Copyright 2021 John Alex i Piotr Jankowski
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John Alex: Piotr is not here today. I will use this moment to talk to you on my own, just you and me:) Are you ok with that?
Oh - one more thing. I write it all from my own knowledge, and I have knowledge from two sources: education and experiences, both good and bad... Come back - there are no bad experiences. Experiences of good and slightly worse decisions, our own and others, I have observed for many years and different levels of management and human relations.
Okay - Trust. What is this thing?
Someone really senior in corporate structures told me once that at certain levels of leadership in an organization "you should not talk about trust because it is immeasurable and does not contribute to anything". Of course - if we assume that when someone reaches level X, then suddenly he has to reject emotions and the human face, because from level X upwards we are no longer humans but programmed robots, no human feelings - it would be a yes. Is this what a "Big Book of Codes of Conduct from Level X Upwards" says? This is worrying, but that is a topic for a different article I believe. What about today then?
About trust, in the context of how you, Dear Leader in an organization, are perceived by your team.
I saw one of Simon Sinek's short videos a while ago. During one of his speeches, someone in the audience asked the question: "How can I make people believe that I am telling the truth?". And he said, "Really? It is simpler than you think, just keep telling them the truth!"
This is a good start: for people to believe what I am saying, I have to tell them the truth. Easy?
What are some reasons why people, our large reporting team, might not believe us?
They gave you power in the hierarchy. So you have so much work and so much on your shoulders, everyone should understand you dont have time! So you lock yourself in your new office... Oh, they didn't give you an office? Okay, even if you don't have one, you barricade yourself in open-space with visual-boards as walls and mentally somewhere else with headphones on and you do "your most important things". Why are they the most important? Because you are the highest in the hierarchy - it is known that your stuff IS the most important! Objectively!
Well, but you have to meet people and on your list of duties you read that role holder "communicates to teams regularly", so once a month (and sometimes a quarter because that's so much on your head) you give townhall or zoom Q&A events and "job done" - and nobody ever asks for anything? Even better! Nice, finished, back to desks!
Are you not worried about it? You explain it to yourself that people are shy, afraid, etc, and therefore they don't ask questions or do not give comments. Oh, they are afraid...? Wait...
There are several problems:
- you probably communicate (or try to communicate) only on agreed dates - and that's ok, the worst happens between them - it's clear that you must not be approached at all, unavailable! The red lamp on the signaling device connected to the communicator visually announces it to everyone on the floor. "Do not approach me!"
- so you communicate too rarely as a result.
- and when you do, it's a poetry! You do it "on a level", glam style, so people can see who's talking! And how important it is! Big Boss / Boss is speaking, stand still! With stick in his butt! And who believes the corpo-boss with a stick in his butt?
Once, a very good friend of mine ended one of her speeches in a very interesting way. She said to the audience, that she knew that probably they would not remember what she was saying, but they will certainly remember how they felt when she spoke to them. Could there be better certification of trust in what someone says?
I will come back to the previous thread - you are unavailable between the scheduled communication sessions. Oh, both of us Piotr and me do not like the term "open hours" !!! Are you aware of the term?
Some want to introduce it on a large-scale. Moreover, many of the leaders I have met are huge fans of "open hours"! Open hours, i.e. the leader finds and dedicates time without an agenda for such a meeting and everyone can come and talk about something with the boss, individually, in a group, and no matter from what level of the hierarchy, direct or indirect - everyone can. It is not a meeting, just a timespan you can come.
Piotr once introduced it :) Because it was such a fashion to make it a "standardized" people approach - he wanted it too! In the name of loyalty to the company and colleagues, but also to try what is going on, because he has never done it before.
From his team of over 30 people at that time, after an hour when he was sitting alone in the room (and he allocated 3 hours for open hours every month), 3 people came.
Two of them lit lamps for him: one was "green light" - positive, thanks to which he understood the nonsense of this idea. The second "amber - light", which made him understand the added risk of the idea.
Which one do you want told first? Okay, green-light first. A person comes and tells him: "Piotr, you've been sitting here for an hour, we feel awkward, so I came because I wanted to tell you that I don't have to come here, because I really know that in the context of us as a team, I can approach you in every moment, no matter when, to show up at your desk and that you will talk to me, with understanding that it is important to me."
And the "amber" situation? "Hi Piotr, I am coming to tell you that I have no problem, but I wanted to tell you that everything is great, very nice team and I have no comments, all is great to work here."
The yellow situation is proof of "false admiration" Everyone would like to rather avoid. Almost everyone. Me and Piotr for sure :)
And the "green" situation? It proves that it is worth being for the team, always. Because when there are open hours, there are also closed hours, right...? Do you advertise these "closed hours"? Well, they are closed, since others are the open hours... this is the meaning you get our of it. Because outside of open hours, what are the hours like? What are they? Closed!
When a leader realizes that your main issue and main task is to always be for the team, then it will turn out that open hours as such loses its raison d'être, loses its purpose - automatically... And irretrievably.
Honesty. Trust. They are supposed to trust you, and stand there in front of the team knowing that the clients are completely dissatisfied with the performance but you cannot make it through your throat, because you are afraid of a drop of motivation, so you jabber something about how difficult it is , but that "we can make it", etc. and you do not hear applause ?
Or maybe they transfer your project to another country in 9 months and people will lose jobs, you already know the decision, but you do not tell them until very late, still possible to wait a little longer, here comes the "Staff Survey" in 3 months so you do not want to lower your result, so your team must not know the drama!
Is this how you build trust?
Apart from the fact that it will come out anyway, everyone in the company will find out, the more they will want to find out the truth, the later you tell them, because this - as a problem - will grow...
Yes it's true. Over time, unresolved problems grow bigger. The impact of the problem is directly proportional to the time spent on solving it.
So will the truth finally emerge? Of course it will.
So, if the people who are to be the most important ones for the leader, why would that leader treat them as incapable, inferior?
Or is it fear... the fear of the leader? But where does this fear come from? Where does the lack of this civil courage come from?
They made you a leader not to have you always shining with a clean, perfect image. Oh no!
They made you a leader because they believe you have those unique skills for your team, that when things are not going well, you are the one who will rise to the situation on behalf of everyone and represent them with your courage and honesty.
So they gave you a position, hierarchical power and authority, and instead of carrying this with pride, you still have to hoax your own people?
Who, what is your team in all this? Did they deserve to find out "later"?
What law determines this?
Of course the tough subject is probably not a townhall topic for 100/500/1000/5000 employees. Definitely not. This is a topic to communicate in the intimacy of a given team, to communicate it openly, honestly, without undue delay, and in such a way that the team and each team member feel that you, the leader, are communicating this, to support this team, to give them the bitter truth, but the truth as soon as possible and together, assess what can be done about it, how to deal with the consequences... like a TEAM!
Let's treat ourselves like adults, let's talk humanly to ourselves, without a stick in the butt, without open and closed hours and without clichés or other "corporate stiffness" patterns.
CEO, Operational Director, Head of HR, Team Manager, Customer Service Consultant - all are equal people. They all have same rights in the organization. Of equal importance to the company. They just have different roles and different functions that are differentiated by their contract. Same humans, with minds and hearts. Attitude. Ego. This is not in the contract and the role. Everyone has to understand and tame it on their own.
Oh, of course, some people know a little more than others because of their knowledge, experience or access to information. I would learn two rules from this.
First: When the leader knows more than the team and it is related to the team, he / she should burn his ass to get it across to the team and discuss it as soon as possible. Strive for the knowledge, information and communication balance. Like electrons in covalent and ionic bonds, sharing or giving back so that both sides are in equilibrium after this process...
Second: when a leader knows more than a member of his team, it is good only when the excess knowledge the leader has does not apply to that team. If not, it means that the leader is hiding something...
Trust is when we create an aura of trust based on absolute availability and transparency at all times. If people see you as a leader in harmony with each other, without pride. And without too much information that you don't share. Or you are sharing only partially. Because you didn't tell something that everyone else are already chit-chattin out in the corridors.
Communication is also an art, not just telling everything and whatever. It is a skill.
But let this skill never be a lie...
PS. Yes... ! I did it myself! Without Piotr... yes! I exist in digital on my own, huraaaay!