Want to build trust and get more out of your teammates? It is not enough to simply apply responsibility to yourself. You must also take responsibility for the actions of your group.
Russ Laraway, director of human resources at Alpine Utah-based venture firm Goodwater Capital, believes that leaders who are responsible for the entire group are more effective. He has seen this many times in his career, including four years in the Marine Corps as a captain.
“I find it easier to trust someone who takes responsibility,” Laraway said.
Laraway, who wrote “When they win, you win,” at times takes responsibility for things for which he takes no responsibility.
“The reason is that once you can get everyone in the system to forget who is at fault, it will be much easier for everyone to find the same page to fix what happened,” Laraway said.
Take responsibility in all cases
Laraway served in the Marines for four years as a captain and company commander, in charge of 175 men. One of the Marines’ mantras is that officers are responsible for everything their organization does or doesn’t do.
When Laraway was in the Marines, one of his men went to Mexico for the weekend, got drunk, punched a cop, and ended up in jail. The Colonel called Laraway into his office and asked why his leadership was so weak that the Marine thought it was normal behavior.
“The Colonel gave me full responsibility for this,” he said. “This is what real property looks like.”
This illustrates the answer to a question he often asks: What is the biggest difference between the Marines and the business world?
“It’s a property right,” Laraway said. “Very few people are ready to act and take full responsibility. The failures of the organization are mine and mine alone.”
Laraway took steps to send his Marines out for the weekend. Among them: He brought a Medal of Honor recipient who was confined to a wheelchair due to a drunk driving incident to speak to them.
Take responsibility to lead effectively
Accountability and trust are vital components of strong leadership, says Richard Hawkes, Mendham, author of Navigate the Swirl and founder of Growth River, a leadership and organizational effectiveness consulting firm.
“These themes are at the intersection of leadership and culture,” Hawkes said.
The key is to understand that people are at the center of the organization.
“Think of everything that happens when you put people first,” he said. “This is how change happens. They go from leadership and culture to opportunities and strategies. Accountability, transparency and trust are the foundation of it all.”
Without these things, he says, distributed leadership—the idea that decisions are made by the people closest to the problem—is impossible.
Responsibility breeds trust
According to Hawkes, trust is vital for the most effective teams. Without it, “the whole fabric unwinds and it is very difficult for people to navigate the changes. You can’t do it without trust because people are just checking.”
According to Hawkes, the most trusting relationships people have in a work environment are those with peers.
“The way to build trust is to create teams where colleagues are accountable for each other,” he said.
How to build this trust? Start with what you say you will.
“Trust is the residue of promises kept,” Hawkes said.
Laraway advises people to train themselves to look at what they could do differently every time something goes wrong. “You are part of this system, so you were part of a negative outcome,” he said.
When people trust a leader, it opens the door to new ideas.
“If you don’t trust your leader, how likely are you to speak up and propose something out of the ordinary?” he said.
Earn that trust by asking open-ended, challenging questions. Examples: What could be better in this team? How can I help you become even more successful?
Then listen to understand, not to respond. Encourage their frankness with follow-up actions.
Finally, if something goes wrong, you can rebuild trust, says Hawkes. Listening and constructive feedback will drive this process.
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