take risks and possibly fail?  Is it safe to ask questions? The fundamental question being asked is “Is it safe to succeed?” because success rests on the freedom to fail, to ask questions and to try out new ways of doing things.
◎ What is the cultural (personal and national) background of my team and how do they process taking risk, trying, failing, etc.? Have I asked my people if they feel safe?  What are the tell-tale signs of relational insecurity? What active steps may need to be put in place for there to be relational safety?  
 
● Identity: Celebrating/developing the unique skills, knowledge, and talent of your team 

As leaders our role requires that we draw out the full potential of our teams and the individuals that are part of them. In some way, doing this is like intentionally throwing fuel on their personal fires of talent/gifting/experience/aptitude etc. We can do this by:
◎ Providing opportunities to identify strengths and skills, such as www.strengthsfinder.com, so that people can reach their full potential (see Dr David Zovak’s Management article in the February 2013 Edition of Business Tianjin).  
◎ Focusing my time as a leader, less on the mistakes and urgent matters that demand my attention, and more on the intentional development and celebration of who my team are. As Robert Eckert says, “As you go to work, your top responsibility should be to build trust.” (CEO, Mattel)
 
● Encouragement: Positive empathy in the face of challenges

What is the role of the CEO? He or she is the Chief Encouragement Officer; that is the emotional gatekeeper, so to speak, of the whole company, intentionally choosing to model personal integrity, a positive attitude, connection to others and placing the needs of others ahead of his/her own needs. In effect, valuing relationship over performance.   
◎ What are the different appreciation languages of our people? Some are encouraged when we spend time with them, others with a small gift. Still others with words of encouragement, a high five touch or hug, or a helpful act of service or even simply with a smile and making eye contact with them.
◎ How do you feel when you are truly heard? Many people might respond to this question by using words such as respected, valued, warm, honoured etc.  
◎ How are our intentional listening skills? Do our team members feel heard by us? Do they have opportunity to express, and do I deliberately engage when I see people in need of encouragement? Is seeking first to understand our top priority in listening?
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● Training: Providing the most relevant and effective development possible for the person/role

◎ Most companies do reasonably well at intentionally developing the practical on-the-job skills of their people. Is the training we offer intentional and personal?
◎ One form of highly effective training is that of coaching, providing someone that can intentionally walk with key employees through the challenges and opportunities they are facing, so as to enhance their processing skills, performance , and potential. Our people often have what it takes, and using coaches can help draw this out of them. 
 
● Friendship: This is the key element, since all of the principles above happen in an atmosphere of friendship 
Do our people know that they are valued for who they are, rather than simply what they produce?
◎ How much do I care for my people?  How might they know I care?  Are their needs more important to me than my own?
◎ Am I willing to in effect lay down my desires and wants for the true needs of the people that I am working with?
 
By now, I expect your drink is nearly done. If we were having coffee together, and your mug was empty, would I notice the need, and more importantly, would I have a source from which to meet your need? The bottom line is that as a leader I can only give away what I possess. How are my own needs being met in the above six areas? If as a leader my coffee pot isn’t full, there will be little I can do to fill your mug!  
 
If, however, I am full of hope, joy, trust, and willing to commit to and believe in my people before they are even ready to believe in themselves, as a trustworthy and nurturing leader I can begin to rewrite their destiny, and as a result the destiny of my company. As Henry Ford once said, “Burn down my factories, but let me keep my people, and in 5 years I’ll be back.”  That’s trust!
 
Please feel free to contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and I will be happy to forward you 4-5 compelling articles (URLs) on companies whose leaders and people are modelling extravagant trust, and have healthy bottom lines.

By Ric Schoon

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