by Judy Ryan
Trustworthiness. We want people to be good citizens in life and work, and this only happens when trustworthiness is the top priority. When it is, resolving all unresolved issues between people is foundational. Here’s a story to illustrate: A friend went a year without a job. When she finally landed a new one, she was relieved and grateful because, in general, the new organization treated her well. She had been there about a year when another company began to woo her away. I asked her, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you at your current company?” She scored her happiness an 8. I then asked her, “What would make it a 10?” She said, “Well, my boss said he’d meet with me a few months ago to discuss my performance and offer me a raise, but he did not. Also, I am not being given enough work, and the work I have is not challenging, so I’m bored.” She ended up taking the new job, feeling guilt about leaving the first company because she put them in a lurch after they’d prepared her for months to lead an important, upcoming project.
If she had taken personal responsibility for her relationships and prioritized social interest (i.e., was thoughtful about what she was causing for others), she would have noticed the score of 8 and taken steps to resolve the issues. If the company had also taken personal responsibility for the same, they would have put into place a structure to check in with her (we promote monthly mentoring) and would have avoided this situation. Because trustworthiness between people was not a priority, what was a minor challenge (an 8) turned into a major one. The organization unexpectedly lost a key player they needed, and my friend failed to manage relationships with her authority figure, which has cost her as an effective authority figure in the new job she accepted. Trust in self and others is required for success.
Resolving Challenges. Here’s another story. Two highly paid consultants were working in a multinational company. They were brilliant in their field but so hostile that the client called the consulting company to say, “You must do something about your two consultants. They are bright but so hostile to each other that it’s keeping them from being their best for our teams. The consulting company called me in. I told the consultants we were going to begin by assessing their trustworthiness. They immediately balked and indicated that they thought this was a waste of time. I asked them to write down the score they would give their relationship with one another. One scored it a 1 and the other a 2. I said, “You guys are like a car driving down the street on fire, and you’d just like to pretend it’s not happening.” What was even more interesting (and common) is that one of them looked at the eight values that build (or break) trust and said, “I’m only breaking two of these and he’s breaking seven.” He said, “I’m only breaking one and she’s breaking six.” This is what happens when things get this bad. We puff up our virtues and inflate the faults of others.
Healthy Systems. To maintain and build upon a foundation of trustworthiness, an organization must have a healthy system that includes development of leadership in all their people simultaneously. Then each person becomes responsible for managing their social and emotional well-being, relationships, productivity, engagement, purpose, values, vision, goals, procedures, roles, and overall progress plan. A healthy system is purpose- and values-based and promotes high freedom with high responsibility. People learn to lead and follow as needs dictate, and they share power in mutually respectful and supportive ways. Such a system fosters critical thinking, caring, collaboration, psychological safety, emotional and social intelligence, and personal responsibility. This is only possible when everyone adopts a common set of concepts, terms, tools, and processes to manage the above.
Consistent, Effective Support. In addition to prioritizing trustworthiness and putting into place a robust, immersive, healthy system, understanding the kind of support needed within the system is also vital. People are usually open to learning new information. The real challenge is in getting them to set intentions to manage themselves and their relationships. Changed behavior requires not only knowledge and courage but also practice and support. When an organization keeps these new practices alive through integration into operations and supports mentoring every month, people learn how to keep the new concepts, terms, tools, and processes front and center, which makes all the difference to their mastery.
Judy Ryan (judy@LifeworkSystems.com), human systems specialist, is owner of LifeWork Systems. Join her in her mission to create a world in which all people love their lives. She can also be reached at 314-239-4727.
People hire LifeWork Systems because we help businesses become agile and manage their priority system: their human system. I hope this article helps you make sense of what’s most crucial to your evolving organization!