A word which seems to come up time and time again in any
discussion of leadership is Trust and
it elicits several and varied reactions.
A simple definition of trust says that when an individual is
trusted, the trustor (if that is the right ward) effectively abandons control
of the situation and allows the trustee to perform the allocated task without
Easily said and difficult to achieve simply because of the
perceived lack of control especially when the leader may have a tendency to
wanting to know at all times what is going on.
The question is: how long should it take to be able to trust
someone to undertake a task without the aforesaid hindrance from any one?
If the leader is courageous it is feasible to take that
route from the beginning on the basis that he/she will be able to learn from
the results and either begin to develop trust or realise that some coaching may
For many leaders it can be a painful experience to
relinquish control of the achievement of a task particularly when the
individual is relatively inexperienced and consequently needs to learn.
When I started my working life in engineering we were
allocated to some machine operator for example who would show us what to do and
we would learn from an expert.
operator would allow us to do the job ourselves but under his strict
supervision until such time as he was content that we had learnt what to do and
how to do it.
At this stage trust was established and the operator often
felt that he could wander off for a chat somewhere to leave us to it and
frankly to earn some piecework on his behalf.
It was a micro-version of the one of the functions of a
great leader who understands the necessity of the coaching role.In effect if the leader knows what to do and
how to do it then it stands to reason that he/she should demonstrate, coach and
teach until a level of trust has been established which enable to leader to
stand back and allow the work to proceed.
I still think, however, that the leader who is prepared to
take a risk, the very act of allowing someone to undertake a task without
interference can be a significant learning experience in itself.
The clue is in that word Interference
which, it must be said, is the usual complaint when the leader tries to
influence progress.It’s an irritation
to both sides, in fact.
So then, if the leader has trusted a team member to
undertake a task, then he/she has one or two criteria to consider. Firstly whatever the reason it is essential
not to be seen to be interfering and that can take quite some strength of
Secondly there must be a no-blame environment so that even
if the team member ostensibly fails to achieve the task, then it must be
considered a learning experience.
All in all, trust must eventually be a two way process so
that with mutual trust, there will be mutual success and a developed
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A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog about the
proliferation of titles in business and I had a really valuable comment from TV
presenter and Vistage speaker, Art Halai.Arti suggested that there is much more to the use of titles in business
and for that matter in general and it is a subject that would repay some
Lee Thayer, noted US Vistage speaker and author, considers
that the most important factor for people in the business is the role
description.Please note: NOT the JOB
description which is too restrictive.
Logically then if the role description has been defined
accurately, theoretically there is no need for a title as such. Of course that
is not the case in general and titles of all kinds abound especially in the
public sector where perceived status can be considered as a reward.
The question is why do people need to have a title?Is it so that others know what they are there
for, could it possibly be for reassurance that there function is important or
is the basic fact that some people need a title to give them status.
When I started in business a long time ago, status was
relatively easy to define.It rested on
which canteen you ate in, where you parked your car and did the parking slot
have your name on it, was your name (and title) on the door of your office and
did your title express your seniority in the company.
The matter of canteens is an interesting one.I went at one stage to a subsidiary company
on secondment for a period of a few months and was astonished to find that I
had been allocated a seat in the mess; not, you will note the canteen.I discovered that lunch in the mess followed
a strict routine with a defined pecking order.
Following an obligatory dry sherry, the senior director
carved the joint, which was a fixture every day by the way, and seating at the
table defined where you were in the aforesaid packing order.
It was all a little surprising to me although I have to say
that I soon dropped into the very pleasant routine.However, what on earth had it to do with the
effective running of the business?
The fact is that it was all a matter of visible status.When you were invited to join the mess it
said that you had arrived and were accepted as important, admittedly in the
very small world of that company.
It stands to reason that they were also fixated on title
because a title would tell the world who you were and what you did in the
company.Status was all important and
because it was a small company (in a small town as well) by comparison with the
patent group, they felt that they needed the reassurance of a splendid title.
In essence we need to decide whether a title is merely a
status symbol or a genuine assistance to the smooth operation of the
business.Does it add or detract from
The question then is: what is more important, the title or
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About three years ago I wrote a blog post following a
session with Vistage speaker Nigel Risner www.nigelrisner.com
who gave us a little equation which I have used on many an occasion ever since.
The equation was E+R=O or Event + Response = Outcome.In essence, there are two possible uses:
The event has happened and is immutable so the outcome
depends absolutely on the response to the event.
Alternatively again accepting that the event has passed and
can’t be changed, if the leader decides what outcome is desired then it defines
what the response should be.
I was again reminded of the equation when I discovered a website
in Atlanta, GA, USA, www.kentjulian.com
selling wristbands bearing the E+R=O and in five different colours no less.Even better, they also say:
“I own the response”
It once again gave me food for thought and I wonder if there
isn’t a case for a slight modification to the equation.After all, the outcome decision could be one
of a list of options each one defined by the risk involved.
If the leader is risk averse, then the result is likely to
be stability if not sterility simply because any successful business decision demands
a modicum of calculated risk.
In general the higher the risk the greater the likelihood of
enhanced reward so the level of risk needs to be carefully calculated.It needs a decision as to the result required
so that the response and risk elements can be determined.
I am not convinced that many leaders actually undertake a
formal assessment of the risk options; rather they tend to use gut feel as to
the best option.
How do we determine risk, then?In general the financial aspects become
paramount but the effects on the people in the business also need to be
I recall an interesting technique called the Decision Tree
which went like this.The event is
defined and the options, as the leader sees them, listed in a horizontal line
Each option is them analysed as to what is needed to achieve
a successful outcome with a final estimate of the potential revenue as well as the
time and costs involved.From those results
it is then possible to make a cultured decision as to the best option and hence
the risk involved.
What I am saying is that leaders need to make decisions not
only based on gut feel but also on a sensible assessment of the risks and the desired
Perhaps the equation should be restated as:
·E + R1 +R2
where E = the event, R1 = the risk involved, R2 = the
response and O = the desired outcome.
The problem is that I don’t know where to buy the
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There seems to have been a proliferation of rather high
flown new titles in business for people who are doing jobs which have been done
for ages under their original names.
Wondering what I am going on about?I ask myself, why for example are Sales now
known as Business Development and why is the Works Manager now called
Operations Manager and Purchasing now known as Supply Chain?
As far as I am aware they carry out much the same functions
so what was the need to change their titles?
I am particularly exercised about the dramatic change in the
status of sales personnel because sales, under whatever guise, is the life
blood of any trading organisation and, let’s face it, every business including
professional practices and charities, is a trading entity.
Some years ago I heard a poem (doggerel really) which went
“He who whispers down a well
About the goods he has to sell
Will never make as many dollars
As the guy who climbs on the roof, and hollers”
and that, to my mind sums it up.The sales function is central to the
effective operation of any business and whatever new title we give to it, it
will still demand the dedication and enthusiasm which any great sales operative
brings to the job.
Some years ago, I was asked to go into a company to look at
their marketing which was at the time the new and fashionable way to describe
the sales function.In fact, Sales is a
function of Marketing as is advertising, PR, social media and the rest.
The company manufactured small electronic components and had
been started from scratch by three like minded electronic engineers.It prospered until for some unaccountable
reason, sales had started to fall away.
The first thing that I asked them was how were they achieving
sales right now and I wasn’t too surprised to be told that “we don’t do
anything like that as we have a great reputation and people come to us”.
I suggested gently that when they started up in business
they must have done some selling as it is difficult to build a reputation when
nobody knows you.
“Oh yes,” they said “We went to see some people we knew and
they gave us some business and it grew from there.Now we find that the same people are buying
imported components”.They didn’t know
from where they were imported, they didn’t know the prices they were offering,
in short they knew nothing about the competition.
Nothing came of the meeting for me because they were adamant
that they weren’t going to get involved with sales people so I made an excuse
There is a strange reluctance on the part of many businesses
to look upon “sales” as a vocation, preferring to regard it as a slightly rude activity,
equated with flashy used car salesmen, hence the gentrification to Business
If my old sales mentor, Phil Copp, the Sage of Wythenshawe,
could hear them he would certainly have something to say.He was proud of his function in selling great
products on behalf of his company and, by the way, without earning any
commission for doing it.He was totally
professional and viewed the activity as a profession.
That was the best sales force I ever experienced and they
operated without financial incentives, just a desire to be successful and to
give unparalleled service to their customers.
Selling is a profession and should be looked upon as
No sales, no business.
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