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Want Your Employees to Trust You? Show You Trust Them

Executives and managers invest a lot of effort and time building trust in their teams: both establishing trust in their employees and ensuring that their employees trust them in return. But many employees say they do not feel trusted by their managers. And when employees don’t feel trusted, workplace productivity and engagement often suffer. It’s up to managers to signal trust in their employees in consistent and thoughtful ways.

We have explored the dynamics of the trusting relationship between managers and their employees for over 10 years in multiple organizations and hundreds of manager-employee pairs. Research that we and others have conducted offers evidence of the ripple effects of a manager-employee trust gap. Employees who are less trusted by their manager exert less effort, are less productive, and are more likely to leave the organization. Employees who do feel trusted are higher performers and exert extra effort, going above and beyond role expectations. Plus, when employees feel their supervisors trust them to get key tasks done, they have greater confidence in the workplace and perform at a higher level.

In short, trust begets trust. When people are trusted, they tend to trust in return. But people must feel trusted to reciprocate trust. Managers have to do more than trust employees; they need to show it. Based on our research work and time spent in companies studying trust, we’ve identified some of the most important ways managers erode trust and how they can signal it more clearly to their teams.

How Managers Chip Away at Trust

Mutual trust requires some degree of risk-taking and reflection. There are at least three reasons why leaders and organizations don’t demonstrate their trust in employees:

Lack of self-awareness. Managers often lack the self-awareness required to realize that their own actions may communicate a lack of trust. They are likely to think that because they trust an employee, the employee will know it. But even well-intentioned actions, such as providing support or periodic check-ins on a project, may convey to employees that they are not trusted enough to complete the work independently.

Risk-averse by design. Organizations often design their structure, policies, and culture in order to minimize risk and optimize efficiency. But organizations that are risk averse may also signal that employees cannot be trusted with resources and information. Centralization of authority, restricted resources and information, and bureaucratic cultures heavy with regulation limit employee initiative. Managers may support their employees taking that initiative — but in a risk-averse organization, such ideas won’t likely see the light of day. One company we worked with was seeking to cultivate innovation and creativity, but the approval for new projects involved a 12 -month process requiring endorsement from a C-suite committee. This process was effectively inaccessible to many employees, stifling innovation and leaving employees’ feeling untrusted. And even if the fault lies with the organization’s policy, employees may still blame their own supervisor, thereby eroding trust.

“Bottom line” mentality. Pressure to reach performance targets and control costs sometimes leads managers to do things that unintentionally signal a lack of trust. When these pressures are great, many managers become focused on their own job security and respond by constricting control. This can lead to the type of thinking that focuses on only securing bottom-line outcomes, which often come at the expense of other priorities, like developing relationships and empowering employees to make independent decisions.

What Managers Can Do to Signal Trust

Despite these common obstacles, there are several ways managers can signal trust in an employee:

Taking stock. First, don’t assume that your employees have high trust in you. Learn to read their trust levels by understanding the risks and vulnerabilities they face. Take an inventory of the practices, policies, and controls found in your organization: Are they risk-tolerant? When you look at policies from the perspective of the employee, are they designed to engage employees or to protect the organization from them?

Take an assessment of your own conduct, too — the list of questions below is a good start. If you’ve answered “no” to any of these questions, your employees likely do not trust you as much as you would hope.

(Carefully) giving up control. The onus to grow mutual trust is on the manager. That means not only cultivating employees’ trust, but conveying prudent, incremental trust in them. Managers need to adequately scope assignments, grant resource authority, and not undermine it later. Ceding control also requires a certain tolerance for mistakes. Rather than taking harsh corrective action, treat employee mistakes as opportunities to facilitate learning.

Sharing information. Another important way leaders take risks is communicating openly and honestly with employees. Managers are often reluctant to share information and explain their decisions for fear of premature leaks, second-guessing, or dissension. Being transparent signals that you trust your employees with the truth, even in difficult circumstances. One manager of public sector employees faced this challenge for several years when making merit pay decisions with an ever-shrinking budget. His solution was to provide a detailed description of the budgetary constraints and how criteria for merit raises would be applied. He provided this explanation before communicating merit decisions. Such openness not only preempted suspicions of bias, it conveyed that the manager trusted employees with sensitive information.

Pushing for needed change. Earlier, we mentioned a company whose innovation was constrained by a risk averse culture; one they knew they needed to change. They created a new review committee composed of middle-level managers who allocated smaller sums of capital to projects within 1-2 days. By expanding this authority, the company conveyed trust in employees across ranks. And, in rapidly allocating smaller amounts of capital, management showed a willingness to experiment and learn from potential missteps. In short, the company is more willing to take risks with employees.

Investing in employee development. Finally, letting employees know you are willing to invest in their potential and advocate for them conveys confidence and trust. Get to know their career aspirations, then help them reach their goals. After all, as a manager, your own success is dependent on the success of those you develop.

Managers may be unaware of the unintended signals they send regarding how much they trust their employees. To build an environment of sustained mutual trust, learn to read the trust landscape and take care to clearly signal trust and confidence in employees.

Holly Henderson Brower is an Associate Professor at the School of Business at Wake Forest University where she also is the faculty director of the internship program.  She consults and publishes on issues related to trust, leadership and effective decision making in both nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

Scott Wayne Lester is a Professor of Management at the College of Business at University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. He publishes and consults on issues related to leadership development, trust, communication, and the multi-generational workforce.

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Bring in Outside Experts to Mentor Your Team

Organizations depend increasingly on independent, temporary workers, even for mission-critical work. We call this subset of freelancers who do strategic work in companies or nonprofit organizations agile talent. They contribute technical expertise that an organization does not already have to a critical project or initiative. By providing temporary support, they make it possible for organizations to resource their critical activities more cost efficiently.

Many of the benefits of agile talent have been widely reported. But a benefit that has received less attention is the contribution they can make as mentors to an organization’s full-time staff. Tapping into your outside experts to help in the development of internal employees is a valuable way to address the needs of both. Experts are often looking for ways to help junior people in their profession, and younger employees are hungry for training and development. For example, research by Google, reported by Jolt, points out that less than 20% of tech employees in Silicon Valley believes the training they receive fits their goals and needs.

A practical framework for mentoring is based on the career stages work of Gene Dalton and Paul Thompson, former professors at HBS. Their research has found that high-performing professionals tend to transit through four distinct stages of development:

  1. Apprentice: Helper and learner; establishes a reputation for trust, teamwork, and cultural congruity.
  2. Individual contributor: Builds recognized functional expertise; makes a significant independent contribution; demonstrates accountability and ownership for results.
  3. Mentor/coach: Contributes through others as a formal manager, an idea leader, a project owner, or an informal employee developer.
  4. Sponsor/strategist: Sets or influences strategic direction and important decisions; exercises power on behalf of the organization; prepares future leaders.

Stages 3 and 4 are developmental stages where mentoring skills are typically developed and sharpened. And, it turns out, agile talent in stages 3 and 4 is often eager to provide coaching and mentorship to junior professionals working with them.

But it’s not only their career stage that makes agile talent potentially excellent mentors. For example, successful agile talent is, almost by definition, entrepreneurial. They are actively involved in building their business, developing their strategies, growing and maintaining strong customer relationships, and creating a service offering that’s attractive to their market. This type of entrepreneurial mindset is extremely helpful and is very often lacking among full-time employees who don’t have significant market or competitive contact.

How can an organization encourage the mentoring of employees by their critical outside experts? We suggest five steps that leaders can take.

Establish Informal Coaching Relationships

Experts are often brought onboard an organization to solve a crisis. When this is the case, it may be difficult to arrange for a formal coaching relationship with members of your full-time staff. And it may be difficult for agile talent working remotely to provide mentorship to those on-site. But when circumstances are more supportive, stage 3 or 4 agile talent may be eager to support the development of young high potentials or junior professionals in your organization who would benefit from a coaching relationship. In past work, my arrangements with outside experts always included time for them to teach me as well as work with them. These experiences were some of the most valuable of my career.

Provide Channels for Sharing Knowledge

Managers tap these outside experts for help because of their knowledge and experience. Beyond the project contribution, technical and functional experts should be asked to share their expertise and educate the team on best practice insights and new innovations in their field of expertise. A brown bag lunch with the team, for example, helps to build the team’s relationship with these experts and reinforces collaboration and engagement. More-formal methods, such as after-action reviews, are useful too.

Involve Experts as Part of the Brain Trust

Smart project managers know that bringing a team together to collaboratively solve tough problems both builds teamwork and improves performance. Extending this participation to agile talent is a potentially powerful opportunity for young professionals to see new or alternative approaches to problem solving. And it is very likely to lead to closer relationships and greater developmental engagement between outside experts and internal staff employees.

Engage Experts in Providing Developmental Feedback

Many years ago an HBS colleague asked me if I was interested in developmental feedback. I was, and his comment was tough to hear: “You are talented but sloppy. You need to be more organized and disciplined.” It was one of the most helpful bits of advice I’ve ever received. While painful to hear, over the past couple of decades I’ve learned to appreciate the clarity and sincerity of his comments. It put me on a developmental journey that has made me a better professional. In the years that have followed, I’ve consistently done something similar, asking my students and consulting clients if they are interested in feedback. They almost always are.

Connect with Experts’ Networks  

Agile talent is often connected to different networks than the internal team members with whom they are working. I’m frequently asked: Who has interesting ideas? What are you reading? What are the innovations you find most exciting? As a result, I spend a fair amount of time introducing people to one another and suggesting networks to join or individuals to meet. We encourage managers and team members to seek the advice of outside experts and to explicitly have the conversation about who is worth getting to know and where interesting or innovative things are happening.

We live in a time when keeping up technically and professionally is increasingly important and difficult. Mentoring is one of the important tools that managers have to contribute to the development of their team. Utilizing agile talents as mentors and coaches is a way to multiply the value of an organization’s investment in outside experts.

Jon Younger is the founder of the Agile Talent Collaborative, a non-profit research organization, and works with several start-ups in the on-demand staffing space. He is the co-author of several books in talent management and HR, including Agile Talent (HBR Press, 2016). He teaches in the executive education faculties of the University of Michigan and the Indian School of Business. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW: https://hbr.org/2017/01/bring-in-outside-experts-to-mentor-your-team?referral=00203&utm_source=newsletter_management_tip&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tip_date&spMailingID=17082340&spUserID=OTA1Njk1ODMwMAS2&spJobID=1002089593&spReportId=MTAwMjA4OTU5MwS2

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40 Years of Research Proves Women Are Better Managers Than Men Because They Tend to Have This Crucial Skill

To create highly engaged workforces you'll have to focus on these four keys areas:

In a Gallup report based on over four decades of research, including the analysis of 27 million employees' responses, female managers outperform their male counterparts when it comes to driving employee engagement. Gallup defines engaged employeesas those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.
Regarding the day-to-day practical evidence, the study found that if you reported to a female manager, you were more likely to reply "yes" to the following statements:
  • "There is someone at work who encourages my development."
  • "In the last six months, someone has talked to me about my progress," and,
  • "In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work."

Why is this such a big deal? The main reason is that 87 percent of employees worldwide report being disengaged at work. On the flip side, companies that have engaged employees outperform their peers by 147 percent in earnings per share. That's a lot of uncapitalized potential.

Let's take a look at the four components of employee engagement that gave women an advantage over their male colleagues.

1. SETTING BASIC EXPECTATIONS

One of the quickest ways to create confusion and stifle productivity is to be ambiguous about expectations. A major indicator of an engaged employee is ownership over one's role, and it's awfully difficult to take control without baseline responsibilities. To ensure that your employee is crystal clear about their position, make sure you:

  1. Have a job description review and discuss areas of importance, key contributions (what tasks affect others), the potential for impact and areas of accountability.
  2. Lay out the consequences, in a friendly manner, and be consistent. This includes both the positive and negative side-effects of your employee's performance.
  3. Establish clear metrics, key performance indicators, and behavior standards. Everyone wants to understand how they will be evaluated.
  4. Clarify areas where your employee can be autonomous.
  5. Ensure all process based capabilities are handed down. AKA, department "know-how", training and standard operating procedures.

Word to the wise, be careful about assigning accountability without authority. It's frustrating, as an employee, to be held accountable for something that you can't manage or make a decision on.

2. BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

Great managers understand that engagement is an outcome of meaningful relationships. What constitutes a meaningful relationship? Here are five characteristics from the Mind Tools Editorial Team.

  1. Trust --If you could pick a cornerstone for a good relationship, trust would definitely be the best option. It enables employees to be open, honest and transparent. You'd be surprised how much energy new employees can conserve (and redeploy) by not having to constantly watch their back and question everything they say/do.
  2. Mutual Respect -- You can't expect respect without giving it first. We must value everyone's thoughts, ideas, and input. Then, it will be much easier to develop solutions based on collective insight -- a key to engaging your employees in your vision/mission. People don't take direction and learn from those whom they don't respect.
  3. Mindfulness -- We must take responsibility for our own actions, words, emotions (or lack thereof) and the effects that they can have on those around us. Employees are products of their environments. Make sure that you're mindful of the one you're creating.
  4. Welcoming Diversity -- "People with good relationships not only accept diverse people and opinions, but they welcome them. For instance, when your friends and colleagues offer different opinions from yours, you take the time to consider what they have to say, and factor their insights into your decision-making." (Mind Tools)
  5. Open Communication -- This one is pretty simple: the more we communicate with our employees, the richer our relationships will be.

3. ENCOURAGING A POSITIVE TEAM ENVIRONMENT

In efforts to automate and systematize our work, we've become obsessed with computing outcomes and collecting data to drive decisions. Don't get me wrong, data is necessary and there is definitely a place for it, but it does not replace the need for leadership.

Unfortunately, this obsession with measuring throughput and efficiency has created mechanistic management crutches. News flash, people don't thrive in standardized environments. Our employees are naturally different and diverse. Forcing them to conform stifles creativity and limits leaders to the role of a delivery system. Instead, focus on creating a human system. One that is characterized by team harmony, respect and caring for employees' welfare. Then, watch as these humanistic conditions unearth your employee's engagement.

4. PROVIDING EMPLOYEES WITH OPPORTUNITIES TO DEVELOP WITHIN THEIR CAREERS

The feeling of stagnation is terrifying. Help your employees stay relevant and challenged by investing in their development. If you don't, others will.

It may seem like engagement is just another buzz word that HR departments throw around to create more work for managers. However, this Gallup report proves that higher levels of engagement produce higher-performing teams. Gentlemen, if we want to even the odds, then we must focus on creating a culture within our teams that breeds engagement. 

Michael Schneider/Apr 19, 2017

 

https://flipboard.com/@flipboard/flip.it%2FpiT5mP-40-years-of-research-proves-women-are-b/f-90eccc1e7d%2Finc.com

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