Tag Archives: trust

Authentic Communication

Otrazhenie

From http://hr.toolbox.com

 Authentic communication is not always easy, but it is the basis of successful relationships at home and real effectiveness at work. Yet people constantly back away from honesty to protect themselves and others.

As Sheryl Sandberg points out, this reticence causes and perpetuates all kinds of problems: uncomfortable issues that never get addressed, resentment that builds, unfit managers who get promoted rather than fired, and on and on. Often these situations don’t improve because no one tells anyone what is really happening. We are so rarely brave enough to tell the truth…

From The Grumpy Poet

However, authentic communication is not simply about saying what we think at all costs. Communication works best when we combine appropriateness with authenticity, finding the sweet spot where opinions are not brutally honest but delicately honest. Speaking truth fully without hurting feelings comes naturally to some and is an acquired skill for…

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Hierarchical Management – a reprise

down_the_chain_1600_wht_5908Employers who want peak performance from their employees might do better by ensuring that they have a strong but fair hierarchy in place.

Aaron Kay at Fuqua Management School of Business at Duke University, Carolina,  thinks leaders should worry less about empowerment and equality.

He says “In organisations there is a move to become flat but that is not always the best thingy you want to keep employees working hard”.

“People may say that they want to work in an egalitarian workplace but sometimes they actually function better in a hierarchy” regardless of where they sit in the organisation.

It’s not  just that a hierarchy offers more chance of promotion – although some staff will appreciate seeing a ladder to climb – but that hierarchies offer staff a sense of order and structure which they like.

When times are turbulent and external circumstances reduce their sense of control preference for hierarchies increases. Kay says “People seek out guidance and leaders”  And a  hierarchy helps them feel that they are in a safe, stable environment … where they can predict the outcome of their behaviours.

His research also suggests that a strong hierarchy helps people feel that they are being more effective in tackling long-term goals. “If you lead an organisation where you need employees to work on long-term projects, committed to long-term goals, it’s tempting to think that if you give them autonomy they will be more interested and it will drive the right behaviour”.

But as he points out long-term goals are hard to achieve and people need to forgo immediate reward to focus on something way off in the future. They have to trust the system. Having a clear structure and a hierarchy reassures employees that things won’t change before they complete the task.

Hierarchy might also be better for complex tasks where each person needs to complete their part exactly as it is specified. This doesn’t necessarily mean managers should adopt a directive or autocratic approach. Employees obviously like to know where they stand but managers shouldn’t lord it over them and be open to new ideas.

Other experts disagree. One said  ‘it’s naive to think that structures always work the way they were intended”. In some organisations employees feel that although there is a structure and the rules are fair, they are not always applied fairly.

It seems to depend on whether or not you can trust the leaders and managers to be fair and whether or not the rules change as you are working.

See also my earlier post on this topic. 

Size Matters (3)

single_colored_chair_rotating_anim_500_wht_10055Andy Yapp, at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, examined the impact of ergonomics on people’s ethics.

They wanted to know whether or not your workspace would have an effect on your honesty.

What they found was that the bigger and larger the space and seating, which encouraged expansive gestures, the more likely it was that people would pocket overpayments, cheat on a test, and break the rules in a driving simulator.

In the first test they deliberately overpaid people for participating in the test and found that 78% of those with the bigger chairs kept it compared with 38% of people working in cramped spaces.

They also observed illegally parked cars in New York and found that when a driver’s seat increased by 1 standard deviation from the mean the probability that a car would be double parked increased from 51% to 71%.

The researchers say that when we have more space we can adopt more expansive postures and these often project high power whereas people working in constrictive spaces where they have to keep their limbs close to their bodies project low power.

The findings were not influenced by the height of the person nor by how corrupt the person might have been before the experiment as they were randomly assigned. The posture was the only variable.

This is interesting as I would have thought that people working in constricted or uncomfortable environments might be likely to cheat just to get back at their employer – a kind of organisational justice.

But we also know that power corrupts.

Yapp and his colleagues admit there might be cultural differences e.g. Asian norms of modesty and humility are inconsistent with the power posturing.

The research replicates that done at Columbia University on the size of desks (and they also looked at illegal parking in New York).

I also posted on the size of CEOs’ signatures based on some research at the University of Maryland.

Main source:  “Big chairs create big cheats” HBR November 2013

Does your company have a helping culture?

come_join_the_team_500_wht_10876

As mentioned in previous posts employee engagement and discretionary effort are the current holy grail for many organisations.

And leaders can contribute by encouraging helping behaviour. One of the hallmarks of a top-performing company is that people help each other to get the best performance.

Organisational psychologists call this “citizenship behaviour” without which companies, which are complex with competing demands for time, loyalty, and team input v individual effort, would not function as effectively as they might with strict boundaries and rules.

A design firm called IDEO was the subject of a case study in the Harvard Business Review earlier this year. A key element of the culture there is “collaborative help”.

It is an organisation of knowledge workers tackling complex problems and the authors of the study discovered a number of key elements.

Leadership conviction that collaborative help works. The CEO Tim Brown says “the more complex the problem the more help you need”.

But promoting helping is not enough. The other side of the coin is that workers sometimes need a sounding board for their ideas so they need to be okay about asking for help without seeming incompetent.

The culture of the organisation at IDEO embedded the helping idea. Research showed that 89% of employees showed up in the top 5 helpers for everyone in the organisation and almost every person was named as a helper by at least one other person.

These helper friendly organisations are more efficient even though they build slack into the system. This is to enable access to potential helpers.

People in one office were asked to name the 5 colleagues who had helped them most and rate them along with a randomly chosen non-helper on three attributes. These were competence, trust, and accessibility.

Trust and accessibility were more important than competence in the helpfulness ratings.

To read the whole story check out “IDEO’s Culture of Helping”  by Amabile, Fisher, and Pillemer in HBR January-February 2014.

It’s still all about Trust

goldfish_swimming_threat_500_wht_9422Trusting people can make you vulnerable and checking them out can be time-consuming and counter-productive.

Research shows that accuracy in our ability to decide if someone can be trusted is little better than chance.

According to David DeSteno, a psychology professor at Northeastern University writing in March’s Harvard Business Review (“Who can you trust”), it’s because we place too much emphasis on reputation and perceived confidence.

We also ignore that fact that people can change in different contexts and we don’t trust our intuition enough.

DeSteno proposes 4 things to bear in mind:

1 Integrity can vary. People use reputation as a proxy for integrity but it isn’t a stable trait. Because someone has been fair and honest in the past doesn’t mean they will continue to be so in different circumstances.

His research into cheating shows that 90% of people will cheat if they believe they won’t get caught.  And they then rationalise those actions rather than accept that they are untrustworthy.

2 Power does corrupt.  Appearances can be deceptive but the author cites research by Paul Pliff, a social psychologist at Berkeley, which suggests that indicators of socio-economic status can predict trustworthiness.

Increasing status and power correlate with decreasing honesty and reliability. It’s not that rich people are inherently less trustworthy than poor people but that a person’s honesty depends on his or her relative feelings of power or vulnerability.

Assigning people to be a boss or a follower in office simulations Joris Lammers, a psychologist at the University of Cologne, found that those elevated to more senior roles displayed a high degree of hypocritical behaviour and were quick to condemn others for unethical, self-interested behaviour whilst judging their own actions to be acceptable.

When someone has a higher status than you, or even just thinks so, his mind tells him that you need him more than he needs you. Consequently he focuses on short-term outcomes and worries less about the long-term effect of being untrustworthy.

This explains why big companies often treat smaller clients less well than their larger ones.

3 Confidence often masks incompetence. Honourable intentions mean nothing if a person is incompetent. We know this instinctively from an early age (4-year olds will pick people as instructors whom they perceive as more competent).

But confidence is  so alluring that we tend to trust information provided by people who exude it, especially when money is at stake. Hence the success of confidence tricksters.

In newly formed groups those members who expressed pride in the group quickly rose to positions of leadership even though the abilities that their pride stemmed from weren’t relevant to the group’s objectives.

So while reputation isn’t a good predictor of integrity it is of competence because capabilities are more stable.

4 It’s OK to trust your instinct.

Despite decades of research into researching ways of detecting untrustworthiness most people do little better than chance. Even trained experts.

That’s because most of us look for a single “tell” to indicate whether or not someone can be trusted whereas we need to look for a set of gestures. This is something we can do instinctively.

So is it better to trust or not?  If you have no information to go on then a bias towards trusting is better for long-term gains. Otherwise remember these 4 rules!

The5dysfunctionsofateamPatrick Lencioni is a strong advocate of trust in teams. In his best-selling book, “The 5 Dysfunctions of Teams” he sets down a hierarchy (see diagram below).Slide1Slide2

But basically it’s all about Trust.

Are your employees engaged?

The Sunday Times “Best Companies to Work For survey”, which has now canvassed over a million workers since 2000, has identified eight factors that foster workplace engagement.

The factor with the strongest correlation is Leadership: employees must have faith and trust in their senior management team to be engaged.

To do that leaders must gain their trust, live the values, and inspire the team.

Their 2009 survey revealed, in answer to the statement “I have great confidence in the leadership skills of the SMT”, there was a 54% difference between engaged and disengaged employees. In answer to the statement; “senior management truly live the values of this organisation”, there was a 51% difference.

In the top 10% of companies there was a massive 94% confidence rating that the leader ran the company on moral principles.  Would that figure be so high today in the depths of a recession?

Giving something Back (GSB) is one way of engaging employees. Organisations with a good track record of this get higher scores from staff for leadership, pride in their company, and personal well-being.

There does seem to be a rash of books and articles on the new leadership approach needed since the recession. And values and principles are high up among the key factors which is maybe why organisations turn to women when they are in a crisis as they appear to be more trusted as CEOs even though, or maybe because, they  seem more willing to criticise their organisations.

Updated since first published 02/04/2010

Informational Warfare – protect your reputation

Anyone in doubt about the impact of social media will have had to rethink their ideas after the Tunisian and Egyptian popular uprisings.

But is the tweet really mightier than the sword? Iran soon learned to curtail its impact and China and Libya, by shutting down mobile and internet services and using their internal security forces, prevented any sizeable demonstrations,

In the business world the BP Deepwater catastrophe was an undoubted PR disaster. To add to the company’s woes a tweeter began publishing from a bogus PR division within BP. As the world watched the marine disaster unfold the fake PR person published tweets about the canteen menu and other mundane issues. The satirical account of life within BP was followed by more people than followed the official BP twitter account.

The power of one man (in this case an aspiring comedian) and a laptop against a giant global corporation shows how the rules have changed. Critics and activists no longer need to have an institution behind them, This is what the military call asymmetric warfare – an uneven matching of resources which can nevertheless result in stalemate or worse – think the USA in Vietnam, think the soviets in Afghanistan.

And to make matters worse for businesses the critics don’t necessarily have to tell the truth, are probably emotionally driven because they are angry or desperate, and may also be irrational.

An article in the December 2010 issue of HBR suggests that businesses need to look at what the military are doing. After the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war the US Army War College Centre for Strategic Leadership and Canada’s SecDev Group carried out a review into what they called “informational warfare”. They found that although Hezbollah was mismatched in conventional military terms it had used social media to win “hearts and minds” (ironically a key part of psyops warfare) around the world and discredited the Israeli position.

SecDev scholars wrote a report called “Bullets and Blogs” in which they set out several principles which could be used to counter attack and which also apply to protecting corporate reputations. These were:

Avoid a disproportionate show of force: don’t come across as a bully. Companies are generally seen as Goliaths compared to individuals. It’s not a good idea to respond in an aggressive manner. A more considered, less emotional, response which shows you re listening and doing something about the problem pays dividends.

Train people to respond quickly: Companies can be slow to respond especially of they need to reach a consensus or call a board meeting to agree the content of a tweet. Having a media monitoring system and social media channels in place enables companies to respond quickly through key personnel.

Avoid bureaucracy and empower teams to respond: following on from the last point, the public would rather hear it from front-line staff than the board members. So letting staff blog about their experiences is a more trusted method. I’ve seen NHS web-sites with interviews with nurses and other clinical staff talking about their work. These testimonials can work. Even the US Army allows soldiers to post blogs (as long as they are not risking security) on ArmyStrongStories.com. General Freakly, in a podcast, basically said that if you trust soldiers to make daily life or death decisions you can trust them with social media.

Go rogue – apply the same tactics: New media are often seen as a threat rather than an asset. Used ethically however they can help neutralise criticism. Domino’s Pizza was badly affected by the YouTube video of a staff member doing unsavoury things with the food. Profits were hit and that particular store was closed. The company President apologised using YouTube reasoning that that’s where the audience was. That in itself created news which by chance also diverted attention away from the problem.

Use multipliers to echo your message: In the military force multipliers are things which amplify your strength. In media having 3rd party endorsements can add to your own efforts. Critics of cruise ships visiting Haiti after the earthquake were soon neutralised when independent organisations supported the cruise line which had invested heavily in the country already, were delivering relief supplies, and who had been asked by the government to continue visiting to help the local economy to recover.

Establish your credentials in advance: Of course all these things are made easier if you already have established yourself as an ethical, diverse, fair, organisation so that when you are attacked you can point to past successes or decisions.

With new media you now have less control over your corporate message so reputation management is even more important.