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Trust is essential in effective teams.
As one study put it:
‘When trust is present, people step forward and do their best work, together, efficiently. They align around a common purpose, take risks, think out of the box, have each other’s backs, and communicate openly and honestly. When trust is absent, people jockey for position, hoard information, play it safe, and talk about—rather than to—one another.’
It’s also incredibly inefficient. We spoke earlier this year about the cost of mistrust on our teams. We’ll take any excuse to reproduce this graphic which illustrates it perfectly.
So trust is important, cool, but you probably knew that already. The harder part is increasing the level of trust on your team, and particularly your team’s trust in you as a manager.
It’s why we really like the framework put forward by Sandra J. Sucher and Shalene Gupta in their new book The Power of Trust.
They identify four things that matter for creating trust in a relationship. By assessing our own performance as managers against these points, we can identify areas to improve, or better demonstrate these qualities to our teams.
Sometimes it pays to remind yourself of the really important stuff that others have figured out already.
We have Cedric Chin to thank for reflecting recently on Andy Grove’s legendary piece on training, in which Grove expressed his bafflement that some managers would leave the training of their team to others.
"Training is, quite simply, one of the highest-leverage activities a manager can perform. Consider for a moment the possibility of your putting on a series of four lectures for members of your department. Let’s count on three hours of preparation for each hour of course time—twelve hours of work in total. Say that you have ten students in your class. Next year they will work a total of about twenty thousand hours for your organization. If your training efforts result in a 1 percent improvement in your subordinates’ performance, your company will gain the equivalent of two hundred hours of work as the result of the expenditure of your twelve hours."
There’s perhaps a lesson there already that we should all be making more time to train our teams.
But over his career, Chin acknowledges that he saw another way in the behaviour of his boss, who by Chin’s account was a poor trainer, but consistently produced excellent leaders.
His method? Hire capable people and throw them at things.
(We'll forgive Chin the humble brag)
‘Sure, he wasn’t very good at training subordinates, but he did have a nose for finding and hiring hungry, capable people. After all, he hired me. And then he threw me into Vietnam with very little support, and sat back to see how I did.’
This is particularly true of individuals you hope will grow into influential leaders. After all, it’s incredibly hard to know whether someone is going to be able to manage at scale before asking them to do the job.
Chin’s piece is an excellent reminder to stay involved in our team’s training, but also that creating opportunities to throw our most capable hires into the deep end is also an invaluable tactic in any manager’s toolkit.
Have you recently been told / read an article / sat on a dreadful webinar about how you need to lead with ‘empathy’?
If so, you’re not alone. It’s the new thing.
But do you actually know what it means and how to put it into practice?
Anne Helen Petersen tried to find out. In a recent piece for Time magazine, she noted that:
‘Outside the office, developing empathy means trying to understand and share the feelings or experiences of someone else.’
But inside the office, that manifested in very different ways. She found some leaders thinking constructively about how empathy is modelled in their companies, and other organisations where workers just saw it as another buzzword which was ineffective at best and hypocritical at worst.
‘One woman told me her company, Viacom, has been doing a lot of messaging about empathy, particularly when it comes to mental health. At the same time, it has switched to a health plan that’s more restrictive when it comes to accessing mental-health professionals and care.’
Petersen’s conclusion for why these differences exist is simple and astute.
Corporate empathy is a trap.
In a workplace, empathy will often rub up against the issues of fairness and efficiency, and usually lose.
‘If you allow an employee to work different hours, have different expectations of accessibility or have more leeway because of an illness, how is that fair to those who don’t need those things? How, in other words, do you accommodate difference while still maximizing profits?’
She doesn’t go on to say this, but the conclusion for the individual manager from her work seems to be that the degree of empathy you can lead with will to a large extent be determined by structural factors and not you.
You and your team are likely to be pulled between the competing forces of fairness, efficiency, and empathy. Appreciating this dynamic and learning to navigate it in the context of your organisation may ultimately be what’s most important in your ability to lead with empathy.
And they probably didn’t teach that in the webinar.
We need to talk about how hybrid work is going to impact people’s career development.
Especially if it’s not going to.
A recent survey from Qualtrics suggests that significant numbers of employees are worried about the impact on their career prospects if they don’t come into the office.
These concerns are not unfounded. We’ve spoken before about how without new training and processes, it’s likely that those who see their bosses face-to-face will receive preferential treatment.
But assuming you don’t work for Morgan Stanley’s legal department…
...and your company is putting in place measures to counteract this, this survey shows the importance of clear messaging on this specific point.
Even if you put in place great processes for people to work flexibly, employees won’t take advantage of them if they think it means they’ll fall behind.