If you’re following this series on creating an innovative climate through meaningful relationships, this post presents the second step in the relationship building process. The first step set the stage for employees to care about the company—a result of you caring first. The next step involves getting them to think about the company through trust and sharing. People can’t help you if you don’t trust them with the information they need to help you. Trusting everyone who cares about your company is a natural next step toward a more engaged employee. By sharing your quest, plans, and challenges with them, they are armed to assist you going forward. Without your trust in them, you won’t have anything more than a transactional relationship with employees (not the goal).
Early in my career had a manager tell me, “People have to earn my trust.” He was uncomfortable sharing information, like company financials. I told him, he had to earn his employees’ trust first. The same is true for you. Leadership has to open up and show that they trust the people with the “secrets” of the organization. Truth be told, they aren’t secrets anyway; they’re just things that managers don’t often share in a transactional relationship. Simple things like:
- What’s the plan?
- How are we going to get there?
- How are we doing so far?
- Where could we use some extra intellectual bandwidth?
- How does management grade itself on achieving their last plan?
Typically, managers like to think that this type of information is tightly confined to “need to know” personnel at the top. By the way, these are also typically the people who put the plan together in the first place. They spend a lot of time telling themselves that it’s a good plan and getting the reports to prove it. It’s all a part of the monthly management “feel-good” meetings. Why would you keep your caring employees from participating and sharing in the “feel-good” experience? If you were successful in getting them to care about the company (Step 1), wouldn’t they want to know that the company is either on-plan or needs help in some area? This is much trickier in public companies, but you have to try. As a President and EVP of a public company, I know that a meaningful relationship with employees is the last thing on a shareholder’s mind; until you illustrate how optimum people performance affects top and bottom lines. Then they listen. HR gives you people; it’s your job to optimize everyone.
The manager above is no longer with me. He thought telling employees our “secrets” would let a disgruntled employee “leak” information (such as monthly revenue and profit) to our competition. So what? Good or bad, it is what it is. Your competition can do nothing about it. Only you and all your caring employees can change the future of the enterprise.
It’s far better to get people in your organization to care how you are doing and trust them with the truth so that the next step in your transformation can be put in place. That’s the ASK step.
Note: This post is the second step in a blog series authored by Rite-Solutions co-founder Jim Lavoie about Simple Steps to Creating an Innovative Climate in Your Organization. The preceding post in the series An Innovative Climate Begins with Caring about Employees stresses the importance of making employees feel welcomed from day one.