Thursday, March 27, 2014

Accepting feedback part 3… How to Develop a Culture of Trust

So… what we’ve been talking about should work to get your team members able and more willing to talk to you.  With more of this work building trust, they will be willing to tell you about their mistakes, let you know when they are not sure what to do, and ask your opinion.  The point of much of the work you’ve done with the team so far is to get your team members feeling, really believing that you value them, are happy to have them on the team, care about them and their goals, and look forward to helping them work through all of the mistakes they are bound to make, both from trying something new, and normal, everyday mistakes.  When they actually believe this, you will be amazed at how quickly good things start to happen.  Your team members will start thinking for themselves, and making smart decisions without always having to ask permission, or ask what to do.  This will free up a lot of your time, which you can then invest in other team members, and keep the momentum going.

So far though… after a lot of hard work, their trust is with you.  The next step is developing a culture of trust on your team.  Team members can then start helping each other grow, and using each other as resources.  It’s not too long after this starts to happen, and with continued work on developing team goals, that you will witness your team turn the corner, from a group of people working in the same place, to an actual team, working together on your shared goals.

I know this sounds too good to be true… looking at the people you have working for you now…  and you and your apprentices are reading the same book, right!?  You, the team Leader, are reading Developing the Leader Within You, right!?  You and your apprentices are discussing the tools you are reading about, and putting them into practice, right!?  You have been meeting with your apprentices and developing those relationships, right!?  You are using these methods to hire your new team members, right!?  Then you are on the right track.  Keep doing what you are doing, working to build trust and relationships, and you WILL get there.

This is probably as good a time as any to discuss an issue I had and had a tough time working through.  Let’s start at the beginning… I grew up with 3 brothers, and if something was funny in our house, it was almost always at someone else’s expense.  Sarcasm, and quick cutting responses were the name of the game, and we all learned well.  I was told throughout my life that I was fun to be around, and I always made people laugh.  Working with customers, and even strangers on the street, I could always get away with saying things that no one else would dare to say, and get at least a smile back in return.  Everything was right with the world!

Fast forward, and now I’m a Store Team Leader at Whole Foods Market.  We’re meeting all of our KPI, and I’m honing my hiring skills.  I was working hard at learning to be a better Leader, since our regional president valued Leadership.  I was reading every Leadership book I could get my hands on, and thinking up ways of putting the ideas I read about into practice.  Life was good!

Then… a problem.  At Whole Foods they have team member and morale surveys, where everyone gets to rate their team Leader, and the work environment at their store.  I scored well above average with the team members in my store, however my Team Leaders, otherwise known as department managers, didn’t rate me so well.  The comments I received we confusing to me, since at work they seemed to really like working for me, and yet they weren’t as happy as I presumed.

My regional vice president talked to me about his, and he put it this way… there is no problem with what you are saying, it’s how you are saying it.  I did not get it.  At all.  For a long time.

Finally, he related a story about himself, wherein he was told that people either love him, or hate him, and he was doing something to cause that.  After thinking about it for a bit, and talking to some of my team members and team Leaders, I finally realized what he was talking about.

I was sarcastic.  I didn’t mean to be cutting or hurtful… it was the only way I knew how to be, at least up until that point.

It was then that I realized that sarcasm should not be used by anyone in charge, anyone people look up to, anyone people trust, anyone who gives feedback to others, and anyone who wants to develop strong, honest relationships with others.  Leaders cannot use sarcasm at all.  Your team members will not be able to discern when you are being sarcastic and when you are being serious.  If you currently have a lot of fun at work, and are sarcastic outside of work, you are most likely sarcastic at work.  You will need to change the way you are at work if you want to build a great team.  When in doubt, err on the side of caution.  Do not use humor that gets a laugh at the expense of someone else.  You do not have to learn the hard way…

Now, where were we?  Oh yeah, we need to develop a culture of trust on the team as a whole.  As with everything else, it starts with you, the team Leader.  You will show in your meetings that you are not just willing to hear constructive feedback, but actually welcome it.  At first, you may have to get someone, one of your apprentices or a team member show wouldn’t mind speaking up in a meeting, to give you some feedback in that forum.  It will probably take a few meetings where your team is able to see you take that feedback in the right way.  You remember what that is right?  You will listen to understand, maybe even repeat it back in your own words so you show everyone there that you heard and understand that you hurt their feelings (or whatever it was you did you jerk!), and then apologize for doing it.  It doesn’t matter what your intention was, nor does it matter whether or not you meant to do it… you will apologize anyway.  Yes, it might seem at first a little strange, and lacking in transparency, to have someone prepared to give you feedback in a meeting.  And… I think it’s OK, in order to get the ball rolling, to give it a little push.

There is a key here… it’s all about perception.  However, perception is a big enough topic that affects so many aspects of our lives and Leadership that it deserves it’s own post.  So there.

Next we have to encourage team members to give constructive feedback to each other and to be accepting of that same feedback.  We also need to remind the whole group that we all have different strengths.  We each have something we can teach the others.  At first it will be natural for our team members to be distrustful of their peers, so they will get defensive.  It’s your job, and that of your better prepared apprentices, to jump right in, in the very beginning, and start interpreting things for both sides, as unfortunately by now we will have sides.  For this example, we will assume that the feedback was given with good intentions.

Your first task will be to stop the team member who received the feedback from striking back at the giver, and you will have to be quick.  You will likely have to interrupt them, and interpret the feedback for them as it was intended.  It will help, as usual, to state that you received this same feedback when “…”.  Perhaps point out that you still occasionally say or do this, and are still working on it.  This will probably help allow it to be heard as intended.

I would, right then and there, speak to the way the feedback was given, stating again that since I’ve made pretty much every mistake there is to make, I’ve done the same thing, and gotten the same results.  We can then have a short lesson for the whole team about not only the value of giving and receiving feedback, but also the right ways in which we should deliver feedback. Some times are better than others, and we are all unique.  Some of us can hear anything as long as it’s given in private, while others might already be fine with hearing constructive feedback in public. We have to be considerate of the other person’s feelings, since our intention is to give someone information to help them.  If we just send feedback flying in all directions, there is a good chance that something will be flying back at you!

We have now opened the door to delivering feedback in our meetings.  And of course it will take many meetings to get where we can all feel pretty good about giving and getting feedback from our peers.  You will need to make it a regular part of every meeting.  Perhaps getting each team member to speak to what lessons they learned recently, and what they would do differently.  Verbalizing our judgment of ourselves might be a great first step, even for several meetings.  Then we can move to adding one additional opportunity for feedback from someone else.  The team can address how it was given as a group.  This alone will bring them closer together.  Later, we can address whether this feedback was even valuable enough to bring up… much of the criticism team members have for each other is either personality clash, holding on to hurt feelings, or rumors.  It will be a valuable growth process for everyone.

I also suggest you do something that I learned at Whole Foods Market, and have probably mentioned before.  End each meeting with appreciations.  If you, the team Leader, and your apprentices take this seriously, so will the rest of the team.  You will have to get the ball rolling, and that’s no problem since you do in fact value and appreciate your team, right?  Good!  Come to each meeting with a list of things you think should be appreciated.  Some of them should be things that align with your goals, and the behaviors you have decided to change.  And some of your appreciations should just be atta boy’s, or atta girl’s.  Thank your team members for cleaning up the break room!  Thank you for not parking in the customer spots… I think that’s important.  Thank you to the janitors for cleaning up after the rest of us, and make sure you talk to the janitors too!  Thank you for giving me that feedback about that thing I was doing that was driving everyone crazy!  Thank you to my apprentice here for maintaining our standards on second shift!  Thank you for going out of your way for that customer the other day… she called me and told me how happy she was with your help!  Thank each and every person who has tried something new, especially if it went sideways.  It will take a lot of rewarding and celebrating to get the average team comfortable with failing, and then talking about it.

Reward and celebrate the behaviors your want to see more of.  If you can, literally reward them… movie passes, gift certificates, whatever you can.  And if it’s only a genuine “’thank you very much”, that’s fine.

I think it will help for the whole group to understand that if we are not willing to hear the opinions of those around us, we will end up surrounded by people with nothing to say.  We can end up with a team of people who do what we tell them to do, no more and no less.  Does that sound like a team that will achieve greatness?  Does that sound like a team that great people will want to be a part of?

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I read this article yesterday and thought it worth including here...

Tips for Building Employee Relationships

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