Leadership Today
Building Trust


As mentioned last time, a key ingredient to achieve successful empowerment is trust.

We can teach principles related to trust, but that does not have much to do with building trust.
Trust is not a skill that can be acquired intellectually. You cannot gather all of your team members into a classroom one day, and say, “Folks, today we are going to learn to trust each other.” It simply does not work that way.
 
How does Trust develop? Trust develops over time, based on our experience with each other. It takes time, but this important topic should not be left to chance. There is too much at stake to not pro-actively try to create team relationships that are strong – relationships that are based on trust. Remember, if trust is absent, the result will likely not be neutral; the result will probably be negative.
 
Covey's "emotional bank account" metaphor.
Stephen Covey, in his famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, refers to an emotional bank account that we all have with each other. Our actions toward each other either make deposits, or withdrawals, to and from these accounts. Covey states beautifully that if we make deposits, through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping commitments, trust levels increase. The opposite affect occurs if we are not courteous, if we are disrespectful, dishonest, etc. When this is how we treat people, these emotional withdrawals reduce or eliminate levels of trust. 
 
Leaders and team members can be taught principles such as Covey’s metaphor, but it still does not necessarily facilitate building trust. Training efforts have a better chance of creating movement toward increased trust if they include strong elements of experiential learning that can bring the principle of trust to life for groups.
 
Techniques for building trust.
The best facilitation process for building trust, through demonstration of trustworthiness, is by using experiential facilitation and learning processes.
 
With experiential learning processes, people get to experience firsthand the impact of trust. They experience that trust is essential to successfully accomplishing the training activities. The impact and importance is usually quite vivid. The experience in the activity then provides a safe and comfortable platform for discussing the issues related to trust in the work place. The focus is on what just occurred in the activity, but the lessons stick, as they pertain to the group’s real mission.
 
Experiential learning processes can accelerate the development of trust. It is the most powerful way to pro-actively educate and stimulate the building of trust within a team.
These important lessons can be woven into the processing and discussion that accompanies experiential exercises. 
Facilitators can often weave powerful learning activities into sessions that are designed to teach other topics to their group. This provokes important thought, consideration, and reinforcement about individual and group actions within the context of the additional topics, such as communication, and how they are critical to building trust.
 
High levels of trust within any group are a clear advantage. There is a lot to be gained by investing in facilitation processes to help a group understand and build their levels of trust. It is the key to effective relationships, relationships that will result in effective teamwork toward the objectives of the organization.
 
Still yet, leaders must understand that nothing is more important in building trust that the day-to-day actions and work methods that speak tons to employees and teams about what really can or cannot be trusted at work.
 
Sometimes specific efforts must be facilitated to help groups overcome difficulties and pain from their past experiences, and to mend and/or create solid working relationships.   This can be true following periods of downsizing and restructuring that perhaps were not smooth or accompanied with effective communication and engagement.
 
Trust is a powerful enabler for an organization. On-going and enduring trust can be essential to:
  • Empower people effectively
  • Enhance organizational performance through the implementation of changes and improvements
  • Breakdown silos between organizational groups that may have been holding back progress
  • Improve the total effort toward accomplishing the business mission, rather that sub-optimizing with improvements at the individual team level
 
Many thanks,
 
 Larry


 
Soft Skills


Soft skills are broadly defined as “the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people.” Soft skills tend to be a very important complement to the hard skills which are the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities.

Recent research has found that companies are placing increasing focus and investment to develop these “people skills” in leaders/managers and those folks in particular that have a strong technical orientation rather that on people. In other words, it remains important for professionals to know what must be done and the technical aspects of how to get it done, but they must also be able to communicate this effectively and to motivate others in order to achieve excellent results.
Some of the most common soft skills employers seek include:
  • Strong Work Ethic—motivation and dedication to getting the job done, no matter what.   The desire is for people who will be conscientious and do their best work.
  • Positive Attitude—optimism and an upbeat attitude.   Good energy and good will tend to be contagious in an organization.
  • Good Communication Skills—abilities to be both verbally articulate and a good listener. Professionals need to be able to express observations, interpretations, ideas, and even feelings in a way that builds bridges with colleagues, customers and vendors.
    • Spoken communication is important, in all of its forms—face-to-face, presentations, team settings and more.
    • Written communication has become super critical, as most groups are very dependent on email and other written forms of information within and outside of the organization. Every time we hit “send,” we are sending an image of our companies.
  • Time Management Abilities—prioritization of tasks and work, often on a number of different projects at once.  Time is a precious resource that must be used wisely.
  • Problem-Solving Skills—resourceful and creative resolution of problems.  Professionals are desired to take ownership of problems rather than leave them for someone else.
  • Team Play—excellence of work in groups and teams.  You can’t do it alone in today’s organizations. Professionals are desired that create and lead a cooperative environment.
  • Self-Confidence—belief in one’s ability to get the job done.  Pressure is a reality in most organizations. Leaders that project a sense of calm can inspire confidence in others.
  • Ability to Accept and Learn from Criticism—the capacity to handle criticism. Receiving coaching well can create opportunities to learning and growth, both as a person and as a professional.
  • Flexibility/Adaptability—adaptability to new situations and challenges. Change happens in most organizations at a pace never before seen in business. Professionals and leaders are needed who will embrace change and new ideas as paths to opportunities.
  • Working Well Under Pressure—handling the stress that accompanies deadlines and crises. Pressure and stress can both motivate or harm an organization. People who perform with excellence, even doing their best work under pressure, are highly prized in today’s workforce. 
The list above is not exhaustive. Here are a few other categories that we often see hiring groups focus on when interviewing candidates. In a hiring or interview context, techniques that utilize “open-ended questions” engage applicants in sharing from their personal experiences and past behaviors, how they utilize “soft skills” in accomplishing work.
  • Decision making—using a range of options and processes to reach key decisions
  • Leadership—influencing others
  • Productivity
  • Organizational skill
  • Judgment
  • Planning
  • Initiative
  • Managing change—not just adapting to change, but being able to lead change
  • Valuing diversity
This has become so important for organizations that ATC is now developing a soft skills assessment approach that can help you evaluate the GAP between where you are now and where you desire the organization to be. A paper-and-pencil survey is not always the path for evaluating these critical skills.
Stay tuned for updates on this important topic.

Best wishes for a successful 2010,

 Larry

 

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