Investment banking was huge, I made good money, and I was given lots of opportunities for my career, not to mention I love numbers so it was a natural fit for me.
The performance arts experience is still probably my favorite as I love the music and the energy, the collaboration, and the mutual support that the arts survives on. I learned so much from my experience in the performance arts industry and I still feel people could learn true collaboration by working in it for a week!
And finally the tech industry. I was really, really fortunate to join a start-up that was successful from day one and their ultimate goal, at the time, was to have fun.
Each of these organizations had highs and lows. The highs were amazing. Those highs had some common threads. They include:
- Everyone worked towards the same goals
- Collaboration was paramount, no one was the lone star
- Communication was constant
- We had fun!
- Trust from bottom up and from top down
And the lows. I don't like thinking about bad times but here are some common threads during the lows:
- People were out for themselves
- No one really knew what they needed to do
- You only got feedback when you did something wrong
- Fear was rampant
- The only constant was people were leaving, good people
- You didn't trust anyone or anything
Even during the good times there would be blips, roadblocks, or speed bumps along the way.
I remember a time at the investment bank when the department was growing and the teams were very successful, we were hiring like crazy and yet we were humming. Then things went south. People weren't happy, communication was horrible, and good people were leaving.
We had meetings, many of them, to try and figure out what went wrong. We had a survey, teams met to brainstorm on how to improve things. After weeks of banging our heads against the wall the common denominator that kept coming back again and again led to one phrase, 'lack of trust'.
How did it happen? Why did it happen? How do we get it back?
Even the best companies with the best motives have this happen. It doesn't happen over night and it does happen for a reason, and that reason is the success and the mojo is taken for granted, and eventually all that hard work that got you there is for naught.
So how do you foster and keep trust in your business?
Do unto others
It's interesting how those in management, especially those at the executive level, don't have the same rules for their teams as they do for themselves. One thing to remember is you better be in the same boat as everyone on the team or no one is going to mistake you for authentic and they will not trust you.
Why do you think Congress has such a low performance rating, currently around 10% of the U.S. population feel they are doing a good job? Because they don't have to live by their own rules so most Americans don't trust they have our best interest at heart. And it's the same in business. If you want people to trust you, you better have the same benefits, the same rules, the same work space, and most importantly, the same consequences when you screw up. I've seen first and second line managers truly own their responsibility to reaching their team goals and they get reprimanded if they screw up, but at the same company I've seen executives screw up and have no consequences for their actions or behaviors.
One rule when it comes to management, be above board. If the rule is X, your standard to should greater than X.
Do what you say
One sure way to lose trust fast is to not follow through on what you say you are going to do. This includes everything that you do.
If you have agreed to have lunch with someone at the office because they want some guidance or advice, or if you have a meeting with a team member to go over something important to them or about their performance, never break that appointment, ever! Because suddenly not only are they dealing with a stressful time in their career but they now feel they are not important enough for you to keep your promise, which was your promise to spend time with them.
Also, as a company, be really cautious about how to word benefits. If you say three weeks vacation, it better be three weeks vacation without a list of when you can't take it or a list of those who don't get it. Be authentic and make sure your benefit headings say exactly what the benefit is.
Another issue is your Human Resources staff doesn't live and conduct itself in support of the company values. Make sure your HR staff trusts the people they hire 100% and they trust that all people in the company want to do good work. If your HR team doesn't understand when problems arise it's usually because of poor communication or bad procedures, then frankly, they shouldn't be in HR. A poor HR team can make all the difference in how people feel about the company. You want a team that has passion for their work, is compassionate for the people, and who personally take the responsibility when things go wrong.
Reward your people
One sure way to ruin trust is to never thank people for their hard work. I worked with a guy who started one day, to say 'thanks for coming in today'. People would laugh at him and say good night and leave. But you know what, they left with a smile on their face!
There is an authenticity about it though. The person who said it was not anyone's manager but people trusted him, enjoyed working with him and knew when he said it he meant it. It has to be authentic or people will not only not trust you, they'll start thinking you have ulterior motives.
Also, try setting up a lightweight rewards system where co-workers can send a thank you with a little gift to another co-worker who they feel went above and beyond, and they should be able to do it without needing some kind of ridiculous approval. Because if it needs approval it means you don't trust them to respect the program and to not abuse it.
Don't punish everyone for a few bad apples
I'm sure everyone has heard about one urban legend or another regarding an office party that went terribly wrong. Either someone at the company party drank too much and took off his shirt or someone told off the idiot CEO in front of everyone.
Things happen and they will continue to happen. But what doesn't have to happen is that awesome company party shouldn't be cancelled. Just like that great benefit or perk doesn't need to be rewritten or taken away because a few people abused the privilege. Have the guts to talk to those individuals and if they do something like that again, fire them. People will respect you for that.
There is nothing worse than paying the price for another persons stupidity. And I can assure you the moment you do have everyone pay the price, that trust that you took for granted is gone.
Is it that time again?
You guessed it, it's performance review time! For the past six months to a year you treated your people like people. You gave them clear goals, you made sure they had the tools to succeed, and you trusted them to get it done. So now what better time to wipe that trust away in one fell swoop than by having a performance review!
Performance reviews started in the 1700's during the industrial revolution and we have been debating their effectiveness ever since. No they didn't use words like 'expectations' or 'goals', you're lucky if they told you anything other than work harder! But even though they have evolved through the last few centuries, one thing is for certain, you can call it anything you want, but it's still an ineffective performance review! Check out this awesome graphic on the history of performance reviews.
If you trust your employees there is no reason to do a performance review. If you are having performance issues the worst thing to do is to manage it via a performance review because you are postponing giving guidance, you are not collaborating with that person on improving things and you are treating that individual like a leper. And please, please, please, don't think a Performance Improvement Plan is any better!
Performance of an individual should be managed as any of your other person-to-person relationships, ongoing, collaborative, and with respect. You ask it from your spouse, your family, your friends. You ask it from your dry cleaner, your grocer, your doctor, so why would you think your team member would deserve anything less from you?
Never stop working on Trust
This is truly the key. Never think because you have it you no longer have to work at it. You have to work at it every day. People leave, even the good ones who really lived the value of trust in your organization. New people come on board and they have different experiences and different approaches, so be sure you communicate from day one how important trust is in your organization and in everything you do. And train on how to think and behave with trust being your guide, because all it takes is one person to create that ripple in the lake of trust and suddenly you have multiple ripples and what was once a lake of calm has become a major storm.
Which leads to interviewing. You really need to focus not only on successes but on how they reached their successes. What was their approach, who helped them get there? How did they reward others, do they mentor? Get an idea of how they conduct themselves around others and more importantly, how did they help others succeed. A person who views the success of others as a success of their own is someone I will trust.
There are other things businesses need to do to ensure trust is at the core of who they are and how they conduct their business. This includes open communication with customers, treating your clients with respect and teaching your people to put themselves in the clients perspective, all the time. But this is a good start.
Competition is fierce, and it is global! And talent, really good talent, is at a premium so you better give people a reason to trust you enough to say yes to that offer and yes to staying. Because if you don't someone else will.