Over the last year, I have had a number of disturbing conversations that have effectively ended a number of friendships. It has been a painful experience because I care about these people. I am finding that I am not the only one who has experienced the emotional melt-downs that lead to broken relationships. The problem is that I am not the one having the psychotic break. These meltdowns are an emotional break from reality.
If you were to talk to these friends of mine, I suspect they would tell you that I am responsible. I have been told that I am insane, that I believe in conspiracy theories, which I don’t, and that I am a danger to society, which I am not. I have had phone calls abruptly end in mid-sentence and people tell me that they don’t want to see me. In almost every case, a reasonable explanation of my views is not permitted. If you read this blog or read the books that I have written, you’ll understand my perspective. I want to make sense of the world. In doing so, it means we know how to act in it.
My point here is not to argue my perspective. Instead, I am more concerned with helping people discover their own minds. You don’t have to see things as I do. Hardly anyone does. It is important that you have clear reasons why you make the decisions that you do and take the actions that follow those decisions. You do need this for your own peace of mind. If in the process you find out that you made some decision based on faulty reasoning or inadequate information, you can say to yourself, “Okay. Glad to know that. Let’s fix this.”
Whether you are a small business person or a corporate executive, getting the best work out of your people is one of the most challenging aspects of leadership. It takes more than attractive compensation packages and inspirational pep talks. It takes creating a culture of trust that unites people together around a common desire to give their best. Here are five steps any leader can take to build a relationship of trust with their team.
Add to the mix the shift from in the office to a hybrid structure where they are working from home some days, at the office other days, and whether this arrangement will remain or continue to change.
When people solve their own problems, they also gain skills in communication, collaboration, and innovation. All are leadership skills that everyone needs to acquire regardless of the position that they have in the organization. What, then, is the impact of this approach to leadership. In simple terms, it moves an organization from being leadership starved to being leader-rich. More definitively, it decentralizes the capacity of an organization to solve its problems. I saw this effect in an organization that I served many years ago. Small problems flowed up through the hierarchy to the vice-president’s desk. By then a problem had turned into an issue between the company and the union. When the company implemented a program to train and support all their employees in practicing these leadership skills, the trust level in the company grew, ultimately gaining the awareness of Forbes magazine in their annual list of most trustworthy companies. This is the potential that results from elevating the leadership capacity of people.
I came to realize through working with leaders and their organizations that their problems were not just organizational. Within their teams and workforce, there were philosophical differences that made creating a culture of trust more difficult. I found that when the ideas that we identify as values were treated as secondary or optional aspects of the business, it also contributed to difficulties in how people worked together. Trust in relationships is a product of clarity of not just the why of the company, but the how. It doesn’t take long talking with people from any business to discover if they are clear about the company’s values and goals. When that clarity is missing, there is reticence on the part of employees to give their best each day.
In the mid-1990s, I started my consulting practice with the aim of helping leaders strengthen their organizations, with the larger goal of strengthening their local communities. As one project after another came, a pattern began to emerge. Problems presented to me often turned out to be symptoms of more complex problems. These were not isolated incidents. The situations and the kinds of organizations were not similar. Their problems were similar. But more importantly, they were not getting resolved by the way we have all learned to solve problems. For as long as I’ve been working in organizations, the belief has been that the solution is in the problem itself. This approach failed to understand that there is always more going on than the problem itself.