“Transparency builds trust.” That’s what Cameron Chapman writes in a Kissmetrics blog post discussing the secrets of some of the best corporate blogs around (such as Zappos, Facebook, MintLife and 37 Signals).
It’s great advice for managers too. In a recent interview with the Harvard Business Review, Warren Bennis advises that “great leaders build great teams.” Picking people who “can play together in the sandbox” is a critical aspect of team building as is “transparency and a culture of candor where people feel close and cooperative.”
Trust comes from knowing what’s going on and from knowing each other – 2 different forms of transparency. This week’s articles cover these different ways to build trust: by opening up and by checking in regularly with your team.
It’s tough to open up, particularly to colleagues and especially if they report to you. That’s why there are too many managers that try to force ideals, such as loyalty, work ethic, or “fun,” onto their teams. That’s why there are too few teams that actually live and breathe the values they’re supposed to stand for.
According to Stan Slap in this McKinsey Quarterly article, the most effective way for a leader to create trust is by opening up and sharing a personal “moment of truth.” He shares an executive’s story about loyalty: how, in the face of racism in the deep south and personal risk to herself, she stood by a new friend. Through a very personal story, this executive’s team learned what loyalty really means to their boss.
I love the “moment of truth” because it makes corporate or team culture more than just a series of aspirations listed on a printout or in an email. It makes it real and meaningful, much harder to forget and much easier to absorb. To Slap, that’s what leadership is all about:
“The purpose of leadership isn’t to increase shareholder value or the productivity of work teams, though effective leadership does these things. Rather, the purpose of leadership is to change the world around you in the name of your values, so you can live those values more fully and use them to make life better for others.”
Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School professor and author of The Innovator’s Dilemna, shared similar advice: “Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people.”
Here’s some great advice from BNET’s Connected Manager, Wayne Turmel: “With people, you often don’t know there’s a problem until the damage is done. It can show up as reduced productivity, project delays or even turnover.”
So how do you get ahead of the game? Meet more often: schedule regular one-on-one check-ins and make a point of actually keeping those meetings.
“By regularly checking in with your people, you find out all the little things going on with your team. Some of them are minor and you can take care of them simply, some you only want to keep an eye on for now, and some could become big problems if you let them go, so you’d best handle it. Wouldn’t you rather know what’s going on than run on assumptions?”
While Turmel recognizes that it’s easy to rationalize not checking in regularly, he advises:
- Even minor neglect starts to show eventually
- By the time the warning light comes on, the damage is done
Here’s how I think this relates to trust:
- You can’t have an open relationship if you don’t speak.
- It’s difficult to build a positive relationship if you’re only talking about issues, or fire-fighting
- If your team feels that you care, they’ll care more (as Turmel puts it: “people know when they’re cared for and when they’re not”)
Meeting often gives you an opportunity to get ahead of issues. It also creates more opportunities to demonstrate that you believe in your team and it gives your team more opportunities to believe in you. This could have a big impact on your results.
It’s up to you to make it happen. Jurgen Appelo put it well on NOOP.nl: “Of course, talent and process will help you achieving competence. But first of all, you must want it.”
Tune in to this week’s Managing Master Class podcast where we’ll discuss these articles in the Fireside Chat!
Photo of Birds (“North pole visitors”) by wolfpix. Licensed under CC.