Monthly Archives: May 2016

Hire a hero, hire a vet

hire a heroHappy Memorial Day! Like me, today most people will be spending time with friends and family. Many people will also attend Memorial Day ceremonies or parades or visit a local cemetery to pay respects to those who have served our country.

While it is important to honor those who have paid the ultimate price serving our country, we can also honor the living who have served our country by hiring a veteran. Last year at this time, I shared some resources with readers about recruiting veterans that are worth a repeat.

One helpful resource is called Hire a Hero, Hire a Vet. It outlines the many benefits of hiring veterans and contains links to useful tools for employers. If you are hiring in Minnesota, here is a web site with a video showing you how to hire a veteran in three easy steps.

As the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) points out, there are many reasons to hire veterans.  Veterans bring education, training, values, leadership and teamwork to the workplace. They also have learned to work side by side with many different people, regardless of race, gender, geographic origin, ethnic background, religion, economic status and capabilities.

Anita Rios


Grab a shovel?

IMG_3260Leaders have a choice to make. To grab a shovel and dig in or not!

Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat Last, challenged us at the 2016 International Association of Talent Development conference to take on the tough work required to be leaders. He reminded us that being a leader is not a title but a result of choosing to dig deeper into the real issues people are facing. Only then will people trust that you are looking out for them and choose to follow. And only when people follow are there leaders.

What makes it even tougher is that trust is a feeling – an emotion – not a behavior or a skill. So we don’t know exactly what will build trust or how long it will take. Still, Sinek defines a leader as a person who is able to create the conditions inside an organization that cause people to trust. And when people trust each other they can do remarkable things.

Taking the actions to build trust requires both faith and risk. The faith to believe that the smIMG_3266all daily actions you take with your people will make a difference to them, even when you can’t see the immediate results. It’s somewhat like the faith I had in my climbing partner this morning when we climbed to the top of the peak you see here. I had never used alpine touring skis to climb up a mountain but I trusted Bob based on the many small actions I have seen him take over the years that demonstrated his authentic concern for my well-being.

Leaders also have to take a risk and grab their shovels to dig into what their people are concerned about, even when they don’t have all the answers or know exactly what they may unearth. Sinek actually stated that he thinks the most important tool leaders need is their shovels, and the willingness to dig up the unknown.

Grab a shovel, trust your people and find out what matters to them and have faith that it will make a difference!

Todd Thorsgaard

P.S. We carried our avalanche shovels and were prepared to use them but I only had to take it out for my blog photo.



Trust and authentic conversation

studentsStudents at our colleges and universities are becoming increasingly diverse, and many of our schools are promoting diversity initiatives on campus. But how often do students get a chance for meaningful conversation with people from different backgrounds?

We’ve all heard that authentic conversation is one of the building blocks of trust. For our students, this may be the first time they have an opportunity to meet someone from a very different background. Developing curiosity and respect for other people’s traditions will help them succeed in school and also in the world of work. At the same time it can also present a challenge for faculty and staff who want to provide safe environments where students trust each other enough to engage in deeper dialogue.

I just attended our MnSCU Academic and Student Affairs leadership conference and heard about a creative idea to address this problem. Tiffany Korver and Jan Stanley from St. Cloud Technical and Community College have developed a collaborative partnership that builds cross-cultural dialogue into the curriculum.

Stanley teaches a course in cultural anthropology and Korver teaches an introductory writing course aimed at ESL learners. As part of each course, students meet together several times to interview each other and learn about a variety of subjects such as cultural traditions, work, family, and even religion. Students are then assigned to write papers that apply their experiences to the course content.

For the ESL students, it’s a chance to practice speaking, increase their vocabulary, and use their writing skills to explain aspects of their cultures. The anthropology students are able to develop curiosity and and apply textbook knowledge to real-life interviews. Both groups report that they recognized their commonalities and were able to develop a stronger campus community.

What examples have you seen of creative ways to create connections?

Dee Anne Bonebright

Transparency builds trust

transparency“I find that when you open the door toward openness and transparency, a lot of people will follow you through.” –  Kirsten Gillibrand

Transparency is an essential ingredient to building trust in teams and in entire organizations. According to leadership expert, Stephen M.R. Covey, “transparency is based on the principles of honesty, openness, integrity, and authenticity.” When leaders are transparent and communicate openly, as Kirsten Gillibrand states, people trust them and follow them more readily. When leaders build cultures that have transparent processes and communication, it gives their employees and customers greater confidence in the organization, because they know that nothing is being hidden. Multiple studies demonstrate that greater transparency translates into stronger, more productive organizations.

I’ve been inspired recently by the transparency demonstrated within my own human resources (HR) community in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. We are in the process of moving some transactional processes to a shared-service model. On the surface, it may sound simple. Believe me, it’s not!  The process represents a daunting large-scale change effort to move transactions from 31 individual HR offices across our system to four regional service centers.

The team leading this effort has created an environment of transparency through multiple communications and opportunities for dialogue and participation among human resources professionals and other stakeholders. While the change effort can be scary for some whose offices and jobs will be affected, the transparency demonstrated in the process has created great trust among my HR colleagues. Most believe that the leadership team will make decisions that are thoughtful, humane, and in the best interest of both the colleges and universities and its employees.

As you think about creating transparency, you might want to consider the following questions:

  1. What information should I be sharing with my team and other stakeholders on a regular basis?  Am I withholding information? If so, why?
  2. Ask your team:  how can we make our processes or business practices more transparent to our stakeholders? Then look for ways to increase transparency!

What are some strategies you employ to create transparency?

Anita Rios





Should I trust you?

What helps us decide whether we can trust a leader? Research has found two main factors: warmth and strength.  An article in Harvard Business Review explained that these factors answer two critical questions: “What are this person’s intentions toward me?” and “Is he or she capable of acting on those intentions?”

So is it better for leaderock and eggrs to start by creating warm and caring relationships, or to demonstrate competence to deal with challenges?  The article stated that influential leaders start with warmth – creating connections and building trust inspires people to follow enthusiastically rather than feeling coerced. Even small nonverbal gestures such as smiling or nodding can indicate attentiveness to the other person, which in turn inspires trust in your ability to address their concerns.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel followed up on the HBR article by interviewing one of the researchers. Peter Glick explained that trust is a necessary ingredient to build commitment and motivation for an organization’s members to work toward common goals. He observed that without trust, leaders need to focus on control and compliance, which further erodes trust and contributes to a downward spiral of diminishing engagement.

Kimmel published a series of blog posts on “52 Ideas to Build Trust.” Some ideas include:

  • Minimize fear by reinforcing candor
  • Set intentional promises and expectations on what you will deliver
  • Be inclusive in decision-making
  • Encourage risk-taking and celebrate positive failures
  • Be a role model

What actions can you take to build trust with those you work with?

Dee Anne Bonebright



The impossible dream

lack of trustAgonizing, painful, draining, scary, oppressive, need to document everything, requires excessive preparation, complex, confusing, misleading, insincere, duplicitous and just plain – no fun!  Sound familiar?

Those are the words I hear when I ask leaders, “what is it like to work with someone who doesn’t trust you or someone that you don’t trust?”

Next everyone laments how it feels impossible to restore or to regain trust after it is lost. I have to admit I feel the same way. When something goes wrong it just feels like so much work to rebuild the relationship and I end up focusing on the daunting task ahead, instead of taking action.

As challenging as it is, leaders are responsible for not just building trust but also restoring trust when it is missing. Henna Inam, Executive Coach and contributor to Forbes magazine describes a three step approach for leaders to rebuild trust.

Manage yourself – Often the hardest step but a required one. We must shift from placing blame to taking action. Inman recommends:

  • take personal accountability for restoring the relationship; don’t wait for it to fix itself
  • reframe your view of the other person
  • accept their perspective as legitimate – even if it is different from yours

Initiate a conversation, even knowing it will be uncomfortable – restoring trust will only happen with direct communication. Be sure to:

  • state the reality that there is an issue, in a non-threatening or defensive manner
  • clearly verbalize your interest in rebuilding the relationship and ask for their help
  • acknowledge your role in the broken trust
  • listen with empathy and avoid defending your actions
  • use dialogue to get their ideas and then commitment to action to restore trust
  • agree to give each other feedback on what is working and what isn’t as you take action to restore trust

Follow through with action – restoring trust takes time and requires persistent action.

  • continue to follow through on your commitments, even when the other person isn’t
  • be prepared for skepticism at first
  • look for small victories

Often you will need to go back to step one but with commitment and focus you can take the steps that will improve trust in many situations. Good luck!

Todd Thorsgaard



Trust is a lubricant?

lubricant“Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work.”  – Warren Bennis

Every day I am grateful to work with a great team of colleagues. They are colleagues who trust each other to share important information, work collaboratively, challenge each other’s ideas to make sure that we are doing the best work we can, and they back each other up when needed.  I needed that back-up relief immensely a couple of months ago when I experienced a TMJ flare that was so painful I couldn’t facilitate one of my leadership programs. My team graciously stepped in to take my place, setting aside other priorities to make sure that the program went off without a hitch.  I trusted that they could do it well, and in turn, I found that our trust in each other grew from that experience.

As, Warren Bennis says, trust is the lubrication that makes organizations work. It’s the lifeblood of effective teams, because it provides a sense of safety so that teams can do their best work. When people feel safe, they are more likely to take risks and collaborate on projects. When people don’t feel safe or supported in their work team, they’ll  spend their time and energy protecting themselves and their interests from potential threats.

But what can you do as a leader to build trust in your team and create a sense of safety? Here are a few tips from Mind Tools, that I’d like to share with you.

  1. Lead by example. Extend trust to your team members and show them that you trust them. Allow them to step in for you or take the lead on an important assignment.
  2. Communicate openly. Hold face-to-face meetings, both for the entire team and one-on-one meetings so that you can discuss progress on goals and any potential problems that arise. Set the stage for meaningful conversation and dialogue, and use problem solving discussions as an opportunity to build trust as team members learn from each other’s unique perspective. Most importantly, eliminate any hidden agendas.
  3. Know each other personally. Create opportunities in team meetings to get to know each other as people. In our team, we share “good news” at the start of meetings to learn about both professional or personal good news from our teammates. Set aside some time for team building throughout the year in retreats or staff events.
  4. Don’t place blame. We are all human, and at times, mistakes are made. Use these as opportunities to address the issue, create a solution and move forward, rather than placing blame.

What advice do you have for building team trust?

Anita Rios





Some truths about trust

At the most basic level, the need to trust implies one fundamental fact: you’re vulnerable. The ability to satisfy your needs or obtain the outcomes you desire is not entirely under your control.

That observation is the foundation for David DeSteno’s book The Truth About Trust. He argues that trust is a fundamental element of all human relationships. Because our needs and the needs of other people rarely align perfectly, our brains have evolved to spend a great deal of energy assessing the potential for conflict and the degree to which others are trustworthy in any given situation. For a good summary of the book, check out this review.

These days we rarely wonder if the neighbors in the next cave will share their fire, but trust is still crucial. To be successful in the complexity of modern society we have to depend on mutual trust and cooperation.

According to DeSteno, the bad news is that we’re not very good raonic1at determining who is trustworthy. The industry built around books, assessments, and even brain scanning doesn’t have a good track record of success. Even cues from facial expressions aren’t reliable. For example, what is your impression of this person’s mood? Would you be comfortable to approach him?

One strategy that can help is to focus on the whole context of the interaction. As the picture beloraonic2w indicates, Milos Raonic wasn’t angry – he was actually ecstatic after advancing to the next round in a tennis tournament. Similarly, the job applicant who isn’t making eye contact might not be indicating lack of trustworthiness – she might be using her cultural traditions to indicate respect.

DeSteno says that we can learn strategies to improve our ability to trust others appropriately and encourage them to trust us. Here are some of his tips:

  1. Trust is risky, but necessary, useful, and even powerful: withholding trust unnecessarily can limit success
  2. Trust is contextual: try to understand a person’s motives in the current context rather than relying on reputation or past experiences
  3. Rely on your intuition, but be informed about nonverbal cues and situational factors that can influence your judgment

What actions have other people taken that inspires you to trust them?

Dee Anne Bonebright





smashed windshield2A missed meeting, a forgotten call, a misunderstood comment, making a tough decision or just screwing up – crash! Trust is broken. What now?

I know I have experienced the challenge of rebuilding a trusted relationship. Sometimes it feels impossible, yet other times it can be done. Why is that?

You may be like me and wonder why with some people trust shatters with the slightest bump and with others it takes a giant jolt to disrupt two-way trust. The Harvard Business Review recently published a summary of a research project that looked at differences between people in maintaining and restoring trust. The four researchers discovered that our mindset regarding growth actually influences our trust in other people. If we have a fixed mindset, meaning we believe that people’s attributes are stable, we will tend to maintain trust or maintain distrust and actually overlook or ignore current interactions or behaviors. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset, who believe that attributes can be developed and changed, pay attention to current behaviors. This means they develop and lose trust quickly and also can quickly rebuild their trust in others!

Understanding our own and others’ mindset can help us take action when we inevitably need to rebuild trust. For those on our teams who have a growth mindset, we should be prepared to continually take small actions to demonstrate trustworthiness. Even if you have strong relationships, they are looking at what you have done recently. Apologizing and quick statements reinforcing your integrity will be heard and accepted.

Losing the trust of someone with a fixed mindset is tougher. When it happens you need to prepare for a longer and more challenging effort to restore trust. Small actions will be ignored and they will be looking for long-term evidence that you are trustworthy. In fact, you may need to first focus on the idea that people can change and look for examples of people who have successfully made changes. Then you can move on to providing repeated examples of your interest in rebuilding the relationship.

Experiencing the crash of breaking trust is never good but it is a reality for leaders. Learning how to repair a shattered relationship with everyone on your team can help you keep moving forward.

Todd Thorsgaard




The ABCDs of Trust

Ken Blanchard is a thought leader in management and leadership. As Todd mentioned in an earlier post, Blanchard’s organization has been focusing on leadership and trust. They published this article that describes a four-part model of trust:

abcd trust

The following eight steps can help you be an able, believable, connected, and dependable leader – a trusted leader:

  1. Demonstrate trust in those you work with. For example, deal with problems on an individual basis rather than creating blanket policies to address one person’s bad behavior.
  2. Share information.  Provide data to help people think broadly about the organization and its inter-relationships.
  3. Tell it straight.  Demonstrate integrity, even (or especially?) about bad news.
  4. Help everyone win.  Provide opportunities for collaboration rather than competition.
  5. Provide regular and ongoing feedback, and ensure that those who report to you do the same.
  6. Address concerns directly. Deal with challenges head-on and provide an opportunity for others who are involved to weigh in.
  7. Admit mistakes. Create a culture where it’s acceptable for people to admit when they are wrong and correct their mistakes.
  8. Walk the talk.  Demonstrate the idea that “we are all in this together.”

Trust is an essential component of effective leadership. It’s also fragile and easily damaged. How do you maintain the ABCDs of trust?

Dee Anne Bonebright