Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Rabies Scare Weakened My Trust


In the range of problems I thought I would have to deal with in my life, rabies didn't even make the top thousand. And I discovered that trusting our public services can be difficult, even when you want to.

Raccoons are nocturnal animals, so seeing one strolling in your yard in the middle of the afternoon is cause for concern. Truth bomb, I didn't see the raccoon stroll; it was the sound of an animal in pain that drew me to the window. I looked on in horror as I watched our dog Athena very quickly kill the raccoon.

After I called my husband, I immediately called our vet to see when I could get Athena in to be checked out. I got the number for animal control from the vet so they could pick up the dead raccoon and test it for rabies. We love our dogs. We had a vet for them before we had a doctor for ourselves when we moved to Philadelphia.

I called animal control and went through the hellish labyrinth that government services puts you through when you are trying to get to a specific department. I finally got the department for animal control, and I was told that the person (yes, that would be singular for the county) was not at his desk, and I could leave a message.

When they finally got back to me, I was told they wouldn't come into our yard to pick up the dead critter. That we would have to put it in the fridge and keep it cold if we wanted them to pick it up, which wouldn't be until the following Tuesday – still a week away. They've got to be kidding, right?

We took Athena to the vet and made sure she was thoroughly checked out. She had no cuts, scratches or bites. We made sure that her shots were up to date. The vet told us she had a 1% chance of contracting the disease. We figure those are pretty good odds.

The next day a police officer showed up. That surprised us since we hadn't filed a police report. He was a great guy and shared that he'd just throw it in the trash and be done. Two hours later an animal control officer showed up telling us we absolutely couldn't get rid of it. (Figure they must have talked.) Finally, another call telling us we could pay our vet to have the dead critter decapitated and sent in for rabies testing. Are you thinking like we did? Insert swear words. It was just before the long weekend and they wouldn't be able to test the raccoon until they returned on Tuesday.

The invitation to Ric's staff party went out over a month ago. He had invited 25 of his staff over, and it just happened to fall on the Wednesday that the test results were due. When everyone arrived, we joked about our 'killer dog', not thinking for a moment we had anything to worry about.

After the party, we checked messages on the answering machine. Here's what we heard, "This is animal control. The raccoon we tested came back positive for rabies." Whoa! That is not what we were expecting.

My mouth fell open. There is no way that can be true. Rabies?

Once we knew for sure, I spent the next day walking up and down the street, knocking on doors and letting people in our area know about the rabid raccoon. I posted on the neighborhood Facebook page. I asked the vet to let people know.

What we didn't hear was animal control informing the community. When I questioned them, the subject was a hot potato passed from department to department. All of them said they informed another department and that the other was responsible for informing the public.

What they did do was inform us our dog was quarantined for 6 months. We're supposed to put a big yellow poster on the door of our house informing people that there is a quarantine in effect. They will come by every two months to check on Athena. I'm not quite sure how that protects the neighborhood since all new research shows that results would show up within 45 days.

When the animal control officer came to our home, it took a lot of self-control not to throw him out the door. The third time he said, "Don't shoot the messenger," I really wanted to shoot the messenger. How can I possibly trust a department that appears to care more about protocol than protection?

If the animal control department truly cares about the public, shouldn't they inform the public? If they are committed to our safety, shouldn't they have been out to pick up the dead animal? There certainly wasn't any consistency between what we heard and what they did.

OK, I know this is a rant and I want to thank you for reading to the end. And now I'm going to cuddle with my rabid dog. Stay trusted!

More trust means more success at work and in our relationships. I can help build the trust in your organization. If it's your time to tackle this difficult issue, I'm here to help. Get in touch.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The One Thing Leaders Must Do Well To Develop Trust


Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to learn. Have you ever watched a baby learn to walk? It makes you wonder why we're not all still wobbling around, falling on our kiesters and bumping our heads. The same goes for leadership. Once we've learned the most complex skill, well, it becomes as automatic and easy as walking.

Are you wondering what that one thing is? It's as easy as breathing and doesn't require you to do anything strenuous. It does take a lot of discipline and requires you to set aside judgments. It's easier if you've studied mindfulness and are skilled in emotional intelligence.

What is it?

Listening!

Contrary to what you might be thinking, a good listener also talks. But they talk to understand, not to interject their opinion. A good question shows they heard what was said and they comprehended enough to recognize the 'what and why' of the conversation. If you want a good book to learn some great questions, I recommend Quiet Leadership by David Rock.

Great leaders know that if people feel safe coming to them, the trust factor is upped by a 1000%. They clear away the distractions of phones and laptops and focus on the person in front of them. They create a sacred space where conversations are held in confidence and people can speak openly.

A lot of the conversation happens in the emotional language of the body and the tone of the words. A great listener hears with their hearts and eyes, as well as their ears. Sometimes it's not really comfortable and that's OK. Get comfortable with your discomfort.

Sometimes what seems easy can be a hard skill to learn.

Stop talking.

Listen.

More trust means more success at work and in our relationships. I can help build the trust in your organization. If it's your time to tackle this difficult issue, I'm here to help. Get in touch.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Trust in Turbulent Times


What and who can you trust when it seems like all the rulebooks have been thrown out? Even 20 somethings are nostalgic for the good old days...

Have you heard the tale of the poisoned well?​
There was once a wise king who ruled over a vast city. He was feared for his might and loved for his wisdom. Now, in the heart of the city, there was a well whose waters were pure and crystalline from which the king and all the inhabitants drank. When all were asleep, an enemy entered the city and poured seven drops of a strange liquid into the well. And he said that henceforth all who drink this water should become mad. 
All the people drank the water, but not the king. And the people began to say, "The king is mad and has lost his reason. Look how strangely he behaves. We cannot be ruled by a madman, so he must be dethroned." 
The king grew very fearful, for his subjects were preparing to rise against him. So one evening, he ordered a golden goblet to be filled from the well, and he drank deeply. The next day, there was great rejoicing among the people, for their beloved king had finally regained his reason.
–Author Unknown

Trusting when you are in volatile and high stress environments can sometimes feel like you are the only one who hasn't taken a drink from the well. When that happens, you need to bring trust home. Realize what you can control and what is out of your control, and chose not to drink from the poisoned well.

What is in your control are the things you do, say or believe. What is out of your control is what others do, say or believe. Pretty simple when you think of it!

Living in the US right now is a lesson in divisiveness. People are divided along political parties, religious beliefs, and social status.

I regularly check on the state of trust by looking at the data from trusted agencies, like Trust Across America, Edelman's Trust Barometer, HBR and Forbes. All show trust is on the decline. Talking to friends I hear, "How can I trust ______? They are a _________ (pick the opposing party)."

If you look at everything that separates you from another person, trust will be the first causality in the war that ensues. If you truly want to trust in these turbulent times, look at what you love about the other person and find what connects you.

It takes curiosity, time and effort. But if each of us takes control of what we do, say and believe, we can start bringing more trust to our small corner of the planet. Imagine what would happen if everyone did that.

More trust means more success at work and in our relationships. I can help build the trust in your organization. If it's your time to tackle this difficult issue, I'm here to help. Get in touch.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Five Myths of Trust


There are some old nuggets that have been around for so long that I've seen people quote them as undeniable truths. Don't believe in something just because you've heard it multiple times or read it on the Internet. If you are going to trust and be trustworthy you need to be discerning.​

Myth Five:
Telling people to trust you is a great way to start a trust relationship.

Trust is earned over time. People want to know that your words and your deeds match and that you can be counted on. Words, as they say, are cheap. Actions must match the words.

Myth Four:
The higher up you go in the company, the less you trust that company.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Does that surprise you? Research shows that it is the junior positions, the people who have the least authority, who have the least trust in the organization. When you think about it, it makes sense. If you are in control of what the narrative is, you’re more likely to trust what you hear since you’re the one saying it.  According to Edelman, trust in the institution gets lower as you go down the chain of command.
• 64 % of executives trust the organization
• 51 % of managers trust the organization
• 47 % of rank/file employees trust the organization

Myth Three:
If you want to be trusted, hide your mistakes!

Let me break this to you gently. No one thinks you’re perfect. When you let others know you’ve messed up, it gives them permission to admit their mistakes and you’re not spending consultant dollars trying to figure out what went wrong in your company. You get to correct the mistakes before they grow like a bad mold and do damage. Not only that, people will believe and trust you more because they know you can be counted on to tell the truth, even when it’s difficult.

Myth Two:
People must prove they can be trusted before you can trust them.

If we go into a relationship believing that the other person needs to earn our trust it changes how we are with them. Imagine meeting someone who treats you like you are untrustworthy, would you be willing to share your best ideas and offer to collaborate? Probably not. We form trust relationships by extending trust.

Myth One:
It takes a lifetime to build trust and only a moment to destroy it.

I don’t know when this snowball started rolling down the hill but trust isn’t lost in one moment. It erodes over time. If trust was lost when we made a mistake, there wouldn’t be any in the world. I love what a colleague, Charles H. Green, from Trust Across America said about this myth:

“If I have a deep level of trust in you, and you screw up a little bit – I’m likely to forgive you, give you another chance, cut you a break. Of course, if you screw up a lot – enough to use up the reservoir of trust we’ve developed – then that’s another matter entirely.”

So trust isn’t lost in a moment, just as it isn’t built in a moment. Like Charles said, trust isn’t a matter of time, it’s a matter of quality. If you’ve built up solid trust over a period of time, it won’t be gone in a moment.

More trust means more success at work and in our personal relationships. I can help build the trust in your organization. If it's your time to tackle this difficult issue, I'm here to help. Get in touch.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

It Shouldn't Hurt When We Laugh


I can tell the amount of trust in an organization by the amount of laughter I hear in the hallways. Offices where people trust are more joyful and people aren’t afraid to share their humor.​

There are times when it takes me a long time to get the words out of my head and onto paper. Part of the reason is I start along a particular path and then an off ramp takes me in another direction.

This is what I was thinking when I decided to write about humor and trust. My good friend Michael Kerr is a humorist and has done a lot of research around effective companies, humor and trust. Effective humor at work improves office morale and increases trust. Michael’s humor is uplifting and never cruel.

Now here is my off-ramp...

Years ago I worked for a major telecommunications company in Canada. One of the managers had a second job as a standup comic and was less than a year away from giving up his full time, solid pension and good benefit job to host a TV show. He was that good! His morning meetings were well attended because he would deliver the information in a way that had all of us laughing and listening. There was also a very dark side to him. He was a bully who used humor as a blunt instrument to punish anyone he disagreed with or who had the temerity to hold an opposing opinion. I knew more than a few people who were eviscerated by his sarcasm and humor. I was never a victim but a few friends who were had a difficult time while they were the objects of his dark humor.

I’m getting back on the humor highway now since I know - and studies show - humor helps us trust more if it is used in a trustworthy way. It can be a powerful form of communication that can bring people together and increase community. In his book, The Humor Advantage - Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way To The Bank, Michael Kerr writes about practicing safe workplace humor. Kerr says that reframing stressful events in a funny way has been shown to help people cope more effectively with stress.

If you want to create a positive trusting environment, allow the funny bone to do some of the heavy emotional lifting. As Michael suggests, create a code of humor conduct to remind staff to keep their humor positive. The same rules for a healthy workplace apply to the humor rules: no sexist, racist, political, ethnic, or put-downs.

When people laugh together it helps us overcome difficulties and builds trust. Be sincere. Be authentic. Be kind and don’t be afraid to laugh.

More trust means more success at work and in our personal relationships. I can help build the trust in your organization. If it's your time to tackle this difficult issue, I'm here to help. Get in touch.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Trip Home


I am reminded of a quote attributed to David Duchovny, an actor and star of The X-Files. He says, "The key is to get to know people and trust them to be who they are. Instead, we trust people to be who we want them to be - and when they're not, we cry."

I am reminded of Duchovny’s quote as I prepare for a trip back home to visit family and friends after a sustained absence from Canada while my husband and I waited for our papers to be processed for U.S. immigration. I have been feeling rejected and despondent because of the lack of response from my family.

I sent an email to my brothers and sister letting them know I would be back in the city and asked if they would like to get together. I received a response from one of my siblings; my oldest brother sent a kind and loving message letting me know that he would love to see me. He has always been this way: responsive and kind. The other three? Crickets. Now one brother is a Luddite, so it is possible he hasn’t even checked his emails. The other two, well, I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed.

This is where the quote from Duchovny comes in. I do know my family very well and, yet I want them to behave in a way that fulfills my expectations of how a loving family acts. I knew exactly who would get back to me and who would ignore the message and yet I still felt disappointed.

I can’t control their behavior, but I can control my response and my expectations.

It’s not a lot different in business either. Get to know a person or an organization and trust them to be whom they are. What is their reputation? Reputation is a backward glance of behaviors and actions that can accurately predict what we can expect in the future, yet too often we base our expectations on what we want. I don’t go to McDonalds and expect filet mignon... and I’ve never been disappointed.

I wish I could say that writing this has been completely cathartic and I’m OK with the lack of response from my family, but I still need to work on my expectations. Ah well, I’m happy to say my friends are as excited to see me, as I am to see them. Control what you can in life and let the rest go. Like many platitudes, easy to say, harder to do.

Have you had an experience that didn’t surprise you yet you were disappointed? I’d love to hear from you.

More trust means more success at work and in our personal relationships. I can help build the trust in your organization. If it's your time to tackle this difficult issue, I'm here to help. Get in touch.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Facts Don't Change


It is a cold miserable, 'out like a lion in March' time of year. My shoulders and back are still sore from shoveling the heavy wet snow off the driveway, sidewalk and walkway. Ouch! I wish I could walk out the door to better weather, which is what I'm sure, our dog Athena thinks can happen if she just asks the right person.

After a storm they named Stella (you know it’s bad when they actually name the storm), Athena had to go outside. She let me know by coming up with her big Newfoundland paw and giving me a whack. There is no mistaking the request. When she got to the door and poked her nose out, she gave me a look that said, “You’ve got to be kidding,” and turned around and went to lay back down by the fire. I stood there with the door open for a moment trying to convince her, but there was no way she was going outside.

After a few minutes, she went to my husband Ric and whacked him. Yes, we’re those people that have conversations with our dog and telling her how ridiculous she was behaving didn’t stop her. Since I was closer to the door, I opened it, but she gave me one of her looks and refused to even consider it. She knew the weather she could expect if I let her out!

Whack… Ric got hit again. After whining and not giving up, because she obviously really needed to go, Ric got up and opened the door. She was ready to do the same retreat, except this time she had one foot outside before she started to turn around and got a push, and the door closed behind her. She wasn’t very happy with us for not changing the weather as she had asked, and for making her deal with the reality.

Have you seen this same behavior in people? I have. They don’t like the facts they are given so they try going to another person to see if they can get the answer they want. It doesn’t work that way. If there is a storm outside, you can wish and visualize for sunshine all you want but, unless you change your location, it’s still going to be storming.

Facts don’t change because we don’t like them but they can spur us on to make positive changes. I’ve booked my trip down south and leave in a week. How about you? What fact or facts are you having trouble accepting? What changes do you need to make?

More trust means more success at work and in our personal relationships. I can help build the trust in your organization. If it's your time to tackle this difficult issue, I'm here to help. Get in touch.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Withstanding the Storms of Life


After I spoke at Harvard at the Conference on Emotional Intelligence, Wendy Wu, Founder of Six Seconds China and CEO and Founder of Wonder Tech, asked if she could interview me about sustainable happiness. At one point in the interview we talked about families, and she asked me what I want for my children. I wonder if she thought it strange when I said I want my children to have enough heartache and troubles to make their lives richer. An easy life doesn’t always make for a happy life, and overcoming struggles builds resilience.​

Today the wind was blowing so hard that when I looked up into the trees, I felt dizzy watching them sway and felt a tinge of fear that one was going to fall on me. We’ve lost a few trees to storms. Each year we bring in Rob the arborist to walk through our yard and figure out which trees are healthy and which ones will likely come down in high winds. It seems every year we lose a couple. Our beautiful oak tree looks quite ill, yet every year it surprises us with a healthy display of new buds and in the summer gently shades the yard with a beautiful green canopy. In its few hundred years on earth, it has weathered its fair share of storms. The root system covers a broad area of the back yard. In contrast, the young and beautiful hemlock tree surprised us by crashing down in a mild storm a couple of weeks ago. We found out later the root system was shallow and part of it was rotting.

Strong winds can’t blow down a healthy tree; only weak trees with diseases or a damaged root system come down in storms. It is nature’s way of clearing the woods of disease and damage. I was curious. What happens if a tree grows where there is no wind or disease? Are they stronger and healthier? It turns out they aren’t! In biospheres, they found that trees grew more rapidly but couldn’t grow beyond a certain height before they toppled. Scientists discovered the lack of wind caused a deficiency of stress or reaction wood, the wood that helps position a tree for the best sun absorption and also helps it to grow solidly. Trees are more fibrous and grow deeper roots when they are buffeted by high winds; the actual wood changes and becomes stronger.

It is part of nature that all things are strengthened by struggle. This is where the wish for my children intersects with the wind blowing through the trees. Instead of wishing them a life of ease and no pain or struggle, I trust they are stronger and more resilient when they have problems and overcome them. How about you?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Hat Trick

Upstairs on the first landing of our house sits a chest. You can see it as you climb the stairs to our room. On top of it is my Father’s hat. Not the good one he wore if he had to go somewhere special. No, this is the one he wore when he had to go to the parts department to pick up an extra part for a truck he was working on.

Dad’s hobby was finding old Ford trucks, stripping them down, rebuilding the motor, pounding out the dings and dents, and then selling them. My mother said he usually spent more than he made but it gave him such pleasure seeing the old classics brought back to life. You could catch him any time of day, whistling and working on a truck and smoking a cigarette that he didn’t think anyone knew about. When I see one of those old classics on the road, I smile and think of him.

When he died, I asked my Mother if I could have his old hat. “I’ll see if I can get it cleaned,” she said. “It’s not in very good condition.”

I didn’t want it cleaned. I wanted it with the fingerprints that I could still see on the brim where he grabbed to put it on. I wanted it with the sweat stains on the inside brim, holding on to some of his DNA that helps me to hear his voice when I need to talk to him. I wanted to look at it and still see and imagine my Dad. It is a touchstone to remind me of the importance of integrity, honesty and his wickedly bad sense of humor that helps to light up the days that need to be lit up, and guide me to do the right thing even when no one is watching.

It’s not surprising I speak on trust. Dad believed in it. “If you can’t trust a person’s handshake there’s no sense in doing business with them. You can get a piece of paper but, if someone wants to be dishonest, they’ll find a way around it.” It’s not that he didn’t believe in contracts but, before he signed, he wanted to look a person in the eye, shake their hand and, by that simple act, know the measure of the person he was doing business with. He learned this crucial lesson like many of us do - the hard way.

What is your touchstone? What reminds you to ‘Do the right thing, even when no one is watching’?