Tag Archives: trust

Developing a Listening Culture

team_listening

In a previous post Leadership and a Trusting Culture   I talked about the importance of developing trust as a critical component of  managing change in any organization.

To build trust, leaders must first develop listening skills.

Team members must know that their ideas will be heard and given proper consideration. The synergies to be derived from team participation will never be realized if team members don’t trust that their leadership will listen and have a capacity to understand them.

Well intentioned leaders often “kill” ideas without even realizing that they are doing it. A large number of phrases have crept into our daily speech that result in immediate freezing of the desire to openly share ideas.  “We have tried that before”, ” that will never work”  are some examples of  idea killing phrases that will halt any creative cooperation. Being careful  to refrain from providing “knee jerk” negative feedback is an important skill to be acquired by all leaders.

It is a well established method in all types of brainstorming exercises to withhold criticism while ideas are being gathered.  The absence of criticism provides an atmosphere where creativity is uninhibited.  Once all ideas are vented, the leader and the team may engage in the critical evaluation of the benefits, costs, and general practicality of each solution to the problem at hand.

The “wild and crazy” ideas that appear impractical at first, often become the real problem solvers.  If  team members are free to think and express themselves they can often put a different “spin” on an impractical idea that overcomes the initial objections.  One idea may be the initial spark of creativity that can be used as a “springboard” by other team members.

When a leader criticizes prematurely, or places too many limits on the types of ideas that are welcomed, the results are predictably unproductive.  In a recent Dilbert comic strip, Scott Adams makes this point.

Tom Feltenstein  offers a hilarious and powerful video, titled “99 Idea Killers.”

Paul Williams advises teams to “pause before you pounce” on an idea.  He has developed  “Idea Killer Bingo Card” to help teams recognize their own use of reactive negative feedback.

I heard one of  QMA clients express disappointment with the results of their “suggestion box” recommendations.  In facilitating some of their team efforts it became evident to us that leaders, at all levels, were quick to criticize the ideas of others and find reasons why the solutions wouldn’t work.  They often assumed they knew the answers to the problems.

After privately confronting them with their negative attitudes towards the ideas of others, they made genuine efforts to improve the way they interacted with team members.  It turned out that many of their inefficiencies were easily eliminated once team members trusted their leaders to listen to them and became fully engaged in the organization’s continual improvement efforts.

What is the worst idea killing criticism you’ve witnessed?  Do you have a special technique to deal with negativity of  “idea killers”?  Please share your comments below.

Leadership and a Trusting Culture

In a previous blog, I mentioned that the main ingredient of cultural change is trust.  I would like to examine here how trust is built and nurtured.  Restoring or establishing trust starts and ends with the leadership. Trust must be built incrementally and must be clearly established before attempting any transformational change.

In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni has identified a lack of trust as one of the most common reasons why teamwork fails in an organization. Since teamwork is an essential ingredient for building a continuous improvement culture, it follows that leadership must understand that people will not work towards a common goal until they trust each other and their leadership.

W. Edwards Deming, thought leader in quality management, provides the essential elements for establishing this mutual trust in,  “14 Points for Management”, the basis for transformation.  One of these points, to create constancy of purpose is indispensable for developing trust.  Employees will often snicker at the first introduction of yet another improvement initiative,  the “program of the month”.  Trust must be built by showing that you “say what you mean and mean what you say.”

Deming also stressed the importance of creating trusting collaborative relationships with customers and vendors by warning us to “stop doing business by price tag alone”.  Most of his other points actually dealt with developing trust internally.  Leadership is about “facilitating”, that is, providing the resources, training and education, tools, and systems required to get the job done correctly.

Your role as a leader is to “drive out fear” and to eliminate goals, measurements, and rewards that divide rather than unite members of your organization.  By doing this, you start eliminating barriers and building bridges that enable trusting relationships to develop that make the transformation everyone’s job.

Making Change Happen

Things never stay the same.  They get better or they get worse.

Left to their own devices, organizations will deteriorate.  To effect change and move an organization in a positive direction, leaders must plan, share, and act on those plans.

Sustainable change requires that the organizational culture be receptive to the desired change.  The culture itself may require change.  Rapid change is possible once a receptive culture is present, but cultural changes are evolutionary.

Cultural transformations take time, patience and perseverance.

In most organizations, overt and covert resistance needs to be overcome.  Such resistance is often due to a lack of trust that has developed over time and to regain the feeling of mutual trust will also take time.

The main ingredient of cultural change is trust.  Restoring or establishing trust requires a sincere effort that cannot be misjudged as manipulation.  You cannot effect trust by merely wishing it or dictating it. Trust must be built incrementally.

As organizational members start trusting leadership, and each other, other positive changes are possible.  Then, as improvements are made, they will be sustainable.

Once trust building is recognized as a necessary element of transformation, the leader is in a better position to envision and mold an organizational culture devoted to continuous and sustainable improvements.