The Done Right Podcast
Episode 15

Strategic Leadership Principle 3—Enabling and Supporting Shared Success

Welcome to the Done Right podcast. I'm Jordan Staples and over the past decade and a half, I've been studying how people live successful and satisfying lives, both in and outside of work. And here's what I've learned. People in the workforce who are successful and satisfied are the ones that show up, pitch in, and make an impact in their companies. They are the ones who know how to get stuff done but do it right. So our mission for this podcast is to deliver insight and inspiration to fuel the way you show up at work today. 

[Jordan] We are here at Workfront headquarters in Lehi, Utah, back again with Dr. Trish Gorman here for our Strategic Leadership Series. Trish, we're so glad you're here. Thanks for coming back.

[Trish] My pleasure. Glad to be back. 

[Jordan] For those that didn't catch our first episode on strategic leadership, why don’t you give them a little bit of an introduction to you. And then we're going to jump right into one of the roles of a strategic leader today, and that is about enabling and supporting shared success. 

[Trish] Sure, thank you very much, Jordan. I'm Trish Gorman, and I've spent most of my life trying to figure out how people and organizations create value. I spent a lot of time as a consultant with McKinsey and with some other firms, and I've taught this material at a couple of schools out east; most notably, I spent some time at Columbia Business School and then at Columbia's School of International Public Affairs trying to sort out the difference between leaders in for profits and not for profits. But my background is basically, I'm a consultant, I'm an academic, I'm a practitioner, and even though it sounds like I'm doing all different things, I'm not. The whole time I'm trying to figure out how do we lead others, motivate others, and create value. 

[Jordan] I love that. I'm really excited for today's topic because—and I told this to Trish before we started recording—this is something that was news to me when I stepped into a leadership role. And that is my role as a strategic leader to enable and support shared success. So let's kind of just start things off, and then I’ll probably sound like a horrible human because once we define what shared success means, they're gonna think I'm a narcissist like we were talking about earlier. But tell me about this concept of shared success and really dig into what that means. 

[Trish] Yeah. Well, especially when you have a formal role and you're given the opportunity to lead, you mostly think, I want to get the job done. And what we want to really emphasize is, yeah, you want to get the job done, but you want to get the job done, we say, through and with others. And that might mean you give up control sometimes, it might mean that you share the work, it might mean you share the benefits from the work, but there are so many ways to think when you switch to this is not about me, this is about us. Or it's not about, you don't think in terms of I, you think in terms of we. And one of the drills we do is to have people who really want to work on their leadership, their strategic leadership, to analyze how they talk. You know, look at your emails. I can look at 20 emails and tell if you are talking about “we”, and I don't really mean the royal “we”. But you know, it's all about we and us and who are you copying? Who are you sharing with? And it's not just sharing the success. You've got to share the work, you’ve got to share the fears. You've got to share the challenges, and then you’ve got to share the victory. And when you do that, it changes the culture of your team, and it changes your outcomes. 

[Jordan] So let me ask you a really naive question that I probably would have asked/should have asked when I was first in a leadership role. Why? Because I think in principle, as a good human, this is maybe a bad question. Right. Like, obviously, we want to be a team player, but like, hard knocks, down to it with business results and bringing value, creating value, like the old traditional paradigm is very much that authoritarian sort of approach to leadership, and not that I even believe that's the right way to go, but what’s the substance to shared success? 

Defining shared success:

[Trish] There are a number of different types of research that all point to the sharing piece being vital to good outcomes, and especially to strategic outcomes. Because remember, now we're talking about a subset of leadership, not just all leadership, but strategic leadership in particular, which is future-focused, and it's trying to create value in an uncertain environment. If we actually knew how to take any company, whether it's Workfront or any organization, whether it's the University of Utah, into the future and make them highly successful, strategists would be out of a job, right? So the way to get a reward is to take risks. We have competitors and environmental changes and dynamic challenges all the time. 

So one of the reasons that you need this shared thinking is because you're in your job now, and you're not going to be in your job the day after tomorrow. And whether that literally means in six months, in three months, in five years. So someone on your team needs to be able to do the job you're doing. You need to be able to delegate so you can do the next toughest thing on your to-do list. So if you're hogging all the oxygen, if you're doing the job, other people aren't learning the skills they need to learn. In an environment like now, when we're at such low unemployment, you also see people leaving for better opportunities. So in terms of retention, in terms of learning, in terms of succession planning, it's vital to be able to share knowledge, to be able to share opportunities and to be able to work together with others in this kind of collaborative way. 

[Jordan] Is this paradigm of shared success––I don't know, this is probably a leading question because obviously, no one wants to say no to this––but in terms of this bias toward the future and creating value, is there evidence that a shared success approach to leadership is better than maybe a more top-down? Again, the sort of authoritative approach to leadership. 

Why shared success is better:

[Trish] Yes. And again, in at least three ways that I know of. One is you get every brain in the game, you leverage the diverse perspectives of your team if you let them contribute to the process and even contribute to how they divvy up the spoils. So when there is an opportunity for your team, if the group thinks about who should take advantage of it, whether it's a bonus, whether it's a conference opportunity, whether it's a client meeting, you also raise levels of engagement. And there is strong research that says especially when we're doing, you know, thought work, but even when we're not. Even when you're, you know, using manufacturing, an old kind of what we think of as more capital heavy, asset-heavy organizations, you do see higher levels of engagement lead higher levels of output and higher levels of innovation, of problem-solving. 

So the third piece is when you want people to step up and solve problems, they have to feel that they have a voice and they have to feel like they have a legitimate right to enter into that dialog about what's wrong and how we solve it. The more someone's sort of egocentric or authoritarian or a traditional strategic leader, you know, “I set the strategy, you do the execution,” you may still get good results, perfectly adequate, but you might be giving up things on the margin in terms of engagement, innovation, problem-solving, even problem finding. You don't know a problem exists if you're sitting in your office, you know, with your hands on the controls. So that piece of bubbling up opportunities, bubbling up problems, reframing things, seeing into the future, is not something that we find one person excels at. It's something that the “hive mind” excels at. And it requires a different model. 

[Jordan] Diversity, engagement, the third one, problem finding, and framing. To me, the value of shared success is very much about scale. Because if you have more of that, like you're saying, then to what Ray Dalio says about an idea of meritocracy, there's this concept about the best idea should win. It's horse crap. That is not how businesses operate at all. 

[Trish] Every time you're typing on your qwerty keyboard. Think about that. Because hopefully, all your listeners know this. But the keyboard that we're all typing on is called the qwerty keyboard. If you look, you'll see why with the Q and the Y and the different ends with your fifth finger. It's not the best keyboard. It's not ergonomically the best. It's not laid out the best. So you can just every single day remind yourself the best idea does not win. So it could be about scale. It could be a power game. It could be an influence game. We do a lot of work on influence with strategic leaders and not just emotional influence, but logical influence and all different methodologies. But scale matters, and then you get decreasing returns to scale after a point. And again, I think, you know, your technologies that you use, I think help people to manage scale really well, but if I was on an analog team, there'd be a limit to how well we could work with a large group if you start to really transform and leverage the digital tools you have. Then I do see very large teams and very large organizations acting very nimble and sharing, you know, putting out a problem. 

I remember there was a scavenger hunt that was around the whole world. I think M.I.T. put it on. And they planted all these different things, and you were supposed to find them. And if you found them, there were people sharing on teams. So let's say you found one in Lehi, Utah, and I found one in Park City and somebody else found one in Chicago. And the M.I.T. people, in the past, it would have taken maybe two or three weeks to find them all. And they were estimating with technology it would take maybe two or three days and it ended up taking maybe two or three hours. So if you use that, those, you know, geocaches or a scavenger hunt, as you know, sort of a metaphor or a simile for, you know, problems and issues in your own organization, and maybe it used to take months to surface them and have quarterly meetings and business report outs and make a case in front of the board. And now it should take weeks or maybe even hours. So distributed knowledge, I mean, that's not our specialty; our specialty is trying to figure out how are you the type of leader who lets that flourish and who starts that conversation. 

[Jordan] That's really interesting because what we've seen along those lines of analog to digital, is that going from weeks to hours freaks people out. Because that is an improvement that they've been wanting. You know, you always think incremental. We don't ever think it's going to be that drastic. But going analog to digital is really interesting. And just bringing that up, the fact that strategic leaders are kind of the gatekeepers almost to ushering that in, it’s interesting. 

[Trish]  Well, I don't know how many of your listeners are mature in their careers, but it used to be pretty reliable that you could find a problem or maybe even create a little bit of a problem, and by the time you described the problem to the right people, got the budget––used to be called setting the fire and putting it out yourself––but even if you found a problem, like I find a problem with, you know, a glitch in our product, by the time I let it be known to everybody and then applied for the budget to solve the problem, which is another probably annual cycle back in the olden days and then solved it, which of course I'm going to ask for 18 months to solve a problem I think I can solve in six months. You know, I've got a lot of career security there. And this is why so many people don't want to work in large companies because they have this idea that that's still how it's done. Well, no way. You could never survive anymore if that's the way you thought. So now it's, find a problem while you're starting to fix it and while you're communicating clearly and sharing openly. And maybe it's still not ours, but it does freak people out from a standpoint of “what do I do tomorrow if I solve this problem now?” Some people are more comfortable with that, but there are skills and techniques that you can use to become more comfortable with it. But the pace is increasing and challenges are multiplying and we need to work together to solve them. 

[Jordan] So let's dig into this enabling and supporting shared success. Because we were talking off-air before we started recording, and the question I asked you is, ok, when it comes to a leader, their ability to get stuff done, stakeholders obviously, are those that we serve. But when we think about like this shared success among our stakeholders, tell me how shared success, in enabling and supporting shared successes relates to stakeholders to get stuff done.

[Trish] It complicates things as soon as we start thinking about multiple stakeholders. But in reality, we all have them. So let's just take a relatively simple example of let's say you're selling office furniture, and we've got the supplier is one of the stakeholders because they want to supply you, and your success is their success. So in a way, it's very much shared, if you're not ordering, they're not getting the business. Let's look at your customer who's going to benefit from enjoying and using your product, and let's think of some senior leadership. So let's just stop it there because we know we could go further with other stakeholders. So we've got a supplier, we've got a customer and we've got senior leadership. And let's say you're a salesperson just to keep it super simple. 

So your supplier wants a big order this quarter because it'll be great for them. Your customers might change their minds about what they want, so you don't really want to make a big order now. You want to wait to hear from the customer, you know, really classic sort of operational problems. Senior leadership, you know, may be giving you direction on whether or not you should book the orders now, or how to price for different customers, or how to negotiate with your suppliers. So we're in this mix every single day. And whether we're software coders or whether we're working in an agricultural environment, wherever we are, we have multiple people who may not have perfectly aligned goals. So what might be good for the supplier might not be good for, say, new leadership, or what might be good for the customer, might not be good for you, the salesperson. 

So taking a systems view, stepping back and looking at this, not through any one lens, but through multiple lenses and then making a choice. And for this example, I'm not gonna say you make a choice. Whatever choice you make, it's going to be a tradeoff. And so what real strategic leadership is, is relating that choice to value, overall value, longer-term, future-focused value that's going to help you to compete better tomorrow. And then communicating it to each of those stakeholders so they understand why you did what you did. And if you're just making a tactical decision, don't waste a lot of time on it. I mean, if it's easy to reverse and it doesn't make a big difference for the long term, it's not strategic. So we're talking about bigger policy changes, major shifts, taking on a new alliance, switching suppliers, things that are much more hard to reverse and meaningful in terms of results. Higher risk, higher reward. You make choices and you have to communicate why you did them and understand you're going to get some pushback from people who may have a different idea of how they're pursuing value. 

So if my path to value is selling as many as I can, as fast as I can, and I don't really care if it's low price because I'm going to get high volume. And you're saying actually, we want to add features, we want to sell people, we want to get them into the more elaborate product lines. And those are philosophical, strategic differences. You need to be able to be conversant about that, and understand somebody else is, you know, trying to get low volume, and you're trying to get a premium price. There's a fundamental issue there. Everybody will not be happy. And so shared success comes from, first of all, shared understanding of what the path to success is, and what success means. And most people make the mistake of saying it's all about money or profits and looking at the output measures, and we like to step back and look at a lot of different metrics, not just did you make the money at the end of the quarter.

[Jordan] But it's what you were saying earlier, though, because I was telling Trish off-air, and this is me getting vulnerable with the listeners here. When I first stepped into a leadership role, I was really bad at this. And not because I don't love people, but I have this bias toward results and value. And I really, I guess, have an ego where I thought, I know the path, I know what value we should be pursuing, and the path of that value. Right? And it's certainly like, seeing how people react to it, I refined accordingly and that kind of thing, but to what you were saying earlier… like Trish was telling me off-air, she's like, “well, I have a module that we give to our freshmen about listening skills.” And I'm like, “Trish. I used to be a therapist. Like, I know how to listen.” But the idea is that the mindset of shared success is what I didn't have. 

[Trish] Yeah. You're not listening with your own ears. You're trying to listen with someone else's ears. 

[Jordan] But that's the point. 

[Trish] And that's a huge shift for most people, right? 

[Jordan] Oh, well, it definitely was for me.

[Trish] But an easier way for people to think about it is, whatever you're deciding, stop and think about who wins if you win. So if you get your way, things go just as you say, if your worldview is the world view shared by others, who else will be rejoicing? So in your so-called stakeholder analysis, think about those as an audience of people who are, you know, already your core. They win when you win, you know, they share the world view you share. And one thing you want to do is increase the number and understand those people better. But you also have to ask the question of who's going to lose, who is going to be either neutral to negative on the decision you're making. And part of your job is not just to make decisions and pursue value. It's to bring along the people who today they disagree with you, but they're going to go ahead and, you know, fight your battle or follow. We're not gonna talk today about defection or people who aren't going to follow, but the next time that big decision comes along, you want them to have understood the process and feel that it was fair, that it was informed, that it truly was in the best interests of everyone. Because without that, you don't have the kinds of trust in the kind of relationships that can drive you through truly, highly, uncertain and dangerous times. 

[Jordan] Yeah. Because I think the biggest lesson I'm learning about shared success is, and it really is tactically simple––I actually want to get your insight on even establishing who your stakeholders are. As we talked about the shared success thing, I want to get into establishing who your stakeholders are, but, is the idea of you listening not through your own ears, is it really just understanding, like you were saying earlier, what does success for them look like? 

And literally, you're almost having a working list or register of what does success look like for all these stakeholders? With this project, with the company, with your function, like whatever it might be, and then honestly, your communication of your actions, because like you said, what you do is going to piss some people off, like the people that are your stakeholders that you care about, like your boss, your shareholders, maybe your team members. Like you're not trying to do that. But there's reason for it. But when you have to account for what you are doing, you need to communicate why you did what you did just through their lens of what matters with this project, what success looks like, and honestly, if there's a way to frame it where this is a step toward that value creation or that success that they're interested in, then that's all the better. But it always needs to be through their lens.

[Trish] And sometimes it's you telling a story about how this is going to get worse before it gets better, but here's how it's going to get better, and there's the logic. Sometimes it's a story of, you know, right now this is just critical and it needs to happen and almost nobody's gonna be happy about it, but if we don't do it, we won't live to fight another day. So a lot of storytelling skills have a lot to do with being a good strategic leader, not storytelling in a way that you're weaving a fairy tale, but storytelling in a way that you're trying to place an action within an overall plot that has a beginning, a middle, and end. And recognizing that other characters have other incentives, they also have subplots and sub-themes going on. And the biggest problem I see when people who try to do stakeholder analysis is they spend a lot of time understanding who they are. 

And just generally, stakeholders are anyone who has a stake––it's where it comes from––in your success. So it could be someone who invested in your company, it could be a summer intern. They can all be stakeholders. People in your community who live in the vicinity of your headquarters building could be stakeholders, certainly your customers, your suppliers, those are obviously stakeholders, and your employees, alumni who used to work for your company who still have pride in being affiliated with you could be stakeholders. So describing the stakeholders is one thing, understanding what success means to them is the next. But the mistake a lot of people make is then they try to serve all of them. They try to be all things to all people. They want to make everybody at least not unhappy, and true strategic decisions require tradeoffs and choices. And as you say, somebody is going to be unhappy. And so people who are real pleasers, who get to positions of power because they've done a great job of creating relationships and making people happy, sometimes have a hard time realizing that tough strategic decisions are tough for a reason. 

[Jordan] So how do you balance the two? Because there is like making the right decisions, right? And again, as a leader, you've got to just pull the trigger, right, on making some decisions and going a certain way. And like you said, there may be a stakeholder group that is not going to be happy at all or agree at all with what you're doing. How do you balance that with pleasing?

[Trish] Well, I think part of it is setting up the parameters right up front, so to be able to say we're gonna be transparent about our process, and it will be a fair process, and I'll look at as much as I can within the time constraints I have. I worked with a company for a while and they were trying to have a more inclusive decision-making process. They were getting a bit of a problem culturally because it was a family-owned firm and a few people, including the founder and his daughter, were perceived to be making too many decisions sort of on their own, and no one knew what was going on, supposedly. So let's open up the meetings. Let's have inclusive meetings. Let's let anybody come to any meeting. Well, that was wonderful for a little while. But then again, the pendulum swung and we were at the point where too many people were coming to too many meetings and actual work wasn't getting done. Consensus was being built, but it was slowing things down. And there is a way to manage that polarity between being too autocratic and being too inclusive. 

And it's not possible for me to give you an answer of, like, you know, 6.3. But the first answer is to be aware, you know, where are you on the scale of autocratic? Be self-aware. You know, I tend to pull the trigger before I check with my colleagues. Even if you just let people know what's going to happen before it happens. For some people, we don't just want to know their definition of success, we want to understand the way they work best. Others are really happy to just let me know after the fact, you know, show me the results. Don't talk to me about how you got there. It's different for different people and different groups of people. 

[Jordan] So can we talk tactics just for a second? Because I literally need help with this. When you are trying to, like you said, define who your stakeholders are, you talk about like defining who they are and understanding what their version of success looks like is kind of step two. But then really it's understanding that you're not going to please everyone. Right? But what I'm curious to know is, who all should I really be serving? Because there's like the awareness piece, which is not, you’re not always serving them, you're communicating and making them aware of what's going on. But how do I go about really identifying the stakeholders that really are ones I need to manage? 

[Trish] And that's actually good stakeholder management, stakeholder leadership are skills that take a long time to perfect, and they’re a perpetual struggle for most of us. So don't feel at all alone in that. But let's see, one of the things that comes to mind as a useful way to think about things is to be able to share success with people, even if what they did was they made you more sure that they were wrong. People who are willing to engage with you, and debate with you, and so part of it can be to say, “I think this is where I'm going.” And I've worked with very senior, very powerful people. And they said, “tell me where I'm wrong, tell me why this is a stupid idea.” And having given someone the chance to give that kind of feedback––and not in a theatrical way, in a true way they really want to hear it––then you can literally share the success to say, “yeah, I'm still doing what I'm doing. I still disagree with you, but thank you, because now that I really dug in, I'm even more sure.” And the person working with you on that, that debate or dialog should also respect your process and that they had a chance to vocalize or send a report in, or give a suggestion. 

And it doesn't always have to be, and very rarely is it anymore that we're sitting in a room talking. So a decision you might be ready to make, you can throw it out and you can do the sort of pretend version, which is you send an email out and you say, here's what's going to happen. “Anybody with any suggestions or changes, let me know before 5:00 today. Otherwise, I'm pulling the trigger.” Technically, you asked for input, but did you give a long enough timeline? Did you ask in a sincere way? Are you trying to draw out the expertise of saying, you know, I’m making this decision about sales I really want to know what this might do. Check with the finance guys on what this might do. Check with the inventory management folks on what this might do. I really want to make sure I'm not out of date on my ideas about what's going on in the marketplace. Check with whoever is looking at competitors. It's really hard work. 

So I don't want to say you're alone in it, but it's letting people know what you're considering. That's the other thing, open up your options set to people, and say “I'm considering doing one of these following three things” 

[Jordan] To be more transparent? 

[Trish] Yeah, there are people who will say, “all three of those are terrible and I really need to see you right away.” And others say, “I can tolerate any of those three, I'll stop reading these e-mails.” And someone else who has a horse in the race said, “please pick number two, please pick number two.” And you just want to know, first of all, who are those folks? And maybe you say, “ok, I was looking at options 1, 2 and 3. Now I'll only look at number two.” Maybe someone does see what you're doing and say, “wow, you're missing 4, there's something big you're missing,” or combine one to be innovative. Be creative. You know, recombine the parts of these and come out with something different. Now, again, to the point of my inclusive family firm, you can't do this on everything. 

Decide what your most strategic issues and problems are. And that's where you open this up. You do the analysis, you really go on the listening tour, you talk to everybody. Day-to-day, you cannot say, where are we going for lunch? Let me go do a poll and find out my stakeholders, you know? So a big piece of strategic leadership is understanding which things are the vital big steps on your path to value, that if you miss those, you may… you know, it might be career-ending or really damaging to your organization, in which things are, you know, it'd be nice to be inclusive, but it's not, you know, it's your jurisdiction, your decision to make. 

[Jordan] It's interesting because… and I maybe I'm misreading this on some level, but what I'm getting from you with this is that this shared success, enabling, supporting, and especially when it comes to your stakeholders, certainly is much less to do about pleasing everyone and much more about getting reactions from them. And almost like being delivered about that process, right? And just seeing because they're going to give you great insight as to what they really see as far as the shared value we're trying to create as a company or as a function or for the project or initiative. And, you know, they might expose gaps you didn't see before. Or they might just reaffirm what you've already known all along. But it's much less about pleasing everyone, and it's really about making the right decision. 

[Trish] Yes. And I think even attacking the right problem because maybe in being transparent, people are saying, “why are you even worrying so much about X?” You know, that's not even where the real problem lies. So maybe it's because you're trying to please a big customer and you're missing the whole point of, you know, there's some kind of a technology, or project, or geographic, or some other dimension that you've missed. 

But the other big piece about enabling and supporting shared success is about helping other people do their work well. And so sometimes when you do open this up––and I hope you find this––you'll find this isn't your decision. So, you know, if I think about a client I served that was a law firm for a while, the senior team was really working hard on trying to sort out something about the practice groups. And when they started to open up the dialog, they realized they were solving a different problem. And it really was something that should have gone to the practice group leaders, not the most senior management. And it's kind of like the federal and the state governments, but all of us have the dynamic tension between what happens is centralized at headquarters, or with the founder if you're in a startup, and what happens out at the coalface where you're on a sales call or you're working on a product’s back or something else. So that tension is real. And if you start thinking about, “ok, I'm really sweating with this decision, am I even the right person to be making this decision if it's that hard?” If the stakeholders are that complicated, maybe you need a different group focusing on it. Or maybe you need to think about reframing the problem a little bit differently. So sometimes when you reach a difficulty just doing more of the same to crack that nut is not the right answer. 

And strategic leaders can often really zoom in and zoom out really well to say, wow, maybe it's the wrong problem, maybe it's the wrong team. But let's try something different as opposed to saying, “I promised I'd have a decision by Friday. I just have to make my decision by Friday.” So that ability to maneuver in that space and clear the way for others to make good decisions is just as important. 

[Jordan] So let's jump into that then. When we talk about really enabling that shared success––and I think this is the more traditional way of looking at leadership––we've been talking a lot about stakeholders and I think more, you know, kind of bottom-up management there. But we talked about enabling really being about clearing obstacles. And then you also mentioned it's about allowing your team to build muscle. So let's get into those two things, because I think that those are two really interesting aspects. 

So the first about clearing obstacles, you had on here... leading through and with others. Let's take that approach here for a second. 

[Trish] Well, a lot of times you don't have the knowledge in your position, whether you're an official formal senior leader who's also a strategic leader or whether you’re somebody in an organization at any level who wants to step up and help create value. You don't have all the skills. You don't have all the information. So the idea that somebody else may be able to accomplish the goal that you envision if you can just help them either clear their desk and delegate some things or get the funding they need or add someone else to their team from a different team. So resource agility, being able to move money and people around an organization is something that often requires very different skills, negotiation skills and a different kind of maybe even political power in the organization, than somebody who is a subject matter expert who once they get that budget in that team, they're gonna do amazing things, whether it's, you know, a new drug for dementia or whether it's a new ergonomic office chair, whatever they're doing, they need to get the resources and the air cover and the time; a big piece of clearing obstacles. 

And sometimes it is more politics. Sometimes it's clearing the obstacle that that person can't get out of their own way and offering them some kind of training or feedback. Having a tough conversation can clear an obstacle. There are lots of ways we block good work from getting done or delay great decisions from leading to results. And because in any given moment, we're doing a useful thing, it's hard to see unless you can get another pair of eyes or you can be really truthful about, you know, I'm on the path to value, but I'm kind of over to the side sitting on the bench. Am I waiting for an engraved invitation to jump in and find the next problem and solve it? Or am I really being proactive? Those kinds of things make a real difference to a team, like we were talking about basketball teams. But any sports team is a great metaphor. If you're stuck looking at your own team, pretend they are a team and think about it. Are they a hockey team where you know they're on and off the ice and they have to be coordinated and everything's happening in a split second? Or are they a swim team where you're swimming the 50 free and I'm swimming the backstroke? We're not even in the pool at the same time, much less we're passing anything to each other. Are we a golf team or are we a soccer team? And each of those has some strengths and weaknesses. 

But when I think about clearing an obstacle, I have to think, am I literally, you know, trying to block so that someone else can get a pass? Or am I trying to, you know, make sure somebody has a late tee time so they can sleep in? Those are very different ways of clearing obstacles to success. And depending on your business and your path to value, you're going to know much more clearly how to help others be successful. “Help me, help you,” as somebody said in a very popular movie.

[Jordan] So do you think this ability or this mindset around leading through and with others is… Well, I mean, let me try and maybe rephrase the question. When I read that: leading through others. I've seen great individual contributors be promoted to a formal people management role. 

And they still want to operate in the great individual contributor role. And again, I'm guilty of this as anybody else. But what they have not adopted is that they are now the enablers of a team of 2, or 10, or 20. You know, to go in and create and find that success. 

[Trish] And it is such a common problem. There's a book that I found earlier in my career called What Got You Here, Won't Get You There. Which was about breaking your old patterns. And one of the big patterns is doing things yourself, relying on what you know and who you know, and as you have more responsibility––and again, it isn't always formal, but as you even see an opportunity to be able to engage with a broader network. The idea that you stop doing certain work that has been identified with your success and let go, is terrifying to a lot of people. 

So, again, it's something where it comes back to this idea of building muscle in your team, you giving up that control, need to realize your team is going to maybe do something different than you would. They might do it in some way of measurement, worse than you would have; more slowly, more quickly, more, you know, more something, less something. It's the tolerance of that, and then being ready to act as a coach. Being ready to support. Being ready to give feedback and to take on a different set of skills. And it can have its own rewards, of course, but it's a really tough transition for a lot of people. 

[Jordan] Yeah, so let me ask you this question about, you know, specifically about teams. A very popular book is The Speed of Trust by Covey's son. And for people to really trust people in the workplace, especially as a leader, to lead through people. Again, we're getting into the analogy world, but maybe we can bring this to some real-world examples as well. Like the idea of a sports team, and I'm a big basketball fan, so I'm thinking about NBA free agency that's going on right now, and all these dynamic duos that are across the NBA, those coaches, those GM’s, they're excited that they got two Allstars, two superstars on their team, but they've got these role players. Right? And so the question I'm trying to get to is, most of us inherit a team. And when it comes to developing that team and being able to come to a place of trusting their abilities and just like letting go and really giving them the space to build that muscle. Where does that meet up against performance, and where it's time for you to maybe go and bring some other players onto the team? Because I know that a lot of leaders think that good leadership is to really not fire people, and that you need to save your people.

The 3 Aspects of Trust

[Trish] You could destroy trust if you start to break up the team, even if it's the right thing to do overall for a long time for the franchise. So I hear you on that. I want to address that in a couple different ways. One is to break down trust a little bit. So to realize that trust is not a one-dimensional concept, and you referred to it a little and you probably know this. But just to put it out there, the three aspects of trust. 

  1. Competence trust. Can people do what they're expected or what they're vouching that they will do? So if I say to you, you know, I will win the game for you, you know, do I have the competence to do it? If I say to you, I will get this product launched in three months or I will get our website up in two days. Can I do it? 

  2. Contractual trust, which is if I say I'll get the website up in two days, will I, to the best of my ability, honor that contract? And contracts can be legal, but there are also a lot of times….

[Jordan] Following through with what you've said you're going to. 

[Trish] Yeah! So will you do your best to honor the contract? Do you have the skills to do it? Those are two different sides of trust. So sometimes somebody fails you, but you saw they tried their best, and you're ok with that. Other times, you know, they could have they just decided not to, or they found a loophole and they didn't honor the spirit of the contract. So those two kinds of trust are always at play in your team and in your work.

But the third kind is the part that's both in our workplace and in the rest of our life much more commonly.

  1. Goodwill trust. That's  being vulnerable to saying, “even if it hurts me, I will do what I said, and you can you can rely on me.” Ok? So that piece of the vulnerability is really what enhances that speed of trust idea. 

[Jordan] So if something is detrimental to the person…

[Trish] Yeah, it might embarrass me, but I'm going to do it because I promised you I would. Or if it inconveniences me to work on the weekend, by all means, get it done. 

[Jordan] That element to the contract is more powerful than the contract itself. 

[Trish] Yes. Well, at least I mean, I did some research on trust between suppliers and manufacturers many years ago. And the idea was, if I made a contract with you and I thought you could deliver my inventory at a certain time, that was one level of, “I trust that you will ___ under the contract.” So maybe internationally of different legal standards, and we have to agree that we won't get into a big wrangle about technicalities. Then can you do it to the level of quality I need and the speed I need? But then if something goes wrong, so a great example is, let's say you're trusting me to fill your order and I have an outage. I have a problem and I can't fill your order. Will I go buy it from a competitor and deliver it at your doorstep anyway? I don't have to do that. You know, I could probably even say some kind of act of God, or some insurance claim could come in, and I wouldn't have to do it. But I want to keep the relationship going, I want to really go above and beyond. 

So when you do that for your teammates, so every day there's little interactions of I need to read and review something and give it back to somebody else or I need to finish something and review it, or right now I'm sitting on something I need to approve so it can go in a newsletter. I'm inconveniencing somebody else. If I said I’d do it by a certain day and I do, but I just kind of don't do my best work, but I hit the day? That's one kind of trust. If I do my best work, but it takes me longer? The confidence came through, but the contract was violated. And if I really go out of my way to make sure I don't make the next person in the chain the fall guy, when the newsletter doesn't go out, then we're really starting to operate in a culture that shows we trust one another and we'll work towards shared success. 

And then I can't take credit. I mean, then there's another piece, which is, whose idea was it? Whose content was it? If there's an entity, does a sale accrue to a person or to the organization? Does a good idea bouy the whole team up? Because the only reason that idea was so good is because it fought against the other 22 ideas that were runners up. So all 23 people should get an award, not just the one. That's a different mindset. And a lot of us don't have that. We have a star system. The best idea wins. The fastest runner wins. It can work, but in today's world, we're seeing better results coming out of people who truly think about the whole group because they also realize there is a time where men have to sit out. 

Have you heard of “tours of duty”  for H.R.? You know, so I have this really tough project and then when I'm done, I get a bit of a hiatus and somebody else takes the next really tough project. 

[Jordan] No, I haven't heard. 

[Trish] Yeah. It's like an H.R. way of instead of saying, you are the special vice president for special projects, right now you're in charge of this next special project. But we know it's gonna be tough, and it's gonna be tough on your home life, and it's gonna be tough on you mentally, and every other which way. When you finish that, you know, wait and sign up for another tour of duty, and somebody else takes the next tough project. And it's an acknowledgment that we're managing much more these days by solving problems and doing projects, and we're not necessarily holding those fixed roles so much. It's interesting. But it really is very difficult. I've had some people who switched into this mode and when they were waiting for the next project, they felt incredibly vulnerable. They had really trust the system, and trust their team, that they'd get another chance to, you know, do something important. So that instead of just knowing my job means I get to do important stuff all day. 

[Jordan] Well, but see... that's… OK. So this is a topic we need to address maybe in a different episode because I'll just add this. So you talked about trust kind of broken down into, you know, competence, contracts, and goodwill. Let me ask a question, and then kind of add a thought here. So you were highlighting when do you choose competence, like fulfill your competence, end of things versus the contract? Right. I could just even play between those two because there's this principle that Alex Shootman, our CEO, talks about––which we're going to get into in this in this podcast in a future episode––this idea of a 100 percent completion versus 100 percent effort? And so it's having very clearly delineated what “success” or “done” looks like for the project, the task, whatever it might be, and just getting it done. 100 percent complete versus what I think is our human nature, and that is this 100 percent effort. And I remember my team when we were building the leadership development around these concepts, it literally took us a couple of weeks as we were kind of processing together, that concept. Yeah, because my team was like, are you guys actually telling us that, like, we shouldn't give 100 percent effort? 

[Trish] Right. But did you watch any of Wimbledon this year? Are you a tennis watcher? 

[Jordan] I love tennis. I did not have the chance to watch Djokovic win though. 

[Trish] Djokovic took off the second set. He dogged it, and he saved his energy. It depends on who's interpretation you get, and maybe it's not such a good example to use. But there are times in any tennis match where you'll see somebody not chase after a ball. And if you stop and you look at that person in that set, what the score is and what is at stake, it might be a perfectly rational thing to do, to say, “I don't need that point right now. I'd rather conserve my energy.” And it's not you know, “I'm up by three points or I'm up by three games, or the next points, those are important, and I need my heart rate down so I can serve reliably.” So thinking about the sports metaphor again helps us here, because you can say, actually there are some parts to get done, to get accomplished what we need to. There might be times when we don't give full effort because it may, in the sports analogy, deplete our energy. But in the team analogy, it may reduce our focus, it may have some other negative impact. 

So if I could think of an example in the business world. You're trying to close every sale, but you're not making a personal visit to every client and every customer. You're trying to ensure 100 percent quality, but you're accepting a certain amount of defects because you're going to learn from those what is and isn't working in your manufacturing process. So there is a point and I think it's really, really difficult and I hope we do have a chance to cover this in future episodes, when your work is you. OK, so it's different if I, you know, carve birds out of wood, and you can say some are better than others, and some are painted sloppy or something, but when your thought is your work, it's very hard to even know when are you done, and when it is good. So we have other issues now as we're all transitioning into more thought work and we don't think of ourselves as machines. You know, this much comes in every day. And I do this much thinking and I process this many things. 

And if you did start thinking about your backlog of inventory, your projects that are being held up, I think we're moving in that direction. And it's very good for people to stop personalizing things as much and start to just think about how do we get things done. Now, some people just enjoy so much the process of conflict, for example, that they spend extra time working through things, when a second, you know, the second choice for everybody would have been good enough to advance the project. But people want to fight for their pets, and so the ego is a big issue. And I think strategic leaders are much more self-aware, they know what matters to them, and they are willing to be open about their own weaknesses. And so this is not easy for anybody. 

Today’s best next actions:

[Jordan] No. And I think that's to what we were saying earlier, it's like, as a leader, you absolutely have to have humility and a bias toward learning, you know, and growing and developing. This has been fantastic, so let's wrap up with this final question here, which is what today can our listeners do right away to get the positive benefits of leading through and with others?

[Trish] Thank you for that, because it helps us kind of circle back from a lot of this chatter to some action steps. And two things I'd say. One is to ask yourself right now, especially if you're someone who has a to-do list that's a mile long. But even if you don't, what can you not do? And there's two choices of not doing it. Just don't act. Don't do it. Nobody does it. Just stop. And maybe that is, have one more debate about your first versus second choice on a project or something. But what can you delegate? How can you help someone else learn? How can you give them a chance to build a muscle as we've been talking about? What can you not do? And then either delegate it or decide it doesn't need to be done at all. That's one of the easiest and most powerful things you can do in the short term.

And another thing is just every day to think about who can you clear an obstacle for? You may have power you don't even know you have. What can you do that's relatively costless or low cost, or low risk for you, that would make a big impact on somebody else's workstream? And it may be making a connection to a new prospective client. It might be helping outreach to someone who might want to interview for one of your job openings. But it could be helping move budget or resources around or giving someone up that needs to come off your team to some other team. Making way for others is one of the most important things to do. And it just has to be somewhere on your agenda. To me, it doesn't come naturally. I have to ask myself that question a lot. Where can I clear an obstacle for somebody else? And then do it.

[Jordan] Thank you for your insight and your experience. It was great having you. 

[Trish] My pleasure. Thank you so much. 

Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. You can find more information about the topic and continue the conversation at The Done Right podcast is hosted by me, Jordan Staples, the show is produced by Workfront. Our team includes Jeremy Tippetts and Marc Hansen. 

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