Forcing impossible deadlines, ordering people to be at work during certain hours, denying leave, bringing in consultants and hinting at using them as a yardstick for productivity… I often wonder what makes people resort to these tactics and if they know the net effect of them? Decreased morale, lowered productivity, lack of any desire to do anything, “stick it to the manager” mentality, tiredness, increased stress, fear of job loss…I can go on but you get the point.

What brings this on? Not entirely sure but I can speculate…people react differently to varying degrees of stress and who can say what goes through someones mind when faced with pressure from above from someone who does not fully understand the given situation and lacks (or has incorrect) facts. I would say though, having worked with various managers under varying degrees of stress, that this is indeed the role of middle management, to absorb, explain, clarify and defend the team in which they trust, assuming the trust relationship is there.

Trust, that’s perhaps the key factor here and I think the core of where these decisions come from. Trust is the difference between saying “all leave has been denied until project X is done” and “as a team you guys decide whether you can absorb the impact of this leave but whatever you decide, I will back you”. Trust is not telling your team “you will be at work between the following hours…” but rather saying “there’s an incorrect perception linking the current level of productivity to peoples hours of work, how would you guys think we should approach correcting this perception?”.

Patrick Lencioni, in his book “Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, lists Trust as the foundation of any good team:

“…members of great teams trust one another on a fundamental, emotional level, and they are comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears and behaviors…”

“Team”, in this case, includes everyone trying to achieve a given goal…everyone. Often I see management reeling under the pressure from above and, instead of approaching their team, bringing them into their “world of pain” and trying to collaboratively find a solution, they will resort to giving orders and clamping down. Inevitably though, the harder they squeeze, the more they lose control, forcing them to squeeze harder…a vicious circle from where the only thing that results is broken trust, something that’s almost impossible to fix.

3 thoughts on “Trust…”

  1. As I pointed out in one of our discussions regarding this topic, I think it falls back on the conditioning created by the old though process of project management. Get scared, fall back on what I know.

    Rather sad if you ask me

  2. Couldn’t agree more. I don’t know if you have looked at Michael Covey’s work around the speed of trust. What I like about this is he shows how the lack of trust costs in Rands and Cents. This really helps when talking to traditional managemement as cost is something they can really relate to. So the argument doesn’t have to be about the fluffy better environment but rather a hard fact that lack of trust costs money.

    Once you have them sold on the idea that trust must be built then moving the other mindsets become easier.

  3. No I haven’t had a look at Michael Covey’s work but will make a note of going to. As a team facilitator I see the impact of lack of trust on the team effectiveness quite clearly, and it’s actually quite sad because I’ve worked with teams where there IS a decent trust relationship internal and external to the team, and seen what teams in that environment can do, but how do you convey this to people, that’s the tricky bit. I guess quantifying it in rands and cents is the logical approach.

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