Respect is the foundation for trust and productive collaboration between team members, team members and their leaders, as well as between teams and organizations. However, I sometimes feel that respect and trust are seen as a non-tangible concept that should be discussed between people and when done, “we’ll see whether it improves”. An open atmosphere is being created to enable people to put their concerns on the table, on why they feel trust among the team is lacking. But generally these meetings do not seem to be very productive in building trust, as no action is being built in. I always feel that Lean, however, can often provide the concrete vehicles, processes and behavior that can actually build trust through what I call resp-act…
Trust as a Consequence
Having trust mean that I can rely upon you, that I expect you to behave in a certain way in a certain situation requiring no additional action from my side, and that I have confidence that my expectation will be met. Trust, I feel, is sometimes seen as something you can build directly. In that sense, people and teams are often brought together to discuss the trust that does or does not exist among them, and to talk about how they together can grow trust.
It should be clear, however, that trust is like a symptom, an outcome, a consequence and a result. Trust is a consequence of the consistency with which we act, re-act, behave and talk.
Consistency feeds the expectation upon which people build trust: they know what will happen are will not be surprised. But consistency only builds predictability; to achieve trust, agreement is the second key element. When team members, team leaders, teams and organization first agree upon ways of working and interacting, and then consistently respect these agreements, trust will be built. Leaders should understand that whenever they or their peers show that they do not respect “agreements” (which may also come in the form of principles or even implicit rules born out of the shared values of people, the region or the company), that they are destroying trust. A true challenge for many leaders.
Leaders should also understand that if they do not show respect, they will not be able to build a true Lean organization, and may end up with short-lived, compliance-based Lean instead of the long-lived, trust-based Lean organization they are looking for…
Concrete Examples – Do You Show Respect?
- Do you as a leader allow your people, clients or suppliers to get into unsafe situations? I still see too many organizations that allow unsafe situations to continue. Counter-measures often are focused on compliance and are not often built upon respect for the people. Safety measures and behavior should be born out of respect and responsibility, not compliance.
- Doesn’t your company deliver your client 100% on time and complete? Now of course I can understand you’re maybe not at this ideal state yet, but that’s also not the point here. The point is, whether teams understand that it’s not about a service indicator, a scorecard or whatever. But that not delivering a customer on time, is in fact a form of disrespect. I hardly ever see teams discussing these issues from the deeper perspective of respect and typically people stay at the superficial level of the numbers.
- Do you as a leader ever ask your team for something and then never follow up? Many managers ask their reports to undertake certain actions in order to improve performance. However, many actions seem to get lost. Teams do not record agreed actions and managers do not always follow up, or even forgot about the actions. Also this is a form of disrespect to your team and to the improvement the team is seeking. Do not be surprised, that if you do not show interest and respect, improvement will be halted.
- Do your working methods require your qualified operators to spend time on stuff where they cannot use their craftsmanship? Having ways of working in place that require qualified people to perform many non-value added activities, is a form of disrespect as well. People were educated and trained to provide their skills to the market place, and requiring them to work on stuff that goes into inventory and is written off, to have them look for parts and tools, etc. is disrespectful. Most managers might see it only as obsolescence, stock turns and productivity, but they should start looking at it from the angle of respect.
- Do you send waste downstream? Sending materials or information with defects downstream, even internally, should not only be seen as a practice that negatively impacts quality, productivity and the likes, but as a practice that tells you that you simply do not respect your internal customer and colleague.
- Aren’t you paying your supplier on time? For the sake of short term cash, or just due to poor processes and execution, suppliers are sometimes not paid on time. Another form of disrespect, destroying trust between customer and supplier, whereby suppliers will think a second time when you invite them to collaborate on certain improvements. You cannot build top quality, just in time products without respecting your suppliers.
- Are you often being late for a meeting making your team and peers wait? You are wasting your team’s time. What do you think they will say, next time you’ll be talking productivity and wasted time? In fact, you show disrespect to the others, to your team or your peers by arriving late. When I see companies where everyone is always late, you can tell that respect for any other agreement is often also missing.
- Aren’t you involving and listening to your team? Your team has in-depth knowledge about the process and the conditions under which they operate. Not involving them in defining and solving problems is a form of disrespect for the team. Defining the problem and the solution yourself, or inviting others to do the improvement work for the team, is a statement of disrespect for the team.
Resp-act to Build Trust
The examples above hopefully show that respect is a verb. And there are many other examples I am sure. Respect is a verb requiring visible, disciplined action on your behalf to earn the trust of others. Also, never forget that your actions in one context and time are being interpreted by others: your behavior is seen as being predictive for the future and in other contexts… A leader not showing respect for even the simplest things, will trigger disrespect across many sites, teams and people in various functions. Therefore, to build trust with your team, your (internal) customers, your suppliers and all other stakeholders, you should “resp-act”. Do you?