Archive Page 2

Creating trust in the workplace

Recent events in Australian politics have touched, or should I say ploughed, in to an area of leadership and team performance that I think is at the heart of teams failing or excelling. I’ve been watching the moves and words that have been used by the politicians and wondering how trust can be rebuilt at all levels – within the Labour party and also with the public.

Rather than this being a political statement I’d like to focus on what creates or destroys trust and the impact it has on a leader and their teams effectiveness.

As I mentioned in a previous blog we all believe ourselves to be trustworthy. This goes with believing we’re honest, candid and behave in a way that is appropriate. So if this is the case how can trust break down?

I think there are a few behaviours that are needed for trust to be created.

1. Words and actions need to be congruent and consistent – as soon as there is a discrepancy in what is said and done then trust begins to erode

2. There needs to be a basis of respect that emanates through the words and actions. In other words there needs to be a level of acknowledgment of each persons contribution and position

3. Where conflict occurs focus on the issue – find ways to listen to opposing views and address the issue rather than attack the person

One of the most important aspects of building or destroying trust are the symbolic acts that are seen by others. In politics we see many symbols of things being done where trust is eroded. I’m not sure we see many acts that build trust as these symbolic acts often lack authenticity.

Taking this in to an organisational environment there is much that we can learn from watching the politicians. Unfortunately it would seem we can learn more about what not to do rather than what to do. I’d therefore be taking the experience of the last few weeks to question what behaviours leaders can develop and teams use to build trust.

And may be – having observed the politicians you have ideas on things that have happened recently that have built trust. I’d be interested to hear about what you’ve seen.

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Self awareness of your communication

I recently attended an industry forum where a panel of speakers were giving their views on different subjects. Within minutes of the event starting I was intrigued by the influence one person had on the tone and success of the event. This person was the MC – let me describe briefly what happened.

It was early morning and a lot of people had made their way to the event in anticipation of hearing some insights from industry leaders. All started well with the MC introducing each of the speakers – this was as far as it got before he made blunder number one.

Having introduced each of the male panelists in a professional way, his intro to the one female on the panel was to describe her as beautiful. Whatever you’re personal views on this type of comment, what I noticed was that the MC had immediately put most of the women in the audience off side. Given that it was probably 75% women this was a big chunk of the audience who were now wondering why they’d got out of bed.

From here there were several further blunders by the MC, including a few rather weak jokes that attacked people in the room and one joke that could potentially be considered as racist. This was followed by a lack of understanding of the role of the MC. As the event went on he seemed to think that it was necessary for him to also give his opinion on each question put to the panel, by this time he had lost the respect of parts of the audience.

So why am I telling you this story? There were several learning’s for me as I observed what was happening:

1. Having a self-awareness about the words you use, the response you are receiving and the particular communication role you have are fundamental to good communication

2. If you are standing in front of an audience it makes sense to think about the audience, what their hot buttons will be and how to involve them

3. Creating rapport is fundamental for effective communication

4. There are times when less is more or to put it differently speaking is not always the same as communicating

As you will know from my previous blog on communication mishaps, I totally understand that there are times when we don’t read the audience right, come out with the wrong words etc. The question that I’m left with though is whether or not the communicator had any self-awareness about the impact he had and will use this self-awareness to do things differently in the future. It’s through this self-awareness that our communication style can grow and become more versatile.

Using dollars wisely during onboarding

Whether you are a leader, a recruiter or an HR Manager it no doubt crosses your mind on a fairly regular basis that bringing people in to the organisation and bringing them to an appropriate level of performance is time consuming, energy zapping and costly. The upside of doing it is that a vital gap will be filled and a job will be done, so at some point your investment in time and energy will be repaid. The downside is that you invest and it doesn’t work out. A recent global study on mindset of new and existing employees by RogenSi shows that you have only a limited time to get payback.

The study found that employees with more than one year’s service with an organisation are feeling unenthusiastic, under-appreciated, uninspired and unmotivated by their leaders. Therefore in the first year you need to be doing everything you can to motivate, inspire and grow employees so they perform in year one and beyond. There is only a short window to consolidate new employees’ commitment and align them with the organisations’ culture and vision.

If you add to this a picture of the real cost of hiring someone – adding in recruitment costs, admin, training, management time and their salary; the cost of getting this right for every single employee should be a business priority.

The maths are indisputable and the opportunity to create commitment and alignment is limited – yet so many organisations seem to kick own goals once a new employee is on board.

Own goal number one is the handling of an employees induction process. Hands up to all of you who have started with a new organisation and had a less than enthusiastic welcome in some shape or form? This could be down to the process for getting your pass, a desk, directions to the toilet. Or it could be the often tedious process that you are taken through to learn about the organisation – for many this is usually the mandatory Induction training that comes anywhere between day 1 and day 365 of being in your role.

This is a golden opportunity – the penalty kick with no goalkeeper in the net – when the organisation has the chance to bring the new employee in to the organisation, live the values, display the culture and make the links to the goals, direction and what the organisation is all about. It’s a chance to reach the employees hearts.

And yet, so often, this opportunity is missed. On-boarding and Induction becomes an insipid and cold experience that leaves the new employees enthusiasm fading.

Given the cost to the business of recruiting and then losing your employees, surely a small investment in a makeover of your on-boarding and induction could reap big rewards?

Owning up to a communication mishap

Week after week I share my views on ways to communicate effectively, build relationships and work through change situations. On occasions what I say seems to resonate with the people who I talk to, who come along to a training program and read my blogs. Yet last week I had a sobering experience – under pressure, in a room full of people I froze and went in to a free fall half hour of hell.

To give a bit of context, without having to relive the whole embarrassing situation again; I was in a situation where I was under extreme pressure to perform, with people in the room making judgments about my every move and every word. I started the session feeling well prepared with a certain level of nervousness; I told myself this was a good thing and was ready to go. Things changed just a few minutes before my session started when the lead in the group told me what they were hoping to get from the session. For a minute this threw me as it was different to the things I’d prepared, but I drew on some of the things I tell others and thought I would manage the changes OK.

How wrong I was.

Free fall began……..

I realised within a few minutes of starting the session that I wasn’t connecting with the group and from there it went downhill. With my facilitator/ presenter voices babbling away to me in my head I became tongue-tied, I panicked and I lost my focus.

It’s been a long time since this has happened to me so,as you’d expect, I took time out afterwards to think about what happened and what I would do differently. The first thing I realised was that this particular situation triggered a memory for me from an experience I’d had 20 years ago – it was almost as though I reverted back to the way I handled the original situation and I lost everything I’ve learnt since.

The second thing I realised was that I needed to listen to the voices in my head and my instincts. My facilitator/ presenter voices were telling me to:

– Slow down and breath

– Make it very clear upfront about the purpose for the session and why we are covering the topic

– Make it very clear upfront how the session will work

– Bring out concerns and questions and involve the group early

– And when things seem to be going astray, stop and involve the group in what now needs to change

On this occasion I didn’t have the courage to stop when I knew things weren’t going well. My learning from this experience is that stopping couldn’t have resulted in a worse outcome than the one I had, so I should have done it.

The good news from this experience is that I now have a refreshed and more acute awareness of some of the barriers that come up for people when it comes to talking in groups, presenting or facilitating. I’m also confident that the points above really would have made a difference so practicing this myself and helping others to get these pieces right will provide a great starting point for future coaching and training sessions.

Newsletters make the world go round

In my meanderings through organisations of all shapes and sizes that are going through change, I hear many an Executive and consultant quote the stats about the importance of communication during change and how it’s one of the main factors that creates successful transformation. I’m encouraged by what seems to be an enthusiasm to focus on getting the communication right and then so often something happens and the focus shifts on to something else and there is a sense that communication is done. This often happens when the newsletter is up and running. It is this point when I want to cry, pull my hair out or hit my head against a brick wall.

Surely there is more to effective communication than the newsletter? Yet it often becomes the thing that takes a huge amount of time and energy and is used as the gauge for whether or not communication is happening. Think of the number of change projects that have a regular deliverable to tick off the list when the newsletter is done.

It seems to me that so often something significant is being missed. Whilst I totally endorse the use of newsletters/ emails/ intranet updates etc as a way to get information out about the change, this is only one layer of the communication required when an organisation is going through complex change.

I want to see more emphasis on:
– Interpersonal communication – give the manager the skills to communicate
– Using mechanisms to engage staff in the present and the future
– Stakeholder relationships

I know that there will be nods across the world to my statements here, from Executives, Project Managers and Communication professionals. We know what will really work so how come I’m left pulling my hair out when budgets are cut, the focus shifts and the effort required for fantastic dialogue dissipates?

Any thoughts on answers to this question, disagreements with my thinking or sharing of similar frustrations are welcome.