Deliberate Trust & Conflict

It is great to join a new team when you have had education and training in leading teams.  Sitting back and recognizing what the team is doing even though they are unaware.  It can seem a little sinister or arrogant, but I enjoy taking a team through the stages of a team and making them a great team.  I am not what makes the team great; the team is what makes the team great.

Currently, I’m in charge of a team that has made getting along with one another a priority over everything else.  The team believes they are respectful and that they are a well-functioning team because of how well they get along. It was comical seeing the looks on all their faces when I told them they were a dysfunctional team and had not even started to perform as a team. Looks of skepticism, annoyance, and shock were all around.  I explained to them that it was perfectly reasonable and we would work on it.  They were not satisfied with that answer, so I told them “We need to be deliberate about creating trust and conflict.  We cannot be so worried about upsetting each other that it costs us growth, improvement, and team progress.”  Now I have their attention, and they ask, “So what do we do?”  “We create trust and conflict!”

Creating trust and conflict happens mostly at the same time.  Creating trust is easier than it may seem, but is hard if you are not deliberate in your attempt to create it.  The best way to build trust is to be truthful.  Many confuse this with the brutal truth or saying everything just because it is true.  You wouldn’t, or shouldn’t tell your mom her new haircut is bad, so don’t say it to your employees.  Follow through is a great way to build trust.  Saying you will do something and then actually doing it is very powerful.  On the other side of this is not following through.  Doing so will ruin the trust you have gained in an instant.  For those times when you can’t follow through on your words, be honest about it and own it.  Making excuses for your failure might make you feel better, but your people will see right through it, and this will further damage your relationship and reputation.

Create conflict. Creating conflict on purpose sounds counter-intuitive and can be tricky.  Most people/teams/organizations practice conflict- avoidance not conflict-management.  The key is to stop being so nice that you cannot tell someone when they are doing a bad job.  Like I described with my team above, everyone was so worried about avoiding conflict that they accepted mistakes and mediocre work.  I had to force some members of the team to see the harm it was causing the team.  I gave them clear directions on what questions to ask the rest of the team and coached them on how to handle the various answers.

The conflict came quickly, and the team is still working on trusting each other.  We have meetings scheduled, and over the course of the next few months, the team members will get to practice on how to be vulnerable with the team and receive constructive criticism.  I’m excited to lead their progress!

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2 Weeks Ago…I Made a Mistake

I implemented a stupid policy.  In my defense, the intent was to help my managers better plan their days, weeks, months, etc., but it ended up just wasting time.  I had discovered the managers were not very deliberate with their time and there was confusion among the workers.  To help them, each morning I asked the lead to sit with me and go through their plan for the day.  Yes, it is micro-management, but it was designed to be so I could teach them.  Plus, I had a deliberate plan to pull back once I started to see the results I had envisioned and allow even more autonomy than before.

Making a mistake, when we do it, can be one of the hardest things to admit.  But when leaders admit to mistakes it can keep us all from making more errors in the future or at least help keep us humble.  More than anything owning up to a fault will build trust between you and your people.

I’m sure many of you have drilled holes in my plan and have already guessed what the result was.  But for those who have not, it did not go well.  The managers did not plan better, they did not organize their people better, and it did not help them implement actions to better align them with the organizational vision I have established. What my decision did do was force the manager to prepare for the meeting with me instead of making sure their supervisors were given proper directions.  They were spending too much time worrying about how favorable I would judge their plans, and their focus shifted to pleasing me instead of focusing on their people and the organization’s operational needs.

Once I realized the decision did not have the desired effect, I put a stop to it.  And here is the important part.  Instead of telling the managers I saw what I needed to see and they had improved, that they were now organized like I wanted them to be and my idea (like all my ideas) was brilliant, and it worked just like I expected it would, I told them the truth.  Although the idea was an attempt to improve performance and my intentions were good.  The effects of this policy were mostly negative, and even the positive effects were small and insignificant.  In this case, the juice was not worth the squeeze.

Instead of forcing the managers to come to me and be scrutinized about their plans, I go to them.  I observe their operations more and engage them in discussions that are as non-threatening as I can make them.  The intent is still to teach and make things better.  There are drawbacks to this approach, but the manager’s people appreciate a leader that takes an interest in their daily lives and the managers know I’m right there if they need clarification or guidance.  I still get to hear about their plans and how their plans support the organizational vision, but we are much more agile because we have these conversations in real-time.  Everyone has a preference for how they lead, but admitting to mistakes is great.  Your people will not lose confidence in you over a few mistakes.  But if you are making many mistakes they will, and rightfully so.

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