MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHORS
month we continue our new series of articles called
Building Trust on the Way In with a
discussion about taking it slow when you are on your
way in to lead a new organization or project.
successful leaders are ones who act, but taking
the time to do your homework first can help raise the
balance in your "trust bank."
Performance is no Guarantee of Future Results
if You Flub It?
the Big Mistake
month's issue: Find Yourself a Guide
TRUST ON THE WAY IN PART III: ESTABLISH TRUST BY LISTENING
AND DOING YOUR HOMEWORK
Before taking action with,
or demanding anything from the new group that you’ll
be leading, make sure you understood the whole situation you’re
facing. Take it slow, whether the new situation involves a
single individual or an entire group.
Now, rest assured, this is not a call
for you to become the hesitant new leader. It's only to make
sure that you do your homework first, and that you have your
aspirations well-founded and well-grounded before you start
Successful leaders have a bias for action
anyway, so this is really a pitch for you to make sure that
before you act, you really do understand the landscape. A
friend of ours often says that it takes six months to find
your way to the water fountain. That may be a bit of hyperbole,
but it does underscore the importance of not making moves
too precipitously, or with a paucity of data. Do lots of listening
Lots of listening exposes you to people's
attitudes, and to who they are. In a new leadership role,
it is the first way in which caring could be demonstrated.
Even in a rough and tumble work situation, making sure people
know that you care is the absolute first step in trust-building.
Listening can take a number of forms;
it is not restricted to nodding one's head appropriately during
a conversation. It can take the form of spending time with
people first, even in "remedial" situations, and
not going too rapidly on the offensive to solve a problem,
even if you're sure you know what the solution is.
Speaking of remedial situations, dealing
with poor performers can, in fact, be a way to help establish
trust. Rather than simply telling people to “shape up”
and not do anything “bad,” you can be honest and
up-front that you’re taking some time to observe. Be
non-judgmental during the observation period. (And yes, you’re
going to get some resistance, of course!) Later, after you’ve
taken the time to watch, learn, and understand, review the
behaviors and corrective actions, using phrasing such as "here's
what we're going to have to work on…"
Part of listening and doing your homework
is also not losing one's temper too quickly, or inappropriately.
Losing one's temper early on is a sure way to impede one's
traction in gaining trust. If you can’t control yourself,
you blow your credibility. And if you get personal about it,
it affects your ability to be a caring leader.
Jim Lawrence, EVP and CFO of General
Mills, emphasized the importance of patience and listening,
when he spoke with us about being the “new kid on the
“I knew I had to make people
feel that I was a trustworthy guy to make it work at General
Mills,” he said. “After I was here for about
a year, I got some pretty straight feedback. It said that
I talked about the ‘outside’ a little too much,
that I was probably not quite sufficiently appreciative
of our in-house abilities. That I wasn’t listening
enough to the slower-speaking Midwestern folks who populate
this organization. In short, I probably wasn’t showing
them enough respect. I learned to let the meetings take
longer. To let the conversations go longer. There were certain
things I wanted to do very quickly, but I learned that before
I could go and do them, I had to build up the trust bank.”
Step back, listen, and learn to
build up your own trust bank.
How about you? Have you found yourself
in similar situations? Let
forward this newsletter to your colleagues and friends who
are interested in organizational and leadership issues. Your
feedback is always welcome at email@example.com.
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TRUST AND LEADERSHIP
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