TRUST Bubbles

There’s so much information and advice surrounding the development of healthy workplace culture and environment… and even more conversation pointing out the consequences of not doing so. Before I proceed, I think it only fair to define my position; especially since there may be some among us who consider the golden arches version of the potato to be “a healthy vegetable” and carbonated water from a can, “a hydration miracle”.  As you’ve probably guessed, I am a fan of single ingredient foods and I find it difficult to tolerate substitutes. What does this have to do with workplace culture and environment?  Everything. The additives we introduce into our professional cultures (insecurities, selfishness, greed, intolerance, disrespect, etc.) contaminate the free flow of ideas, subvert authenticity and stifle creativity. This clutter will overshadow and ultimately destroy the transparency that a healthy environment requires to nurture and ensure the health of teams; causing them to thrive and produce.

Health in the workplace is indicative of the culture – which makes up the environment and a fundamental ingredient in creating a healthy environment is TRUST.

Without a basic level of trust, there is no hope of creating a culture that sustains a healthy environment.

Trust is vital to a healthy environment/culture, but establishing it is anything but easy. In general, trust is developed over time and is accompanied by consistency in transparency, integrity and fairness. Conversely, trust can also be destroyed by one event or circumstance. To be trustworthy is not an indication of perfection, nor does it mean that others will always agree.  In fact, trustworthiness is measured most accurately in our response to our own mistakes, as they affect those around us. In my opinion, the most accurate display of trustworthiness is to be consistent in character and action. This shows that even when mistakes are made, proven character exemplifies true intent.

Leading Edge: The first step to building trust within your organization is to step out onto your bubble (your platform – your sphere of influence) and experience the worlds of the bubble creators. This action may create vulnerability – but it can also be considered a sign of security and stability. Each team has a bubble of its own.

[Ideally, your strategic planning team members will represent each sphere, but it will be important that they are also able to step outside of their bubbles to help create new ones or to enhance the organizational ecosystem.]

As a leader, step outside of your world and into theirs. See what they see. Hear what they hear; listening to what they say and why they’re saying it. Take note of their successes, their failures and fears; their concerns and ideas… for a better product, a higher quality service, a more collaborative working environment and relevant work culture. Getting to know them in this way will increase your understanding of why they have chosen your organization and why they have chosen to support you. Giving your teams substantive reasons to support your leadership (supporting what you do) rather than expecting them to fall in line simply because of the role you occupy (supporting who you are) shows respect, which will go a long way in revealing your trustworthiness.

If you are new to your leadership role, this is a perfect time to begin to build trust. If you are a seasoned leader – start where you are. Commit to the process of growth and personal development by allowing your team access.

Be present and genuinely interested – not just for the sake of the bottom line, but for organizational health and well-being. Show them, not only that they matter; but that they matter to you. Make it happen.

Here’s to… healthy cultures, thriving environments, continued success… and more bubbles on which to stand!

Rumor Has It…

Leading Edge: There is nothing that can destroy our efforts to build trust, nurture professional relationships or to create an atmosphere of transparent and productive communication faster than a rumor. There are theories as to the condition of the person or people who start them, but the rate at which rumors spread can mind boggling – especially if they aren’t true. 

“A rumor without a leg to stand on will get around some other way.” John Tudor (Author Unconfirmed)

Sometimes, they are so insidious that it is difficult for leaders and managers to discern the truth once the web is spun. Trying to dispel a rumor has been compared with attempting to un-ring a bell. So, what is a leader to do when unsolicited information creeps into the organization and threatens to minimize or even destroy the progress you have spent quality time and energy building?

Here are my suggestions:

  1. Resist the temptation to find out who started the rumor or why. Knowing the origin of the misinformation or disinformation is not relevant once the bell has been rung. People can’t unhear it and they will likely not forget it. Focus on managing the climate and not the information.
  2. If the information is irrelevant to the workplace (personal in nature), take a stand against its legitimacy in the professional environment and remind those who have been taken by it that their responsibility is to protect the privacy of others. Ask them what they would want others to do if the rumor were about them.
  3. If the information is relevant to the organization, find out as a leader what the truth of the matter is and share as much of that truth as you can without undermining organizational policies, processes or procedures. The information should be shared in a group setting (openly) so that questions and answers can be fielded if necessary.

You may be thinking… That’s a lot of work… We are dealing with adults and besides, it’s not even true. I should just ignore it. You may be right; and if you have more mature team members, you may not even have these types of issues. Lucky You!

But, take a second look at each suggestion. They all have something in common. Separately or together, they will to rob the rumor of its power – like releasing air from a balloon. The rumor may flail and flutter, but it will come down because it is powerless to defend itself against lack of interest, an unselfish perspective or the truth. When the matter has been put into perspective, there is nothing left to talk about. What’s more exciting is that you have used something that would come to destroy your team to build your team! As a team we have decided to take the higher ground – regardless of the origin of the information.

Creating an environment of trust, transparency, respect and caring for each other takes time and effort. My advice: Spend the extra time and effort to protect your investment and watch how well it works for you. Don’t let the rumor have it.

The Most Important Skill Any Leader Can Possess

“When you’re first thinking through an idea, it’s important not to get bogged down in complexity. Thinking simply and clearly, is hard to do.”

 Richard Branson

Most people would agree that when communicating details, the audience will determine the level of depth to pursue, the vocabulary to use and the general focus of the message. Richard Branson, Founder and Chairman of Virgin Group asserts that communication is “the most important skill any leader can posses”. In conversation, emerging leaders (those transitioning from management or individual contributor positions) must learn to step far enough away from the operational focus they are accustomed to and embrace topics of discussion at a level more relevant to the executive audience; all without diminishing or understating the importance of operational details. Many individuals who find themselves in this situation are not actually executive level leaders but are called upon to either provide an overview from their perspective in the absence of that role or to be present in hopes that new faces and perspectives will lead to fresh ideas. This can become quite the balancing act – but it is doable.

Leading Edge: If you are called upon to participate in this setting, I have one piece of advice: Listen for the need or purpose of the meeting. As managers and individual contributors, group meetings are often driven by process improvement or quality assurance, where answers to questions are presented and next steps for accomplishing the goal or fixing the problem are assigned. Efficiency is key in these meetings and time is valuable. Each member participates from the perspective of her/his own area of expertise and seeks to make the work manageable and profitable for their individual areas.

In executive meetings, areas of the organization are discussed in a manner that may not necessarily end in the formulation of a solution or the implementation of a process to improve efficiencies. Sometimes, there is high level information or idea sharing which leads to further meetings – rather than to a solution. An example of one such discussion includes organizational goal setting (identifying what success will look like in ten years and how to accomplish it).

Another example could be the presentation of a new product line or service opportunity; a decision about which will affect multiple teams. The discussion prompts the finance team to explore contractual agreements rather than manufacturing the product or providing the service onsite, leads the production team to analyze productivity and provide insight into the feasibility of the decision, and motivates the research and development team to pursue alternative product specifics in search of a better quality option.  

Once you’ve been invited to the table, emerging leaders will be expected to move back and forth between management and executive leadership roles. Recognizing your audience and understanding the purpose of each gathering is key to being able to communicate at various levels within your organization. If you’ve been invited and you don’t have this information ahead of time, take note of who else is in the room and LISTEN for the need. As an individual contributor or manager, you have been asked to participate for a reason.  You are valuable to the organization. Make the most of every opportunity you are given to prove that you are the next executive team leader that your organization needs.

Directing the Multi-Functional Team : Part I

One Team – One Purpose

Positive team dynamics often center around a shared sense of purpose. By this I mean… having a clear understanding of the “why” behind the strategy, processes and procedures can be a positive motivator for the individual; creating tangible and even effortless unity among team members.

“It’s the type of interaction that can turn a day full of heavy, mundane, treadmill-like tasks into a weightless and exciting adventure.” COMM Envy

The all-important “why” is provided by senior leadership. It’s the rallying cry for the organization as a whole – the thing that makes everyone want to give their best. It’s the bigger picture that tells the whole story – the mission; the vision; the purpose… the reason the organization exists.

When purpose is effectively communicated and well-developed strategy is devised to support it, productivity levels will rise. However, when that purpose is either miscommunicated or misrepresented as ambiguous and irrelevant to the team, levels of productivity, moral and overall connectedness among team members will decline and turnover rates will increase. The reason for this is quite simple. Where there is lack of transparency, there is lack of trust.

I recognize that information cannot and should not always be shared at the team level. There is a reason for executive level decision making. However, there are ways to keep team members engaged without making them feel as though they are less important to the decision-making process.  

Don’t worry… this isn’t a lesson in employee manipulation or deception. What I’m referring to is something that takes quite a bit more integrity, courage and sustained effort.

Building respectful and inclusive relationships with team leaders and then training them to do the same with their team members – from the outset – creates a foundation for the trust needed to sustain them in times of flexibility and uncertainty.

For more on Ambiguity, visit COMM Envy

Leading Edge: One Team – One Purpose

When directing multi-functional teams, it’s important to clearly and decisively communicate one “why”. In other words: the same purpose applies to all teams.

The organizational purpose doesn’t change because the strategy (processes and procedures carried out to meet goals) differs from one team to another. For instance, if excellent customer service is a core value for your organization – it is integral to your purpose. That means that if you are part of the call center team, servicing the customer directly or if you are part of the sanitation crew and you don’t interact directly with the customer – your goals collide at the point of excellence, for which you both strive. When one team’s performance affects the other. Here’s how: A customer service complaint to the call center can occur if the bathrooms were not adequately stocked. Or, a customer service survey could reveal that the facilities are immaculate, but the results are overshadowed because the service center staff is seen as being unresponsive. One Team!

As a director of multi-functional teams, you don’t necessarily have to memorize intricate details of team processes, but you do have to ensure that your leaders are saying conveying the message you’ve received from senior leadership accurately and effectively. Since the main objective should be communicating the organization’s purpose in a way that causes your team leads or managers to understand it, understand their team’s place in it, take hold of it and pass it along to those who are on the front lines of service, you will have to ensure that you can do the same. One Purpose!

Stay Tuned for Part II

Reminder COMM Envy is here for you. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on any subject involving communication. Let’s talk!