Building Trust and Managing Change: Q&A with Marty

Welcome to the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast. In a world where knowledge has become a commodity, this podcast is designed to give you something more; access to the experience of a successful CEO who has already walked the path. So join your host Martin Moore, who will unlock and bring to life your own leadership experiences, and accelerate your journey to leadership excellence.

Marty: Hey there, and welcome to Episode 48 of the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast. This week's episode: Building Trust and Managing Change. I'm doing another Q&A with Em. This week, we take on a few great listener questions that appear to keep coming up regularly for people. Em is going to join me to ask the questions, so I'll pass straight over to her. Hey, Em. How are you doing this week?

Em: Hey, Marty. I'm good. Thanks so much for having me back on. Now, I don't think I've been on since we went over our 100,000 downloads mark a few weeks ago, but I did want to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all of our No Bullshit leaders. Thousands and thousands of you listen to the podcast every week from all over the world, and Marty and I are so grateful for every single listen, every single email that we get with your feedback. We absolutely love it, and you'd know if you had emailed us that we write back to every single one.

Now, if you've got any value at all from the podcast over the past year, I would really love it if you could leave us a review on Apple Podcast. Even though most of our listeners are on Spotify, they don't have a rating system yet, so Apple Podcast is probably the best place to go if you use that as your podcasting app. Otherwise, please just keep the feedback coming in. I love getting emails from you, and we love answering our listener questions.

Alright, so let's get into it. The first one is from Sam. Sam asked, "One of my continual challenges is leading a team that I've inherited. How do you establish credibility quickly?"

Marty: This is a really common question, Em, because people sometimes are promoted into roles from a team that they've already been a part of, and so they go from being a peer to being the leader, and sometimes they're brought in from the outside, and so people don't know what to expect when you walk in. The very first thing is you have to take stock of that team. What is it that you've actually inherited? You've got to work out what the team capability and culture is as quickly as you possibly can.

Now, ultimately, you're going to have to deal with any problem children. For example, I've been in situations before where I've come into run a team, and there's been a guy in the team who was the 2IC to the previous leader, and as 2IC, he had a firm expectation that he would be promoted into the role when that leader moved on. But, of course, me being brought in from outside was a very different proposition, and so making sure that that person was actually willingly signed up to having me as the leader and going forward with me was quite a task that I had to pick up very quickly.

You deal with any problem children, and then you've got to work out if there are any obvious issues in the team already. Now, sometimes you're going to run a team that already has a reputation in the organisation, for better or for worse, and so you've got to understand what that reputation is. But the trick is to learn as much as you can as quickly as you can, and I sort of have a three month rule. When people come in and work for me as executives, I always say, "You've got six months. The first three is just for you to work out where you are, and what this organisation is, and who these people are. The next three, you should be able to formulate some sort of mud map for how you're going to take it all forward."

The first thing is ask loads and loads of questions. First and foremost, about the individuals, so try to understand what each team member thinks they do and then map it up with your observations of what they actually do. Go to school on what the team does, and you've got to understand and assess their objectives. In other words, how much value are they bringing? The history of the team, and any baggage that might exist there. An assessment of the culture, so is it a constructive culture? Is it aggressive? Is it passive-defensive? Understand what sort of culture you're dealing with. You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the team, and that goes to the individuals as well, the standards that they uphold, do they uphold high standards, or are they very loose and lax, and any blind spots the team may have.

Em: That's awesome, Marty. The high-performing team checklist that we've got is also a great way to assess your teams, so I'll leave that in the show notes, or you can grab it from www.yourceomentor.com/episode48. Now, a question that came up for me in kind of the start of your sentence there was around the problem children, so is there a process or framework that you use when dealing with people who you've identified as being problem children? I just think that sometimes those people can be quite sneaky, and you don't realise that they're pushing against you until it's actually turned into a big problem because they've been white anting you. What strategies do you have for that?

Marty: That is an excellent question, and I think interestingly, this is one of those areas of leadership where every single situation is completely different and unique, and every person is different and unique. I think the only thing I'd say is keep your antenna up all the time. You've got to be on the lookout for this sort of stuff. Not in a negative way, but just making sure that you understand and you're alive to the fact that you aren't going to be universally like you're not going to have people that are universally just going to jump in and say, "Oh my god, so good you're here, Marty. We love to work for you now." Just keep your eye open for those things that are the indicators that people aren't necessarily on board.

I think staying close to the action is the moral of the story, and you can only do that by having lots of one-on-ones, lots of conversations, not just in your own team, but to the side, so you can hear how people are responding or reacting to your new leadership style and the new imperatives that you brought in. Talking to lots of people, communicating well, and being open to the feedback you get back.

Em: Okay. Cool. That makes a lot of sense. What kind of conversations should we be having with our people? What are you actually talking about with them in these conversations?

Marty: Yeah. Well, you want to actually be drawing a line in the sand because assuming you come into the team and you want to do some things differently, which is normally the case, you have to have very specific conversations about what you want, what the people in the team can expect, and how they can expect to be treated, and so do this, this has to happen on both the individual and the group level, and your messages have to be absolutely consistent.

Every single conversation you have, you've got to hit the same points and drive in the same direction. You've got to talk about the big things that really matter to you, and they've got to understand what things you're going to be focusing on to take the team forward, so you're basically setting the standards for performance and behaviour.

Now, this translates relatively quickly into trust. As long as you communicate well, you're really strong and clear on what your expectations are. Of course, you don't play favourites. That goes without saying. You demonstrate that you're not driven by self-interest and that the team knows that you're going to support them. For example, you provide air cover for them to help them not be buffeted around by the vagaries of the people above you. You credit them for wins, you protect them from the losses of the team, and you give them the accountability and empowerment to drive their own destiny for better or for worse. If you can do just a couple of these really simple but important things, you're well on the way to winning trust, and you can do this very, very quickly if you do it the right way.

Em: Awesome. Hopefully that helps Sam out. Next question is from Blake, so Blake asked, "We have department managers at our organisation that really struggle with change. My question is, how and when do I know whether to just box on with changes, and then how do I manage people's anxiety, resistance, etc?" What do you reckon, Marty?

Marty: Well, yeah, this is another good question. I don't think it's an either-or. Change is a super complex topic, so it's very hard to sort of answer the question in a couple of minutes, but let me just have a crack. First thing is you've got to use a proven methodology to help guide you so that you know what you can expect and you know what to do. There's Kotter's eight steps. There's ADKAR, which is one of my favourites. ADKAR is an acronym that stands for awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement. What it does is it actually specifically outlines the things you're going to come up against as you go through the change process. It'll also help you to calm down because you know what to expect at various points.

The first thing is get your head around it. Leading change requires strength of character and a heap of tenacity. It does not happen quickly. Major change, particularly when you're talking about culture and behaviour, is a super lengthy process, but you have to be understanding of your people. Don't jump at shadows for them though. You don't want to be pandering to every single whim that comes out of the team. It will kill you, and it will make change absolutely impossible.

For me, you've got to be focusing on that beacon on the hill, so to speak. You know the old analogy of the leader leading his troops to take a hill, and they're looking to the top of the hill, and they might be mired in mud, and jungle, and muck, and fire, and everything else, but they keep their focus on the hill because that's where they're going. If you focus on where you're going, it's much, much easier to look at that and to not be so concerned with the mud you happen to be knee-deep in at the moment. We always come back to purpose. Are we fulfilling the purpose of the organisation first and foremost? Is what we are doing as a team delivering on the strategy? If you can get your people to buy into those couple of high-order things, change is much easier.

Everyone has got to be focused on the burning platform, and we speak about burning platforms quite a bit. But when you put a burning platform in place, you've got to get this one point across. Not changing is not an option. We have no choice, but to make this change for a range of reasons, and of course, external forces and pressures are always a very good way of describing that, and it helps you to build a sense of urgency.

Em: That's really helpful, Marty. I am thinking though. There are some people who just want to come in, do their job, get their pay cheque. They aren't as connected to the purpose and the strategy as say those in head office are. How do you motivate those people to change and jump on board happily and willingly?

Marty: Yeah. This is an interesting one because you're right, the purpose doesn't excite everyone, and there are always going to be people, particularly at the lowest levels of the organisation, that don't really care about that bigger picture, and that's fine. Right? There's a lot of people in your organisation like that that you need to work with.

I think something that resonates with everyone is the fact that the company has got to be healthy. If the organisation is not healthy, then cost cuts are always on the horizon and job losses are always on the horizon, so I think selling the story that if the organisation is thriving and growing, then the jobs remain, and then the person that just wants to come and do their job, and get their pay cheque, and go home, they have that level of security. I think that's a really good way to connect the purpose up is that even if they don't care how it happens or why it happens, they at least know that a growing healthy company is one where they're going to have a job in five years' time.

Em: So true. That's great. Thanks, Marty. Alright, carry on.

Marty: Okay, so let's move on and talk about the individual accountability because people need to understand the cause and effect of their own personal decisions. Every day. People decide exactly how they're going to behave and how they're going to perform, so they work out when they go to the office, how much effort they're going to put in, how much time they spend Googling the interweb. Like all of that stuff is stuff that people decide of their own volition.

Now, many leaders I've seen feel as though it's up to them to get everyone through to the other side of change, and this way, they sort of over-function for their people. We would like everyone to make it to the other side of every change initiative, but experience tells us that not everyone will. People need to know that, and you've got to be really clear with them. It's a choice that you make. You either choose to get on board and go forward with this change with us, and do it willingly and diligently, and we've got plenty of time for people who want to do that. We will support you. We'll respect your decision no matter what, but if you don't want to change, then you can't be here, and that's gotta be a really clear imperative for any team that you want to change substantially in terms of culture and behaviour.

Em: Okay. You've answered that one really well, Marty. We did an episode a few weeks ago on building the right team for change, so if any of this is resonating with you, I strongly recommend going back and having a listen to that one. It's episode 46, The People Who Built The House Can't Renovate It. Okay, onto the last question. This is one from Laura. She's the CEO of a fast-growth agency. Her question is, "When implementing a change of approach to a value over activity focus, should I look to work just through the formal corporate structures or the internal cliques that have developed in my business?" This is a really interesting one.

Marty: This is a really intelligent question because it recognises the way information flows through an organisation. It flows through informal structures and informal networks as much as it does through the formal communication channels. Look, I've got a couple of thoughts here. The first thing is organisations are structured a certain way for a reason. It's supposed to make the allocation of resources and labour more efficient. Obviously, the leadership that's put in place to run these structures needs to be respected and empowered, so they get to make their decisions, of course. They get to communicate with their teams and so forth, and it's probably true that trust from a low-level employee perspective flows through their direct manager.

That's the lens that people view the organisation through. It's through the lens of their direct manager, so that's an important thing that you don't disempower the formal structures you've put in place. However, it's smart and innovative to use the informal networks, but if you're going to use the informal networks, use them in an informal setting, so meet people where these networks exist. Lunch rooms, drinks after work, and so forth.

I think I've spoken in a recent episode about management by walking around. Just have lots of conversations with people all through the organisation at different levels and in different areas, and take advantage of the cross-functional nature of these informal groups and networks. It's great to just filter through the workspaces and have casual conversations, "How are you guys doing? Anything different you're noticing in your teams at the moment? Is it easier to make this change for some teams than others and so forth?" You can do that fairly readily, but because communication is such a critical part of change, finding innovative ways to reach your people and particularly the opinion leaders is really smart. If you can win over an opinion leader who is arguably the most difficult to convince, they often become the biggest advocate for the change.

Em: Have you got any strategies on how to win over these opinion leaders? My experience with them in the past has been that they're quite strong in their beliefs and their perspectives.

Marty: Yeah, it's probably a combination of a few things. The first thing is purpose and direction. Opinion leaders generally do want to see those links between purpose and strategy. The second thing is it's really got to make sense. The opinion leaders are the ones who other people are going to look to to filter the change. "Is it worthwhile? Does it make sense? Do you think it's going to work?" Whatever you sell to the opinion leaders has to be rock solid.

The third thing is I'd suggest that the opinion leaders need to know that you mean business. They can be an incredible force for good or for evil in the organisation, and they need to know what your expectations are and that you will hold them to account for putting their shoulder to the wheel and being part of the change as part of that informal influencing network.

Em: Awesome. You tied that one up really well, Marty. That brings us to the end of episode 48. I'll put a few resources in the show notes, anything that we've spoken about, podcast episodes and links, so head to www.yourceomentor.com/episode48 to grab those. If you haven't left us a rating and a review on Apple Podcast, and I know that there are thousands of you out there who haven't, please click into our podcast. Scroll right to the bottom, and tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you. Marty, why don't you close this one off?

Marty: Great. Thanks, Em. Look, thanks so much for joining us everyone, and remember at Your CEO Mentor, our purpose is to improve the quality of leaders globally. If you're enjoying this podcast, please share it with the leaders in your network because this is how we reach even more leaders. I look forward to next week's episode, The Captain's Call.

Until then I know you'll take every opportunity you can to be a No Bullsh!t Leader.