The High Professional Cost of Your Inability to Trust

Graphic image with the words, It's Your Career and other related professional development wordsThe “It’s Your Career” series at Management Excellence is dedicated to offering ideas, guidance and inspiration for strengthening your performance and supporting your development as a professional. Use the ideas in great career health!

“Trust involves the juxtaposition of people’s loftiest hopes and aspirations with their deepest worries and fears.” –Jeffrey A. Simpson

Trust is one of those terms that is casually tossed around in business conversations and management literature, yet for each and every one of us, the decision to trust someone is a deep and difficult personal decision. It grows even more complicated when we are challenged to operate as a team or develop a team.

I remember resenting the accusation leveled by our Chairman when he suggested the reason we weren’t executing our strategy effectively was because the senior management team members didn’t trust each other. He was right.

There are two possible outcomes when we choose to trust someone. We’ll either find our trust vindicated by the actions of the other party, or, we’ll be disappointed and hurt when our trust is abused. The fear of the latter for many of us overwhelms the potential for reward from the former. Roughly said, the cost of having our trust abused exceeds the potential gain from it being treated with care and respect.

While the root causes of our propensity to trust or distrust may be found in our childhood experiences with friends and family members (issues beyond my pay grade or the scope of this blog), the issue has potentially profound implications on our success as professionals. Recognizing the cost of your inability to trust may very well be the first step to adapting this limiting and potentially destructive behavior.

4 Key Areas Where Our Inability to Trust Others Hurts Us:

1. On teams. Our inability to trust others will impact our effectiveness on teams. Everyone senses when one of the team members has trust issues, and this lack of trust raises the acidity of the team environment. Others will adopt a similar stance towards the non-trusting individual, and the honest, robust communication necessary for navigating tough topics disappears.

2. With co-workers. Colleagues recognize when someone withholds trust and frankly, they resent it. While some will expend a bit of energy striving to bridge this trust gap, most will quickly recognize the futility of the effort and write off the benefits of cultivating a relationship with the trust-withholder. In a world where connections count…for knowledge, specialized information, political insights and access to resources, the person who fails to trust others loses access to these essential currencies.

3. Developing others. The need for others to constantly be in search of our never-quite-achievable trust limits our ability to do our best in support of the development of our own team members. By making them earn your trust, you risk making them tentative in their pursuit of their work…unwilling to take risks and worried about stepping over an invisible line. Your lack of trust in your team members keeps them from opening up to you on challenges and obstacles…it skews the dialog, and this defeats the intent to help people learn and grow.

4. With ourselves.  A fundamental inability to trust others reflects our own self-trust issues. We don’t have confidence in our judgment of others…thus we remain cautious and tentative…and perhaps even micro-managing. This impacts our hiring decisions and it impacts all of our interactions and our effectiveness in the workplace. Lacking the confidence to recover from an episode of trust betrayed, we hunker down in a defensive posture, leaving tremendous opportunities to strengthen, grow and support others on the table.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

The cure for an inability to trust likely lies deep within the individual and I have no doubt altering this behavior is very difficult. Seek the right professional help. Don’t let this serve as your limiting factor. There’s too much good work to be done to spend your career not trusting others. And while someone will inevitably betray your trust, the cost of this is significantly less than the benefits you will accrue from extending your trust.

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

 

Leadership Caffeine™—The Alchemy of Great Leadership

image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveThe Leadership Caffeine™ series is intended to make you think and act.

Alchemy, according to Malouin in the Encyclopedia of Diderot, is the chemistry of the subtlest kind which allows one to observe extraordinary chemical operations at a more rapid pace-ones that require a long time for nature to produce.

Newsflash, there are no shortcuts to great leadership. Much like the failure to change nature’s principles in search of longevity or turning lead into gold, one’s ability lead develops slowly over time and with much strain.

10 Lessons Learned in Search of Success as a Leader:

 1. You’re always an apprentice. If you think you’ve mastered this, you’re failing. Approach each day eager to learn another lesson, and you will. Approach each day assuming you’ve got this role licked, and you’ll get clobbered when you least expect it.

2. Great leaders require great missions. It’s the humdrum of the mundane of the status quo that squashes the spirits of leaders and the people around them. If you’re not on a mission, create one. If you’re leading others, know that your job is to define the mission. Not the mission statement…the mission.

 3. The only job harder than leading is likely being a mother. Scratch that…mothers are the original leaders.

 4. What you did yesterday doesn’t count. What you’ll do tomorrow doesn’t count. Lead today…it’s the only day that counts.

5. You’re supposed to be uncomfortable. That’s the job. Get over it. Get used to it. Revel in it. Or, get another job.

6. No one does anything for you…they do it for themselves.

7. Sometimes you have to push the ones with the greatest potential out of the nest. Your instinct says to do everything possible to retain them. The right thing to do is to help them find the best opportunities to grow. Even if that means shoving them on their way.

 8. Enjoy the burn. It’s the tough days and tough issues, especially your failures that mold you into a better leader.

9. Hire people who’ve struggled and persevered. I’ll take the person who held down three jobs to pay for college while caring for the sick relative any day of the week.

10. Pedigree is interesting, but character counts. When hiring, hire for character first and the rest will follow.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

There are no shortcuts when it comes to learning to lead effectively. Get on with it, you’ve got some mistakes to make…just make them faster to succeed sooner.

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Leadership Ideas to Help You Finish Strong for June 26, 2015

Sometimes you have to slow down to go faster!

Sometimes you have to slow down to go faster!

Every week I share a few ideas to help you finish strong. A great ending sets the stage for success next week.

1. Reboot professional development discussions with your team members.

Too many of us leave the topic of professional development for our team members to annual review timing. That’s a mistake. Motivated employees are interested in identifying opportunities to gain new experiences and further their careers all of the time, not once per year. You owe it to them to bring this discussion to the table at least quarterly.

For today, reach out to your team members individually and let them know that their professional development is on your mind. Schedule some one on one time in the next two weeks to catch-up on the plans for the year established during the annual review, or make a commitment to work together to identify a series of on-going developmental experiences. While training might be a part of the program, don’t default to this catch-all category. Your team member may well benefit more from a new assignment or opportunity to lead a project team rather than sitting behind a table in a classroom.

If you need a little incentive, know that supporting a team member’s professional development by investing time and defining and supporting them in learning opportunities and new challenges is a tremendous way to show that you respect them and to build loyalty.

Schedule the discussions and commit to making this a regular part of your management routine.

2. Stimulate discussion on topics that count.

Interested in stimulating ideas on ways to strengthen your team, your leadership or your activities with your customers?  Take time with your team to watch a Ted Talk. And then discuss it. I’ve long been a fan of any activity that exposes people to the ideas of others. The gravitational pull of the urgent in our jobs keeps most of us staring out at the same view to the parking lot day after day. Change the view and leverage books, articles, or in a group setting, one of the great Ted Talks available on demand and at no charge.

A quick search on the topic, “Top Ted Talks for Leaders” serves up a variety of lists of some remarkable presentations certain to stimulate discussion and idea generation. As an alternative, go crazy and expand your search beyond business or leadership and challenge your team members to connect how the ideas in the video might be meaningful to your firm or your customers.

One manager I know does this weekly, complete with popcorn and beverages and it’s become a much anticipated ritual on Friday afternoons. Of course, remember, the goal is to find ideas that can be put into action, so some gentle facilitation of the post viewing discussion will support linking it back to improving something in your workplace. The simplest of all facilitation questions are often the most valuable. Try, “what does this mean for us?” and see what the group has to say.

OK, that’s it for this week. Congratulations on finishing strong! Enjoy the weekend and come back on Monday ready to conquer the world. -Art

Leadership Caffeine™—The Inner Game of Leading

image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveThe Leadership Caffeine™ series is intended to make you think and act.

“This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, self-doubt and self condemnation.”

–Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis

Other than the missing obstacle of hubris, Gallwey might as well have been writing about the challenges in the mind of the leader in this mid-70’s and now classic coaching book.

Leadership is played on an open court in the workplace for all to see, yet, I submit that the game is won or lost in the mind of the individual as he/she pushes self-doubt and hubris back into their respective corners.

It’s in her mind where a great battle rages filled with conflicting demands over right, wrong, who, next, when and how. The noise from decision-choices on direction, talent, strategy, goals and targets can be deafening, and the daily drill resembles for many in leadership roles, a pell-mell race through obstacles seen and unseen. It takes remarkable mental strength and agility to filter the noise and concentrate on the right issue at the right time.

Some leaders cover the court with grace and speed, yet fail to win the game. Their firms struggle to escape from the shackles of past greatness or, they play somewhere in the middle of the pack with competitors, surviving on almost respectable outcomes…always with the promise of better, bigger, faster, stronger in sight, but never quite reaching those levels. These are often the poseurs as leaders who like the outward facing game…who revel in the roar of the crowd and the momentary accolades of adoring fans surrounding the court.

The ones who master the inner game move deliberately through their days leaving a wake of clarity in their trail. They give others confidence that the way path forward is the right one and that the journey will be difficult but achievable. Strategies are selected and the goals and actions embedded in the minds (and actions) of the broader organizational population. Critical decisions are vetted and made, with emphasis on the most difficult and painful of the decisions…talent choices…always tackled first. The noise of the crowd isn’t the objective and the leader who masters the inner game gives no concern for accolades. The emphasis is on helping others win the key points and games in what is a marathon, not a sprint.

These leaders who master the inner game fight their own demons…particularly self-doubt and hubris. Every successful leader I know has no qualms indicating there are moments where doubt about self…Am I up to this? and It’s possible we and I might fail, rent space in their minds. They recognize the sobering truth…they are no better, smarter or different than many others, yet they are charged with getting it right. Sometimes the self-doubt is so strong it is nearly crippling. Nearly, but not completely.

Leaders who master the inner game fight this demon of self-doubt at night, staring at the ceiling in lieu of sleeping. They fight it, and then they push it into a box and move forward. While painful and difficult to deal with, the presence of self-doubt underscores how much the individual cares. After all, more than the next quarter’s results are at stake. It’s about the lives, careers and well-being of the families of the people who trust them to lead.

Hubris is another distraction…a very distant cousin of self-doubt. Success opens the mind to momentarily letting down its defenses. It tells you, it’s working…you figured it out and you deserve to let it play out and let others do the heavy lifting. It’s wrong. 

Once hubris sneaks through the crack in the leader’s defenses, the outer game suffers…succumbing to the toxic temptations of this false inner voice that suggests he/she can do no wrong. Soon, the entire game is a mess. Athletes might call the outcome a slump. For a leader, the consequences are amplified by the impact on the constituents.

Effective leaders build strong defenses against hubris. They learn to take satisfaction in the success and joy of others, not their own accomplishments. And they learn to recognize and blunt the incessant machinations and manipulations of hubris as it attempts to gain entrance to the host.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Mastering the inner game of leading is a never-ending task to know oneself and to cultivate the discipline necessary to cut through the noise and to focus on what counts for everyone else and for the group at large. It’s the hardest work most of us will ever do. It starts with staring in the mirror and acknowledging the truth about yourself. Many are afraid to do just this. They shouldn’t lead.

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

Ideas for Professional Growth—Week of June 21, 2015

best practice on blackboardNote from Art: Every week, I provide a few simple (but not simplistic) ideas for you to Do/Experiment/Explore in support of your professional development. Use them in great professional health and personal gain.

Do:

Identify the one tough discussion you’ve been avoiding and find a slot in your schedule this week (earlier is better) and make it happen. Unresolved issues…a tough feedback discussion, an apology owed to a colleague and all of the other difficult discussions we attempt to avoid, rent space in our minds and add to our background stress. It’s time to clear this issue out and move forward.

To ease your pre-discussion anxiety, take the time to sketch out key elements of your discussion.

  • Define the core issue in clear terms. If this is a feedback discussion, you have to isolate on the behavior and the business implication of the behavior.
  • Know your desired outcome.
  • Plan your opening sentence. Yes, script this one out. The opener sets the tone for the entire discussion.
  • Prepare your attitude. If you expect the issue to result in an emotional response, you need to plan your vocal tone and facial expression.
  • Find neutral ground to conduct the discussion.

Much like speaking in public, the thought of it is more stressful than the reality of delivering a speech. Get this locked on your calendar and don’t let this week wind to a close without moving forward on this lingering difficult discussion.

Experiment:

Add some life to your regular team meetings. Too many managers squander precious contact team with team members by defaulting to what I describe as the Around-the-Table Update March of Death. You know this meeting. The leader kicks off, shares a few updates on his/her activities and then one by one, everyone in the room does the same. At the end of this in a large group setting, people are drooling from the mind-numbing boredom and irrelevance of most of the updates.

Instead of defaulting to the Around-the-Table approach, mix things up from meeting to meeting. Assign a key, highly relevant topic and have everyone share their ideas or insights.

Examples include:

  • What are we doing great that we should be doing more of?
  • What are the most disturbing things our competitors are doing that we need to respond to?
  • Everyone talk with a salesperson or customer service representative before the next meeting and ask them one of: what they are hearing about how we’re doing/how our competitors are doing/what’s changing in their business, and come prepared to share.

If those don’t suit you, identify your own topics and question. Just vow to take advantage of the gray matter in the room and do something different than the default march of the updates.

Explore:

OK, this one is literally about exploring. Given the challenges, risks and complexity of the world we live and work in, it’s helpful to find inspiration in unusual places, and the age of polar exploration offered many incredible examples.

Read my post, 5 Priceless Lessons from Amundsen and Scott (and/or dig in and research the topic at a deeper level) and consider the challenges they navigated, the approaches of the two great explorers and ultimately what worked and what failed. How can you apply the lessons to your own world of team development, innovation and exploration?

OK, I’ve done my part. The rest is up to you. Have a great week as you Do/Experiment/Explore! -Art

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.