A matter of trust
Marcus leaned back in his chair and reviewed his progress with his client Harry Scott, his advice given, actions taken and outcomes reported. Harry had solved a burning issue for his client, was learning his client’s business and how to better support them, had made allies in the company for his cause and was starting to explore opportunities to create additional revenue for his own boss.
Marcus was doing well. He smiled. “Not a bad return Harry for a lunch.” He wondered how his fee proposal to continue his consultancy with Harry was progressing. He made a mental note to check.
His mobile buzzed. “Good morning, Marcus Neary.” It was Harry’s boss, Alan Heath. “I’m well, thank you for asking… sure, how about tomorrow, say two pm? Good, I’ll see you then.”
Marcus diarised the meeting and chuckled over the timing of the call. He was intrigued with the prospect of meeting Harry’s boss.
He then left Harry a voicemail. “Marcus here. Your boss wants to see me. Booked an hour tomorrow afternoon. Catch up afterwards? Cheers.”
Shortly, Marcus was texted: “No worries, Marcus. Alan is on level 9. See you afterwards. Regards H.”
Marcus welcomed the next day’s cool change; he’d never got used to the extreme summers despite being in Australia for many years. He made his way up to Alan Heath’s floor. Harry met him in the lift lobby.
“You’re bringing on the surprises Harry.”
Harry laughed. “Couldn’t leave you on your own; the least I can do!”
“How goes your client office reorganisation?”
“Very well. I’m now chairing the project meetings and I brief the boss each week.”
“Good work, Harry.”
Harry led Marcus to reception. “When you’re done I’d like to pick your brains on how to manage change. My client wants to recruit a change manager, but I see an opportunity for me there.”
“If he agrees then I’ve got something positive to give Alan.” Harry made to leave. “Give me a call when you’re done – I’ll come get you.”
Harry’s comment fascinated Marcus.
Harry’s boss stood, rounded his tidy desk and shook hands with Marcus.
“Hi, I’m Alan Heath, pleased to meet you. Harry speaks highly of you.” He looked at his EA. “Thanks Lynn.” He then pointed Marcus to a comfy chair. “Please…”
“Thanks Alan, I appreciate your feedback.”
“I appreciate your meeting me. I want to chat about Harry; his request to start paying you for your…”
“Yeah, your coaching. I was going to say consulting.”
“Mmm. In my view all coaches are consultants; few consultants are coaches.”
Alan mulled this over before commenting, “Harry has certainly got his ‘mojo’ back. I see much more momentum on his account now. Ever since you got involved it appears.”
“Thanks. He’s recaptured his enthusiasm for his profession. I believe this and his commitment have ignited the momentum.”
“His… our client is much happier with him, but I see problems over there.”
“Oh, such as?”
“I’m not seeing the team pursuing collective results. I see Harry doing this individually but… I’m not witnessing a team effort.” Alan paused. “I also know there are members of his team who resent his newfound popularity. They feel forgotten.”
“Have you spoken with these team members about this?”
“One of them, not all.”
“And is Harry aware of this?”
“Well, he lost three key people a few weeks back, so he should know something’s up.”
Marcus decided to test the water. “Tell me. How much trust exists between you both?”
“How often do you both challenge each other?”
“What do you mean?”
“Does Harry know what you want from this account? Do you know what Harry’s plans are to achieve what he thinks you want? Do they fit? Do you discuss this?”
Alan sat back. “Well, not really.”
“Any particular reason?”
“I guess we’re both too busy…”
Marcus smiled. “I wonder when you all meet to discuss strategy?”
“Oh, we have the usual informal get- togethers, but nothing where we discuss stuff like that.”
“Ok, but has this been a conscious decision?”
Alan shrugged his shoulders. “I suppose we don’t have that kind of relationship.”
“But Harry does this with his client.”
“That tells a story then!” Alan sounded frustrated.
“My view is there’s a trust problem between you both and between Harry and his team.”
“You make it sound quite bad, Marcus.”
Marcus leaned forward. “You mentioned earlier that there is no team focus on results.”
“I did. We’re still not that profitable on this account.”
“Do you count yourself as a member of his team?”
Alan paused again. “Well no, I see myself as his boss… we’ve never had any other kind of relationship.”
“I believe you both need to build trust, between yourselves and then across the wider team.”
“I’m struggling with this a bit. I can’t be mates and a boss at the same time…”
“That’s not what I mean.”
“I’m wondering why you don’t think Harry and I trust each other. Maybe you don’t know us well enough?”
“Trust is more than knowing Harry or you will do something well because either of you have regularly done so before.”
Alan was quiet.
“Harry only shares things with you he thinks you will approve of.”
“Give me an example.”
“Early on, Harry told me your concern with profitability of the account. I encouraged Harry to explore avenues that would change his client’s view of him from being just a ‘cost’ to someone who enables his client’s business goals. He was to explore additional opportunities and roles to increase his knowledge and standing and which would generate additional revenue.”
Alan nodded. “Makes sense.”
“Curiously though, I find Harry’s prime reason for doing this is to receive affirmation from you.”
“Why’s that a problem?”
“Nothing unless he is so unsure of you that this behaviour distracts him from his real goals, which in turn will impact his team’s performance.”
Marcus stepped towards the whiteboard. “Here let me show you something I learned from the master – Patrick Lencioni – that demonstrates how important trust is to achieving collective results, something you’ve already declared as important.”
Marcus quickly drew a chart on the whiteboard.
Marcus pointed to the foundation block. “Trust is where team members are confident that everyone’s intentions are good. They know they can comfortably be vulnerable with one another.”
“Members of trusting teams admit mistakes openly and seek help. They accept people questioning and giving feedback on their areas of responsibility.” Marcus paused. “In Harry’s case, by finding things to please you he is, in effect, wasting time and energy managing his behaviours merely for effect.”
Alan looked surprised.
Marcus circled the next block up. “Conflict is taboo for many people at work. The higher people are in management the more time and energy is spent avoiding the kind of key debates that are essential to any great team. By key debates I mean those centred on ideas rather than people. Some people call this ‘gamification’.”
“Another example please?”
“The vending stain solution from your client’s new refurbishment may well have come from within Harry’s team had they discussed it.” Marcus smiled. “Rather than from me.”
“Maybe, but you had the wisdom from personal experience.”
“Accepted but perhaps the team’s resentment with Harry is because he or she had similar ideas but was not given the chance.”
“An interesting conclusion.”
‘OK let’s look at ‘commitment’. If people have to jettison their opinions and feel like they’ve not been listened to, they won’t really get on board. Reasonable people don’t believe they have to get their way in a discussion – they just need to be heard.”
“I’m starting to get the hang of this. What you’re saying here, for example, is to get the whole team to coordinate themselves around common objectives that everyone has had a say in? ”
“Correct.” Marcus smiled. “Take a look at ‘accountability’. This term is much overused. In this context it refers to the team’s willingness to call their peers on performance or behaviours that may harm the team. Avoiding accountability encourages mediocrity, so I would recommend you…”
“Apply constructive pressure to poor performers?”
“Mmm. I was going to suggest you clarify publicly exactly what the team needs to achieve, who needs to deliver what and how everyone must behave to succeed.”
“OK, understood. I was a bit harsh there.”
“Actually yours was a good suggestion. With accountability, I would suggest you allow the team to be in charge of this initiative. Let them apply the pressure.”
“OK, but I’ll need to understand how to do this.”
“Sure, I can help you. Now to the crux of your concern, attention to results. I’m assuming you mean financial ones?”
“Sure, they’re important in the business.”
“Of course. I’d like you to consider, however, a broader definition of results. One that involves all of your collective goals you and your team set for yourselves along your daily work patterns and careers. These all drive profit.”
Alan looked at his watch and stood. “Marcus, it’s been highly instructive.” He walked over to the whiteboard. “Let me ponder all of this for now. Right now I need to get to a board meeting.”
“Sure, you know where I am.” Marcus shook Alan’s hand. “Does this mean I’ll start getting paid?”
Alan laughed. “I’ve already approved the fee proposal.”
“Thank you. One last thing, Alan – don’t forget you are part of the team!”
Momentarily, Marcus dialled Harry. “Hi Harry, I’m outside the boardroom on level 10. OK, thanks… see you soon.”
You can read the previous articles in this series in the October and December issues of FM.
This article also appears in the February/March issue of Facility Management magazine.
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