Micro Management

The More Trust, the More Time to Succeed

Andrew Cox asked:

en, in his book Managing Management Time, says that the more trust you have with your “universe ” of people, the more time you have to do the things that lead to success.

Trust is hard to earn. Once lost it’s hard to regain. It’s the most precious asset in any relationship – at any level – at any time.

Without trust, time can stand still. Every action can be scrutinized, every request for money or assets or people be subjected to a tremendous amount of documentation. The result is there is no discretionary time – the time to get the really good stuff done.

A story of two Division Presidents about performance and trust:

Division President A, who had performed well for a year and a half in one Division, was promoted to Division President of a new acquisition. Because of his past performance, he came into this assignment with a high level of trust.

President A, in his first budget year, feeling pressure to perform at a high level, put together an optimistic set of financial goals, and they were accepted – with some skepticism. They weren’t met. While the corporation was not happy, he argued that things were worse than he had expected, and next year would be better. In his second budget year, continuing to sense that there were expectations to perform at a high level, he again set stretch financial goals. He was reminded that his input was relied on for overall financial planning at the corporate level. The goals were not met. In his third year, he assured the corporation that the changes he had made, and the knowledge he now possessed, would result in success. By this time trust had been stretched thin. The budget was carefully reviewed. During the year he had to travel to corporate every month to review performance. He had no discretionary time – what had been time available to him to communicate, visit customers, develop his staff – were now taken over with financial and operational micro management. By the end of the third year the division actual performance came close to the proposed annual budget. But nobody trusted anything he said. They saw him as unreliable. Within three months Division President A was terminated.

In a separate Division of the same company, Division President B consistently beat his financial numbers. He knew how important making his numbers was in gaining trust. He rarely had to travel to corporate to explain his results, he had a high level of success in wringing capital dollars out of the corporation, his people decisons were rarely challenged. Things were far from perfect in his business, but whenever plans weren’t met, or bad news occurred, he communicated – there were no surprises. His reward was trust – and a high level of trust resulted in being left alone. And he and his staff appreciated the freedom – and maintained close contact with their “universe” of contacts within the company – on a proactive basis. After five years of top performance, he was promoted to Group Executive, where he was equally successful.

What successful President B practiced were the essential elements of trust building. It wasn’t that unsuccessful President A was not worthy of trust – he in fact had a high level of personal integrity, but he let intentions get in the way of results.

Here are Division President B’s essential elements of trust building:

Honor commitments, and do that by being careful to make commitments that can be kept. And make commitments into statements of goals to ensure there are no misunderstandings – that everyone is on the same page.

Respect the requirements of others in your “universe.” Realize that not meeting the requirements of others will create a climate of distrust and disrespect. And what should have been an opportunity to show respect for others requirements in the form of a routine report submittal, or a timely expense report submittal, or an on-time budget submission instead become seeds of distrust that can grow and eat away at free time.

Communicate the news – good and bad. Good news is easy – bad news not so much. But trust is lost every time bad news is delayed, minimized or blamed on others. The person that has the courage to communicate bad news on their accountabilities should be respected. Failure to do so leads to increased control – and a loss of time.

Trust but verify. Don’t confuse verification with a lack of trust. See it as a necessary step to greater levels of trust. The optimistic manager who provides trust without verification doesn’t last long – at least as a trusting, optimistic manager. Verification is a necessary component of a high trust relationship. Proactively providing verification in a routine manner creates trust.

Give trust to get trust. Like most things of value in relationships, giving results in getting. Have you ever seen a low trust- giving person receive a high level of trust from others? It’s rare.

Learn to say “No.” It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new enterprise, a new project, a new relationship. And it’s so easy in that excitement and optimism to commit beyond the ability to deliver. Maybe “No” is too strong a word. Perhaps “let’s think about it for ….” is a better way to make sure commitments made can be kept. No commitment can be taken lightly – someone is counting on it being kept.

Respect the learning curve. As knowledge is gained on the path to meeting a commitment, use that knowledge to modify what was originally committed so that results are managed and trust preserved.

Tell the truth as fast as you can, and as you know it to be. At the same time, recognize that what you perceive as truth and what others perceive as truth can be very different. By communicating your own truth, be prepared to be amazed at how different others perception can be. Putting your truth on the table creates the opportunity to deal with the differences.

Honor the promises made to yourself. Every time a personal promise is not kept, personal trust is reduced. On the other hand, every time a personal goal is met – as small as taking that hike on a Saturday morning, or as big as quitting smoking, personal trust grows. And trust in ourselves is the key to trust in others.

Trust comes from accomplishment – not from intention. Intention can be invaluable for creating the goals needed to define performance, but results are the key to trust.

Start today – identify the “universe” of people that can add to or detract from the time you have to do the critical things that can lead to success. Then identify what it takes to give to and get from that “universe.” Then cultivate your “universe” and be prepared to gain time – time you may never have known could be available to you.

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