Posts Tagged ‘trust’

TrustTrust. I know it’s kind of a tricky word to begin with. Trust can have many different meanings to many different people. The dictionary definition is: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Back to our opening salvo: Why should they trust you? The answer is that if they don’t know you there is no reason for them to trust you. Why not? I’m going to grab onto two of the words in the definition of trust here: reliability and ability. If they have no knowledge of your ability or reliability they have no way to judge your trustworthiness.

Think about when you say “I trust she’ll get it done” whether at work or in your personal life. What are you basing that on? You’re probably basing that on experience. Positive experiences to be precise because we know that negative experiences bring distrust.

Trust we know is the foundation of a good relationship. And good relationships are the key achieving great things. When trust exists in a relationship people will allow you to act in ways that would not otherwise be allowed, and they may follow guidance they otherwise may not. It can mean the difference between getting lip service or feelings of coercion and getting well-intentioned investment. So how are you going to build trust?

Essentially you need to prove yourself. A good reference can get you in the door but only trust will keep you there.

But how do I provide good experiences if they don’t trust me with the opportunity? An age-old conundrum, for sure. Well, there are ways to open the door. Here are a couple thoughts.

• Start with education or coaching before asking them to do work or asking for work. Take in the environment and the context. What are some of the activities you foresee? Based on these, introduce concepts that open the door to the knowledge around these activities. Provide illustrations and anecdotes about how they work elsewhere. What this does is begin to establish a link between your knowledge and the ability you want them to trust you with.

• Give without expectation. Find a problem that they need solved that you think you can help them with. This problem may or may not have anything to do with your mission to help them, in fact the benefit to it not being related is that it eases feelings that an agenda is being pursued. The goal is to demonstrate ability. Keep your eyes and ears open. When you find something make an offer to do some research or an analysis.

• Show that you’re listening. Pay attention to dialogs that are occurring. Look for topics where you might be able to provide insight, especially those not tied to your mission. Look for topics where you may be able to refer them to someone with knowledge or insight. This provides glimpses into your knowledge and experience and also shows good will. Needless to say that piping in about everything might back fire when you end up looking like a know it all. So step gently.

• Common ground. Look for places where your experience and their experience overlap. This will undoubtedly happen. Highlight a few where you can tie back to education and concepts. Everything in moderation, of course.
• Be human. You have a personality. So do they. You have a personal life. So do they. Acknowledge that. Inquire. Share. It’s the little things.

• Deliver. Do what you say you will do. It doesn’t get any simpler. Delivery builds trust. Non-delivery destroys it.

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I used to tell my last boss I was an abstract kind of person. He would laugh and say don’t you mean obtuse. He was joking of course. Though there are times when I think it is true.

Like with the idea of Empowerment. I capitalize it because that’s how I see it when I hear management say it.

Because when I hear them say it I think, I don’t even know what that means. I mean, I know what empowerment means. But I don’t know what Empowerment means.

This is where the obtuse part comes in. I’m like I don’t think I know what Empowerment looks like yet alone how to implement it. And then I get snarky because I don’t like feeling obtuse and I say, I don’t think you know what it looks like either.

Now, to be fair to myself I think perhaps it is less obtuseness and more extreme dislike for management buzz words that sets me off.  And Empowerment is one of them.

So obviously empower means to give power. That can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Some good, some bad. Power has way too many connotations and implications and insinuations to be a healthy conversation piece.

I prefer to think of it as giving people influence. Because is influence is really what you want them to have.  And as we all know, influence is power.

Give people the tools and skills to influence behavior and processes, which vary of course depending on the goals and environment. Give them some self-determination. Because having self-determination makes us feel better about our situation.

This is great. But there’s one thing that’s usually missing. It’s not the commitment. It’s not the resources. It’s the trust.

(I think I’m going to give myself a bonus every time I use the word trust. Because it always boils down to that.)

But this time the trust is not between the change agent and the team. This trust is between management and the team. Management has to show that they trust the process.

Management often states in good faith that they trust the team and the process. Then they undermine it in word or in action, often in the form of control. The unwillingness to give up control. I don’t really trust you if I second guess everything, if I micromanage the process steps, if I have to run everything up the ladder, if I throw barriers in the way. That’s not trust.

What do we want management? We want trust. Without trust Empowerment is just another four letter word.

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Convincing people that things need to change is hard. Convincing them that change is good is harder. Convincing them that they should actively pursue change is hardest of all.

There are so many good methods and techniques and tools for pursuing change. They are, however, of limited value if you can’t get your team to take the change steps willingly.

It comes back to trust. And this time it is two kinds of trust.  The trust that they place in you and the trust they place in themselves.

Trust can be built in many ways. One way to build trust is by giving without expecting. For example, if I am working with a team I make sure to understand the people, the process and the current environment. I learn about things related to what I am there to help with and but I also learn about unrelated things and general conditions. I look for things that they are struggling with and I try to find a way give them something to help.

Perhaps a contact to reporting resource. Hey, I think Bob might have data on that topic. Or a link to an article on how people are dealing with a customer service problem. Or maybe I take some of their data and do an analysis and create a chart that says hey look I noticed this trend you might be interested in.

Just give it to them. Don’t belabor it. Let them take from it what they will. That’s it. You can do this for the manager. You can do it for a team member.

Here’s what that just accomplished. You showed them you are paying attention. You gave them some of your expertise without asking for anything. You’ve demonstrated your capabilities.

This might sound disingenuous but it’s not. It is good human relations. When building a relationship with a friend you do things for them you think they would like. It makes you feel good to do this. You get a serotonin boost. It makes them feel good. They get a serotonin boost.  You don’t ask for anything in return. You’re trying to build a bond. The bond is what you are getting in return.

And it’s not disingenuous because everyone knows you are there to get things done so no one is going to be surprised when you finally ask them to get involved.

Then there is the trust they have in themselves. You can help them with that. Because the more trust they have in themselves the less daunting the challenges of change will be.

Find out what their skills and capabilities are. Illustrate to them how those will translate to even unknown future tasks.

And if you find out they might be missing a key skill, then do what you can to help them acquire it. Provide education, examples, practical application. Build their knowledge, build their confidence, build their trust in themselves.

When in doubt, lend a hand.

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People know when you’re not listening.

That’s it. That’s today’s important lesson. Trust me, it’s far more significant than it seems.

To understand why it is so significant we start with basic human condition of needing to feel valued. This need doesn’t go away just because you are at work. In fact feeling valued is one of the few things that can turn work into something more than just work. How sweet is that? Pretty sweet.

There are people who have thought about this a lot, whether personal or work related. Check these examples out. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/theory-knowledge/201206/relational-value and http://blogs.hbr.org/2011/06/the-only-thing-that-really-mat/)

You can provide feelings of value in many ways, like through recognition or appreciation, and that’s important to do.

But you can destroy all that value building by doing one little thing: by not listening.

Let’s try an empathy exercise here. Let’s go back and reflect on our own personal and professional lives and even our childhoods and think about how you felt when you thought someone ignored you, cut you off, gave you a canned response, poo-pooed you, brushed your concerns away or was clearly distracted. I’m going to guess you didn’t like it. You felt you weren’t being taken seriously. You felt you were being dismissed or belittled.

Now, should we be tougher and have thicker skin and be more Zen about these things? Sure. Are we always able to do that? No. And just because I think you can handle being dismissed doesn’t mean I should do it.

That’s why listening is so important. Because it’s powerful. Because it’s personal. Because it’s subtle.

Especially because it is subtle. It’s the art of communication. It’s why companies spend billions of dollars a year crafting their messages to consumers. You have to work at it.

The art and science of listening is then to gain information and understanding while not sparking negative reactions.

The good thing is listening skills can be learned. There’s a whole school of thought around the idea of active listening. There are books and training and gurus aplenty. Lots of good resources out there like this http://www.studygs.net/listening.htm. These resources provide you with the science but remember that there is an art part.

You have to avoid the pitfalls of applying these listening tools mechanically, though. You have to make your listening is genuine or at least project the feeling that you are trying to be genuine.

The mechanical application ends up in a scenario where someone is sitting across from you and waits for you to finish and says “I hear what you’re saying” or “Let me repeat what I think you said.”

What the hell? is what I think. Are you a robot? Did you just read that off the Quick Tips sheet from the Active Listening class you just went to? You seem intelligent. But you just listened to what I had to say and the most personal and thought out thing you can say is “here’s what I think you just said.”

OK, so that what is a little harsh. But the point is don’t be a robot.  Because I’m not a robot. Just prove to me that you were listening.  Treat me as individual and behave like you’re having a unique interaction. Because that’s what I feel it is.

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a change agent?

The Secret in Secret Change Agent

Is a change agent a job or is it a role? Do we approach change management as a project or is a project endowed with change management?

A true secret change agent has a secret mission.  Except that it’s not a secret.  Anyone can manage a project that will change the organization.  The change may be as small as verbiage on a letter template or as sweeping as shutting down a department.  But without a secret mission, it’s just another disruption to the team members. The role of a secret change agent is to transform every project into something greater by becoming part of the team, by building trust with them so you can promote change from the inside. You are doing the project with them, not to them.

So what is your mission, should you choose to accept it?   

The key difference between a Secret Change Agent and your run-of-the-mill process engineer is the mission.  And the mission is to change the culture.  It doesn’t need to start as radical change – we’re not talking “smash the state” kind of culture change.  Think of it more along the lines of “gradual enlightenment”.   With every problem identified, the organization has an opportunity to grow.   Our reflex may be to slap a band-aid on the problem and desperately hope the blemish never shows its ugly face again.  But the opportunity presented is one of learning.  It’s not just about solving the problem, but rather about furthering a problem-solving culture.

I love it when a plan comes together

Every secret mission needs a good plan. Your job is to look at the project and the secret mission and figure out what lessons can be learned about problem-solving. It could be one simple process method. It could be a set of tools to use. It could be feedback loops. You could even be planting seeds for future learning. And as always assess the current capabilities and understanding of the team members. Your job is to set them up to succeed in the learning because that feels good, creates a sense of achievement that they’ll want to repeat.

So bring the people in 

By involving the people who live the problem, hopefully the people who identified the problem in the first place, you are taking the first step toward an inclusive learning culture.  People are always sensitive about projects and change so it’s your job to bring the right attitude. It’s your job to guide them not drag them. Take time to understand both the people and the process. Then make an effort to let them know you understand. They’ll appreciate that and you’ll build the trust necessary to move farther and farther ahead.

Today’s blog was a fun collaboration with Megan O’Neal. Megan is seasoned business engineer from Minneapolis. Thanks Megan. 

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Wizards. That’s what so many business analysts and engineers seem like when they show up with their weird terminology and strange tools. It’s like they’re casting spells to lighten the darkness for you.

Some engineers come across this way because they indeed want to seem magical, adding to their aura as special beings. Others come across this way unintentionally. Either way the effect on the victims is pretty much the same: instead of being awed by the wizard’s powers they are annoyed by the wizard’s arrogance. Not really the outcome you are looking for.

This always reminds me of a fantasy book series called “Sword of Truth.” The first book in the series is called “Wizards First Rule.” And there is in fact a Wizard’s First Rule (spoiler alert) and it is: “People are stupid. They will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true.”  It’s the people are stupid line that resonates with me not the lying bits since I know we all have good intentions. Now this might make a for a good novel or a comedic line, but treating people like they are stupid or trying to impress them with how expert you are is not good change management.

I didn’t intend this to be a list of things not to do but it kind of fell out that way. So here are three rules to follow to avoid being a bad wizard:

  1. Don’t use big words and jargon from your area of expertise. You end up sounding like some wizard casting spells.  Take time to explain in detail what they mean in layman’s terms as necessary. Educate them on the importance of the term in on-going efforts. Once people understand the term well enough then you can use it. Until then speak in practical terms they will understand. If you can’t do that, then you need to spend more time understanding them and their processes before you start speaking.
  2. Don’t be a Gandalf. Don’t come in and rile things up and then disappear for a month. This might make for a good movie but doesn’t do much good for trust. No one wants to feel abandoned. If you don’t have trust, you don’t have diddly.
  3. Don’t scare the locals with magic tricks. Unless you want to spook the locals, do not walk around with clipboards and stop watches. It always comes back to trust. Once you establish trust by explaining the terminology and the methodology, then you can explain the magic tricks that are the clipboards and stop watches. Everyone has to understand this, not just managers.

So let’s all go out there and be the best wizards we can be.

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You must believe. As a change agent you must believe in the task at hand. So you ask, what exactly is it that I must believe?  

You must believe in the goal or the vision. You must believe that it is a good place to go. You must believe that it is a good course.

Because not believing has awful consequences. I know because I’ve been there. It’s apparent. You cannot hide it.

Was it entirely my fault that I did not believe? No. Was I guilty of not making the right effort with powers to be to find a way to believe? Yes. I did a disservice to myself and the project by not making it clear to my superiors that if I didn’t believe in this I would fail, the project would fail, and we needed to work at my belief or get me off the project.

If I don’t believe my performance will suffer. That is certainly true. The greater damage will be that most people on the project  will know I don’t believe. And unfortunately, unbelief inspires unbelief. It inspires mistrust and cynicism that those who are supposed to help them don’t believe in the cause. The project members may not know why something is amiss and they may not be able to put a name on it. But they will know. They may see it as going through the motions, lacking optimism or lacking conviction.

Others must believe that you believe. That is why it is so important to do the upfront work before anything kicks into motion.

Again, it is relationship building. In this case it is both upward and outward.

Upward to those directing the work. You need to establish a relationship that says this is a joint effort. That change efforts need to inspire belief. They have to have tangible and visual value. The reasons for the change have to be meaningful and understandable to the people you are asking to change. You need to help the powers that be to understand that it’s part of your job to give projects the right kind of believable meaning.

And also reaching outward to your project team. If you want them to believe you not only must they believe that you believe, but they must trust you. You have to start building that bond before you ask them to do anything. Plant seeds and educate and understand before you ask for anything.

If the roots are not severed, all will be well in the garden.

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We want people to just get it. When we pitch an idea or concept to someone we want all the light bulbs to go on at once.

Sometimes people do just get it. But that’s the exception. And when they don’t get it right away we often get frustrated or we try to force it.

It’s as if we have forgotten what it is like to learn something new. How easy it can be to be overwhelmed by new concepts, especially when you have your real job to do. You don’t even know enough to be able to gauge the value of the new concept so you can’t even make a choice to prioritize it.

Then we start making requests of them to start making changes, implementing new things. It’s hard enough that they don’t fully understand yet (not that you don’t ask them to do foreign things because it is in doing that we learn). But the psychological risk here is that they often don’t see you as requesting them to try a new process but demanding that they try a new process.  They feel this because most likely you’ve been assigned this task by someone above them and view your requests as not optional. And no one likes to feel that demands are being put on them from an outside force.

I don’t know how to avoid this entirely. Change comes with resistance no matter how you sugar coat it. You can, however, minimize this by building the relationship first and then requesting change and experimentation.

There are many ways to build relationships. There are also many ways to damage relationships. One good way to damage a relationship is to start by asking for something before a relationship is built. Like in the example above, if you start asking someone to change before you build a relationship you’re creating a one way dynamic. You’re asking them to do something and you’re asking them to trust you. All the burden and effort is on them. I wouldn’t want to be part of that relationship.

What can you do then to avoid this? Plant seeds, not demands.

Plant seeds by educating them on the concept, illustrating the concept, highlighting examples of the concept without asking them to do anything. Give the seeds time to germinate. Continue to water the seeds by offering more knowledge. This shows a commitment to them by you. By offering observation on their operations in context to the concept. This shows you are paying attention to their world. This is how you build trust. This is how you build good will. This is how you can give without asking.

If you do it right, they may ask you when they can start a new project or process. If you do it right, you may see an opportunity to offer assistance in trying something new.  Yes, there will still be apprehension but there will also be willingness.

In fact, you should always be planting seeds with all your business partners. You should always be educating them. You never know when these seeds will germinate. Plant seeds, reap benefits.