The OKR Podcast
The OKR Podcast

Episode · 1 year ago

Trust is Where Great Alignment Starts

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Artificial harmony leads to artificial alignment — hard discussions and risks are avoided, passive decisions are made and choices aren’t. Exec coach Jocelyn Kung offers simple steps leaders can take to create trust, healthy conflict and better outcomes.

...mhm. You're listening to the okay, our podcast way. Talk about the power of lateral alignment, an outcome mindset and empowering teams to do their best work from anywhere way. Also, talk about operating as a digital company, which is crucial now here journeys, learnings and victories from our guest speakers and get expertise from our host to scale your leadership capacity and operate with high impact trust and efficiency. Here's your host Dadri Pack Nod Today my guest on the podcast is Jocelyn. Coming from the Comb Group. Jocelyn's an executive coach and provides an ongoing advisory service to organizations that want Thio build self generating cultures that want inside out cultures and for leadership teams that want to learn to work in their most productive ways together. Johnson. Welcome to the show. Thank you so much. Happy to be here, Dadri. So over your career, your work with leadership teams maybe early on started in very large enterprise like Juniper and Oracle and Cisco. And over the last few years, you've been working with and your works really been concentrated in very high growth organizations and talk a little bit about the kind of the differences you see between those kind of mature enterprises and the high growth teams do they have a different interest in the kind of coaching and trust building that you provide them with the larger organizations? You find the more stable cultures with more predictable programs and expectations, so the speed of change isn't as fast as it is in the more the startups to midsize high growth organizations. We work in both high, you know, large enterprises, but also find these fast changing organizations places where, especially in today's environment, that are providing a lot of new challenges that we can help with. And we had the good fortune to work together at a shared customer, right with the Lexis Nexis and with Woody Telco of the CEO of a couple of the businesses in in the Lexis Nexis family. And in many ways, Woody is, of course, from a mature, large enterprise. But he, like a lot of other leaders, I think right now is trying to drive the same acceleration. He dreaded nous that you see in higher growth in emerging start up companies. That's one of those places where we fit together quite well, right where the work you do helping teams bill Trust and learn how to have conflict and debate really sets the stage for alignment on outcomes and really bringing your best outcomes forward? Definitely it it was a wonderful chance meeting. I felt like we were two puzzle pieces coming together and that we have similar philosophies. But our team...

...really focuses on building that strong foundation of leadership and communication, so that when the okay, ours come on board, they're really talking to each other about a more holistic implementation that includes how they feel about things or when they disagree and gives them some tools to do that, one of especially the leadership team level right through the entire process of aligning on your objectives and deciding what your key results are. And you didn't disagree. You're just not done yet, right? You haven't done the fulsome job of really honing in on what matters most and making the smartest trade offs. Right and trade offs come with disagreement on where value gets created. Teams that are prepared toe have those conversations without getting bogged down in kind of the psyche. Side effects of those I think do so much better in the setting, but also the achieving of those results right? I've come to think of it as feed forward rather than feedback, so anything we could do to set it up in advance of the journey that you guys really do a great job with helping them work through in a focused manner but also provides some tools on dealing with the human component. One of the phrases you use that I just love it really spoke to me was this notion of self generating cultures. He tells a little bit more about what that means and what it looks like. It's a culture that's naturally evolving, and it's sourced with its own native intelligence. And so what I find is that these riel, true sources of that intelligence there in people, obviously, but they get blocked. So how can we create systems that really unblocked and invite as much of that too emerged and keep growing? So the the analogy that I like to use is the difference between a cut flower and a plant cut flowers. Beautiful. It has a lifespan where it begins and it ends. However you know a plant is there is a rooted living organism that can replicate its own cells that that can grow larger and stronger with time. So that's maybe the best way to think of it. Is it just so It's a self generating, self renewing, self learning, continuous, evolving group of humans working together? I love that analogy. It's very clear, I think, for ah, lot of the large enterprise leaders I talked with. They're trying to create a wellspring of ambition and innovation, and it sounds like the sort of self generating culture is just really an essential part of this sort of innovation from the edges innovation from the front that that leaders often want to see. And without a culture that supports that, it sounds like it'll be...

...quite hard. How do organizations get Thio? That notion of sort of self renewing and cell regeneration growth that you described after many years of observing this I think it's a simple is reversing the instinct that most of these type a very analytical, hard driving executives have to start with action a bias for action and execution which results in a lot of problem solving and checklists and tasks management and, you know, switching gears towards making you know not going there first, but consciously deciding to make an investment in taking a good hard look at who is sitting around the table. Who are these humans? Where do they come from, what matters to them and spending some time bringing that out? Because that is the source of natural intelligence. Each person is unique. And how do we make sure that we are on board with that connected to each other, much like the maybe an analogy of connective tissue in our human body? You know, the functions that we have in the departments are these organs that are all joined by these connected the connective tissue is really what I would consider to be that work. That's quite interesting for the leaders listening, who want Thio sort of do it, and and many of them will a quick diagnostic where we are we Do we have the right culture or not? What are some of the signs and symptoms that they don't have the kind of self generating culture that they that they needed that might best serve there objectives? Okay, well, their various levels of this, But I could just give some examples that might resonate, they would be cultures that are energized and fueled by fear. Where you're cautious, careful, worried that you're gonna say or do the wrong thing, and something negative is gonna happen to you. They tend to be reactive. Maybe more crisis driven silos emerge where people develop different camps and fragment rather than connect. Basically waste. So you'll experience and effective meetings. Decision making gets very clogged and bogged down, you know, and from an interpersonal dynamic. What really holds this system back is the lack of honest conversations. And so what you begin to in the best possible scenario and these unhealthier systems. You've got artificial harmony going on, where people are polite and they're speaking to each other and nodding and meetings and agreeing to things. But they're really not. And so the waste of time and energy and duplication, replication of work all add up to waste of some kind, much that you know from a business output perspective. And from an emotional perspective, it's just they could be more tense environments where people feel more drained than energized. The...

...phrase artificial harmony is such a good one, right, similar to a term I use on confusing collaboration with alignment. Uh huh. That's really nice to each other. We must all be, you know, on the same page, doing our best. It's oddly comforting, but it's it's completely off. But it's the opposite of the truth. Really? Yes, you know, And what would it take? I I start all my sessions this way. What would it take for each of you to be fully yourselves in our conversation today? And it kind of starts? A simple is that, you know, if you took away all the barriers, the things that are inhibiting me, the worry that I will say the wrong thing or offends the leader who's sitting there with their arms crossed. I mean, there's all these signals that are going on that influence my behavior and that can either inspire me to do more and to go into areas that I don't understand. I might be afraid of versus making sure I don't get it wrong. And so what does it look like when you have it right? It really looks like high trust. Ah, high trust environment is a spirited environment there energizing generally more fun to be around. So people are not as constrained. They're interested in self improvement. There's your word. Alignment tends to happen more because they're talking at a different level with each other about what purpose they're really sharing. Not from a business perspective alone, but also from a personal perspective. So it allows that honest dialogue to really push through the barriers into the next possibility that didn't exist before. So that usually comes about when you find ways to have ideal conflict. So as we talked about this artificial harmony, artificial army at one end of the continuum and at the other end is just mean spirited aggression blaming finger pointing, outburst in meetings which hopefully we don't see a lot of but those air both not desirable areas to be from a interpersonal dynamic. We want to find ways thio be in that middle zone where we can have both positive, constructive conversations about things working but also being able to speak honestly and straight about any disagreements, any differences, any you know in my hurt feelings that people may have those that can get in the way, and you know when a person feels disrespected in today's environment, there's so much dissension, so we need to almost make the conscious effort to create more formal areas for these safe zones for people that have honest, meaningful conversations with each other, whether that be about building stronger relationships or getting better...

...outcomes within the team and those air all examples to me of a high trust environment, one of the things that strikes me as you're talking about how it looks when it works well, right is we We all understand. I think you'd have a kind of a visceral response to what that looks like. And the what that is is a platform to do our best work and to achieve our best as a team. The this year in particular. Present. Ah, higher challenge, I think, and more friction for leaders to to show up that way and for a couple reasons and one for sure, is as leaders. We are having to lead through a whole set of things we just we weren't asked to lead through, and we have no practice that leading through right like none of us have experience leading through a pandemic. I've for the third time this year had team members who need to be evacuated because of fires and evacuated from their homes. Now they have to do that with kids who go to school from home and need the Internet. And there's so much complexity this year. It's almost like we have less emotional and intellectual capacity at the time when right way more of that than we used Thio. And if you later on that, the zoom, zoom, zoom of our day right, the the to be in that ideal zone. We need the head space and the transition space, I think, and that's harder to come by this year, right? And I think coaching and getting help are super important when when you know there's even more friction and even more upside, maybe then you've ever had before. The number of challenges that we're facing all at the same time make it more important. I think for us to be able to provide simple pathways that are useful to everybody, because if left undone or if we don't provide those pathways, then we're just subject to individual preferences. Some people are better at it than others, and you're sort of rolling the dice on that while you're trying to get your business pivoted and your outcomes achieved. Meanwhile, you've got a human condition that's deteriorating or going in many different directions. That is more invisible because it doesn't show up on the dashboard or the Q b R. Well, maybe it doesn't employee engagement surveys, you know, for example. But yet I think the employee engagement surveys air, actually not asking the right questions because they tend to focus. Or they ask certain kinds of questions that are more about the external environment. And I think trust is a very personal thing. And so, being able to actually, how do we take a temperature check of what's going on inside this self generating? Hopefully self generating culture. You know what...

ISS the emotional condition of this organization because that emotional condition is the fuel tank that's your gas. And if you don't have the meter, how can you tell when it's getting dangerously low? Sometimes what I find is organizations don't pay attention to it until they run out of gas, or that the problems were so severe. So what we're talking about is really starting to put some benchmarks in place for gauging that more invisible quality, which is the quality of the organizational energy. Yeah, I think it's the perfect conversation. For now. I'm have had a lot of exact conversations the last couple of weeks where they're all feeling a much higher sense of urgency for business outcomes in 2021 right in 2020 was sort of, Ah, a bit of a sideways year. And now and now there's this pent up urgency we've got to make up for last ground. I really need to drive a lot of progress in 21. And part of our conversations are if your team is exhausted and dead on arrival in January because the emotional fatigue and the psychic wear and tear of 2020 on top of just the sort of call it organizational cultural dynamics in your organ, if they're already exhausted, is the energy year, you won't have the energy for the urgency that you need, which makes I think our conversation so timely. He totally agree. I thought that the CEOs today or having toe make three hard decisions at the same time, which is what am I going to cut? What am I going to preserve and where I'm gonna invest? And that's a uniquely difficult time is you've explained with the pandemic, How are we going to do that? And the chances are, ah, lot of CEOs. They're going to be driven to save everywhere they can. And I think the smart ones, they're looking at the investment in some of this human energy. It's being an equally important to the business outcomes. Alright, so let's talk about investing in understanding and trusting each other. You've done amazing and deep work on trust. So let's start with what is trust. We define trust us being three things competence, reliability and good intention. So they're very different kinds of things. But for the most part, as humans, we walked through our day sort of checking everybody else out around us to see if this is a person who I would want toe. Do I trust you? And I'm making fast decisions on those three vectors, you know? Are you competent or you reliable? Do you have a good agenda that is clear to me and not a hidden agenda? So that's our definition of trust, and then we go to what do we need to do...

...to build it? So trust is not how likable I am or whether we're frightened or whether we're gonna get together totally that you know that you stole my line, Dadri, because the normal conventional wisdom would would make you think that it's easier to trust people that have similarities to you. The people that are like you and the people that you like and certainly a lot of startups are formed with small groups of people that tend to like each other, and so likability starts the journey. But as thes organizations grow and become more complex, we really want to set an okay are around this, which is that you've got to learn to trust people, whether you like them or not. Let's talk about maybe learning and earning trust. And you think of that as a skill to be built as an overt action instead of actions as opposed to let it unfold as it may right, you you take and you recommend that leaders take ownership of creating a dynamic to build trust. How do you build trust into the behavior pattern of an organization? I think it starts with a mindset maybe reversing the original mindset of Do I trust you? Dadri, Are you worthy of my trust to think about that differently. The mindset of building trust to be the first to offer. So if you kind of go into it thinking that rather than deciding whether I trust you, I am gonna work, becoming trustworthy and then we because we want to operationalize it is you decide. As you said, let's make it a discipline. Let's make it something structured so that we can allow people to follow a process rather than intuitively get there because they're naturally inclined to do that. So we do have these four steps that we recommend in order, and it starts with being the first to offer. So I'm gonna make the effort with you and everybody. Whether you look like me talk like me, I like you or I don't. I need to go through these steps of number one. I understand you. I'm gonna make an effort to really learn who you are and ask you questions about who you are. We use a tool called elements to help us fast track this system of understanding. But Step one is to just understand the uniqueness of that person and what their motives are and what their needs are and how what their interests are. Then Step two is Thio. Actively appreciate the things that are important to that person to express recognition, to be actively giving positive feedback. It's such a an enormous energy booster that we tend toe let go off because many managers feel like no news is good news. You'll hear from me when you need thio, and it's usually because you didn't meet your okay, are so it's I understand you...

...so that when I appreciate you, I'm appreciating the things that matter about you. Step to and then step three. I'm gonna take the time to understand how I can have your back and how I can have your back doesn't mean I'm always going to agree with you and give you what you want. But it does mean that I understand and can speak about your interests, even if you're not in the room. So it's another version of stakeholder agreement making for the important connections that you need in the organization. And then, finally, the last one is I tell you the truth, and that might be the toughest one. There's a lot of great books written on this now with radical candor being maybe the hot one that people are excited about today. But that gets us back to this conversation about conflict. Because an organization without conflict is not probably a self generating organization, we need conflict. Conflict is the source of innovation and change and transformation. So that whole method of allow, you know, building up your relationship with the person. I am understanding you, appreciating you. I am giving you evidence that I know what your interests are, and I'm gonna hold those in high regard. Allow me to then sit down with you when I have an issue with something that you're doing so that I can talk straight. They make so much sense. And I love the idea of instead of waiting and judging, actually owning the steps to trust, right of owning, being trustworthy as the thing that we personally and individually can control. And and I love the faith involved in going first as opposed toe waiting for others. Yeah, I really love the writings of Adam Grant on the giver taker, and I feel like it's it's just another version of being a giver and, you know, being the first to offer so that you can give that attention. And it isn't only giving. It's also to get it's a give to get so that when I'm asking you about your interest in needs, I have the opportunity to tell you about mine. And then if you start to create, which is what we're doing at LexisNexis with our with Woody with his sponsorship, a CEO is We're together with your okay, ours building in the methodology for having these four steps in their system that they can continue to practice over time, especially as change happens because I have to continue to renew their agreements with each other. Now. I think they're very, very powerful four steps and to make them objective, explicit. Intentional, I think is a big part of their power, right for folks.

And you and I know this because we both talked about okay, ours and work on them all the time, right? But it is some really fundamental level businesses about a Siris of artful conflict, right? You should to show up with intellectual rigor as we weigh the options against each other. And that weighing of options is a conflict in what I know to be true and what you know to be true now, right? And we get to the weighing by being willing to talk about what I know to be true, what you know to be true and to try and resolve where those those aren't the same truths. Or they don't easily reconciled to a tidy answer. Yes, and you know what data? You bring up a really, really interesting dilemma because many times leaders will say, I don't have time to do this. We're too busy on the real stuff, their hard work that we're all struggling with. But I laugh because when you think about it, the waste involved and unresolved conflict just creates burdens that really impact productivity and immediately shut down the options for new ideas. Or, you know, all the excess numbers of hours spent wasted on Yeah, and and in fact, if we don't have intellectually rigorous discussion about which often we make no choice, which, by the way, is a choice and its lowest choice right, trying to drive a company and try growth quickly, the absence of trust to have those fulsome conversations that we use the fewest calories to produce the best. But yeah, that is, is actually working against the trajectory or trying to be on. Let's talk about what trust breakdown looks like when you don't have it. What again? For the leaders listening? Who are trying to say, I think my team is very interesting. What should they look for that would tell them Maybe there's there's good work to be done here? Well, I always like the leaders to start with themselves. And so that willingness toe reflect on their own style. And how they're behaving is probably the most important thing because that senior leaders behavior reverberates throughout the organization so that willingness thio get feedback. Maybe the high, the most. The clearest. Okay, our for me on trust is the quality and amount of feedback that exists in the system. Both positive feedback and constructive feedback. The Willingness toe have that open conversation, you know, and however we would judge a quality conversation. That is what the indicator would be, Yeah, and what that shows up and is, You know, as we said earlier, this high energy culture, it's more fun. People are more creative. They move faster and...

...whatever models that they might want to employ, whether it's for goal setting or for decision making or for planning. The models become less important than the relationship because they're bonded with that understanding of how they're going to best support each other, and problems and opportunities can come and go. Tools can come and go, but they're sort of grounded in that foundation of common language. Yeah, accepting of the idea, one of my therapists that I work with talks about putting the uglies on the table, which I think is another way of saying it. It's Do we have the environment that allow you to put the dead fish on the table and really talk about that mhm crucial to business because we all have products at the beginning, middle and end of their life cycle. Right? And some of those air are dead fish, and we gotta have a conversation about the dead fish right, And we also have to have a very different conversation about the tiny, shiny, bright new fish and be able to move artfully between those conversations, not just stale. Spend all the time on the happy or I think a lot of leaders spend all the time on the hard and which is equally exhausting if you never. If you don't move back and forth across across that spectrum smoothly, I think, yeah, I think it's, you know, it's It's turning adversity into momentum when we know how to do this when we have unlocked some of the keys toward or have the keys to unlock the difficult conversations, which we're going to run into adversity for sure, like we are that scale today. So how? How toe address that and allow that to actually propel you forward rather than continue the way you down. Yeah, I have worked with the same exec coach for many years, and she helped me in many ways. But her most sage advice is embrace the breakdown. Also, you have that today, and you get to work on what needs work. Things is very liberating. Thought to embrace the breakdown because there's the juice you need to actually like, zoom in on. I love that. It's sort of a supposed thio. Get paralyzed by the breakdown, get off course by the breakdown, or spend three nights being distorted by the breakdown. Just embrace it, lean into it and it's your friend is your teacher. Well, actually, love that you as a CEO are getting coaching and talking about that because I do feel that's one of the struggles that our leaders air going through today. It's really, really a hard slog, and so are they getting help? Are they taking care of themselves because they have so much on their plates that they're responsible for? So I think that za great role model example that you could give I think it's for me.

It's crucial. This is the second company where I've been a leader and used a new executive coach over the long term. And it's it's certainly in a growth startup, right? Like my job and CEO chair is call. The definition and the scope of the job are constantly changing. And unless I'm constantly changing what my job description is from, you know when we're 10 people, 100 people, 500,000 people. Unless I'm rewriting that job description and the way I succeed, I'm feeling, and that is, in many ways, like everyone else's job in a growth company, the job is evolving, right? The scales. Would you do it with what you do it are evolving, which means your skills must be evolving. And I think I look at it as I need to constantly build my skill. And I need to constantly reframe how I skillfully do my job. And I don't know a better way to do that than making time for it and getting a coach who can be my thought partner and and can make sure I'm exercising my own intellectual rigor on Where am I? Where do I want to be in? Am I moving thoughtfully forward or not, right? Let's close with your coaching advice. What are the 34 things that leaders can take back now? Thinking about now that will create that cultural environment, maybe the energy for the urgency in their own best possible results next year, one would be to pick a common language that people can use to fast track their understanding of each other. It creates this way to understand different languages and provide a framework for people. Thio move into these trust conversations together, so as you know, we have an elements framework for that that we provide When we start the work, then I think you build a natural habits by putting some of these structures in place and training folks to do it just the same way as you do with the okay. RS. Providing coaching and guidance at the beginning stages so that they can adopt it and create their own language around it by creating experts within their system. So it's the common language, it's the common practices. And then it's the application, much like going to the gym working out on a regular basis so that they build the muscle for trust and, you know, coming up with some indicators on the okay. Ours, I think, is a fabulous thing so that they can keep attending to how that trust is evolving. Yeah, I love that. I think that in the method take away is if you want a high trust, high velocity culture, it will be by design, not by accident, and you need to do the work. And if it's your objective, make it your objective and set up some key...

...results. Thio actually realize that objective versus waiting passively and hoping that it that trust and the in smart conflict just naturally occurs when you put people together. You and I both know it does not. Naturally. Yeah. I love that sound. The summary of trust by design and then your notion of common language And get a coach. Of course, it's so similar to what we dio with. Okay, Ours right is let's use the syntax that we both understand. So when we use the word we have a shared meeting. Let's get some help in How do we do this at our best versus how do we stumble through? And that getting a coach and common language are propellant, right? That move you to your best faster. Then you would in other ways. And of course, that's why what we dio go so well together, right? Trust is a prerequisite for riel alignment. Your alignment is a prerequisite for your best results. That says it really well, I think that summarizes the whole model the whole opportunity. Jocelyn, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your experience with our listeners today. It was just a pleasure. Thio top with you and good luck in to you and to all the teams that you're helping this year as they wrap up Certainly one of the most interesting years we've all seen e e record to having you back next month. Thank you so much. Data. You've been listening to the Okay, Our podcast subscribe in your favorite player. So you never miss a moment. Thanks for listening. Until next time. Uh, yeah.

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