I Can Show You the World; Do You Trust Me?
“I Can Show You the World”
Trust – The Cornerstone of Any Successful Relationship and an Essential Component of High Performing Organizations
CEO, and now celebrated, bestselling author Jonathan Reynold’s (aside from cringing at the fact we are pointing that out) was recently asked the question about the importance of trust and its impact in growth, performance, purpose, and the experience employees and leaders share in the journey of an organization. If you’ve got the time, and you want to invest 20 minutes in reading Jonathan’s interview then grab a cup of coffee or a matcha green tea (those are your only two options; we trust you to make the right choice) and dive on in.
In the words of Disney’s Aladdin as he extends his hand to Princess Jasmine from the hovering weave of his magic carpet… Do you trust me? Let us show you the world.
Ready or not, here we go….
– How does trust directly correlate to employee performance?
Trust is an essential factor within employee performance. Trust, security, belief, and opportunity are all components that fuel employee performance. Trust tells a candidate that you believe in them to make good decisions, to take ownership of what’s before them, to represent you, and your organization as a true ambassador. Trust also gives them the ability to take risks that can lead to incredible rewards; it’s foundational to any successful relationship, whether that’s employee/employer, company/client (or Partner, which is what we intentionally refer to our clients as), or in any area of life.
– How does a lack of trust inhibit a company’s growth?
Would you trust a car with a check engine light lit up on the dashboard and strange knocking noise in the engine to take you safely on a cross country road trip? If you showed up to the airport for a transatlantic flight and it was “bring your child to work day” and the pilot (contrary to all FAA rules) announced that their 7-year-old son/daughter would be flying the plane that day, would that make you nervous? I think I would be postponing my trip… Could the car make the journey? Probably. Would you be ok on the flight knowing the pilot was there in case something happened? Maybe. You’d probably experience every bump in the road or jolt of turbulence in a far more anxious way, why? Because you don’t have trust. A lack of trust in an organization affects everything. Lack of trust will make you question everything and find you spending more time thinking about what you can’t achieve vs what you can. Risks become dangers instead of opportunities. Lack of trust prevents you from promoting someone who could flourish in a new role (and may result in that person leaving your organization for somewhere willing to give them the chance for impact they are looking for), lack of trust makes you unattractive to potential candidates (they can notice those things).
– How can leaders build trust with their employees?
Listen, lean in, empathize, and act in a way that supports and reflects your lived values. Integrity is essential to building trust. We define integrity as doing the right thing even when no one is watching. It is one thing to say you are a “People First” organization, but the reality of that statement is assessed when challenges arise. For an example, one organization might say they are People First, and that means, ping pong tables, pizza parties and casual Fridays but when challenges come it becomes about cutting costs to maintain the bottom line. For Titus, its looked like, how can we ensure our people still receive bonuses even though the pandemic has taken 30% of our business overnight. What does it really take to put our people first, even ahead of our Partners and our profits. The crazy thing is that this approach leads to an increase in trust, growth, quality of experience, loyalty, and opportunity. How we treat our people affects the way they support our Partners, which then leads to healthier profits, which then get sown back into our people. This focused and intentional cycle creates a win-win and, from solely a trust perspective you create buy-in, which deeply connects your people to the vision of your organization, so much so that it combines with their own personal vision creating a partnership; it may sound cliché but together we’re stronger!
From a day-to-day perspective it really comes down to doing what we say we are going to do as a leadership team and providing out managers with the ability to support their people in an effective way. Everyone in the company has a weekly one on one meeting to discuss work, life, past, present, and future (and everything in between). Intentional, frequent conversations where accountable actions (on both sides) can take place is a great starting place. These meetings, along with quarterly conversations that discuss measurable performance, get a pulse on how employees are feeling, and that chart a course for the next quarter, are keys in developing trust with your people.
Definition is also essential. Definition brings security and deepens trust. The number of companies who don’t have a definable way to measure performance is terrifying, let alone the companies who have those metrics and don’t use them…
– Why does tone, intention and frequency determine the type of relationship and trust employees have with their leaders?
Relationships thrive on connection. Good relationships (where there is trust, enjoyment, vulnerability, and the ability to share both exciting and difficult things) thrive on meaningful and valuable connection. To create a relationship like that doesn’t happen by accident, it takes time, intentionality and the freedom for both parties involved to make mistakes; the repair is more important than the reaction, that’s where trust is really built. We’ve built an organization on a platform called EOS, (the Entrepreneurial Operating System), which equips us with a practical approach to build upon the core values that are foundational who we are as a company. Part of those practical’s looks like, a weekly one on one for scheduled for employees and the manager they report to. Quarterly conversations with that same manager for a more formalized conversation. Weekly team L10s where our high performing teams get the chance to interact with each other, to share ideas and get on the same page. We also host a companywide huddle where we get to hear about what’s going on in the company and where employees can encourage one another with shout outs.
I love that you asked about tone! It’s never just WHAT you say but HOW you say it, and that is critical to determining the type of relationship the manager has with an employee. People know when you have time for them (even if that time is a scheduled time) and the tone of what you communicate says so much. It can be the difference maker between a leader who is excited and prepared to connect with an employee and one who can’t wait for the meeting to be over so they can get back to what they were doing originally… People notice those cues. Having a leader who is prepared to lean in, listen, and then respond vs a leader who comes in with their own agenda and who already knows their answers can be the difference to fostering a relationship with an employee who can share frustrations/excitements and has room to grow with the company vs an employee who keeps their frustrations to themselves and who ends up, A, venting to other team members and harming the culture and/or B, starts looking elsewhere and leaves your organization over a problem that, if addressed earlier, could have been solved.
– How can leaders work to improve their soft skills?
Leader’s need to be given and take opportunities to practice. It begins with investment in leaders at a heart level, and using definable metrics to chart growth, the combination of the head and heart. Do you want to know something crazy? Most managers are given their first direct report in their mid-20s, maybe 26/27 year old but, and here’s what it gets a little scary, these managers are not given any formal training for another 13-15 years… that’s a long time to working with natural talent and intention, and that’s not counting the pressures and expectations placed on managers by their leaders and also by their people. We developed a process at Titus to help managers take a coaching approach. We believe this considers the focus on developing soft skills while also working towards developing performance. At the core of this approach is having the team members best interests at heart, committing to having the difficult conversations and knowing when they need a respite so they can come back stronger. We also use tools like Predictive Index to understand how our people tick and then developing custom approaches that are meaningful to them, and that speak their language. In doing so we also train our people to look beyond themselves and see the PERSON in front of them; a person with intrinsic value, giftings, abilities, unique motivations and that fuel their goals. If you can coach a leader to see the person in front of them without projecting their own idiosyncrasies into the pot, then you are off to a strong start. Again, it comes back to a People First approach. Leaders who can listen and respond, as opposed to assume space with their own ideas, help their people to breathe. That breathing space gives room to being heard, and conversely being able to share. A great leader will coach someone into their own problem-solving solutions, and then give room for their direct report to try it. Too often under-equipped managers end up managing the greatness out of people because they are essentially trying to recreate a carbon copy of themselves in their direct report. If leaders want to improve their soft skills it starts with lowering the stakes (or knowing where on the stakes spectrum the team member needs to be) and seeing the person in front of them (not looking at their direct report like they are looking in the mirror).
– How can leaders foster this trust if they have larger organizations where they physically can’t be talking to all their employees all the time?
Great question! This is a challenge we have faced as we’ve grown. There is an enormous difference in a leader’s ability to maintain connection in the same way they would when leading a 300-person organization vs a 30-person organization. How you scale, and how your leaders embrace, reflect, and live out your core values will determine how successful a company can be at this. If you want to judge the character and culture of an organization then look at their leadership. By putting people in positions of leadership that support your organizations lived values you have a great shot of maintaining a level of consistency through out every part of the team.
In management circles, it is common knowledge that the ideal number of direct subordinates a manager should have been seven, plus or minus 2.
Some people prefer five direct reports, so that they can spend more time on individual contributor work. Others are incredibly organized, high-capacity people, and can oversee the maximum recommended number: nine. But having more than nine team members that report to you won’t end well. Our capacity as people is finite.
Communication, like trust is two ways, and leaders, especially at the executive level, have a duty of care to all team members. They may not talk to every employee on a regular basis but there should be an availability to do so.
I can tell you how we do it here at Titus. It looks like coaching leaders to operate as unique individuals but within the parameters of the wider company vision, and according to our core values… we’re not a cult, I promise… close too but not; maybe we are… whatever it is, it’s working.
Our framework looks a little like this. We hear from our executive leadership on a weekly basis and our people have access to them when they feel they need them. With the way we coach and equip our managers we maintain a consistency of value from the top down. Our people know that they are going to meet with their manager once a week for an intentional conversation, they are going to hear from/connect with their High Performing Team Leader in their L10 while also having regular skip level meetings (times where they can connect directly with their manager’s manager). Typically, any issues can be resolved at this level, but if it does need to be elevated then we make room for that. Team members who trust their managers, who in turn trust their managers, who trust their team leads, who trust the executive team, who operate with complete transparency ensures that trust relationships go both ways. This element of transparency is not something we have touched on in this conversation, in fact, which could be another topic altogether suffice it to say, transparency plus integrity, and follow through all need to be in place for trust to occur.
– A lot of owners say they have an open-door policy, but many employees can still be fearful to take them up on the offer, how can leaders mitigate this fear?
When I hear the word fear, or the term, mitigating fear it makes me think of what the deeper question is, and to think about what I/we are really dealing with. We’re dealing with people. People are emotional. People are unpredictable. Fear is an emotional response. We must first meet the emotion before we can bring in the logic. It’s a different language.
It does ask the question, what happened to that employee which caused them to be fearful/apprehensive in the first place and what confirmation bias (how our experience, rightly or wrongly, shapes our current perspective) does your leadership approach support?
Mitigating this fear does take time, and it is often because of how team members see their managers interact with those around them, and how they also support them. At Titus we take an approach where there is implied trust. If you start from that place, and your manager has your back (even if it means that manager takes the brunt of any difficult Partner interactions). Let me give you an example. The way our consultants operate on a project for Partner looks like this. The consultant will do the heavy lifting on a search. They provide a bespoke list of sourced candidates (which is brand new for every search), they have the conversations with candidates and will ultimately be the ones who submit the candidates to our Partners. There is also an Account Manager who manages the relationship management on the search, and this is strategic. Sometimes projects don’t go as planned and for whatever reason the results might not be there. In this case the Account Manager has two choices. Hang the consultant out to dry and let them take the frustrations of the Partner, or they can stand in the gap and to use their expertise and experience to “consult” on the search while protecting the consultant. This creates a unified front while also providing a commitment to a solution. The Account Manager will connect with Partner on a separate call and will also connect with the consultant to find a solution. It’s during that call with the consultant where they might have the challenging situation. We don’t gloss over mistakes but the place we talk about them has a significant impact on the trust built with our people. People coming from toxic environments are surprised by this, and it takes time. We have a duty to our people to prove that they have our support and there is a reason they are in their roles. Giving our people the freedom to fail (or learn) and keeping an eye on where we may need to step in should the failure area be detrimental to all involved, is all part of building and developing trust.
Regular, intentional connection, which shares the wins and sits in the dust of the losses; that calls someone higher without shouting over their heads; connection that asks the tough questions but with the goal of growth and reaching potential. These are all necessary in the development of people, and in doing so, putting People First, it snowballs. It also develops a two-way open-door policy whereby a manager/leader approaching an employee is not met with fear but with a sense of purpose.
Want to start a journey towards building a high performing culture? We can give you a roadmap. It takes less than 10 minutes.