The Big Collapse

25 May

What is the importance of trust when building a high performing team?

20 Dec

Trust is the corporate lubricant of success. Trust is the foundation of any relationship and every high performing team or organization. If there is no trust, the rest is much harder to accomplish. Yet, at the same time trust often feels as something that is not tangible and it is nothing you can do something with.

There are two lenses to approach trust. First there is trust as an assessment. It implies that you start with little or no trust, and you assess based on the other’s performance or behavior if they are worthy of your trust. When we look at trust as an assessment, you assess the other’s performance and behavior at four levels:


  • Are they competent to fulfill their promise? Are they knowledgeable and do they have the skills, can they assess their capacity and not overload themselves, and can they assess duration by accurately timing how long it will take? These are all questions that you can check to see if the other person is competetent.



  • Have they been reliable in fulfilling their promises in the past?



  • Do they make sincere promises?



  • Are we aligned in our ethics and values?


This view will allow you to always trace back where a particular breakdown happens and point out to the other person why you don’t trust their actions in a certain area. However, if you only build trust via assessment, it will always make you wonder, and the moment one of you breaks one promise you often have to start building up trust again from square one. This by itself is no way to build up a high performing team.

That is why if you are interested in building a high performing team, you have to build authentic trust, the second lens to look at trust. For example, just look at a relation you have with a significant other. You don’t constantly look at that person to rebuild trust every time they miss fulfilling a promise. And yes, we all break promises, even you. Why do these instances not break trust with the significant other? Because you know that this person has your best interest at heart, and you trust that they did everything possible to make it happen. In other words you have authentic trust with that person.

This is trust that you give, and you can build it in every relation. This happens in your ability to have authentic conversations, which will allow you to rebuild and recalibrate trust when a promise is broken. In an authentic conversation you create a shared understanding about the concerns and commitments you are pursuing and how current behaviors and broken promises are preventing you from achieving your shared commitment. The basic premise is that trust ultimately lives in our spoken and unspoken conversations. Our ability to break through the unspoken conversations, will allow you to build authentic trust.

There are several blogs on this site that will show you how you can build trust through conversations. The key point is that trust is a major driver for a high performing organization, and it is something that you can create, nurture and maintain.



10 Principles to Optimize Your Business Results: Principle #10 – Leadership as a Critical Success Factor

11 Dec

Everyone knows that great business results require great business leadership. But what exactly does that mean? What does a great leader actually do that makes the difference between poor results, okay results and stellar results?

I come from an engineering background, so let’s put it this way: A leader is a success engineer. A strong leader employs all 10 of the success principles we’ve discussed in this series to design, build and maintain a company that runs like a well-oiled machine, producing exactly the results its leader wants it to produce.

Great leaders start with a fear-free environment, establishing trust as the medium for growing solid relationships between the individuals in the organization. Upon this positive background, the leader then plants a powerful, motivating vision that inspires the employees to dream big. The leader then creates strategies and processes to fulfill those strategies, transforming the vision from a dream into a goal and drawing a roadmap toward that goal.

What’s another trait associated with leaders? Action. Leaders take action and inspire others to take action. However, action rests on three essential building blocks:

Context for Action – Leaders must set the stage for success. Real leadership requires moving the organization beyond the everyday drift, beyond business-as-usual mentality. To do this, leaders must focus on creating a compelling vision for a future that would not happen without their leadership.  With that vision in place, leaders must empower and engage their workforce, giving them the environment they need to properly pursue that vision.

Predisposition for Action – Leaders must maintain a positive, open, supportive workplace to keep morale high and productivity flowing, establishing the right communication channels for open, authentic conversations.

Capacity for Action – Leaders take the responsibility for setting down the right processes, fed by the right capabilities, and making sure that those processes get documented, monitored and measured regularly, fixing any kinks in the road  that may be affecting the business’s bottom line, and continuously improving the processes.

Be the great leader your company needs — use the 10 Principles for Business Success!


10 Principles to Optimize Your Business Results: Principle #9 – Processes and Capabilities

10 Dec

Processes govern every phenomenon in the physical world, from cell division to business divisions. And just as cells create organisms according to the plan written into their DNA, so do business processes proceed from a system design. The processes your business follows create the results the business produces. If you’re not happy with those results, you can always optimize those processes. You can also optimize your employees’ and teams’ capabilities that support those processes.

How do capabilities influence processes? There are two main types of capabilities we need to address. First let’s consider the capability known as domain expertise — the skills sets and talents needed to perform certain tasks. Hopefully you already have these resources on hand, but if not, you may have to look at how you make your hiring processes. The other type of capability poses more of a challenge, since you can’t just solve it through your HR department. Let’s call this other type collaborative capability — your team’s ability to work together efficiently and cooperatively. Nothing but time, experience and coaching can build this capability, because it’s based partly on the mutual trust that comes through shared experiences in a properly nurturing atmosphere. (Remember Principle #8?)

How do you know where you have effective — or ineffective — processes? In order to answer this question you have to be able to measure your processes.  An undocumented process cannot be measured, and an unmeasured process cannot be managed.

So, you have to document processes thoroughly. This documentation serves as your basis for ongoing monitoring and measurement of the process results and breakdowns, allowing you to make course corrections where needed. This ongoing procedural remodeling can have astonishing effects. I’ve seen one of my own clients add $1 million dollars to its profit as a direct result of measuring and adjusting its processes.

Do you have a million dollars’ worth of hidden productivity lurking somewhere within your existing processes? If so — go find it!


10 Principles to Optimize Your Business Results: Principle #8 – Relationship and Trust as Critical Success Factors

09 Dec

“Trust me.” Do those sound like famous last words to you? Do you mentally put up a barrier to that total stranger who wants to sell you a used car or look after your toddler? Have you ever trusted someone and then wished you hadn’t?

We’ve all had experiences that make us think twice about whom to trust and what level of trust those people should receive. When we feel we cannot trust others in a given situation or environment, we hold back. We apply conditions to our interactions. We refuse to commit. That attitude may make us feel safe — but in the workplace, it renders us incapable of action.

Remember, businesses consist of departments. Departments consist of teams. Teams consist of individuals. These individuals must feel that they can interact with each other fully before they will commit to the big decisions, the true innovations — the breakthroughs that take your company to the next step in its evolution.

When we work in a trust-based corporate atmosphere, we feel empowered. We can then free ourselves to engage fully in projects with other team members and departments. We become unafraid to speak up, move forward and innovate. Organizations that foster mutual trust and employee input can take on bigger challenges go for bigger goals and enjoy better communication. Remember the conversation dynamics we examined in Principle #6? Open, authentic conversations can only take place when people trust in their colleagues and employers. If you nurture those conversations in a trust-based workplace, you’ll have the teamwork you need to build your success. Trust me!


10 Principles to Optimize Your Business Results: Principle #7 – Mindset Shapes Results

08 Dec

Imagine you’re strapped into the cockpit of an experimental rocket underneath the wing of a bomber tens of thousands of feet in the air. In a few seconds the bomber will drop you, and you’ll fall toward certain death. Your only chance is to fire your jet engine, launching you toward the threshold of space at many times the speed of sound.

If you’re, say, a shoe salesman, it’s sheer terror. If you’re Chuck Yeager, it’s Tuesday.

Principle #7 on our list of Success Principles involves mindset — the mental attitude we apply to a given situation. Mindset primes us for success or failure.

Mindset, our habitual or characteristic mental attitude, determines how we interpret and respond to situations, and shapes how we see the world. We then act in accordance with those perceptions. Like Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can do something or you think you can’t, you’re right.” If we feel that there’s no way we can accomplish a given goal, we will refuse to try. That’s’ human nature.

Mindset also gives us our rules of engagement — the protocols we always use in situations we commonly face or have faced before. Protocols have a huge effect on how teams and individuals collaborate, cooperate and coordinate action together as each person’s rules of engagement allows for some actions while prohibiting others. In other words, our mindset tells us what is possible or impossible, what we can or can’t do, and what we should or should not do.  This is all based on our past experience, and has nothing to do with what is really possible. If we fail to examine the rules we’ve set for ourselves, we have enslaved ourselves to them.

For teams to create breakthroughs they have to be willing to make commitments that they do not know how to accomplish at the time they make the commitment.  They have to be willing to plan from the commitment back and invent what needs to be invented to fulfill the commitment. They have to be willing to suspend their protocols based on the past and make a commitment from the future.  They have to shift their mindset. Once a team does this once, they will have embodied the practice of creating the breakthroughs necessary for long-term, sustainable success.  They will be unstoppable.

When you’ve never flown a supersonic rocket before, you have no idea whether you’ll make it back to earth or become a falling star. If you’re a veteran test pilot, on the other hand, you’ve done it many times before, both live and in simulations. You know the rules. You understand what will work and what won’t. You know you can do it because you’ve done it. And you hit the button and fire that jet.


10 Principles to Optimize Your Business Results: Principle #6 – Conversational Dynamics

07 Dec

Ever had a conversation with someone that just wasn’t going anywhere? You’re trying to get to the heart of an issue and resolve it, and the other party is replying but not actually responding? It happens all the time — and we’re going to examine why here in Principle #6.

Conversations come in two main “flavors” — reactive and collaborative. Reactive conversations undermine communication between individuals or teams, while collaborative conversations enhance it. Reactive conversations build walls, while collaborative conversations build bridges.

Each of these main categories contains a pair of sub-categories that characterize it. Reactive conversations tend to be inauthentic and closed. “Inauthentic” means that the speakers refuse to talk about how they really feel, while “closed” means they don’t want to hear how others really feel. So it’ll come as no surprise to you that collaborative conversations tend to be the opposite — authentic and open. “Authentic” means that both parties are willing to honestly discuss their issues, and “open” means that they engage their ears to hear the other’s issues without getting defensive or upset and shutting down communications.

Obviously, collaborative conversations achieve far more than reactive ones in a business environment (and anywhere else, for that matter). But how do you go about creating them? We’re only human, and humans get defensive. We get upset. We stop listening. We insist on our point of view. How can we transcend ourselves?

For starters, you have to learn and practice the speaking and listening skills of authentic conversations to resolve issues.

Then you have to keep in mind the success principles we’ve already discussed. Keeping the big picture in mind, for instance, reminds us of our common goal — implementing the company’s strategy. That means teamwork, and teamwork only comes about when we listen to each other. Remember, conversations are the glue that holds your business systems together. Go for the strongest glue you can get!

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