“It’s not what you know but who you know that counts” is one of those maxims that can be difficult to swallow, especially for those of us who value performance over politics. But reality is there’s a kernel of truth in this maxim, especially when thinking about it in terms of relationships instead of politics.
You see relationships do matter, and more often than not they’re the tipping point in any given situation or decision. Healthy relationships, whether personal or professional, will always carry the day – even in those moments when everything falls apart.
And relationships are not only good at saving the day, they’re also essential in building teams that can accomplish extraordinary things. Very rarely has history changing ideas, projects or efforts been accomplished solo. Almost always, great moments have been created by teams of people working in the context of personal, loving and caring relationships.
So what does it take to create healthy relationships? There’s two simple ingredients:
And to be known!
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Relationships require knowing others, who they are, what’s important to them, their history, their stories, and how we can assist them and their goals. Relationships require us think of others first, so see the world through their eyes, and in the end, simply and deeply, “to know” the other person(s).
Healthy and meaningful relationships also require us “to be known”. Allowing others to see into our lives, to know our thoughts, hopes and dreams. To be known in this way is foundational to building the kind of relationships necessary for teams that change the world. Without transparency, there’s no possibility of trust. Without trust there’s no true relationship. Where there’s no true relationship, there’s no team or community. And where there’s no team or community, the possibility of world changing actions diminishes to almost zero.
So I’m recommending a new maxim. Instead of saying “It’s not what you know but who you know that counts”, we should say “it’s not what you know but who you deeply know and are known by that will make all the difference.”
When leaders make tough decisions the chances of their success goes up proportionately to the amount of trust they’ve established by those effected by their decisions. Think about it this way – if, as we talked about in Part 3 & 4, courage is the ignition that starts the process of making tough decisions, trust then is the fuel that brings those tough decisions to a positive conclusion. We need trust to assure tough decisions do not fall apart, so they move as fast as tough decisions need to, and because in almost every decision we need the support and help of others to make our tough decisions become reality.
So how to you build the kind of trust needed to make tough decisions? First, as discussed in Part 4, we need to have a track record of making decisions consistent with our personal and organizational core values and beliefs (which also requires people knowing what these are). When we have this track record people know what to expect from us when difficult situations arise. This happens because core values and beliefs help us become consistent and predictable in our behaviors and in our decisions. And when we’re consistent and predictable people are never surprised at the tough calls we make. Ironically, from my experience, many times people have anticipated my tough decisions long before I’ve made them and have even wondered – what took Perry so long? This kind of consistency and predictability builds enormous trust even when your decision isn’t popular.
Second, we build trust through transparency, honesty and forthrightness in all our decisions, whether tough ones or not. When people believe a leader is disclosing as much information as possible in a timely fashion with no secrets being tucked away, trust goes up even when decisions are hard. And once again, if we have a track record of transparency, just like a track record of decisions made on values and beliefs, then people will go along with us even if they don’t like or agree with the decision. In Part 6 we’ll tackle the sticky situation when the law and ethics require us to withhold information from others we used in our decision-making process.
Finally one last benefit to having pocket full of trust stored up – is it provides a leader with some margin (which we almost always need when making hard decisions) if the decision we’ve made wasn’t 100% the right one or we made and implemented it in a less than perfect way.
So I asked myself, “how does this old maxim apply to other kinds of leaders, ones who are not pastors?”
So here’s my take on it.
First, “Feed them” implies giving people the tools, time, encouragement, and clarity of expectations, training, and coaching they need to successfully do their work now and into the future. It means providing both challenging and meaningful work while assuring people have what they need to meet every challenge and, at the end of the day, be successful. Feeding people is building into them professionally and personally.
Then the second requirement of leadership is to “Love them“. How can we love those entrust to our leadership? We start with treating them as people created in the image of God. We can do this simply by knowing and using people’s names. People love and need to be known. We make sure we understand what people do in their work and the contributions they make to the team. Then we should never stop thanking them. We get to know people on a personal level so we can lead them in a way that brings out their best. We also show an interest in them beyond what they can do for the team. This means being committed to well-being of their professional lives (goals, fears, desires, calling, development, etc.) as well as their personal lives (family, hobbies, spiritual).
If, as leaders, we can effectively feed and love people, then, and only then, will we earn the right to lead them, to be granted the privilege to be their leaders. Without earning this right, by definition, we’re not leaders because we simply will have no lasting followers, just people stuck till they can find another leaders and team.
So challenge yourself by answering the following questions about the people entrusted to you. Then earn the right to lead by actually do what you’ve said you will do in each answer.
- What will I do this week to feed them?
- How will I tangibly express my love for them this week?
- What will I do this week to feed them?
It’s the day after the 2014 mid-term elections and I’m reminded once again by the importance trust plays in the relationship between leaders and those who choose to follow. In politics, it seems, we’ve become obsessed with what I call Ethical Trust. Ethical Trust’s built when people share the same core values and the same fundamental beliefs about the world. It’s a powerful trust that drives so much of our political process. And, for sure, it’s the most important trust. It’s hard to follow a leader where there’s little or no ethical trust.
But because it’s the most important trust, we tend to believe it’s the only trust a leader needs. But it’s not. A leader needs, and a potential follower should demand, a second absolutely essential trust. You see it’s one thing to have Ethical Trust but there’s another kind of trust built on making good on the implied promises Ethical Trust makes. This second trust is what I call Competency Trust. It’s the trust that comes when a leader can and actually meets or exceeds performance expectations and delivers on their commitments. They deliver because of their experience, ability and will to succeed. Too often we vote for and elect officials (or put our hope in leaders) based only on Ethical Trust and we forget to ask – “can they actually deliver on our shared values and beliefs?”
So both Ethical and Competency Trusts are absolutely essential for a leader to succeed. Because earning the full and complete trust of those who choose to follow is the only way effective leadership happens. And without trust there is no leadership, only management, dictatorship, or simply ineffectiveness.
So whether you’re a leader, or choosing to follow one, never accept just one kind of trust, if you do, you’ll either disappoint or be disappointed because the job will not get done.
Any successful venture requires more than the people involved to be compliant, it demands their deep commitment. Why? Because there’s a significantly different impact these two groups of people have on an organization. For example:
- Do the minimally acceptable level of work.
- Just get by.
- Always ask first – what’s in it for me?
- Resist change because change is hard.
- Stagnate and quit growing.
Compared to committed people who:
- Do what is beneficial and necessary even if it means going beyond the job’s minimal requirements.
- Go over and beyond the call of duty.
- Always ask first – what’s best for the team?
- Initiate change because change is necessary.
- Are always learning, growing and developing.
Compliant people make for minimally acceptable organizations that just get by.
Organizations full of committed people do extraordinary work that positively impacts the lives of people and the world. They’re organizations that others emulated and where the best people want to work. Because of this, these organizations create what I call mission momentum, where they’re growing exponentially in their impact as well as in their reach.
So what are the keys to creating a team of highly committed people? Assuring the following four elements are a reality:
- Clarity of mission, vision, and values (answers to the 6 key questions)
- Integrity between the articulated mission, vision and values and the organizations actual behavior
- Transparency of information, roles, responsibilities, performance, and accountability
- And when these three elements are a reality in an organization they lead to high trust. And high trust is the foundation a high commitment culture.
So, as leaders, never settle for simple compliance. Do the hard work of gaining commitment of the people you lead. The payback will be great for you and your team.43.928283-85.286682