To a large extent, the influence and success of a leader will depend on whether or not he or she is trusted. As a new leader, you may have the best and brightest ideas for the future but to bring them to fruition you will need team members on board and receptive to your leadership.
Sadly, throughout the world, many people have real trust issues with their work, political and religious leaders.
There are no short-cuts to building trust. Although, here are some things to think about. Building trust involves:
Acting with integrity
This should not come as a surprise, but the key to gaining trust is to be trustworthy. As a new leader you will be watched by others in the team and they will form an impression of you from what they hear you say and watch you do. Leaders are respected when they have clear and noble values which they live by. Every breach of integrity will damage your leadership influence. Leaders aren’t perfect, so when you make a mistake admit it, accept responsibility and ask for forgiveness.
Letting people down with consistency, delivery and quality will erode their confidence in you. There are some people, who we know from experience, won’t ring us when they have said they would. It’s not that they are dishonest but they are someone who forgets or gets sidetracked. Even worse if it’s the leader who cannot be relied on. Through rain, hail or snow make good on your promises. Always deliver at your highest quality.
Leaders who believe they are perfect, all knowing, always right and superior to the people in their teams are not only kidding themselves but will not be able to build trust from their team members. Likewise, leaders who are always sharing their intimate problems, failures and weaknesses will also not inspire others to have confidence in them.
However, leaders who have a healthy awareness of their strengths and share their mistakes or their feelings, show the team that they are humble and open. I find that, by being a little vulnerable, people feel that leaders are fallible and are on a journey of growth just like they are.
Accepting that you can’t win them all
One other thing that I have learnt about leadership is that there will always be people who won’t trust you because they don’t trust ANY leaders. You may never win with them, so just keep doing what you do well and do it on time and honestly.
If someone is attacking your integrity be confident that most people will judge you based on their experiences and not on negative chatter. If the undermining is ongoing and serious, then perhaps it is time to challenge the person to give examples of how you have allegedly lacked integrity. Maybe it’s time for them to put up, shut up or just shut the door as they leave.
Do your team members trust you?
If you have a credibility issue, how can you work at repairing it?
In my younger days I did a lot of competitive swimming. Besides the seemingly endless laps that we did daily, I remember that we spent time practicing our starts. Starting well had two components: mind and skills. In many ways, these two components are essential as someone prepares for a new role, especially if they are moving into a role with greater responsibilities. To start a new job well you need to be ready in your mind and with your skills.
Being mentally prepared
As a person starts a new role, it is important for them to be focused on the race ahead and how they plan to start. Just jumping in and seeing what happens is not a recipe for a strong start. It is important to be ready and know what you are about to do.
In his book, “The first 90 days”, Michael Watkins highlights the need for people to mentally promote themselves into their new role. It is important to understand the nature of the new role and to begin to think differently. If you are promoted into a senior leadership position it is vital to really think this through as what you will be expected to do may be very different to what you have been doing and the way that you have been operating.
Being mentally prepared means being focused, ready, psyched and excited as you anticipate the start.
Being prepared in our skills
As we consider a new role it is very likely that our strengths, experience and skills will be an enormous help to us. After all, that is why we got the job. However, it is important to think about whether there are any gaps that may need some work before we start.
Our previous skills may not be enough to ensure our future success. This is especially important if a person is going into a higher level leadership role. The classic scenario is when the successful salesperson is promoted to the position of sales manager. This can go wrong if the person doesn’t ensure that they have the skills to lead and manage as well as their skills in sales. Before starting a new position ask yourself:
What are the areas where I will need to grow? How can build my skills in these areas?
In sporting competitions the outcome will be influenced by the start. If the athlete can get off to a “flying start”, this will give them a practical and emotional boost to stay strong for the whole race.
It is the same with leadership. When a leader starts in a new company or in a new role, how they start will have some effect on their long term success.
It is interesting that, with all the training leaders receive, they often aren’t trained in the art of starting well. In this next series of emails I will be looking at some tips to starting well. I will be basing it on ideas from a great book called “The first 90 days” by Michael Watkins as well as my own experiences and research that I am currently undertaking involving new school principals.
As soon as a person has accepted a new position, a little switch is pressed and they begin to prepare for the new role and detach from their current role.
Some things to think about
So before you start strong, think about finishing strong.
In contrast to the “look at me!” leaders who seek all the glory and limelight, we find some leaders taking the opposite style and taking on an almost invisible status. Spotlighting team members can be very encouraging and validating but if the leader sits too quietly in the back seat some problems may develop.
Leadership is not handing over all the responsibilities and work to the team members. Some leaders can very cleverly set it up so that their team seems to run on its own without much input. Team members like to have responsibilities but can resent the leader if they are going from one long lunch to the next game of golf without really doing any work.
Outsiders will have difficulty in seeing who the leader is. As people work alongside the team they might be confused as to who the actual leader is as they are not visible. This confusion may lead to problems with team communication and outside requests.
It may reflect a lack of self-confidence. Some leaders adopt this style as they are not comfortable in being a leader and being accountable for the team’s performance. When things go wrong the invisible leader will be quick to blame the team and not take responsibility.
The team may lack vision. If the leader’s style is too laid back, and not hands on, the team may lack vision and clarity and not have effective systems of measuring performance.
There will be a lack of leadership development within the team. Although team members will need to step up and take on more leadership roles there will be little training, mentoring or modelling of good leadership practices.
Have you come across any invisible leaders in your organisation? What effects have they had on their teams and the organisation?
” Leadership is action, not position”
In the next few emails we will have a look at three types of leaders.
“Look at me!” leaders
“Look at me!” leaders are the ones who want to steal the show. They may have reached a celebrity status in their organisation through their talents and past achievements. They like to be the centre of attention and accept all the praise. Their rise to celebrity-like status is a combination of their own ego’s and the willingness of the organisation to hitch themselves to star performers.
The problems with “Look at me!” leadership is that:
Stars can fall. Some people have been extremely effective in the past but for various reasons have lost their edge. If the team is built on those who shined in the past, it might not have the skills to push through into the future. On a more serious note, stars can also undo their work through some unhelpful behaviours and decisions. If the team or organisation is built on them there can be some serious consequences.
Stars are loners. If leaders are just doing their own thing and making all the decisions, they are not building strong teams around them. What this produces is an ineffective organisation where other potential leaders are not nurtured, trained and given decision making responsibilities.
Stars can leave. When certain leaders take all of the focus, what happens when they leave? Unless a strong leadership structure is in place, organisations can lose a lot of momentum when their star leaders leave.
Stars may not shine as well in another place. Sometimes organisations recruit people who are seen as stars because of their amazing track record. They may be surprised to see that the star leader does not do so well in the new organisation. Every place is different and they might not have the universal leadership skills to make it work.
Have you come across, “Look at me!” leaders? How have they benefited and detracted from the organisation?
Although these two animals seem to be similar, as the weeks and months roll on their differences will become more apparent. If they are raised together then perhaps they could be friends. If they are introduced to each other as adults the story could be entirely different.
One of the greatest causes of conflict in teams stems from the fact that we are all different. At first we can overlook these differences and it may seem that all will be well. However, as time goes on, these differences can begin to cause tension between people. The difference may be in attitudes, personalities, work style, work pace or priorities.
If we are to work effectively with team members who are very different to us we need to:
Value differences Celebrate and not devalue people’s traits because they are different to yours. For example, if you are someone who makes decisions quickly and on the go, it is important to value those in the team who need time to think about it and get all the facts. Teams need both.
Value similarities In the midst of the differences, identify, discuss and value areas of similarity and agreement.
Value relationships Instead of letting differences divide relationships, place value on the relationship itself rather than the issues.
Communicate areas of frustration Often team members do not share their areas of frustation and just smile at each other in a “culture of niceness”. In the end this does not work as tensions fester and one day may explode. It is important to be authentic and share concerns in a constructive way.
Seek practical ways of improving the relationship The problems won’t just go away. There needs to be some practical plans in place and actions taken to make the working relationship more effective.
Is there someone in your team that you are struggling to work with?
What are the things that they do that are causing tension between you?
Are you doing anything to contribute to this tension?
What do they do well?
What things in common do you have?
Are you prepared to share these thoughts with them?
In our leadership roles there are aspects of the work and dealing with people that we are naturally good at. When we are doing these things, we are energised, engaged and effective. However, there are also areas in which we struggle and find draining. Wise leaders know that they can’t cover all the bases and need to manage the areas in which they aren’t as strong by:
ACCEPTING that they can’t do everything well. Effective leaders are very aware of the things that they do well and the areas in which they struggle. They are authentic as they admit these areas. Sometimes leaders feel a pressure to be all-rounders, but in reality most of us aren’t. Acknowledging this also shows our humility and that we are aware of our limitations.
MINIMISING time spent on these activities. Sometimes it is possible to minimise the amount of time that we spend in these areas of our jobs. Unless they are an essential part of the role, often we can avoid doing some things. It makes sense for the organisation to have us spend less time doing those things in which we do not excel. We may be able to discuss this with the person that we report to. It’s not that we are trying to do less work, it’s just less of what we don’t do well and more of what we do well. Technically that should be a win/win.
AFFIRMING others by asking them to help. Effective leaders know that they need people around them who can do well the things that they don’t do well. Delegation is not just a way of distributing work, it is an effective management tool which allows each team member to do more of what they do well. When a leader admits that they aren’t as strong in a particular area, and acknowledges a team member’s skills in that area, it affirms, encourages and makes team members feel appreciated and needed.