Creating a high performance work place is a complex endeavor. As leaders, we painstakingly work to move our organizations toward lofty goals. We focus and continue to believe in what we are doing in the face of challenge and adversity, even when immediate results are not visible. Effective leadership requires we take a good look at ourselves, not only from our own vantage point, but that of our teammates as well.
This is the time of year when leaders in many organizations are scouring over employee survey results. Personally, it’s challenging for me to not view the results as transgressions requiring repentance for having done wrong and after 30 years as a leader, I’m learning to keep my focus on a healthy-for-my-psyche perspective. If a score tanks, trying to figure out who said what to whom, blaming it on “Tom,” or beating yourself up is self-indulgent and, it does it motivate you to do better, nor does it build trust.
Trust matters. Trust is built and maintained by actions over time. These actions need not be grandiose or uncommon. They can be as normal and commonplace as responding to survey feedback from our team. Here are a few ideas for you to consider as you strengthen your trust foundation in the New Year.
We are all guilty, at one time or another, of developing superficial action plans that are sound-bite great. Long on promises and short on commitment, they don’t get to the root of the problem. Instead of moving the needle towards the underlying issues and our lofty goals, our plans end up pushing the needle further away. Listen, it’s easy on the ego to be the one with all the answers. I’ve lost too many hours of my life in rooms with “experts” talking down from a raised stage telling me what to do or showing me “the way.” Yeah, right. Now, give me a leader who speaks from a commitment to others and portrays a possibility I hadn’t not considered before, and I’m hooked for life. I’m not that different than any one of your employees, or mine.
Let’s stop being the experts, the ones with all the answers, or the ones who have it all together because both you and I know we don’t. Let’s be leaders who question, test alternatives, and do not hesitate to admit they don’t know the answers to the questions. Confidence is easy; self-doubt is hard. Self-doubt is part and parcel of the human experience. It can be safe behind a mask of bravado but your employees and organizations don’t have time for Barbie doll leadership.
Let’s end the quest to single-handedly develop workable solutions to complex workplace concerns. There’s no treasure to find, we already have the answers within our teams. Ask your team one question: what can we do, as individuals and as a group, to make tomorrow more enjoyable and work-rewarding than today? Then stop talking and start listening.
As you listen to your team, consider the items you able to impact directly or are within your control. Do you manage by email and would your presence in the day-to-day help with communication, recognition, and care? Consider the items out of your control and how you could impact them within your team and, if appropriate, the organization. For example, you may not be responsible for employee benefits programs but you can engage with your friendly human resources department to meet with your team to be sure they understand their benefits and how to make the most of each plan. Do you work in human resources or another customer-facing department and have team members face to face with upset customers? You can’t control the customer but how can, train team members to manage those interactions and how do you support them? See, not grandiose at all.
I’ve received more leadership advice than I would ever ask for: don’t accept problems without solutions, seek to be feared, not loved; and it’s lonely at the top. Clichés have no place in day-to-day leadership. Old dogs can, and must, learn new tricks.
Everyone has a different view from their seats in the organization and if you aim to see the organization through their eyes, you will learn something – guaranteed. There is immense value in change through dialogue and the connections made are far more important than the results achieved.
Addressing survey results with your team sends the message that you value their opinion and you respect them – building confidence and trust in you as a leader and the organization. Trust is critical to team success.
Isn’t that what it is all about anyway?