How-to Not Inspire Trust

5 04 2010

TRUST: A firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something :

relations have to be built on trust”

“they have been able to win the trust of the others”.

That’s the dictionary explanation for Trust.

Confidence, belief, faith, certainty, assurance, conviction, credence. All words that engender Trust.

photo by Chris Sharp /

So what about HOW to gain someone’s trust? If you’re like me you will take most people at their word, you’ll trust them, until you have some experience to contradict that trust. You’ll also know how difficult it can be to trust someone again if they have misled you, been dishonest, or in the case of leadership – they don’t do what they said they would.

There is great insight from Todd Smith (Facebook) of Little Things Matter about how the little things we say and do impact the relationships we have (see Todd’s FB page or website for some ‘little’ insights into these things).  So after writing about the need for Trust in order to foster innovation, it got me thinking of  how a leader can undermine the trust they have from their people.

Don’t do what you said you would do – When you commit to something for one of your people and you don’t deliver, you are saying that they are not important. Something as simple as not sending promised information via e-mail can erode a little bit of that trust bank. In most situations, simply recognising you’re at fault (ie you forgot to send the email) can go a long way to keep trust.

You refuse to accept that you are wrong – Admit you stuffed up. This is actually something you can have fun with, and really ease the tension. I can recall a few times in my career when after giving my team instructions, having someone point out that I’m wrong. There is that moment where the rest of the team hold their breath waiting for a quick dressing down of such an insubordinate response to MY instruction. Doesn’t happen. I’m happy that my team feel that I am open enough to accept my own stupidity. To quote (I think) Monty Python “it’s better to be happy than right!” How true! Your team will be happy, and you’ll do things right.

You keep your people out of the loop – I can’t stress how important it is to keep the lines of communication open. The stuff that comes up for your team may seem trivial or unimportant to you at times, however if one of your people is talking to you, chances are it’s important to them. Sometimes they need you to provide direction. Sometimes they need you to confirm they are on the right track. Sometimes they just need to have someone LISTEN to what they are saying. Taking time out to listen to your people will not only provide opportunities to learn more about their needs, it will also allow YOU the opportunity to build their trust in you. If you take the time out of your busy schedule (ie give them your full attention – no checking e-Mail, no answering the phone) when they bring you the small stuff, then when it comes to the bigger issues, they will trust you to listen.

You remind your team when they have made a mistake – Sometimes you just know, because of your own experience, that an idea or suggestion is not going to work. You are happy to quote “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results”. Guess what? If it’s someone else’s idea, and they know they have your support to try something, then just maybe they will look at the ‘same’ thing in a different way (isn’t that innovation?). You learnt all you know from making mistakes (and from being successful), so how can your people learn if they don’t get the chance to make a few mistakes on their own. You should encourage them if they make a mistake – it shows you trust them. Ask them a few questions about what they could have done differently. Resist the urge to tell them what they did wrong (ie show them the benefit of your experience). Let them learn from their own mistakes. Every successful person has failed their way to success. What if Edison or Einstein gave up after the first failure?

I know theses four points seem like really simple things that we all “know” we should do. Being consistent (do what you say you’ll do), Taking responsibility for your actions (admit you could be wrong), being present in the moment (really listening to your people all the time), and letting your people learn from their mistakes, will add interest to your trust bank.

If you do these four things, then you’ll find the next focus group, workshop, or brainstorming session will see your team feeling they can trust you to let them put forward all their idea’s, no matter how outlandish they may seem at the time.

Who will you encourage to fail, and how will you help them succeed (and innovate!!)

Do your people trust you to innovate?

2 04 2010

When I think innovation I usually think about technology advances. For instance, while travelling back from Canberra I’m working on my laptop connected to the web via a mobile phone (no I’m not also driving, I’m the passenger). Now a few years back mobile technology was unreliable in more remote locations and whilst I still have a few drop outs on the journey, I’m pretty impressed that I can work whilst on the road (more time to spend with Little Miss when I get home!).

photo by Simon Howden/

I wonder why some businesses are seen as innovative, and others are not. How do we define innovative – is it only when there is a leap of technological advancement that we cry “innovative!”, or can it be more subtle than that.

If innovation is to improve something, to make something better, to do something different, then what other areas are we able to innovate?

Innovation and Personal Development

Laura Wolfram, of Sandstorm inc, recently posed the question (via LinkedIn) “What is the most important area of personal development you feel is needed in the innovation field? Training on identifying insights? Effective concept writing? Creative thinking techniques? Others?

There are some fascinating responses to this question. From change of mindset, to buy-in, motivation, to creative problem solving, know-thyself, and even listening.

One of the area’s I’m currently researching right now in prep for a seminar on innovation is innovation and employee engagement. I think all the personal development in the world is moot if you cannot develop and inspire TRUST from your people.

Trust and Innovation….and your people.

Let’s face it, if your people do not trust you, they will not be creative, will not put idea’s forward, and will not see any benefit to putting their idea’s in the open if they do not feel that their manager/leaders will support them.

In terms of support, I believe that you need to develop an environment where your people will trust that you will listen to their ideas (regardless of how outside the box the thinking may be). This means sometimes you need to trust, or believe in your people enough to let them make some mistakes, and perhaps you’ll be surprised that you’ll actually get some innovative idea’s.

You can find dozen’s of techniques to encourage ‘creativity’ (eg brainstorming, mind-mapping, six thinking hats etc), but you’ll not get any quality of response if there is no trust. Perhaps for the first brainstorming session you’ll get heaps of ideas, but unfortunately most innovations don’t fail due to lack of credibility, but lack of effective implementation (ie not enough follow through and ongoing focus on the ‘innovation’). The result of this lack of follow through will be that your people wont trust you to deliver on the promised actions agreed upon during the ‘brainstorming’ or action planning sessions.

So to summarise, if you are looking for personal development to become more innovative, look to how trustworthy you are as a leader.

Getting Unsocial (Media)

5 03 2010

I’ve been thinking about the use of social media over the last few weeks, been learning how to use these tools, and being overwhelmed at the amount of help, tips, tricks, techniques, blogs and opinions that can be found ‘online’. For every “tip” there are a dozen links to ‘show’ you how to do!

I even found myself giving ‘advice’ on how to set up a welcome page for Facebook to a colleague, with links, although I still don’t really understand how I created what I did.(you can see some of these efforts on my Facebook page – why not become a fan!)

It got me thinking about how something that is designed to improve your ‘social’ connections, can actually be a little unsocial! You can now run a business, from home, from a computer, without the need to physically interact with your customers. Now, I know there are many products and services out there that suit this, however what about your business?

In the new social environment, how social are you with your people?

Do you e-mail a quick question, only to wait a few hours before the response comes back? Or do you get up out of the office, and talk with your people? (and I’m not referring to the concept of “management by wandering around”). I’m talking about real, one-to-one communication.

It strikes me that we are seeing a new language being developed, with things like emoticons 🙂 that are a substitute for expressions. How much is lost in the non-emotional context of an e-mail? How many ‘conversations’ have you had in the last few days via SMS? e-Mail?

Are your substituting conversations (face to face) with chatting (online). In a world where everything is moving at the speed of light, there is a perception that someone else’s urgency is your priority. How many times have you had the buck passed to you? You know what I mean, when another’s need for urgency becomes your ‘drop-everything-and-do-this-now-regardless-of-what-you-are-doing’…because they “sent you an e-mail”

I value the ability to be able to e-mail a question to someone, and allow them time to reflect or digest before responding, however there is also a huge benefit from the dialogue that comes from back and forth communication with a colleague.

It’s this form of collaboration that can lead to innovation in the workplace. You have an idea, you talk to  few people about it, you get some agreement, some differences of opinion, and may even come to a different, possibly better, idea through the efforts that come from collaborating in real-time. If you’re the owner, you can also build trust from your people because you are open to hearing their idea’s.

There are now so many forms of social media to interact with your customers (too many to even begin to mention), have you taken time to think about your internal ’social media’? Is it any wonder that your people don’t tell you about the big issues, when the only contact they have is through the void of e-mail?

Add your comments below on how you “socially” or  “unsocially” communicate and collaborate with your people.

I’d also be really interested to know how many of you small/medium businesses are using facebook, twitter, and any other SM (social media) sites, and how it’s working for you.

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