Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Not So Little Practices that Will Help Leaders Build Trust.

Trust is present in all special relationships.  For leaders, trust is crucial  for success and accelerated results.  Trust is tough to earn and difficult to keep. 

I was talking recently to an old (he's very old) friend, Lou Solis.  Lou is a combat veteran who spent multiple tours in Special Operations units.  He is now a Retired First Sergeant and an Assistant Chief of Police in Georgia.  As we were catching up, Lou relayed a number of techniques he was using to keep his team a team.  These methods seemed like minor common sense Leadership tasks, but I realized during our conversation that the state of the economy and the general gloomy outlook has given many leaders bigger problems to worry about; consequently, some of the little, important practices that keep a team together may have been given a different priority as we all had bigger fish to fry. 

Here are a few simple techniques from my old Ranger buddy to put back into practice on a regular basis:

1)  Ask the team what they think during the planning process.  Plans are better when the whole team has input, sees the whole picture, participates in the problem solving, and has a voice in the decision making process.  It's a process that creates an environment of communication and trust.

2)  Be available to let the team vent but encourage them to put their solutions into a plan.  Lou likes to be where the shift change occurs on his Police force to listen to his men as they come off duty.  Recently an officer believed their vehicles needed upgrades for very specific reasons. Lou agreed and told him to "put it on paper".  Lou helped guide the plan through the process and now the force has better vehicles.  This is a process that creates an environment of communication, trust, and tangible results.  It sends the message that you can make a difference.

3)  Have regular public recognition and reward ceremonies.  Too many times leaders get caught up in the idea of promotions, bonuses and raises as the "rewards" for a job well done.  Lou practices a regular recognition cycle with letters of appreciation and commendation, and smaller meaningful awards which enhance personal pride and unit esprit de corps.  If the leader shows he or she cares, the team will return the feelings exponentially.

These simple principles, practiced consistently, will open communications, create trust, and change the culture of your team which will lead to improved results.

Thanks Lou.

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