Management and leadership topics have always been an area of interest to me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve watched and studied managers — both mine and others’ — as they navigate the day-to-day and issue-to-issue grind. Some of those managers have been incredible. Some, much less so.
In recent years, I’ve found myself studying, on a more academic level, what differentiates the good from the great and the good from the not-so good in some sort of attempt to avoid becoming the latter. Most of it has come through the reading of management and leadership books, with a few classes sprinkled in along the way. And while each author or instructor has his or her own perspective on what makes a great manager, I too have developed an opinion: I believe that trust is the most critical quality any manager that expects to succeed must have.
Management and leadership are some of the softest topics in business education. Everyone has an opinion, a theory, and oftentimes a book (or an editor’s column). And I realize that the subject of trust, at face value, seems equally soft. The reality is, however, it’s a black-and-white issue, pure and simple. Either you’re trustworthy or you’re not.
With trust, you can rally your team behind a cause. With trust, you can develop stronger partnerships, both inside your company and out. With trust, you grow as you grow your team members. With trust, you can accomplish nearly anything.
Without trust, you have no team, business partners won’t commit to you, business results suffer, and you accomplish little.
Think about trust in today’s society. Toyota’s current ad campaign, for example, shows dealers who suggest that you can trust Toyota. Can you, knowing the ill-fated, if not life-threatening decisions the company’s management has made?
What about your investments? Do you wholeheartedly trust your advisor any longer without wondering if your investments are funding the next Madoff? Or Petters? Or Enron?
Everything begins with trust. Without it, any discussion about management or leadership is irrelevant. Without it, you’ll never be the leader or the company you desire.
Over the years of reading about management topics, I’ve discovered a book that, I believe, has helped me become a better manager because it has helped me foster conversations that have helped develop trust among our team members. The book, “Up Your Business,” by Dave Anderson, urges managers to “become a questioning machine, not an answering machine.” Anderson lists a series of questions to ask your employees, most notably, “What can I do better?”; “What do I do around here that breaks momentum?”; and “What should I do more of or less of, start doing, or stop doing, altogether?”
The answers I received to these questions surprised me, and I’d like to think they made me a better manager and coworker. If you’re serious about developing an “A Team,” you should try them for yourself.