Building trust bridges in your organization
I want you to start out by doing a little exercise with me. It’s going to involve some math but don’t worry. You can use your calculator if you need to.
Think about your work week. As you do, I want you to break out your work into three buckets:
- NOW work - work you’re doing today for immediate needs and questions.
- NEAR work - work you’re doing today for needs and questions that will have impact 6-9 months from now.
- FUTURE work - work you’re doing today for needs and questions that will have impact 2-3 (or more) years from now.
Now assign a percentage to each bucket, so they add up to 100% of your time.
What are your NOW/NEAR/FUTURE numbers?
One of my favorite answers from a former team member was “I spend 98% in the now, 2% in the near, and I think about the future in the shower.” He wanted, and frankly due to his work deserved, a promotion to VP. I prodded him, “Are those the numbers you’d want of a VP working for you?” You can imagine the answer and how we worked to shift his time priorities. Spoiler alert, he did get the promotion. Lots of them actually.
When working with clients, especially those who are frustrated that a promotion isn’t forthcoming, this is a frequent conversation. It helps the person see how they might need to balance their numbers. It’s particularly helpful when you have a conversation about your “numbers” with your supervisor. Imagine for a second if your numbers and your supervisor’s numbers are dramatically different. I can guarantee you, misalignment on your numbers always leads to disaster.
As you think about your numbers, let me expand the conversation further. An exchange with a client the other day threw a new light on this idea and the concept of trust. It opened my own eyes so much that I thought it was worth a share.
A little context before I start. This person, let’s call her Sophie, is a senior executive supporting key individuals in the organization. Her work is fundamentally built on the pillars of trust because she needs her internal customers to, in essence, share their secrets with her so she can mitigate future problems. (Yes, she is a Ladybadass. You needed to ask?)
In talking with Sophie, I asked her about her NOW/NEAR/FUTURE numbers. She responded with 50 / 50 / 0. Not quite as bad as my VP friend but pretty close and certainly not the kind of numbers a person at her level should have. Now Sophie got my point, and I asked her about increasing the volume of delegation to her team. This is where we ran into a bit of a roadblock. A roadblock built entirely of trust, or lack thereof it.
You see her customers trusted Sophie so much that they gave everything to her. They expected all the answers directly from her. Ergo, she couldn’t get out of the now even if she tried.
This revelation led us to shift the conversation from delegating, delegating to her capable and talented team, to trust building. We identified projects and initiatives her team could own and talked about how she could have the “trust” conversation with them about their work. We developed language so she could encourage her team to delve into these critical projects. The discussions would focus on how the measure of success was not just delivering a perfect work product but also that these delegated projects would build the foundation of their trust with the executives in question.
We also talked about how there needed to be an honest and thoughtful conversation with Sophie’s leadership team. Sophie needed them to understand that the delegation would a) open up time for her to think more strategically about the future, and b) build the foundation of trust with her lieutenants the same way she had built trust with them.
Instead of a trust roadblock, she was building a trust bridge.
I know, this all sounds so simple and yet is complicated to implement. But I believe strongly that this is the foundational work you can do as a leader to not only do the work YOU want to do but bring out the best in your team.
Imagine trust bridges across your organization. Trust bridges that don’t need micromanaging, trust bridges that open up dialog.
Now that’s a team I’d want to work with. Wouldn’t you?