St. Patrick’s Day is almost here, which means parades, leprechauns, four leaf clovers, lots of green and the luck of the Irish!
The year was 1958. Pat, a secretary at State Farm Insurance in Deerfield, IL wanted to do something to honor
her boss because she felt that all the work he did was rarely recognized or appreciated.
At InnerWill, we believe that building trust is essential to cultivating and sustaining strong relationships.
There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world – one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love.
On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility or our time. That one thing is trust.”
– Stephen M.R. Covey
It may be that no one understands the powerful impact of trust – and mistrust – more than healthcare workers. On the front lines of an evolving global pandemic for more than a year and half, they are fighting both a virus and the effects of low trust in the solution that has been offered in the form of vaccinations. Whether that low trust is well-founded or based on misinformation doesn’t change the fact that they are once again dealing with a case load that is straining the limits of the system they work within, and creating stress that I can’t even imagine handling.
Whether it’s trust at a systemic level, or trust in our work teams, low trust can turn any challenge into a full blown crisis. I once met a chaplain working in a children’s oncology ward, who described one of the most crucial parts of her role as helping parents and medical staff establish trust before critical decisions needed to be made. She knew that in all but the most fortunate cases, there were likely to be heart-wrenching decisions ahead and times when parents would be challenged to make choices between many uncertain options for their children. She understood how important it was for a foundation of trust to exist so that the parents could take in all of the medical staff’s expertise, and likewise that the medical staff could hear all of the wisdom from the parents and children.
In our personal and professional lives, an investment in building trust pays significant dividends in good times – and can both help to navigate challenges, and help to transform challenge into opportunity. Stephen M.R. Covey refers to this as “high trust dividends” as opposed to “low trust taxes” in his book, The Speed of Trust. In our work to help leaders develop relationships built on trust, we focus on three choices:
– Aligning words and actions
– Supporting the success of others
– Being transparent & vulnerable
We have seen that when leaders make these choices on a consistent basis, people begin to “let down their guard.” These choices help to foster an environment that allows for both courage and compassion.
If you’re not sure where you stand, engage your powers of observation – especially during times of stress. When miscommunication happens, what assumptions are made? Whether they feel fair or warranted or not, those assumptions give you a glimpse of others’ level of trust. When conflicts arise, do they escalate, get buried, or get worked through? Try to observe without judging or defending, but simply to collect data.
And if you’re willing to practice some transparency and vulnerability, ask the people in your life, “What are the things I do that build your trust? What are the things I do that erode that trust?” Make your own list of what you believe might be true, share it with them, and compare it to their list. Thank them, no matter what they tell you, and be clear about what you are committing to work on. Remember that asking people to be vulnerable by sharing this type of feedback, and then either defending it or not acting on it, will be counterproductive to your goal of building trust.
To quote our Advisory Board Member, Dennis Jaffe, “What’s helpful to remember is that trust is an ongoing exchange between people and is not static. Trust can be earned. It can be lost. And it can be regained.”
The new year is upon us, and with it often comes unexpected changes: new jobs, new partners, new friends, surprises and unexpected challenges. Change happens to us as individuals and to our organizations. The most effective leaders embrace change as a reality and prepare their organizations for it.
As a leader, you should assume a certain amount of change in your business, strategy, culture and people. From a leadership perspective, you want to build your employees’ capacity to be able to adapt to change. When leaders proactively and routinely prepare for change, the result is a strong organization ready to deal with change whenever it comes. Waiting to deal with the change until it actually occurs can be incredibly challenging — even for the best leaders.
At its heart, change is unpredictable.
Make sure the leaders you have in place are comfortable with ambiguity, are looking ahead and reading the horizon, and are resilient enough to get back up when they get knocked down. Create some breathing space in your organization that allows people the extra time or energy necessary to acclimate to unexpected challenges. The places we go wrong when it comes to leading through change is not leading around it at all or expecting that change isn’t going to happen. Your role as a leader is to plan for what you can and prepare for what you can’t.
When InnerWill works with an organization, it’s often to facilitate change – be it a culture change or a strategic change. We help organizations plan for that change and think about how they can influence and ensure employees are confident to follow them as they travel on this new journey. We also help leaders build the skills they need to deal with unexpected surprises and adjust their vision to successfully navigate through change.
Many of our clients are trying to get their arms wrapped around change.
Change is happening at an exponentially faster pace than ever before, and the sooner you can start communicating and influencing the better. The sooner you can make employees aware that change is coming and get them thinking about how to tackle it, the better. Everybody in your organization needs to understand broadly what the change is and how it’s going to potentially affect them.
Often when we stumble or make a mistake, we don’t bring people in soon enough and we don’t empower them enough to take part of the process. Seize the opportunity now engage employees in the process and get their input, encourage buy in, lead with a vision, and build organizational momentum for the change. Have the courage to be honest about the future while providing high-direction and inspiring success. Be positive about what’s possible but be realistic too. And if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask.
How will you embrace the change the new year brings?
Organizations are like sponges.
The messages leadership sends through an organization get repeated and ultimately come out in what associates do and sometimes even end up believing. I’ve found that when we positively reinforce the types of things we want to see; they begin to happen more and more — and sometimes at an exponential rate.
Whether we like it or not, people can be turned off by the diversity and inclusion conversation. They can immediately put up walls based on their own set of beliefs or experiences. I believe the fastest way to get the ball rolling is to share concrete examples of how and when a diverse workplace has helped a team perform at a higher level and then celebrate these stories by sharing them throughout the company.
Leaders must intentionally create an environment where associates feel they can safely express themselves and where specific concerns can be raised with transparency and confidence.
This means building a culture of trust and feedback.
One of my personal fears is that without a diverse workplace we defer top talent. Consider that ideal candidate that has everything you’re looking for.
They want to work at your organization, but when they come in for the interview they don’t see or interact with anyone they can identify with. And because of that, they may question whether they will be welcome or able to thrive. This thinking could lead them to accepting a job elsewhere.
The climate of the era
I was recently on an airplane and watched the movie On the Basis of Sex. In it was this quote “A court ought not be affected by the weather of the day, but will be by the climate of the era.” Meaning laws should not be rewritten based off trends, but as society systemically changes over the course of a long period of time, laws may need to be modified.
I deeply believe that the diversity and inclusion conversation is not the weather of the day, but the climate of the era. Therefore, just as laws must change, so must business.
Giving everyone a voice
At Luck Companies we use a tool called Insights Discovery. It’s a personality assessment that helps identify personal style preferences and those of others. We have found Insights to be incredibly effective across backgrounds and roles. The Insights Discovery methodology uses a simple and memorable four-color model to help people understand their style, their strengths and the value they bring to the team. A better understanding of self and others means that relationships at work can become vehicles for, not barriers to, business success.
Insights reinforces the value that different styles, perspectives and experiences bring. We’ve used this tool to construct teams across the organization and have seen the positive results when we have teams built with a mixture of style preferences. Our teams have seen this work and believe in the philosophy.
As leaders, our job is to take this same mindset and broaden it to all types of diversity. Because a more diverse and inclusive workplace is better for everyone.
Steve Case once said “We need everybody on the field, actively participating. We are not going to be able to maintain our lead as the most entrepreneurial nation in the world if half of our population is on the sidelines. We need to be far more inclusive.”
By building more inclusive workplaces, organizations can bring the best talent forward and gain the competitive edge. How are you building a more inclusive workplace culture?
“You’re never too full for ice cream because it fills in the cracks” – Thomas Curley
Meet Thomas. Ice cream lover, impact maker, world traveler, movie buff, and a December 2017 graduate of Virginia Tech, who bleeds maroon and orange. He’s been promoted from a college graduate to a Marketing Associate at Sageworks. Gen Z is already striding into your workplace and impacting your culture, and I recently spoke with Thomas to gain his unique perspective on what leaders can expect when working with Gen Z.
Research tells us that 82% of Gen Z prefer face to face communication with a boss. Can you shed your insight on this statistic?
I have the expectation that I will have a good relationship with my boss. It’s important to have a connection and genuine conversation. We all get hundreds of emails every day, and as a new associate, face to face communication is more effective because it gives me an opportunity to collaborate, build a relationship, and determine what is important to my manager. I can’t do that if I am spending time trying to format an email and ensuring it’s correct with no grammatical errors.
Face to face gives me the opportunity to ask questions, read body language, and look for nonverbal cues. When I can ask questions, it helps me learn and grow as a new associate. While I will use Slack for some communication, if I need a quick answer to a question, I still prefer to get up and walk over to someone’s desk. Technology is a part of life and can be efficient, but it’s no replacement for getting in front of each other to effectively check for understanding and demonstrate to your manager that you are professional and prepared.
What traits does Gen Z look for in a leader?
- Hard working – Show me an example of what hard work is. It’s important to see efforts so everyone can achieve their goal. Be willing to roll up your sleeves and help me out if the workload is overwhelming.
- Responsiveness – If a leader responds quickly, it helps improve efficiency. It doesn’t hold me up from the work that I am trying to get done.
- Be open to change – The future workplace is about ideas. We have some amazing ideas, and they can have a positive impact on the workplace.
- Listen to our voice – We can offer fresh insight if we are heard.
- Trust – Build trust in the workplace by allowing flexibility if we get the work done. I need a leader to trust that I’m a professional and have finished my work. That means allowing me to leave at 2:00 on Thursday afternoon, because I put in 80 hours the previous week.
- Be Supportive – Make an effort to connect and support us in our goals for the company
62.3% of Gen Z say that the ideal length for a feedback session is 5 minutes or less. What do you hope to get out of a feedback session with your boss?
We prefer frequent feedback. Sometimes 5 minutes can be a little quick, but no more than 10 minutes is preferable. I want to know that my manager is prepared to provide me with nuggets of what I’m doing well and where I can make some corrections.
Be intentional and focused in our feedback sessions. Things are moving quickly. Speed is important, but so is connection.
Be honest and transparent. Show me that you are willing to help. It’s important for a manager to take the time to ask what they can do to support my efforts and ask how they can help me get better. Our generation is motivated and willing to work hard to succeed. Share practical examples and guidance on how we can.
Gen Z states that Leadership Development is an important aspect of what they look for in an employer. What does this mean to you?
We place great value on an employer’s ability to coach and mentor. Managers will need to show they can do this.
No one wants to report to a “bad” manager. Companies that have strong leadership development programs illustrate that an investment in leaders is an investment in associates.
We want mentoring and learning opportunities. We need to see that companies are preparing us for leadership roles and upward mobility and growth. We need to see there are programs in place to arm us with the skills we need to tackle those leadership roles.
How does Gen Z define their core values?
Each person has their own set of values and beliefs, but I think something my generation values is the freedom to balance well. I want to help my company do awesome things. As I mentioned earlier, I’m willing to work hard to do that, but I don’t want to work so much that there is no time to enjoy the fruits of my hard work. Success is the whole person. Success is not just at work.
I want to have amazing experiences in this world with the people I care about. I’ve worked with refugees in Africa. I’ve seen poverty and I’ve seen grace. My favorite place so far that my feet have been is the Roman Coliseum – I just wanted to yell out lines from “Gladiator” when I was there. Because travelling is important to me, I keep a sticky note on my laptop with the 11 places I would most like to visit. The list spans the globe – from the Pyramids of Egypt to the Grand Canyon. Closer to home, during football season, you will find me decked out in orange and maroon from head to toe cheering on my beloved Hokies in Lane Stadium or wherever they happen to be on the road. This summer, I’m whittling my must see list down from 11 to 10 when I travel to the Grand Canyon.
Embrace the new Gen Z’s in your workplace. Be authentic, a good communicator, supportive, open to new ideas, and if you want to throw in some mint chocolate chip ice cream, it can go a long way to building trust.