Thursday, June 26, 2014

Focus on where you are going

One of my hobbies is motorcycle riding. No doubt it is a dangerous past time. A secret to safe and effective motorcycle riding is to focus on where you are going. Motorcycles ‘go’ wherever the rider is looking.

This doesn’t mean that you should ignore everything else. Quite the contrary. In fact, as much is reasonably possible, when on a motorcycle you must be as aware as possible of everything 360 degrees around you. You have to know that there is a bus coming at you from your left. You have to see the car recklessly changing lanes in your rear vision mirrors. You have to see the parked car that is just about to move away from the kerb.
Photo by David Collopy - Photfit
Photo by David Collopy – Photofit

You must be fully aware of the dangers around you. However, you must not focus on them. If you focus on the dangers your motorcycle will go toward them which is not an outcome you want.
 
For me riding my motorcycle provides a real and genuine metaphor for life. In my life I must maintain focus on where I am going, while being aware of the dangers around me and taking evasive action as required to steer clear of them so that I can stay on track to where I want to go.

Too often people get focussed on what they don’t want and by doing so they draw it into their lives. Poor relationships. Poor bosses. Never having enough money. Being overweight. This list could go on. By focusing on what you don’t want you bring it to life and actually create it.

Traveling the journey of life requires that you maintain focus on where you want to go, all the while maintaining awareness of what is going on around you. When danger comes, take evasive action and focus on where you need to be to get away from that danger.

This simple principle will help you to create more life balance and personal success. Keep it in mind the next time something negative draws your attention. Maintain the discipline to stay focussed on what you really want.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

To trust means that you are okay with being vulnerable

Over the past few weeks I have conducted a number of teamwork programs. One of the activities that I enjoy facilitating is asking the participants to form small groups and to name the characteristics of the effective and ineffective teams of which they have been members.

Question Mark SkyExamples can come from any team experience and I encourage participants to broader their thinking about their definition of a ‘team’. Some examples of this definition include:
  • A workplace
  • A family
  • A university study group
  • A sporting team
  • A community group
  • Traveling with friends or family
After providing the participants with enough time to share their stories, I collect the results.

An interesting characteristic that always comes up for effective teams is trust. Similarly, a lack of trust is always raised as a characteristic of ineffective teams.
Trust. Easy to say. Hard to give.

Why? It is my view that trust involves a willingness to be vulnerable. In a team concept, to trust your team members means that you have faith that they will do what they say they will do to the best of their ability. When I ask program participants to describe what it was like to be trusted, they say things like:
“He never looked over my shoulder. Even though it was the first time I was doing this task, he asked if I needed any further help and I said that I didn’t. He told me that I could contact him at any stage if my circumstances changed. If I were him I’m not sure that I could have trusted me like he did. And that was special. I think I actually did the job better because I was trusted. I found it really motivating.”

“She was the leader, there was no question about that. But when we allocated tasks and she was clear that we understood what needed to be done, she let us ‘go for it’. Her door was always open and we knew that, and from time to time we would go to her for help, either physically or via email or on the phone. She was always available when we needed her. But she never, ever behaved like she didn’t trust us. It never felt like she was looking over our shoulder making sure we did it exactly how she would. And this was an important project. And we knew that, and we respected that. That’s why we created such a wonderful result. We were a real team and she trusted us!”

You can’t fake trust. It is either genuine, or it isn’t. In today’s complex world it is nearly impossible to ‘go it alone’. Leaders have to trust their team members to do their job, even if the leader could do parts of the job ‘better’ on their own.
To trust, however, requires the leader to be okay with being vulnerable. Trust can’t be broken if it isn’t given. So, by nature genuinely trusting someone means that you are prepared for the possibility that they might break your trust, which in turn makes you vulnerable.

In our world of accountability and responsibility, trust can become very hard to ‘give’. If I’m the leader, the ‘buck stops with me.’ If this project fails, then it’s my fault. It’s complex, isn’t it!

I doubt there is any golden rule with regard to trust. I am a trusting person, but I am not prepared to trust ‘just anyone‘. I use all my ‘three brains’ (I’ll explain what that term means in a future article) to decide whether I will trust someone or not.

Each time I trust someone I am conscious of the choice that I have just made. Trust is behavioural, so saying, “I trust you” means nothing, if all I do is look over your shoulder every step of the way. Being prepared to be vulnerable is a tension leaders have to grapple with.

Are you prepared top be vulnerable?

What are your experiences of trust both as a team member and as a leader?
 
How have you managed the ‘vulnerability‘ tension?

The chances are that if trust is not present then high performance will be a long way away. So what is the bigger risk, the preparedness to be vulnerable or the preparedness to under-perform?

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.