This last April, my husband and I took a trip to Orlando, Florida and had the opportunity of visiting EPCOT theme park, one of 4 Theme Parks at Walt Disney World Resort that includes the World Showcase. The World Showcase is an incredible collection of shops, attractions and restaurants that represent the culture and cuisine of 11 countries: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. What I was struck with was how authentic each of these countries were. Indeed, as we visited each of the countries, people who served us ere actually from that country! Everything was authentic – the dress, the food, the music, the architecture and the language. For a few moments, we felt like we were visiting each country (without having to travel there).
How does this concept apply to our leadership? Authenticity is one of the most powerful ways that we can build trust as a leader. Think about it. When you are able to admit your mistakes and honestly share to a fellow team member, you are saying to your team, “You can trust me.” What can you do today to be a more authentic leader to your team?
In the article by Peggy Noonan in the August 28-29, 2010 edition of the Wall Street Journal entitled, “We Just Don’t Understand,” Ms Noonan talks about President Obama and the fact that many Americans don’t really “know” President Obama. In her words, he is “still a mystery to a lot of people,” and this can lead people to question and criticize his leadership. You may agree or disagree with Ms. Noonan’s perspective but her premise sure has relevance to this new organizational structure where there is more collaboration and communication in the workplace- communication with manager to employee; employee to team, and team to team. Certainly, the era where people can “hide” behind an office door or their title is nearing an end. Employees are asked to work with each other – and many teams now include a team evaluation where they can get evaluated by their peers. With little or sketchy information or knowledge about someone, many of us can find ourselves defaulting to assumptions (read my previous BLOG entry dated 10/8/2010 ) – that may or not be based on reality. Indeed, a critical component of building trust is this important facet of making yourself known.
How do we know one another in the workplace? Here are some ways:
- Have every team member take a communication style assessment (read my 9/30/2010 entry)
- Incorporate a “getting to know you” 10 minute teambuilding activity in your staff meeting
- As a manager – share some personal facts (within reason) so that your staff gets to know you better
One of the fun activities I incorporate in my Diversity class is “Diversity Bingo.” Each participant must get a BINGO based on squares about interesting tidbits of facts, such as how long a person has worked for the company or if they are more detail oriented or people-focused. Invariably, within 10 minutes of this activity, the class of “strangers” is suddenly transformed to individuals with unique talents, gifts, and experiences.
So my thought provoking question to you is – do people know you enough to trust you?
In my long message to Garold, a sales representative with Accuride, I mentioned that perhaps he would like to speak to my husband who was actually the one who was having trouble with a drawer guide for our bureau. To our surprise, John did receive a phone call from Garold and he was able to explain to my husband how to connect the part – to which he did with ease and simplicity!
What are you doing to follow up with your customer? Are you calling when you said you would? Do you refer to something that the customer said on the last call? For example, if your customer mentions something memorable to you – do you remember to ask about it when you do speak to the him or her? Many sales professionals take notes of customer phone calls so they can easily refer to pertinent information during their sales calls. Do you initiate the call, as opposed to saying “Please call back,” like my bank did!
Following up is essential to making a favorable impression on your customers! It says “I remembered – I care – and I am trustworthy.”
If you want to get the best productivity out of your organization’s employees, it is best to be as an authentic a leader as you can be. You can talk about trust or taking responsibility, or holding people accountable until you are blue in the face, but until employees see a leader actually modeling this – it is unfortunately just words.
People follow what they see – not necessarily what they hear or read – so this speaks to the importance of our behavior. No where else is this more critical than at times of setbacks or failures. Sometimes we can’t change the consequences of the setbacks but by modeling authenticity and taking responsibility, you are creating a culture of honesty and trust – and that goes a long way towards a healthy and productive workforce. And even though sometimes you can’t change the situation, being accountable means you change the only thing you can change – you.
As Jim Rohn says, “You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself.”