Friday, June 2, 2017

Trust and Face-Time

I was speaking at an HR conference last week on the subject of managing change. In that talk, I talked about the importance of trust in getting employees to adopt change.

In the Q&A at the end of the session, one of the attendees asked, "How can one get employees in remote locations without regular interaction with management to trust the management team?" My response? "Facetime."

I know we have gotten into the whole virtual workplace theme. I interact with my clients mostly in a virtual environment. But I have met all of them, in person, usually more than once.

We've probably all heard the sales maxim that people buy from people they trust. In order to trust them, they have to like them, and to like them, they have to know them. The same is very true with employees and trust. If employees don't see management, they cannot develop trust in management, and if they don't trust management, they are unlikely to buy into the change.

This is one of the big reasons first line supervisors are so important--they are the accessible face of management. But let's not get me on that soapbox this morning. The old "Management by Walking Around" rule applies in today's workplace every bit as much as it used to. Perhaps even more, as workers are seeing their management less and less all the time.

Yes, your job is busy. At a point not too long in my past, I took over a work group of about 350 people that were spread out in several buildings. The tendency is to stay in the building where your office is located. I made it a point to visit every workcenter on a regular basis and to talk to every single person there when I went by. And to make sure I did it, I appointed someone to hold me accountable.

The visits weren't long. Initially, the employees were completely thrown off by management in their area. It was obvious that it was not something they were used to and when it happened, it wasn't a good thing. It took several weeks for them to relax and some months before they would actually bring up and discuss problems and make suggestions. They had a chance to ask "why" about policies and procedures from the person who made/approved them. I don't think it is enough just to glad-hand your employees (except maybe the first time.) Be interested; ask questions; recognize good work.

This simple, but regular, action was part of the reason this group gelled so well and actively pursued better ways of doing the work. In the case of the person in my conference session, to visit her group required overnight travel. So you don't see them every week, but you have to make it a point to see them occasionally. In between, yes, other forms of contact help reinforce the relationship.

My point? Get off your butt and walk around. Even if it's a long walk.

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