Send, Dial, or Walk?

I just devoted three posts to the importance and content of good “Company Communication.” Now I would like to talk about the mode of that communication. Communication, especially effective communication, most often involves dialog or conversation rather than a monologue. What difference does the mode make?

I’ve participated in many interview panels for management-level candidates where one of the questions was, “How do you prefer to communicate with your employees?” 100% of the time the answer includes the phrase, “face-to-face” or “in-person” or “one-on-one.” No one has yet preferred a phone call or text message.  Why? Again, what difference does the mode make?

Send

Even the word “Send” seems to imply distance. I send a package to someone or I send a letter. These days we send emails and text messages. Written communication has an important place in our lives. For example, Suzi found all the love letters her father had sent to her mother before they were married. She displays them in a 3-foot high apothecary jar. It’s quite beautiful to look at especially when you consider all the love that’s memorialized in those words. She treasures them especially now that both her parents have passed away.

Written communication is important when we want to memorialize a conversation for future reference or for legal or sentimental reasons. Writing also gives us the chance to consider our words before delivering them. We can be more clear and organized in our communication when we write it. Written responses also allow us to pause, if need be, before responding to someone. Sometimes that pause can save a relationship.

But writing is less personal. What we email, text, or post on social media happens mostly inside our own heads without the benefit of the other person’s presence to help us form our communication appropriately. That can be impersonal at best and dangerous at worst.

Dial

When I hear the word conversation, I think of hearing someone else’s voice and talking. That leads me to the next consideration for the mode of conversation. Dial. I used to have a bunch of people’s phone numbers memorized. Not any more. Now I just press the speed dial button on my office phone or say, “Hey Google, Call Suzi on mobile” and within seconds I’m talking to her.

That’s the key for this mode. We get to talk to the other person. I get to hear the inflections in their voice, their pauses. Emotion comes through. Their level of interest or understanding comes through much more clearly in a voice conversation. The conversation is also much more immediate. It’s in the moment which is important when what you want or need is urgent. Dial when you don’t have time to wait for the other person to formulate their response or just get around to checking their email or texts. That makes the words, “You’ve reached my voicemail …” very aggravating. Voicemail ranks lower on my list of preferred modes of communication than snail mail, and that’s pretty low.  Are they away from their phone or just screening?

My side of the family lives in Minnesota and I live in California. That’s another huge value to dial technology. It shrinks the world so you can talk to people you can’t be with. Zoom, Skype, and other platforms have made that even more personal with video calling. My Dad and brothers and I get together periodically on a “Thomason Boys” Zoom call. I treasure the chance to see their faces and hear what’s going on in their lives.

Walk

I said walk, but it could be drive or even fly. Face-to-face, in-person communication takes effort but it’s worth it. The difference in value between “dial” and “send” is huge. But the difference in value of in-person conversation over the others is like a race between tennis shoes and a motorbike. There is no comparison.  The clarity of the visual, the audio quality, and the 3-D effect, you don’t even need 3-D glasses!

Okay, I’m being silly, but you get what I mean. There is nothing like an in-person conversation. Just ask a teacher. Our daughter-in-law who is a 5th-grade teacher was able to join Suzi and me for dinner while our son was at an event the other evening. We talked about the difference she feels between online learning and in-person education. Just the ability to move around in each other’s space, to physically go to a student who may need a little help is exponentially more valuable than any online platform.

So, I say send when it’s necessary. Dial when you can. But, by all means, whenever it’s an option, walk.

Course Launch!

After three years of blogging and over 30 years of leadership in various organizations, I’ve decided to offer some of what I’ve learned in an online course. You may have seen my Facebook video last week. If not, here’s a link to that.

 

I’ve learned a lot about leadership over the years. I’ve learned from mentors and from my experience with success and failure. It has been my privilege to serve clients in multiple industries including healthcare, airlines, sports and entertainment, food manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, education, and several non-profit organizations.

When I transitioned from full-time ministry to the business world almost 25 years ago, I wrote the following personal mission statement: “to build relationships within my sphere of influence through which I can help people discover and achieve their capacity for excellence.” That has been my purpose. Now I want to expand that sphere of influence by offering this online course.

I know that the skills contained in this course will help people lead better. Whether they are new in a leadership role or a CEO or business owner, these skills will make them better because they will help leaders connect with and engage their people. In fact, these skills are transferrable to all of life, not just business or non-profit leadership.

Here’s a link to my new web page. There you will find a link to the free webinar called “Engager Dynamics Bookends.” Take 40 minutes to view the webinar. It might just be the best time investment you make all month.

Connecting Requires Energy

In my course on employee engagement, I talk about “12 transformational dynamics of engagement.” Those 12 are listed under two types of activities, Challenge and Connection. The idea is that leaders who engage their people have a good balance between challenging them and connecting with them.  John Maxwell wrote a book called Everyone Communicates Few Connect in which he makes the point that connecting will increase your influence in every situation. That’s saying a lot because he makes the argument throughout his teaching that “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” So, connecting increases your leadership ability.

Over the next four posts, I plan to focus on two principles of connecting and then two practices of connecting. Today, the principle is that Connecting with People Requires Energy. If you type “connect meaning” into your browser, you’ll see that the definitions given start with the phrases, “bring together,” “join together,” and “link.” Those are very active phrases and action requires energy. Here are 4 ways to invest that energy in order to connect.

Initiative – Go First

If energy is involved, then someone is taking action. Connectors go first. I’ve read that inside the Walmart headquarters there hang many signs with inspiring and/or challenging statements. Here’s one that is particularly relevant.

“From this day forward, I solemnly promise and declare that every time a customer comes within ten feet of me, I will smile, look him in the eye, and greet him.”  —Sam Walton

That’s going first. I once worked with a healthcare system that had what they called the “10 – 5 rule.” If a member or guest came within 10 feet of you, you were to smile at them. If they came within 5 feet you should step back because of social distancing–I’m kidding. You should greet them verbally. It’s kind of fun to watch people’s faces when you do that. Most of the time their entire countenance transforms into a smile simply because you said, “Hello.”

Patience – Slow Down

You can’t connect if you’re in a hurry. When you are hurrying, you are pulling away. Someone has said that for emotional and spiritual health you should ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Here is an African proverb that reminds us of the power inherent in connection.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”

Henry David Thoreau reminds us that the power of connection requires patience.

“The man who goes alone can start today. But he who travels  with another must wait until the other is ready.”

If you want to go far and not be alone, then slow down. Slowing down requires the energy called intentionality.

Selflessness – Give

Connectors are givers. They readily give of their time, their energy, their knowledge, their skill, their talent, their presence. True givers give expecting nothing in return, they give for the sole benefit of the other person. Can you imagine a scenario where someone who readily gives of them-self doesn’t create connection?

Those definitions I shared at the beginning, bring together, join together, and link, almost imply that the parts that are connected become part of each other. Giving, then, would be a prerequisite.

Stamina – Recharge

Constant outflow of energy will lead to depletion if you have no way to recharge. As a person of faith, I look to Jesus as the greatest example of a connector in all history. Jesus regularly connected. Jesus regularly recharged. He often went to a solitary place to pray or pulled his disciples aside from the work to rest.

I like hanging out with my wife, having dinner with friends, spending time reading, driving alone with no radio. These are a few ways I recharge. How do you do it?

Leadership is Influence. Connecting expands your influence. Connecting doesn’t just happen because you show up. It requires constantly renewed energy. Go first, slow down, give, and recharge. The impact of that energy on you and the people you connect with will be an incredible multiplication of that energy.

A Thrift Store Chair and Another Book

The final eastbound destination on our recent 12-Day journey was Nashville, TN. Here we were to revisit a tradition from the year or two we lived in Indianapolis where every several weeks we would drive to Nashville and our friends John and Julia (then all our children came with us) would drive up from Atlanta and we’d spend the weekend together.  Those were great times and we were excited to see our friends.

John and Julia are another couple we’ve known for over 40 years. John and I were security guards (with Keith) in Chicago in college and we’ve stayed in close contact through the years. Julia and Suzi love so many of the same things and John and I have worked for the same company in the past. I also worked for a company that provided service to John’s company once. Let it suffice to say, we never lack for conversation.

Tradition!

One of the traditions of our time together with John and Julia is a trip (or two) to a thrift store.  Suzi and Julia especially like to see what people donate in different parts of the country. So off we went to a Goodwill store in Franklin, TN outside Nashville.

Suzi and Julia went off on their treasure hunts inside the store as soon as we hit the door.  They have keen eyes and a sense for the kinds of things they’re looking for so they don’t take hours to complete their searches. Suzi usually fills a shopping cart with possible purchases or things she wants to show me that are unique or might be special in some way. But, often she walks out of the store with nothing or one or two small things. Occasionally, however, there is a piece of furniture that catches her eye. This was one of those times.

I noticed the two of them standing at the front register admiring something so I went to see what it was. It was a wooden chair. It sat lower than most chairs, had a rattan bottom, and was unusually wide. One elderly lady in line said it was a “story time chair” where you and a child could sit side-by-side and read a story together. Another lady in the line suggested, “you could but a big cushion on it and make it a dog bed chair.” The look in Suzi’s eye suggested, “I really like this chair.” So we paid the $15 and loaded it into the back of our vehicle to make the 2,200 mile trip home with us.

Another Book

When Suzi and I hit the thrift store together, she heads off on her systematic search and I head to the book section.  Admittedly I rarely find anything. It’s like panning for gold. You sift through a lot of dirt and usually come up empty. When I say “dirt” I just mean things I’m not interested in. But, once in awhile, I find a nugget. This was one of those times.

Several years ago I ran across a video by Daniel H. Pink called “Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” I saved a link to it in my Evernote file and have referred to it, been informed by it, and shared it with others often. The video outlines the research showing that the “carrot and stick” motivational tactics used by so many can actually be counterproductive. He shows that we are much more highly motivated by three intrinsic factors, Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

Well, there, on the shelf at the Goodwill in Franklin TN was a copy of the book he wrote by the same title. I started to leaf through it, then I started to read a particularly interesting chapter. I was about mid-way through that chapter when I noticed Suzi and Julia at the front of the store. When I went up to see what they were looking at the book was under my arm.

I bought that book even though it had been thoroughly highlighted by the previous owner. I actually think that’s kind of cool. I get to see what they thought was important when they read it. It goes into much more detail about the research and shares great implementation ideas at the end. I enjoyed reading it so much I bought a clean copy to share with my colleagues.

How to Develop Leaders – Be a Thermostat

You know the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. The one in the picture has both. On the left is the thermometer. It tells you what the temperature is in the room. The one on the right is the thermostat setting. It tells you what the temperature will be. People can be like either one. Thermometers tell you it’s too hot or it’s too cold, or this or that is right or wrong. Thermostats behave in such a way as to make the temperature right. When it comes to developing people, the leader has to be a thermostat. The leader creates the climate for growth and development.

Look at nature. Plants require good soil, water, and sunlight depending on the species. Here’s another example from nature. One of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. The reason for this is that sharks adapt to their environment. If you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium in which it lives. Sharks can be six inches long and fully mature. but turn them loose in the ocean and they grow to their normal size.

The same is true of potential leaders. Some are put into an organization when they are still small and the confining environment ensures that they stay small and underdeveloped. Only leaders can control the environment of their organization. They can be the change agents who create a climate conducive to growth. Here are four ways to create that environment

Model the Leadership you want

People don’t usually do what they know. Either they do what they’ve always done, or they do what they see. As a leader, the visibility and consistency of your style has to be strong enough to overcome the 7 last words of the dead organization, “This is how we’ve always done it.” (the other way of saying that is, “We’ve never done it that way before.”) Model the leadership style you want to see.

Look for the leader inside the person

Like a miner, willing to sift through dirt to find gold, keep on the lookout for these 10 nuggets:

  1. Positiveness – they see work and people in a positive way
  2. Servanthood – they are willing to play team ball and follow
  3. Growth Potential – they are hungry for personal/professional growth
  4. Follow-through – they finish the job
  5. Loyalty – they put the good of the team above their own interests
  6. Resiliency – they bounce back quickly from defeat
  7. Integrity – they are consistent in what they say and what they do
  8. Big Picture Mindset – they see the needs of more than just their team
  9. Discipline – they do what’s needed regardless of mood
  10.  Gratitude – they have an overall attitude of gratitude

That last one along with servanthood demonstrate another essential quality – Humility. Humility is not putting yourself down. It’s recognizing the value of others and shining a light on that. When someone steps on others to go up the organization or is always shining the light on themselves, they will never realize their potential as leaders. You can’t lead when people don’t want to work with you.

Provide growth opportunities

Some plants need more water than others. Some need more sunlight. Some plants can’t grow in certain climate zones. For example, we miss lilacs because we live in the central valley of California. We have palm trees which we couldn’t have when we lived in Minnesota, but we can’t have the kind of lilacs we had in Illinois. They won’t thrive here. In a similar way there is no one formula for what growth opportunities your potential leaders need.

I mentioned in my post on “The Law of Addition” that I helped develop a training program for a large Healthcare system in California. We focused the training on three approaches: Education (online, classroom, certifications), Exposure (giving people the opportunity to see leadership in action at the next level), and Experience (giving people a stretch task associated with their next level). The key is tailoring those to the needs of each individual leader you are trying to develop.

Reward production over position

People get caught up in titles and position and in “lanes.” Don’t let them. The truth is a title doesn’t guarantee someone will produce. On the other hand, some of your best producers may not have a corresponding title. When you pay attention to and respond to productivity over title, you may just find that your next VP of Operations is currently an Administrative Assistant in HR. Look for the people who have the qualities mentioned above and who get things done. When people know you value productivity over titles that creates an atmosphere of growth.

The thermostat picture I put with this post shows the ideal situation. The temperature and the thermostat setting are the same. Be a Thermostat.

Celebrating 100!

This is the 100th post for Engager Dynamics! Whoo Whoo … celebrate good times, c’mon!” I love that song! Anyway, it’s the 100th post since I’ve been numbering them like I currently do. I write my posts in Evernote then copy and paste them into my website engagerdynamics.com with wordpress. WordPress automatically posts them to LinkedIn and I paste the link into my facebook profile manually since facebook stopped allowing automatic postings awhile ago. I recently created a facebook business page for Engager Dynamics and am working on improving that. I said “at least since I’ve been numbering them the way I do” because WordPress tells me I’ve actually posted 107 times. That’s because I posted a few extras in the middle of the week that I numbered with an “a” after the main post number.

What’s It All About?

I’ve been providing contracted services to clients in multiple industries for over 20 years. In some of those engagements we provided staff who were supervised by the client’s leadership team. It was particularly clear in those situations how strongly lack of engagement negatively impacted the business. I’ve observed that same negative impact within organizations I’ve worked for as well as within partner organizations. Those who really engage are rare and that bothers me. So, I decided to add value by sharing some important truths I’ve learned along the way and that’s what got me started with this blog.

I normally post every Monday morning before 6 AM on the west coast. In my second post, nearly two years ago, I defined what I mean by Engager Dynamics. In short, this blog is about the things we can do to connect or engage with people at work in ways that improve relationships and organizational outcomes. The posts fall into four main categories;

  1. Engager Dynamics (the core actions that lead to engagement)
  2. Leadership (topics a little more broadly about leadership)
  3. Habit Formation (how to make a habit of doing the good stuff)
  4.  Listening (a skill so critical it deserves its own category)

You can find the last 15 posts in each category listed on my “Posts by Category” page. Some of them overlap and there is another category on that page called “Words.” I call myself a word nerd, and this category captures posts where I share a specific word definition or two regardless of the main topic.

What’s Next?

Over the last few years I’ve developed a training that has been well received by several clients. The training focuses on the specific actions leaders can take to engage with their people. I’ve been refining the training lately and recently did an informal poll of readers to see which title would be more interesting. I had two choices 1. “Best.Boss.Ever. – How to Be the Best Boss Your People Will Ever Have” or 2. “The 12 Transformational Laws of Engagement.” Just over 70% preferred number 2.

The next question is delivery method. In addition to offering the training in person, I’d like to make it available more widely. I wonder how people might prefer to receive it. I could present it in an e-book, or as an audio file series, or as a series of videos. What do you think? If you were interested in a teaching on “The 12 Transformational Laws of Engagement,” how would you prefer to receive it? Thanks in advance for letting me know.

12 Great Leadership Quotes

This month’s posts have focused on Leading others (a series called “How to Become a Person of Influence). I thought it might be fun to end the month with a list of great leadership quotes from past leaders. Enjoy reading through these. When you’re done, please reply back to me and let me know which was your favorite and why.

  1. “You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” – Ken Kesey
  2. “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan
  3. “Don’t follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you.” – Margaret Thatcher
  4. “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
  5. “Too many kings can ruin an army.” – Homer
  6. “Position doesn’t make anybody a leader. Being in charge doesn’t make the wrong person right.” – Tim Berry
  7. “The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.” – Tony Blair
  8. “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” – Vince Lombardi
  9. “You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together, we can do great things.” – Mother Teresa
  10. “Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value.” – Albert Einstein
  11. “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.” – Abraham Lincoln
  12. “If It’s Lonely At The Top, You’re Not Doing Something Right.” – John C. Maxwell

So? Which of those quotes resonated with you most? Or, which did you like best? Please let me know which one and I’d love it if you’d take a second to say why. Thanks in advance!

Trust But/And/Or Verify?

During the time leading up to the signing of the INF Treaty in December of 1987, President Ronald Reagan learned a Russian proverb, Doveryai, no proveryai meaning, “Trust but Verify.” He learned it because he knew the Russians liked referring to proverbs and he said it at every nuclear disarmament meeting with the Soviet leader. When he said it again on December 8, 1987 at the signing ceremony, Gorbachev said, “You repeat that at every meeting.” Reagan answered, “I like it.” Mr. Gorbachev had a quote of his own. He quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, who had been popular in the USSR when Gorbachev was in college, saying “The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.”

Which is it? Trust or Verify?

You can’t do both. Think about the definitions of each word and you’ll see they are mutually exclusive. “Trust” means “to believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” On the other hand, “Verify” means “to prove or ascertain the truth or correctness of, as by examination, research, or comparison.” When you trust someone you act on your faith in their reliability, truthfulness, ability or strength. When you verify, your action is to check on the reliability, truthfulness, ability or strength of that person. Trust builds relationships, verification assures outcomes. That’s the heart of the matter. Verifying can be interpreted as “Micro-managing” and can destroy trust.

There are some times and some industries where the outcomes are too critical not to verify. Some of those industries include Healthcare, Aviation, Utilities, etc. You can see how verification in these industries would be essential. In settings where verification is just part of the work, it doesn’t have a negative effect on relationships. On the other hand, most of us don’t work in those types of industries.

What Difference Does Trust Make?

“If every business learned to create a profound sense of trust through everything they do, not only would their bottom line improve but it would create a culture that attracts great talent and opportunities. Consciously creating trust is good for business, good for people and good for the world.” Masami Sato, Founder, B1G1

That quote comes from an online endorsement for a book titled Trust is the New Currency, by Sheila Holt and Fredrick Sandvall. According to the title of Stepen M.R. Covey’s book trust matters, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything. Then there’s Nan Russell’s book, Trust, Inc. How to Create a Business Culture that will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation.

One of John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is “The Law of Solid Ground.” It says that leadership is built on the foundation of trust. In fact, he says, trust is necessary in all good relationships.

Trust is very important. We trust airlines and surgeons because they verify. We trust our bosses because they trust us. One of the ways trust is built is by giving it. When you are the boss and the outcomes are not life threatening, try giving trust to your people.  You will find they usually become even more trustworthy.

Action!

The set was ready. Costumes were amazing. Props, lights, mics, cameras were all ready. The actors were in place to begin shooting the first scene of director Phil Martin’s expected new blockbuster film. The anticipation was electric when Mr. Martin called out, “Action,” but nothing happened. Johnny Jones, the lead in the film, just walked off the set, went over to the catering table, picked up a muffin and asked one of the grips how his costume looked. “Cut!” Mr. Martin was livid. Wondering if they had cast the right actor for the lead role, he stormed over to Johnny Jones to find out what was going on.

The story is fictional (in case you couldn’t tell). Could you imagine something like that happening? That kind of thing happens all the time. Individuals and Teams spend hours dreaming and thousands of dollars (or more) planning, making preparations, and strategizing but never do anything. Why? Fear mostly. Fear is the great paralyze-r and the great demoralize-r.

What are we Afraid of?

Here’s a list of four great fears:

  1. Being taken advantage of – if I take action someone else might use my work for their own benefit. I might not get credit for my ideas and effort. I will lose out.
  2. Rejection – what if I make a mistake? The ultimate rejection is being fired. I can’t afford to lose this job.
  3. Loss of security – this is way outside my comfort zone. I’m not sure what to do next if I take this step.
  4. Criticism – I need my peers (or boss) to recognize my value. What if they don’t agree with my action? They might think I’m a liability.

If you recognize yourself in any of those fears, you’re not alone. These are the primary fears of each of the four primary personality types and we all fall into at least one of them.

In my fictional story about the actor Johnny Jones, the conversation would have gone on between he and Mr. Martin about Jones “just not feeling ready.” He has a combination of the fear of rejection and criticism.

Just Do It

Nike made this their slogan for an incredibly successful ad campaign. It was so successful because of how it resonated with people across the board. The slogan challenged us to take action in the face of our fears. It made us dream of being successful.

Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton Hotel chain, said, “Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes but don’t quit.” Of course we’ll make mistakes. I’ve recently been working with a group who have a history of decision paralysis for fear of making a mistake (read, “getting in trouble”). The message to them is that it’s better to act. If you make a decision that leaders disagree with, learn and keep going.

Edward Muzio, author and CEO of Group Harmonics, titled a recent Huffpost article “Fail Forward Fast [Get over being right and get on with getting on with it]”

When a plane departs on a flight, the destination and route are set. All the appropriate planning has taken place, so the pilot powers up the engines and takes off. Did you know that during the course of that flight the plane will be off course 90 percent of the time? Weather conditions, turbulence, and other factors cause it to veer off so the pilot is constantly course correcting throughout the journey.

The U.S. Marines talk about the 70% solution. They know that, in battle, quick and decisive are more powerful than fully informed most of the time. They work hard to streamline their intelligence gathering and decision making timelines but choose to act even when only 70% certain of the situation. Victory usually ensues.

Whatever it is you’re mulling over, whether you’re waiting for more information or a better time, Buy it, sell it, quit it, join it, call it, write it …. Do it! Take Action.

Trust Me!

Yikes! Would you trust him? I’m not sure I would. Although, she seems to be on the board of her own free will and there appear to be at least four successful attempts so far. Still, one wrong move and she’s a goner. The stakes are as high as they get in this relationship. Fortunately, the stakes aren’t nearly that high in most of our relationships. Yet, it seems there is less trust in many of our relationships, especially at work, than there is between these two.

I’ve written on Trust in previous posts. I wrote about the Engager Dynamic called Trust. Later I wrote about How to make a Habit of Trust. Trust is so critical to work that I’m compelled to write about it again. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey says that the true equation for Results is (Strategy x Execution) x Trust = Results. In that equation low trust is like a tax that diminishes your results and high trust is like a dividend that increases your results. It’s that important.

Credibility Gap

Covey writes about Four Core elements of Self-Trust which he says is all about credibility. The elements are Integrity, Intent, Capabilities, and Results. In my experience the question of Intent seems crucial. The new COO of an organization recently distributed his written leadership philosophy. It contained the statement, “We judge ourselves by our intent. Others judge us by our behavior.”

Intent is someone’s planned or desired outcome. Behavior is the manifestation of one’s Agenda and Motive which, hopefully, fully and accurately represent their intent. The COO’s point is that all anyone has to go on when deciding on your credibility is your behavior. They can only discern your intent by what they see you do. Covey makes the great point that often trust is depleted simply because of a poorly executed good intent. The intentions were noble but the behavior failed to accurately reflect the intention. When that happens people interpret the intent by the poorly executed behavior. At best they are confused. At worst they become suspicious of your intent and trust evaporates.

Several weeks ago, I was on a conference call with some corporate leaders. In the room with me were 8 – 10 other team members on speaker phone. One of the corporate leaders congratulated me for a particular accomplishment. I had done none of the actual work to achieve the celebrated outcome so my intent was to give credit where credit was due and I quickly named off the people in the room who had actually achieved that result, except one. I still don’t know how I left that person’s name out but that was a poorly executed good intent.  Later, I apologized but I can never get that moment back.

Prevention

On Covey’s list of the core elements of credibility, intent is the least obvious to the observer. Integrity, capabilities, and results are much easier to see from the outside. It’s the questions about intent, especially for a boss, that cause so much energy to be wasted on suspicion and CYA when trust is low. If someone doesn’t trust their bosses intentions, they will be less productive because they’re wasting time and energy trying to figure out what s/he is up to and planning their next move like a chess player.

There are at least two things you can do to prevent misunderstanding about your intentions. First, declare your intentions. When you take an action or make a decision, let people know what your intentions are for that action. That way, when they recognize the outcome you intended, your credibility goes up.

The second thing you can do is to invite feedback. Don’t assume people will come to you and let you know they are confused about your intentions. Establish yourself as an open person by inviting and then graciously receiving feedback. Do that enough times and people will come to you voluntarily with their feedback. That’s how I found out I had left the person off the list on that conference call. They came to me after the call and told me. They only did that because they knew I was open to feedback.

Cure

By the way, those two steps are also helpful in repairing trust that has been broken. It most likely will have to be in the reverse order, though. Invite feedback when you believe trust is low. You may have to examine and adjust your intent, motive, or agenda to regain credibility. If so, say so. Otherwise explain your intent and make restitution for any harm poor execution may have caused.

Covey’s “Waves of Trust” are a ripple effect starting with one’s personal credibility, which impacts relationship trust, organizational trust, market trust, and finally societal trust. We have a crisis of trust all around us. Don’t let it prevail in your organization. Take steps to establish your credibility. As Ghandi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”