I bet you all have a tough question you want to ask your boss. Something that will help explain why he or she is doing what they are doing and the reason behind their thinking. I would like to increase the stakes and say that the same question is on the lips of many of your colleagues. Often these questions lead to frantic water cooler discussions, gossip and rumors spreading around the office. And nobody is willing, or knows how, to ask the tough question, as the boss might take it negatively.
People trusting each other and willing to engage in tough conversations are the starting points for any team to move up the ladder of highly performing teams (ability to hold each other accountable, commitment on shared goals and focus on results are the other three). However, as the Chinese proverb says “Trust comes by foot and goes by Horse”.
To build an environment of trust you need a leader who is understanding and that has the inner strength to make him/herself vulnerable. It is only when you make yourself vulnerable and transparent, that you have conquered your worst fears.
Offering teams a helping hand on the journey of trusting each other and becoming a high performing team is one of my signature interventions. I can proudly say, I love doing it!
An intervention I sometimes use in these sessions is something I dubbed ‘HARDtalk’. Copied from the BBC series of the same name, I use the same approach; asking hard hitting questions to the person interviewed. The key in the interview is the first questions, which needs to be the toughest one, the one that everybody wants to know the answer for and the one that people gossip about.
The results are spectacular. As the audience gasp and hold their breath at the audacity for me to ask that question that everybody wants to ask but nobody dares to. Then, keep on digging deeper with follow up questions that don’t let the boss off the hook but forces him / her to explain why and address the consequences of his / her actions.
Not for the faint hearted bosses. And it only works if the boss understands that they need to open up first for the team to follow suit. When that magic happens and you allow people at the end of the interview identify, what they agree with, what surprised them in the interview and follow up questions they want to ask, you have started your journey of building trust in the team.
– Paul Keijzer