Leading with trust to find solutions

Trust in leadership

Trust is essential in leadership and followership. The word trust seems to come up time and time again in my conversations with leaders. When we talk, leaders say, “of course, we have high trust around here” and then I look at some of the behaviours and it doesn’t take long to see what is really going on. I see that there is absolutely lack of trust.

You see, trust is the foundation of any great high performing team.

If you want people to follow you, they need to trust you. We know this, because we only follow leaders we trust ourselves. We aren’t talking the boss or the CEO here as they may not always be leaders. I am talking about those people who inspire us to achieve and have a belief or cause that we rally around. If your boss is a leader, then you are very lucky indeed.

When we choose to follow somebody else’s lead, it’s because we trust their big ideas, we trust their vision, and we get behind them  and self elect to follow.

Without trust, you end up having to really push or even sell your idea. It feels like push energy, directing and driving, and eventually causes you to be impatient and frustrated. You end up feeling like you spend all your energy and focus on getting other people to just deliver what you want and it’s exhausting. It’s a waste of your time and energy.

It feels like hard work because it is. There’s got to be an easier way.

In high trust teams. people choose to commit and to follow. They really care about the bigger issues rather than the nitty gritty. They care about the outcomes and solutions because they believe in the vision too.  Your people become your biggest advocates, because they are invested and want the vision to become a reality.

Direct or lead

We see all the time within teams, where the leader will walk into a room and says, “here’s our biggest KPIs, we aren’t achieving them and we need to fix this”. In no time they start questioning people on why the results are being achieved, or delegating tasks and actions to people to get stuff done. It’s all very directive. The people do what they have been told to do because the boss in control, directing. Team members don’t need to come up with the ideas or solutions because the boss will tell them what needs to be done and when.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could share your vision of what the future looks like, to really name it and bring it to life for your people. You don’t hide the biggest problems and priorities and you simply put it out there. Then you see your team actively engage and get inspired to  come up with our best ideas and best thinking of how they’re going to solve it. Over time they just start taking ownership and solving problems themselves, making the decisions and doing the right thing.

You won’t be out of the picture, you trust your people to do their best work, and set boundaries and structure so everyone knows when  to engage with you. They may use you as a sounding board or try and get a bit of direction when the big decisions need to be made. You won’t be bogged down with the day to day detail and issues, meaning you can concentrate on the really big topics – like where is the business heading and who will you get there.  You know, that’s your ultimate role – to set the vision, change the culture – develop the best people and to lead the business. You will have a whole team around you who really care and put in 100% of their effort into achieving the goals.  Your team are get behind your vision and your big ideas because they want to succeed just as much as you. They trust you and don’t won’t let you down.

Moving to trust

So what can you do to move from a place of mistrust,  of pushing and selling. How can you move from coercion, to having a team built on built on high trust? How do you create the kind of team where people take ownership of the issues, they come up with ideas come up with solutions, and where you can feel the energy and vitality in the team?

Well, the first thing you need to do is to get really clear on your goal or your priority.

  • What is the big problem?
  • What’s the big issue that’s keeping you awake at night?
  • What’s the problem that remains unsolved and you keep going around and around, never seeming to improve.

If you aren’t clear then how do you expect anyone in your team to know? Your job is to get clear on what the priorities are and then create a goal or vision of a future state. If you don’t know then answer to these questions, then ask your team.

Once you have total clarity over the issue, the current state and the future state, you need to find the how. Let me be clear, you aren’t finding the how yourself, you are simply creating a space where your people can find the how. You might get your people together and share the problem and your vision for a future state. Tell them how you’d like it to be, what would be different. Then you hand it over to them.

  • Ask them who’s got some ideas
  • What could we do differently?
  • If they were to really bring their best thinking what would be different?

You are simply the facilitator. You pose the problem, facilitate the conversation and always speak last. At the end of the meeting can give your assessment of all the best ideas. You may need to get further clarification or get some more data to back up your thoughts. But at least everyone has weighed with their ideas. They’ve heard the rationale and understand the obstacles and the risks. They also understand what the opportunities and the bigger picture, because they were involved in creating them.

Common mistakes

Some of the common mistakes that I see when leaders go into the room is that they do all of the talking. They start the meeting and say, “right, this is a problem that keeps coming up again and again, and what I need you to do is go fix it”. They might even lose it and become quite impatient and show their frustration, resulting in people shutting down and trying to restore harmony.  Another common mistake is that they start to try to influence because they think they know the best idea already. The influencer is often very charismatic and has probably got to the position of leader by using their skills. Buy now is a time to sell the vision, not the solution. When leaders try to steer others down a certain path, they often miss the better path. They fail to explore and miss opportunities. Closed leaders fail to unlock their peoples best thinking where they may create multiple paths, all of which may be faster, quicker, smoother or better.

Leaders that are closed or fail to listen and extract the best thinking in the room fail to lead.

The path to change

What I want you to do is really simple.

  1. I want you to get clarity over what your biggest problem is. I want to do be able to describe the biggest priorities in your business right now, in no more than 2 sentences.
  2. Imagine the future state of where you want to be. What would it look like and feel like in three, six, or 12 months from now. Can you create an inspiring vision of what great looks like?
  3. Now think about who can help you get there. Who can resolve the issue, or create opportunities to achieve this future state?

All you have to do now is engage them. Perhaps you send them a meeting invite naming the problem and describing what great looks like. You ask them to take off their functional hat and put on their business hat and ask them to do their best thinking on solving the problem. Ask them “If you were in my position, what would you do to solve this issue?”

Within the meeting you leave your ego at the door, act with boldness and courage and a whole dose of humility and introduce the topic. Of course you may have some ideas, but these aren’t for sharing yet -keep those to yourself. Your aim is to encourage your people to come up with the ideas and solutions. Set the space to say that there’s no right answer. There’s no wrong answer, and some answers may be ill thought out and that’s just fine. In this session, you’re going to explore and see what’s possible.

As ideas come up and people start talking, encourage, support and ask questions with curiosity. And when all ideas have been exhausted, then you speak. Once you’ve heard all the ideas, you’ve made sure that everybody around the table has had their say, then you can give your thoughts and reflections, and make a decision.

I have been there myself. And I know this works. I’ve tried it. I took a very established team who had been working a certain way for a long time, and who were underperforming through a self led transformation.

I knew we had to improve process,  and I had some ideas too, but I didn’t understand the detail. I didn’t want to have to go through all of the processing mechanisms. That wasn’t the best use of my time. The people who are doing the job day in day out already had some hacks. They already knew what the issues were because they were really complaining about them every day. So I shared my vision about how in a year’s time we’d have zero mistakes, we would be working with automat and our clients would trust us. I asked the team to bring their best ideas and best thinking to make this a reality.  And they did. Now, what was beautiful was they all felt really invested. They felt heard, they felt listened to.They came up with new ideas and all I had to do was to give them the freedom and the structure to go do it.

3 Steps

So I have 3 takeaways for you that I want you to do straight away.

  1. Download the priorities planner and  get clear on your biggest priorities and your problems.
  2. I want you to imagine the future state.
  3. Facilitate a meeting to extract the best ideas from your people.

Then of course make a decision and act.

So go and download the priorities planner, start trying a new way to build trust in your team lead me really works