None Of This Works Without Trust

xx middle-path1 red BWI got back from some opportunities I had taken and began to reflect on what I had learned.  Over a beer or two, I happened to have a conversation with a fire service leader about my blog and we were talking about different approaches and the like.  One of the things he said to me was that perhaps I should offer some “real-world” solutions.  Taken in the context of the conversation, I knew what he meant, but maybe some would see that as a slight.  Because there is a need to keep these posts short enough for people to read and move on (the downside to blogging, rather than writing a book), there’s a finite level of discussion. And while the idea is to give the reader something they can walk away with and maybe implement in their own context, that is, in effect, change.  Doing that in under 500 words becomes a serious challenge.

Technocentric, structural, or  procedural change can be implemented rather easily in contrast to that of social, or “people-centered” change.  It is one thing to write a new policy, or add a new gizmo; but to get someone to do something differently requires trust.  Given enough reasons not to trust you, the individuals you may be trying to change aren’t going to just do an about-face and follow you wherever it is you want to go.  I can put creative ideas into nice little posts to give you some ways to engage your troops, but if they don’t trust you, change will not quickly occur.  And even if they DO trust you, the change may be significant enough that slow, gradual corrections are necessary rather than throwing all the engines in reverse and ordering everyone to battle stations.

I am not suggesting that I have always been good at this either and in fact, I would bet that there are those who don’t trust me for whatever their reasons might be.  And I am certainly guilty of not doing a very good job sometimes of building that trust.  My personal management style is naturally very directive and given the workloads I have undertaken, sometimes the “easiest” ways for me to handle developing trust are the worst ways. Using e-mail and phone calls instead of giving face-to-face information, not taking the time to get out and see the individuals, and using “command” language doesn’t endear you to the masses.  I clearly have changes I need to personally make.

If you want to create transactional change, there are those who will come when sufficiently incentivized either positively or negatively.  However, to create transformative change, the individual has to reach that on their own terms. As the leader, you must create trust that the path you follow is the way toward their own goal as well.

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