One of my former CO OP students came to visit me last night. We had an excellent time catching up. During one part of the discussion, he lamented that his current position often tries his patience. He is a very relationship-oriented person who naturally and easily keeps relationships flowing. So, it strikes him as “odd” that some people don’t relate well to him simply because he is a supervisor.
His dilemma is one that is timeless and that is found right where the work is being done: the classic divide between “management” and the “workers”. The dilemma reflects a gap between the current condition and the target, which is, in this case, a value: mutual trust and respect.
I did a poor job of counseling him last night, so I thought that I’d put some thought into it and write about it for all of our sakes – mine included. Nater: this is for you. Here is my premise: if you want your team to practice organizational values like “mutual trust and respect”, you have to help them exercise those values in the little things everyday because if you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in the big things.
Let me digress for a moment. Over the past few years, physical conditioning has come to the fore. The advent of personal trainers and “The Biggest Loser” has allowed us all to get more fit and be inspired in the process. See my earlier post as I think out loud about this phenomenon and how it relates to what I do.
If you own a set of kettlebells, great. If you use that set of kettlebells, super. Combining having them (or having access to them) and using them gets results, right?
A deeper digression: the human condition is such that we don’t do what we don’t like to do…unless we are moved to do it. We are moved by many things: our values, our passions and, sometimes, others around us who care.
Back to my first digression: if you have kettlebells and don’t use them, what kind of results do you get? Hmm. Let me see: you have the thing that can get results, but you don’t use them, so they aren’t providing results. Or, I’m not getting the results because I don’t use what I have to get the results.
I think you get the picture. I have to use the kettlebells to get results. In fact, I have to exercise with them. To get world class results, I probably have to use them every day, maybe even multiple times a day. To get amazing world class results, I may need to have a personal trainer kick my butt to use them and to fine tune my workouts.
So with my metaphor in hand, let me wander into my friend’s dilemma. His experience – being disliked because he is a supervisor – is only a symptom. The point of cause for this problem is that workers lack trust in managers. OK, I admit that I’ve just issued a very broad generalization, but, let’s face: it is true more often than not. Can we at least agree on the 80|20 rule?
You may already be thinking, “I don’t trust my workers.” This is valid. Note that we are pursuing mutual trust and respect: you want trust and you want TO trust. Unfortunately, like in any balancing act, one party has to move first and if you are the leader, that party is you.
The reasons that workers distrust managers / leaders are many – too many in fact to list here and dissect. Rather, what I am about to offer are two crucial nuggets that allow you to actually move in their direction and to actually move towards balance.
1. In order to get trust, you have to lead your team to success (or: your personal success relies entirely on your team succeeded, not you succeeded, personally). If they are consistently failing, you need to find a way for them to win. Ask yourself this question at the start of each whorl period: what do I need to do to help my team succeed? If they are easily achieving targets, raise the bar slightly and help them get over it. Viola! A Win! The quicker you lead them to success the quicker you begin to build trust. Remember, you can’t just “add water” and get trust. It takes time and multiple successes.
2. Use the system to exercise the value. In other words, if you are seeking to strengthen the value of “mutual trust and respect” you need to exercise that value in the little things, everyday. Like a set of kettlebells, you have to use the OE System to strengthen the value. Are you communicating that you trust your team? Are you actions showing that you trust your team? I’m not advocating leading them with a blindfold on (I’ve actually really done that once – it’s pretty scary), but I am advocating knowing your weakness and working on getting better. If you are a micromanager, fight the urge to ask if this is done or that is done or if they thought of this or that. Rather, using the System: create visualizations that tell you when problems are occurring so you don’t have to ask. Using problem solving, focus on helping your team to solve the problem instead of solving the problem for them. If you aren’t able to see you weakness, get a coach to observe you. Make sure the coach knows the system and is skilled in getting you back to the “plumb line”. Like the personal trainer the coach can fine tune how you use the system to help your team to success (and occasionally kick your butt).
Nater: I hope this fills out my answer. I hope that you remember – always – to keep the operations in balance with the human. Move first, trust first, respect first. See what happens.