Today we kick-off a 3-part series called “Building Trust at Work” with Chris Brogan. Chris is president of Human Business Works, providing business, communications and emerging technology strategy for mid- to large-sized businesses. He blogs regularly at chrisbrogan.com.
To better understand the dynamics of trust at work, I reached out to people who I believe have improved trust between leaders and employees. One such person was my friend Daniel Pink, bestselling author of many books, including the motivation-minded Drive and the powerful Free Agent Nation. In our conversation, Dan and I agreed that leadership isn’t about control.
Leaders of any size organization must come to realize that the age of “measuring butts in chairs” is over for most companies. The new method is to measure via output and responsiveness. In both cases, the emphasis is no longer on controlling potential productivity pitfalls for employees (such as blocking access to the Internet) but, instead, on equipping and educating employees to encourage a high level of autonomous output.
It’s a difficult shift. I’ve now run 3 distributed companies in a row, where my employees are scattered all over the place and working on their own timetables. There are days where even I have that nagging feeling of “Is anyone besides me even WORKING today?” But when I measure based on output, I don’t have to worry about whether the person took a 3-hour coffee break. Deadlines are deadlines, and the employee is either able to successfully deliver work or not.
The shift, instead of causing anxiety, affords a certain level of excitement when you realize that leaders who learn how to measure production and output rather than hours clocked will succeed in this new business environment of constant flux. The opportunities are incredible, because this affords a great deal of flexibility in hiring (you can hire based on skill, not locale) plus a very viable perk (working from home or remotely is a highly sought-after benefit, which helps with retention).
But how do you earn trust? First, it’s a two-way street. Employees have certain needs with regard to trusting their leadership.
- If I’m going to work from home, you can’t forget me. (This is a big fear of remote employees.)
- If I’m working remotely, you have to realize that it might take a little while to respond. This doesn’t always equal “slacking off.” Sometimes it means “head down in the work.”
- If you’re allowing me to go mobile, then help me by making any meetings or collaboration easy (with the right tools).
On the other side of the coin, if you’re looking to build trust with your leadership, consider the following:
- Be explicit about how and when you’ll respond and when you’ll be “heads down” in your work. When you work in person, visual cues speak loud enough. When you work remotely, silence feels like inactivity, but senseless chatter will waste everyone’s time.
- Never miss a deadline. If you’re working remotely, you are being measured on delivery. Let no excuses get in between you and success.
- Make it exceptionally easy for people to share and contribute to your work. If people are waiting on you, it gums up the works.
Learning how to trust your employees with their work is a big and powerful opportunity to change (improve!) your business. Though not every role works well remotely, more positions succeed at workshifting than you’d imagine.
Check back next week for the 2nd part of our “Building Trust at Work” series.