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In my June column, I wrote about a project that is seeing some challenges (https://bit.ly/3PMTKw3). I received some flak from the column that I wasn’t expecting. “Jill, don’t air your dirty laundry,” was the message expressed by a few individuals.
For those of you who may have missed the column, I wrote about a project where a lack of communication is creating a lack of trust, frustration, dysfunction; the list goes on. I unpacked how each side felt about others and how it is leading to ineffective meetings, finger-pointing and missed productivity.
I can’t be the only person in the industry to be a part of teams that go through this, right? The intent of my column was to bring to light the challenges project teams can face. It is not easy to break out of those situations, but staying silent about them won’t get anyone anywhere — and we will continue to repeat them if we don’t learn from the challenges we are facing.
Some days I wish I could push the easy button and control the actions of the entire team, but I can only control myself and encourage my team to follow my example. I have started using the book “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen M.R. Covey as my map to regaining trust. In his book, Covey shares 13 behaviors for growing trust. While all behaviors the author shares are important, the behaviors below are the ones I chose to implement for this situation.
1. Talk straight. Covey says: “Be honest. Tell the truth. Let people know where you stand. Use simple language. Call things what they are. Demonstrate integrity. Don’t manipulate people or distort facts. Don’t spin the truth. Don’t leave false impressions.”
2. Demonstrate respect. Covey notes: “Genuinely care for others. Show you care. Respect the dignity of every person and every role. Treat everyone with respect, especially those who can’t do anything for you. Show kindness in the little things. Don’t fake caring. Don’t attempt to be ‘efficient’ with people.”
3. Create transparency. Covey explains: “Tell the truth in a way people can verify. Declare your intent. Get real and be genuine. Be open and authentic. Err on the side of disclosure. Be transparent about not being able to be transparent. Operate on the premise of ‘What you see is what you get.’ Don’t have hidden agendas. Don’t hide information.”
4. Right words. Covey notes: “Make things right when you’re wrong. Apologize quickly. Make restitution where possible. Demonstrate humility. Don’t cover things up. Don’t let pride get in the way of doing the right thing.”
6. Deliver results. Covey says: “Establish a track record of results. Get the right things done. Make things happen. Accomplish what you’re hired to do. Be on time and within budget. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Don’t make excuses for not delivering.”
7. Get better. Covey explains: “Continuously improve. Increase your capabilities. Be a constant learner. Develop feedback systems — both formal and informal. Act on the feedback you receive. Thank people for the feedback. Don’t consider yourself above feedback. Don’t assume today’s knowledge and skills will be sufficient for tomorrow’s challenges.”
9. Clarify expectations. Covey explains: “Disclose and reveal expectations. Discuss them. Validate them. Renegotiate them if needed and possible. Don’t violate expectations. Don’t assume that expectations are clear or shared.”
Focus on Improvement
It is not always easy to initiate a conversation without putting the group on the defensive. It is critical that you don’t open with a “you’” statement, such as “You said this” or “You did that.” In my situation, the message I heard that needed immediate action was, “I didn’t review the changes to the drawings, but I doubt everything was picked up.” Hold up here, what?!
As a group, we had created tools and processes to review what changes were needed, so that phrase seems unfair. I’m not going to say my team is perfect, and we do miss things on occasion, but a simple “We didn’t have a chance to review the changes” would suffice.
I scheduled a meeting for the entire team to talk about it and approached the conversation by starting with, “In the meeting yesterday, I heard you saying X. The tools we previously put in place to aid with these challenges were Thing No. 1 and Thing No. 2. It doesn’t sound like those tools are working for you; do you need something different from my team?”
Continuous improvement is key. It’s OK if the tools in place are no longer the correct tools for the job. Sometimes there are too many tools, and the information gets lost. One tool we use internally is called the “Keep/Stop/Start” exercise. It is an open way to address the items the team finds effective and should remain; items that need to stop being done — either actions, tools or otherwise; and things we should start doing.
Above all — be honest with yourself, your team and with all interactions.
“Simply put, trust means confidence. The opposite of trust — distrust — is suspicion. When you trust people, you have confidence in them — in their integrity and in their abilities. When you distrust people, you are suspicious of them — of their integrity, their agenda, their capabilities or their track record. It’s that simple.” — Stephen M.R. Covey