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LASDAY: 'Can I trust you?'

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  • | 6:00 p.m. June 6, 2008
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'Can I trust you?'

by Lou Lasday

Before you can lead an enterprise, you must first earn its trust.

Teamwork to effect change can be created in a myriad of ways. But, regardless of the process used, one component that is absolutely critical to the success of the best plan is trust. When trust is present, you will usually be able to create teamwork. When it is missing, you will not.

According to Harvard Professor John P. Kotter, best selling author of Leading Change: "People who have spent their entire careers in a single department are often innately taught loyalty to their immediate group and distrust of the motives of others, even within the same firm."

Lack of perceived internal opportunity and bonus, minimal one-on-one communication, low level of recognition, overloaded function, no visible advancement path and little opportunity for continued learning all heighten misplaced rivalry. For instance, the 'Accounting Team' thinks the 'Sales Team,' with its expense accounts, have unfair obvious compensation opportunity. Or the administrative assistants, because they do the executive's work at a secretary's pay, feel under appreciated. And so it goes.

Build trust daily

Especially in entrepreneurial enterprises as we see on the Gulf Coast, when staff is asked to come together for the announcement of a profit goal, or to work together to effect change, teamwork may rarely excel due to the muted residual lack of trust. Unfortunately, all too often this overriding feeling can prevent a needed transformation from taking place.

This single insight about trust can be critical as to whether a particular set of activities will produce the kind of teamwork that is needed. Chances are, it may be your function to personally get everyone on board. But be aware that the Number One hidden hilemma of your leadership may be: "How will this affect me and my people, will I personally benefit or will my positive work effort come back to bite me?" That's how trust or lack thereof may manifest itself in your organization. When your direct actions create the mutual understanding, respect, and caring associated with trust, then you're on the right road.

In the previous generation, trust and team building was developed mostly through informal social activity: softball and bowling teams, fund-raising, card games, association committees, Christmas parties and summer picnics. That's still in use, but with working schedules of spouses, their children's off-hour activities and more, team building has changed the focus of that thrust.

Team building today has to move faster, allow for more diversity, new era techniques and in my opinion, without pressuring at-home partners.

Now What?

Beyond trust, the element crucial to teamwork is to have a common goal. Only when all the thinking members of your chosen staff will deeply want to achieve the same objective, does real teamwork become feasible.

The bottom-line typical goal that binds individuals together on guiding change is a commitment to excellence and a real desire to make the enterprise perform to the very highest levels possible. Reengineering, acquisitions and cultural change efforts often fail because that desire is missing. Instead, you're likely to find your staff quietly committed to their own careers or internal interests.

It's not just trust of the senior management. Your people fear, sometimes quite rationally, that if they obsessively focus their actions on improving customer satisfaction or reducing expenses, other departments won't do their fair share.

The combination of trust and common goals shared by a small cohesive group with the right people and the right characteristics can make for a powerful team.

The resulting guiding leadership staff will have the capacity to make needed change happen. This can happen despite all the emotional factors in an economy like most Gulf Coast enterprises are experiencing. It will have the potential to do the hard work involved in creating and communicating your vision.

When they trust you – really trust you – you empower a board base to act, insure credibility, build short term wins, lead projects of change and anchor new approaches to advance the corporate culture. The result is improved profit.

Making change happen

Here are some tips to create trust in a company.

• Schedule breakout think tank events with your follow-up action;

• Create lots of one-on-one, eyeball-to-eyeball conversations outside your executive office;

• Retrain, recognize, reward;

• Look for "positive power," broad expertise and high credibility;

• Seek strong leadership skills;

• Develop a common goal that is obvious and attainable. Make it appealing to the heart, the mind and the wallet.

Lou Lasday, an active corporate marketing advisor residing on Longboat Key, creates action-oriented Strategic Marketing Initiatives for Gulf Coast emerging companies. He has been a general partner of an Ad Age Top 100 marketing communications firm and Regional President of the American Marketing Association. He can be reached at [email protected].


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