Gather a company’s leaders together in a conference room to discuss current challenges, new opportunities, tough issues, and the state of the business, and what do you get? The answer can be ‘great results’ if the team works with each other in a way that builds a high level of trust and respect. Our experience has shown time and again that when a leadership team lacks trust and respect, meetings do little more than exacerbate existing tensions and conflicts. But, when a team has nurtured a culture of trust and respect, meetings prove that there is nothing they cannot accomplish by working together.
One of our clients has demonstrated both ends of this spectrum. Several years ago, trust and respect were not the signature characteristics of the leadership team. Unhealthy behaviors contributed to ongoing conflicts, unresolved issues, and a lack of traction in the business. The owners of the company made up their mind to change that dynamic and brought us in to implement the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®). With unflagging discipline, the leadership team implemented EOS® disciplines to get aligned, focused, and accountable. As they learned new ways of working together, they developed a deep trust and respect for one another.
That trust and respect was very much in evidence at a recent high-level leadership meeting. The willingness of the team members to speak openly and honestly with each other about a wide range of matters affecting the business was striking. Some of the matters were emotionally-charged, yet at no point did the discussion devolve into negativity. Concerns were voiced, heard, and responded to with respect.
For example, it had become evident in the months leading up to the meeting that a few roles needed to be clarified. Rather than complaining or sitting on their hands, however, the affected team members had figured out what needed to be done and divvied up tasks in a way that made sense to them. They were aligned for the greater good. They recognized that although they had questions, they could continue moving forward until the details of each role could be ironed out. Paralysis and inaction were not an option.
When the topic came up in the leadership meeting, it could have become combative due to differing expectations. But not in this case. There was, indeed, some push and pull in the “ironing out” process. There were differing points of view, yet there was no polarization. No outbursts of negative emotion. The team just got down to smoothing out the wrinkles. How? Because they trusted one another and knew that each person had the good of the company first and foremost in mind.
The trust and respect that played out in the leadership meeting is the result of hard work. It has been earned over time by:
- Intentionally modeling desired behaviors from the top. The owners of the company live out the formula for trust by demonstrating competence, integrity, and empathy.
- Systematically tackling both people issues and operational issues. Rather than “kicking the can down the road,” the team deals with matters as they arise.
- Actively listening to and seeking to understand one another. The team refuses to engage in “dueling monologues” that accomplish less than nothing.
- Consistently living into the company’s core values. The company’s values are not some vague words on a page – they are the driving force for the business.
Mutual trust and respect mean that every team member can present their ideas calmly because they have confidence that they will be heard and their point of view taken into consideration. That assurance allows each team member to align with the final decision, even if it is not their preferred option.
Meetings that are founded on trust and respect leave people energized to achieve their goals and objectives. For this company, that has resulted in tremendous growth and profitability coupled with incredibly low turnover. The same can be true for you, too!