I recently listened to a TED talk by international consultant Jacqueline Oliveira. She had some very interesting observations about building trust in cross-cultural institutions. As our higher ed workplaces become more diverse, it was a great reminder that trust is shaped and colored by culture.
Oliveira said that trust is a belief in the virtue, ethics, and honesty of another person. But she also pointed out that we don’t see beliefs, we see behaviors. Trust is related to our actions that show:
- Competence – doing our jobs right
- Integrity – sticking to a code of behavior
- Caring – demonstrating that we care for our colleagues
“There are so many behaviors – some different, some similar, some contrary – all driven by these three attributes,” she says. “Imagine your multi-cultural colleagues behaving in ways that they were taught from childhood, and then being marginalized or even disciplined for behaving in this way.”
We rarely think about what we mean when we say someone is behaving in a trustworthy manner. It’s just the way things ought to be. When working with colleagues from different backgrounds we can increase trust by:
- Asking. What are the behaviors that show competence, integrity, and caring for you? It can lead to a rich discussion about culture.
- Writing it down. Keep the information somewhere where everyone can see it. When issues of trust arise, go back and review the list.
- Being flexible and willing to change.
Building trust can be complicated. Building trust across cultures is even more so. But the result is a stronger workplace where everyone feels included.
Dee Anne Bonebright
Trust at work can be defined as the willingness to accept personal risk based on another person’s actions, according to an article on the Business-2-Community website.
That could mean that I’m willing to guarantee a deadline because I’m confident my team members will do their part on time. It could mean making decisions based on someone else’s data, because I’m sure the data is accurate. Or it could mean accepting a stretch assignment because I’m sure my supervisor will help me succeed and back me up when I make mistakes.
Developing that kind of trust between employees and leadership can be difficult. In fact, studies show that fewer than half of employees say they have a high trust in their leaders. But it’s important because:
- It leads to greater productivity and employee retention. Forbes has measured 15-20% difference in profit and productivity when organizations put a priority on trust.
- It leads to better outcomes on the job. One study found that 82% of employees said trust in their supervisors was critical to their performance.
- It enhances engagement. Among highly engaged employees, 90% say they trust their leaders.
How can we build this kind of trust? The article and a related infographic gave the following advice.
- Gather employee input when making organizational decisions.
- Increase transparency by helping employees understand how decisions are made.
- Tell employees what is going on, even when things aren’t going well.
- Ensure consistency between leadership words and actions.
As employees, we want to work in environments where there is high trust. As leaders, trust will help us be more effective in meeting organizational goals. How have you been able to build trust with your work teams?
Dee Anne Bonebright
“We didn’t feel like we were heard.
People were dancing around the topic to avoid offending anyone.
How can I get my message understood?”
Do those comments sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Those exact phrases were shared with me last week by a leader who was asking for help to communicate more effectively.
While the acts of listening, speaking, and sharing ideas seems straightforward and simple, they are anything but; especially when you add in the fact that we each bring our own filters or lenses through which we interpret messages. And if there are positional power differences or emotions are running high, communications can be fraught with peril.
During this month, we will be taking a deep dive into our Minnesota State leadership competency: communicates effectively, defined as:
- Effectively conveys ideas and shares information with others using appropriate methods
- Listens carefully and understands differing points of view
- Presents ideas clearly and concisely
Please join in the conversation by sharing your leadership and communication challenges.
I may have been driving a little too fast but the snow wasn’t coming down too hard. Then I hit the bridge section, lost traction and started sliding. I had made a mistake and was heading for a crash. Luckily my dad had taught me how to not overreact and what to do when sliding on ice. Don’t touch the brakes, steer into the slide and accelerate a little to maintain traction. My heart was racing but I straightened out and avoided a crash. As a leader, how you react to mistakes is also a crucial skill to learn.
As they say, mistakes will happen and your response to your own mistakes and the mistakes made by your team will either help build trust or slowly chip away at your integrity. It is easy to list what not to do – (Don’t touch these brakes):
- Point fingers
More difficult is to steer into the mistake. Based on my own experience, and a few ideas from Kristen Beireis, a coach who specializes in trust-building, the following actions can help you avoid turning a mistake into a crash.
- Acknowledge it or admit it – as hard as it may be this is the starting point to correcting any mistake.
- Offer to fix or make good – it may cost you money or time or prestige but often a simple offer to honor or fix a mistake will go miles.
- Support your people and help them find a solution – resist searching for the cause immediately and support your people and encourage them to focus on first correcting the mistake. You can work together later to search for causes.
- Follow through – demonstrating commitment and follow-through is crucial after any mistake. People will accept an earnest correction but will be skeptical if they don’t see true follow-through.
- Learn from the mistake – adopt the mindset of a scientist and use the mistake as a learning opportunity to make an improvement or minimize the chance of a similar mistake.
It is human nature to slam on your brakes and make a mistake worse. Responding with intention can help you recover and demonstrate integrity.
“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, and a little less than his share of the credit.” – Arnold H. Glasow
In your leadership role, when someone gives you credit, do you simply take it? Or do you generously share credit with others and acknowledge their contributions? It can take a lot of discipline to pass on credit to others, but that’s what good leaders do.
Giving credit builds loyalty among employees. It builds others up and lets them know that they are part of a team. And most importantly, people want to work with leaders who credit their colleagues and team members.
In his HBR article on giving credit, executive coach and OD consultant Ben Dattner provides three tips for leaders:
Give credit where credit is due. This may sound obvious but it doesn’t always happen in highly political and hierarchical organizations. People often get credit based upon their power, not their actual contributions. Look at your team to identify the biases that cause some people’s work or ideas to be overvalued or undervalued. Then make sure the right people are getting credit.
Credit team members for crediting one another. Incentivize your team members to acknowledge and appreciate others’ contributions. This “expansion” of credit enhances team cohesion and trust, promoting more and better collaboration. Encourage sharing credit at team meetings and discourage those who take too much undue credit themselves and deflect blame onto others.
Avoid the temptation to blame. When setbacks occur, it’s natural to look for a scapegoat or a rationalization. But this diminishes your team’s social capital. You should instead give everyone (even those outside your team) the benefit of the doubt and consider all the complex factors that may have directly or indirectly contributed to poor performance or bad outcomes. Encourage your team members to do the same by reminding them of their long-term shared interests and goals.
At my last team meeting, rather than having everyone share their own “good news” about recent accomplishments, I asked each team member to share what they appreciated about one other team member’s contributions. It was a great way to learn more about how we are each impacting each others work in a positive way. It also reinforced that we work collaboratively in our team and rely on each other to accomplish our goals.
What strategies do you have for giving credit to others?
I was recently discussing a large-scale project with some of its leaders. As they looked back on the effort, they agreed that one of the key problems was promising too much, too quickly.
Without carefully talking to the people on the ground, institutional leadership made public statements about how much better the system was going to work, and how quickly it would happen. The system didn’t live up to expectations. We’ve all seen that same thing. For a variety of reasons, leaders often promise more than their staff can deliver.
When we think about the leadership competency of delivering on one’s promises, it’s easy to think about the personal side. As a leader, I try hard to do what I said I was going to do. But sometimes I am making promises for my unit or project team. With the best intentions, I can estimate timelines, costs, and outcomes that end up not being met.
Making the best guess when all the data isn’t available means that we will sometimes be wrong about our predictions. When that happens it’s important to own the mistake and review it to avoid the same thing in the future.
At the same time, we can try to be realistic about the expectations we set. Change is hard, and new systems rarely work perfectly the minute the switch is flipped. Helping people have a realistic picture of what to expect can make the effort more successful in the long run.
Dee Anne Bonebright
Unless you have a birthday coming up, these are not words you want to hear. Especially at work from your boss. They strike fear and sow mistrust, yet, as leaders, you have information that you cannot share with your people – you have secrets! How do you balance the transparency needed to demonstrate integrity with the confidentiality your position requires?
Karen Seketa, a blogger that I follow, suggested that we think of it as being translucent not completely transparent. Leaders are “not sharing ALL information ALL of the time” but taking “an intentional approach to empowering your employees with the information they need in order to be successful.” When I consult with leaders they get hung up on what they can’t share and they overlook all they can share. Even in the most chaotic and tumultuous times you can share how decisions are being made, how you will keep them informed, how they can be involved and how they can share their concerns with you. People need and want clarity, honesty and how they can be involved. You can share that, even when you can’t share every detail or name or potential option being considered.
Yes, you may have a secret but that doesn’t mean you are hiding things from your people.
Posted in building teams, communication, integrity, Leadership, leading authentically
Tagged Change, change management, communication, culture, engagement, integrity, Leadership, organizational culture, transformational change, trust