Understanding How Increased Results Start and End with You

Although your results are created by what your people do, it is you, the leader that determines whether or not it takes place. If so, then why do so few leaders focus on creating a culture which helps their people to perform? So often when I talk to leaders they do not understand why their people are not performing. They bring in new processes or machinery and invest in different programs to try to get their people to achieve their goals all to no avail. They get upset when results are not being realized and end up getting angry and demanding results. Fear is a short term motivator at best, and often does more harm than good in the long run. By changing your focus from your employees to yourself you can dramatically change the culture of your organization. The key to engaging your employees is look at what you might be doing which works against productivity.

There are some inspirational behaviors and leadership skills which increase engagement and with today’s constant changing environments are necessary. The workplace has transformed with 4 different generations working side by side and technology influencing how business is accomplished. The most important skill in a workplace however is the level of trust among all employees and it starts at the top.

Steven M.R. Covey reports that only 49% of employees trust senior management and only 28% believe CEOs are a credible source of information. This crisis of trust effects everything in the workplace “including how people communicate, their productivity, their morale and their desire to stay at an organization.” Covey went on to say when there is low trust in an organization it places a hidden “tax” on every transaction, every communication, every interaction, every strategy, every decision is taxed bringing the speed down and sending cost up.”

While at a talk by a representative from “Great Places to Work (GPTW),” a woman in the audience asked how to start in an organization where trust is low. The woman from GPTW asked her, “What would you think if your husband brought you breakfast in bed?” The woman in the audience said, “I would wonder what he did!” People laughed and then speaker from GPTW said, “What would you think if he brought you breakfast the next day?” The woman said, “I would think it was really bad!” Then the speaker said, “What would you think if he brought it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday …?” When the woman in the audience did not respond, she said, “It then becomes how we do things around here.”

In order to create a trusting environment a leader needs to let his or her people know what they are trying to accomplish by communicating it and then by demonstrating it with their behavior. Start with a cultural assessment which allows you to identify areas that are causing a low trust environment. Ask for honest feedback from your people, but then make sure you do not punish then when they give it to you. Often leaders interact with one person without thinking of the ripple effect it has on others. If a person is punished for communicating honestly, the message to other employees is the leadership does not want to know the truth. Once you have a current state of your culture you can begin to see areas in need of attention.

Find ways to reinforce when your people are honest and be open to hearing what they have to say to you. When information is shared with you do not discount it but just listen. You may want to even ask for specifics and thank the person for the letting you know. You may not want to hear what others have to say but an organization’s secrets keep it sick. By creating an environment in which open honest communication is rewarded and change takes place with consistent behaviors over time, an organization begins to develop a culture of trust in which everything improves.

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Beth Sears has been an adjunct faculty member with Cornell University’s ILR School since 1993. During this time, she has taught a wide variety of college credit courses and training sessions related to workplace communication and interpersonal behavior…Thanks to Beth’s teaching skills, hundreds of working people in Upstate New York are now better able to manage their anger, interview for new positions, resolve interpersonal conflict, lead groups, and convey their intended message. In my 25 years with ILR extension, I have never worked with a more effective instructor than Beth Sears.
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