Anonymity Dilutes Accountability

A major way to increase accountability is to reduce anonymity. There is a reason that crime is less per capita in small towns; people know each other. They know what each other is up to, and they talk. They know who is at the bar and whose car is parked outside of “that person’s” house all night long. While gossip is certainly a negative; small town accountability can promote higher character. If people know they are being watched, they are more likely to act above reproach. This is one of the reasons people do more stupid things in Las Vegas while on a business trip. Anonymity dilutes accountability. This is the reason why some conscientious families move computers into the main living area. By having the computers in a more public space, family members are less likely to go on sites they would be embarrassed to be found searching. And it’s the same reason why offices with open work spaces promote greater productivity than ones with solid doors and walls. Colleagues can see whether each other is napping, tweeting, or working.

Five Ways to Build Character

  1. Be humble. It is the beginning of wisdom.
  2. Live out your principles and values. Whether it’s “love others,” or “do the right thing,” living by your principles will make decision making easier and your character more steadfast. Make sure to hire principled people because it is very hard for any of us to learn principles after age 10.
  3. Be intentional. Integrity does not happen by accident. We are all products of our thoughts and habits. Be intentional about filling your mind with good thoughts. Creating a habit of this internalizes principles and breeds high character.
  4. Practice self-discipline. Being of high character takes the ability to do what is right over what is easy. As Harry S Truman said, “In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… self-discipline with all of them came first.”
  5. Be accountable. Surround yourself with people who have high expectations for you. Be responsible to yourself first. Lose the pride. Open yourself up to accountability.

Insincere Apologies are Trust Killers

I had a chance to sit down with the CEO of Compass Strategic Investments. For six months, he lived and worked in the Netherlands, so he had some cultural observations to share. One of the distinctions that he noticed was that Americans often make insincere apologies. When it comes to building trust, being able to say we’re sorry and doing it sincerely is an important skill. However insincere apologies, those made out of habit or indifference, are trust killers.

Expressing remorse without any real intent to change comes off as insulting or dismissive, like someone who always comes late to a meeting and says, “I’m sorry I’m late.” The likely truth is she never really intended to be on time. No one believes her apology, and so she is not trusted.
Do you mean what you say? Whether it is “I am sorry” or, “I will get back to you ASAP,” if you can’t follow through, don’t say it. Make sure you return calls when you say you will and deliver when you say you will. If your intent is good, your words will mean something and you won’t have to apologize very often. It’s like a mother who says “No” to her child at the candy counter repeatedly with ever increasing volume and intensity. Because the mother has given in to her child’s badgering in the past, the child does not trust that Mom means what she says.

The problem also happens when people apologize even though they are not really sorry for what they did. They are only sorry that they got caught. Learning to apologize is only part of it. Doing it sincerely and with genuine intentions is the real test. The next time you feel an apology is in order, ask yourself, Am I sorry to the degree that I am genuinely going to try to make sure it does not happen again? Do I really mean it? Of course it is important to apologize, but so is the action that shows you meant it. Those who only need to apologize occasionally, and do it sincerely, will be trusted.

Conflict is Unavoidable

Most conflict occurs because of a lack of clarity in communication, so I feel it is important to address here. Expect conflict. Learn to deal with it. Anytime there’s more than one person, you’re bound to find conflict. It’s only natural. We all have separate backgrounds, different tendencies, and unique perspectives. It’s no surprise we disagree from time to time. I am always amazed at the splits in friendships, churches, and businesses over a little conflict. Who do you agree with 100% of the time? Nobody. I don’t even agree with those I love the most, all of the time. Have you noticed how people will escalate in their friendship as long as they are talking about commonalities? However, when differences are found, the energy and engagement often drops. We may agree on many things, but now that I know you voted for one person and I voted for another, we can hardly be friends. Don’t let it happen. Expect and even appreciate conflict. The old notion rings true that if we are all exactly the same we are not all needed. Conflict can be a source of growth, creativity, and in the end, greater unity.

How to Make Conflict Constructive

  • The key to conflict is not avoiding it; it’s dealing with it effectively.
  • Conflict is inevitable and necessary for improvement. We can’t grow if we’re never challenged, so get used to seeing conflict as a way to spur positive change, not an attack on your point of view.
  • Use it as a chance to gather information. Understand that conflict resolution often gives the chance to gather input and clarify expectations.
  • Ask “Why?” Often, the best way out of conflict is to keep asking “Why?” The root of the problem might not be apparent on the surface.
  • Practice empathy. There’s no better remedy for a disagreement than putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Pause and be open to the other’s point of view and reasoning.
  • Stick to the facts. Don’t focus on negative feelings or perceived intentions, but rather, concentrate on what happened, and what you can do about it.
  • Practice using “I” language. Using “You” language like, “You always,” or “I wish you wouldn’t do that” puts the other person on the defensive. “I thought this,” or “I felt this way,” allows you to express yourself more clearly and helps the other person better appreciate your point of view.

Being Clear With Expectations

Few things are as frustrating as working for a manager who gives you an annual review and tells you all the things she thinks you should have been doing during the past year. How is this information helpful now? The year is over. Why weren’t these expectations expressed earlier? If you are a parent, you know how important it is to communicate expectations with your child. So often, a clear communication of expectations will prevent both misbehavior and failure.

As little sense as it makes, I hear about similar situations all the time. Supervisors need to be clear about their expectations. This is true in my own company. When I’m specific with my requests about what I want, I almost always receive what I asked for. When I’m vague in my requests, I typically receive something other than what I had in mind.

If you’re in charge of leading your group or even a company, consider whether you’re communicating specific expectations effectively. Of course, micromanagement is a supreme trust killer, not to mention a spectacular waste of time. But in most cases, if you are clear about the outcome in mind, it will get done, sometimes even beyond your expectations.

My new marketing director was feeling overwhelmed and losing motivation. I could see it. When I inquired, she said she felt like there was so much to do but didn’t know what to do first. Once we clarified priorities and expectations, her motivation, effectiveness, and enthusiasm returned. As her leader, helping her work through this was my responsibility.

If you work for someone who is vague about what they want, spend a few minutes talking with him or her about your work. Find out expectations, including the appropriate deadlines and priorities. If it isn’t possible to finish everything on your plate at once, figure out what’s most important. You’ll foster greater trust and a more productive workplace at the same time. Visit us at www.TheTrustEdge.com to learn more about leadership, trust, and productivity.

Motivate Contribution

There are plenty of people who want to make a difference, but haven’t put their vision into action. Contribution is tied to action. You have to actually do something to get anything done. A friend, author, and small business expert, Mark LeBlanc, says, “Done is better than perfect.”(www.MarkLeblanc.com) What a great statement. We can become paralyzed, because we want something to be perfect. I am all for excellence, but sometimes a line needs to be drawn between finished and perfect. Even while I worked on my book project, I thought of all the research that I had not shared. There are compelling stories coming out every day that are pertinent to this topic. At some point, good enough and done becomes better than perfect and not done.

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