How to generate trust in organization: 2/8 – Be honest

This is the 2nd posting from a series of 8 short articles “How to generate trust in an organization”. The topics spring to life from my own experiences as well as from various books and articles I’ve read in the past. The most influential writers have no doubt been John C. Maxwell and Simon Sinek. Both emphasize the importance of high moral driven “people first” leadership.

How to generate trust in organization: 2 – Be honest

Never lie, steal or tell things that are not true. People scan your behavior constantly and even small wrong deeds are up-scaled. Meaning that even the one cinnamon roll you took without permission in front of your employee gives the signal that you are a dishonest person by nature. This gives an example for the employee that honesty is not an appreciated value. Don’t do that. Period.

"Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters." Albert Einstein

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How to generate trust in organization: 1/8 – Defend your tribe

FOREWORD

This is the 1st posting from a series of 8 short articles “How to generate trust in an organization”. The topics spring to life from my own experiences as well as from various books and articles I’ve read in the past. The most influential writers have no doubt been John C. Maxwell and Simon Sinek. Both emphasize the importance of high moral driven “people first” leadership.

Why generate trust?

In my opinion, a leadership that is based on trust and service to others is the only possible way to build up a lasting high performance organization. And if you need (?) some rational proofs why so, please note that there are plenty of studies* which prove that the happiness within comes from helping others to excel.

“People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”
John C. Maxwell

The following series is my interpretation of the best practices available to generate trust, which I consider as the foundation of any great place to work.

How to generate trust in organization: 1 – Defend your tribe

The most efficient practice by far in creating trust is the feeling of playing in the same team. The best leaders are trusted to be the guardians of employees during a time of struggle. It can take only one defending act to make an employee a lifelong follower and friend. The amount of gratitude generated by defending your tribe is almost beyond comprehension with high moral people. But if the leader is not shielding his or her troops from injustice the result is quite the opposite.

The article continues after the image.

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*:

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To Excel Now And In The Future

In my opinion

If we are truly interested in the organizational growth and excellence, it is crucial to tap into collective wisdom and to the brainpower of many. Modern leadership is not about forcing people to execute one’s vision. The more there are brains working to solve problem, the more likely it is that the best solution is found in a shorter time. This is pretty simple math.

It is also good to note that by committing employees to the company – by letting them co-create the vision – the leader is not deemed to take all of the pressure of the progress by him- or herself.

To excel now and in the future

  1. The organization must get better in the things it is good at
  2. The organization must be willing to try learning, creating, and innovating something new that has demand I.e. someone is willing to pay for.
“Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.”
Steve Jobs

What if the organization focuses just on the another one?

If the organization focuses on just getting better in where it is good at, there will be a time when our product/service will be obsolete. Think for a second about Kodak, Blockbuster, Reader’s Digest…

“Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana.”
Bill Gates

If the organization uses too much time just on innovating and never releases a product or service, there is a risk that someone will go out and steal the business opportunity. It is also possible that in reality there is no market available or the world just is not ready yet for the product/service. The latter two scenarios usually happen only if the strategic market research has been done poorly.

Timing

“Observe due measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor.”
Hesiod

It is absolutely crucial to understand that the timing is the most important factor in business and growth: because customer demand is the key factor. Even if we had the perfect team with the perfect idea, business-model, and execution, there is no value without demand.

The role of an ever better leader

  1. The great modern leader is a servant of employees,
  2. who creates an atmosphere of trust and fellowship,
  3. where passionate people are able to reach their potential,
  4. with proper incentives to make miracles happen
  5. while making sure that the company is profitable.
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
Henry Ford

* : Co-creating the vision can get awesome results, but only if the organization is a high performing one. If people are not passionate and fully committed, the leader’s vision is crucial for the organization to survive. In an organization that is reactive and lacks motivation, the leader should first uproot possible organizational primal fears and increase motivation and happiness as I have written earlier. Then it is time to communicate the personal vision until the organization is ready to be co-creative.

This posting was inspired by my experiences and by the following TED Talks:

And as a curious reader bonus here is a checklist you can share, print and check all that apply:

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How to keep people HAPPY and MOTIVATED

Any organization can and will thrive if the people are happy, motivated, capable of independent work, and have a strong passion and belief of importance. But even a formerly great organization can kick the bucket if the motivation dies or is destroyed by bad leadership.

The most important tool to build a high performing organization is leadership which focuses on removing obstacles which would prevent growth and good atmosphere. The single biggest obstacle is fear, which I wrote about earlier. And that fear should be uprooted from the organizational soil first thing. Nothing grows in a land of fear.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Yoda

In the following  I have listed the other noxious elements that prevent organizations to thrive. After each problem there is a solution offered.

  1. Lack of communication and transparency
    “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
    George Bernard Shaw

    Solution: Communicate! What is the direction? Where are we, what is happening, what has been decided, who has decided, who can decide and what?
    Transparency should pass through everything in a modern up-to-date organization. Information that is not free creates rumors and destroys trust.

  2. Feeling of separation

    Solution: As mentioned in my earlier post, we humans are tribal mammals, and that is why it is very important for us that we feel being part of the tribe. When we feel fellowship we are more willing to help. Wise leaders tear down silos, glass roofs and help people feel being part of one big family. Easy tricks are to have lunches, parties, sports evenings and personal discussions.

  3. Lack of respect
    “Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything – for better or for worse.”
    Simon Sinek


    Solution:
    Every normal human needs approval. The need varies from individual to individual, but only those who are emotionally twisted (I.e. psychopaths and narcissists) do not crave for acceptance. The bigger the status of person who gives feedback the bigger the emotional reward. Simple words to increase the feeling of respect is to say publicly “thank you, you did an awesome job with that project/thing X. It really made a difference to have you in the team!” If you want to be an ever better leader, consider also hugging* the person you just praised. That will release oxytocin which is so called “love hormone” and bonds people together.

    * be aware of the cultural rules, sometimes shaking hands does the job.

  4. No rewards from high performance
    “Money is not the only answer, but it makes a difference.”
    Barack Obama


    Solution:
    Every organization that aims for high performance has a reward system. This is essential, because the best players want to see in their bank account how their efforts are rewarded. This rewarding mechanism should be as transparent as possible and allow everyone to join. If there is no financial rewarding mechanism or it is unfair, trust me, high performers will leave when given possibility. If they are not leaving, they are not high performers and the organization never had one to recognize such.

  5. Unclear goals and job descriptions

    Solution: Most people value highly the situation where they know why they are hired and what they were hired to do. So it is the leader’s responsibility to communicate what is expected, set the KPI (key performance indicators for job) and agree about it with the employee. This can drastically improve the output as well as job satisfaction.

  6. Undersized resources

    Solution: Even the best possible expert can get frustrated and unmotivated if the tools or the time for the work are undersized. There are no shortcuts here: if the organization want’s best possible results, it needs to give enough time and the best tools available. If that is not possible, it is best to scale expectations down and prepare to watch when competitors take over the market.

  7. No possibility to improve in expertise or to develop in career path

    “If you look really closely, most overnight successes took a long time.”
    Steve Jobs

    Solution: High performing organizations make sure they have the best people around and that those people stay the best and motivated. That is why for example Google has allowed people to use 20% of their time to make their own projects and learn new skills. That sure is one of the reasons why Google is one of the most, if not the most, innovative corporation in the world.

  8. No feedback
    “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
    Bill Gates


    Solution:
    Give feedback and learn to know how the individual is capable to digest it without turning it as a negative issue. In short there are three kinds of people:

    – People who only want to hear good news. Occasionally upper level executives under too much pressure, people who have low self esteem or those few who suffer from rare personality disorders.

    – People who can handle also constructive feedback if that is served appropriately and accompanied with something nice. Most people belong to this group.

    – People who seem to not give a shit about positive feedback but lust for educational feedback to ensure fast growth. These kinds of people are very rare, almost non-existent, there is no big ego to prevent growth.

  9. No possibility TO give feedback

    Solution: Arrange regular (monthly) one-to-one sessions and work environment surveys with option to suggest how things could be done smarter.
    It is as important to give a chance to give feedback as it is to get one. Great places to work allow possibility and a forum for honest feedback without being afraid of punishment. Never try to bury possible issues that come to your attention.

  10. Too many and STRICT processes

    “Everything that is not forbidden, should be regulated.”
    Anonymous Finnish government official

    Solution: Processes might make things easy, but what they also do is that they drain the creativity from the work. Sure some guidelines are OK, but they should support the work rather than restrict it. The more people are given freedom to be independent the more they are willing to give for the work. Study also say that 91% of people consider themselves to be more productive when given more freedom to decide when and where to work from. To allow remote working is one of the best ways to increase happiness in an individual.

  11. Lack of trust

    “It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by them.” Confucius

    Solution: No human relationship can excel without trust. It is extremely important to know that there is a place to come tomorrow despite of the possible challenges. Never ever should an employee or even a leader get punished for making an unintentional mistake. That will kill creativity. Not only for the person punished, but for the entire team or even organization. Such organization will pretty soon experience motivation deprivation as well as talented people starting to look for better places to work.

In my following posts I will go into more detail on how to create trust and fellowship. These two key elements are the foundation of any great place to work.

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Primal Fears – Why Some Organizations Never Manage To Thrive

I want to share you something I bumped into as I was listening the awesome book “The Coaching Habit”. A great abbreviation “TERA” was mentioned, which contains the source of our primal fears that guide all of our actions.

“run, fight or die” mode prevents higher level of thinking

To try to put it in short: in fMRI scans scientists have found that our brain asks 5 times per second if there is something to be afraid. And IF there is, we enter into “run, fight or die” mode that prevents higher level of thinking and tapping into the collective wisdom the situation might hold. In the state of primal fear, our world is black and white and filled with adrenaline. That is something we might be able to use as advantage in certain situations, like public speaking or a bar fight, but not in a daily life of a high efficiency expert organization.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”
Mark Twain

The abbreviation TERA comes from the words Tribe, Expectation, Rank and Autonomy. The following summaries are my own interpretations and the official explanations may vary. But these I find simple enough to remember and easy enough to understand.

TRIBE

Do you feel yourself as a member of the group or do you feel as an outsider? Being an outsider is usually not an enjoyable state of mind, because from evolutionary perspective an outsider presented threat. *

EXPECTATION

Do you know what is coming next, or are you afraid of surprises? In the past surprises could mean danger and that is the reason why we subconsciously are terrified of possible unexpected events. That is why routines, plans, to-do lists, agendas, road-maps and written strategies make us feel more secure.

RANK

Humans are very hierarchical mammals and have highly developed sense of estimating who is the leader and so to be respected. Luckily these days the leader does not usually attack you physically – at least in the western business world – but weak leaders might do it verbally when feeling threatened. That leads us to the autonomy…

AUTONOMY

Due to the hierarchical nature of our species we are super cautious when there is someone ranked above us in a situation. Especially if he or she has a reputation of having a big ego and a tendency to punish those who do not agree with him/her. We ponder our words carefully and speak only if there is no imminent threat. Some brave souls are so self-confident that they might have guts to open their mouth even if there is a possibility of humiliation or confrontation. That happens usually in one of the following cases:

  • The individual feels that the leader is weaker than him or herself.
  • The individual is equipped with shitloads of testosterone (boosts self confidence I.e. why young males are often those who are not afraid of positional leaders).
  • The individual is facing a situation where their values are threatened and they are willing to die because of them – even though metaphorically.
To sum this post
  • Fear is something that should not be present in any organization.
  • Learn to know people your work with, that generates the feeling of being in the same tribe.
  • Make agendas for meetings and road-maps and strategies for organizations.
  • Egoistic people – and especially leaders – are always bottlenecks in organizational growth and big-time success and should be either educated or let go if they fail to see their bad behavior.
  • By subscribing to Ever Better Leadership Blog you will gain the necessary information on how to make your organization thrive by removing primal fears to the degree it is possible:

THE ONE EXCEPTION WORTH MENTIONING

There is one special type of people who do not follow the normal rules: narcissists. They are beyond the help of mortal men and should be left to be dealt by HR-department or mental health care professionals. In these rare cases I strongly recommend to relocate as far away as possible. Luckily only around 1% of population have narcissists personality disorder. Although there are some recent articles that indicate that narcissistic behavior has risen during the birth of social media.

* For more information about neuromarketing you can read the awesome Brainfluence. It is filled with great neuromarketing insights.

Disclaimer: this article is a mixture of content from The Coaching Habit as well as my own research and reasoning. The text should not be considered as a psychological playbook of any kind, but rather as a simplified tool to understand how human brain is working in situations where primal fears are involved.

 

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The biggest problem in communication?

Last summer I had the privilege to receive honest feedback from my colleague who was about to leave to take on new challenges. We chatted for a while and the most valuable feedback I had had in years was simply:

“Jukka, please communicate more about your vision and how you plan to execute it.”

I had sincerely thought that there was no need to communicate that much more. I even felt that I might had been slightly too eager in communicating my vision. But that simple feedback opened my eyes: I was wrong and people are not telepathic. And even if they were, everyone is focused on their own issues and tend to forget what is not crucial for them to do their job. On the other hand, I also realized that communication is never just about communication: you are always leading as well as building your brand as a leader.

Every move you make, every word you say – They’ll be watching you.

After the feedback I started to look ways and means to express my vision more. It is not always easy to find the best way to tell people what is expected and why, as it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, see: different target groups respond better to the different ways of communication.

A simple rule of thumb

I have been doing my best to utilize the following principle in communication:

For masses tell stories, for board of directors use data.

The idea behind this short rule is that most people are too lazy to dive deep into facts, but when you are passionate and want to make decisions that hold water, hard data and evidence is preferred.

The elements of a message

On an upper level the elements of message should consist of the following:

  1. Why? What is the reason we are doing things, why am I communicating – what is the big lesson behind it all. What I want people to know? This is the vision.
  2. What happens, how does it feel? The surface, the words to tell the story. Share something emotional, personal, factual and maybe surprise people with a twist or two. This is the mission. If you want more precise advice, don’t worry: I will also write more about storytelling mechanics later.
  3. Next? There should be a fairly simple and precise CTA (call to action) in the story on how to proceed. Don’t ever assume people will understand your subtext: good corporate or marketing communication rarely relies on sharp attention or wits.
building up a personal communication strategy

I also recommend to build up a personal communication strategy. For example, a simple communication strategy in short could be:

  1. At the first stage focus mostly on upper management and on your team. That is mostly because you might want to involve them in making of the vision.
  2. For upper management use more data, for the team emphasize the personal benefits and emotional factors.
  3. As the foundations have been done the next step is to increase transparency and make the vision more company-wide. Use approx. mix of 80% emotion and 20% of data in the end of messages/presentations/whatever are your means of communicating.
  4. If possible, start to express your vision publicly. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, your own/corporate blog and maybe even YouTube are great medias to share your vision to the world. Remember that in mass communication emotion is usually the most effective way to make the vision fly. At least if you want to spread your message to as wide of an audience as possible.
  5. Be careful, nobody is not interested in your vision if it is not relevant to people. Relevance is the key in everything. So make sure your message contains something valuable. It could be a funny story, helpful article, mind blowing stunt or whatever cool thing you come up with. Only your imagination is the limit.
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
– George Bernard Shaw
IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY

For me the simple and short feedback from the ex-colleague had a massive impact. But in case of an emergency where you don’t have the luxury of getting honest and relevant feedback and help, please send me a message to jukka@jukkaniittymaa.com and let’s have a talk to see if I or my colleagues could help you to excel!

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Protip 1: Focus on relevant issues

Too often leaders rush to solve mundane problems as it gives a warm and fuzzy feeling of purpose: “I’ve done my job and earned my salary. Now I can bath in my cozy mundanity for a while more…”

But guess what? Although leaders are paid to lead and make decisions, it is not wise to make every decision by themselves. See, as by doing so the leader ends up passivating employees when solving every possible problem. And by that he or she also makes himself/herself a bottleneck for growth. The point is to solve REAL challenges – those issues that an employee is not able to solve independently.

Choose your battles!

To summarize: Give up that warm and fuzzy feeling and use your muscles to where extra effort is needed.

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