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It’s the small things that make trust work

How a generous idea nearly went very wrong

The problem of a shirt

Greg has a solid business employs about 15 people and is managing to take some great holidays with his teenage boys. He has put a lot of energy into building a ‘team’ approach in the workshop with a significant level of trust. He thought it was time to smarten up the team and bought a load of new shirts in the company colours with a bright logo.

When he gave them out the reaction from his factory manager was less appreciative than he expected, in fact the manager seemed quite put out. Over the next few weeks the atmosphere became increasingly soared. Greg was angry at first and then realised he had to do somethiing about it. When he contacted me I spoke with his manager about the incident and his words were “same old same old, thinks he has to do it all” and “I’m not putting in any more effort, nothing changes”. When we got to the bottom of the situation we discovered a couple of things. 1. Greg acted in his usual way of getting things done in the most efficient cost effective way possible.

2. The factory manager thought it was part of his job and he should have been consulted, he also thought his job as manager deserved a ‘better’ shirt than he was given, one a little more like the bosses. After all don’t they go out to customers together sometimes?


The shirt wasn’t really the problem – it became a symbol of the level of trust. In this simple act of apparent generosity the trust between business owner and factory manager was broken – not irrepairably but definitely broken. Its not that the boss shouldn’t have a better quality shirt, sure he can but what message is being sent by this to the person he expects to ensure all work leaving the factory meets the quality standards of the business. And what message about his role? If the situation had been left unquestioned much of the work building the team over the last couple of years would have been eroded.

In a short session with Greg and his manager both were able to accept ,identify the behaviours and their reactions. When looked at through the lense of building a team they could see what had happened and what they each can do so it doesn’t happen again.

What we did to re-build the trust was: First roles, expectations and accountabilities were re-clarified. Next we did some work on behaviours, actions and words that build trust which includes committing to regular monthly management meetings where teh real issues get talked through not swept under the table. And finally it was helpful to re-align the management team on goals and prioirites for the year and diarise the dates for all the management meetings.

Going forward Greg will remember that he has a factory manager who wants to be fulfil his role and share some of Greg’s load. And the manager will speak up truthfully when something like this happens again and not return to his old pattern of thinking ‘there’s no point’. He has re-committed all his enthusiasm and energy to the business because he feels valued and trusted again.

It’s easy to talk about team and trust, the reality is that it is in the small everyday actions that we earn it so that it is there when it is really needed. If you’d like to know what the 13 behaviours identified and tested over many years by Stephen M R Covey that build trust at every level in an organisation are send me a quick email asking for the 13 behaviour list bridget@creatingwhatmatters.co.nz .


Or call me if you’d like to talk about something going on in your team that you know can be improved. 09 412 9485

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