On Trust – Lesson for Leaders

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Red Onions on My Salad

The past few weeks along with a global pandemic, global warming, explosions, fires, protests, war, famine, and alien invasions,  our onions were recalled in over 27 states.  That’s right, our onions were recalled and if we had onions and we didn’t know where they came from, we need to throw them away.   We also have to throw away bagged salads, and food that could have been produced with these onions.   It’s amazing to think of how we are effectively blind in our daily lives when it comes to life and death concerns like our supply chain.   How many of us know where our food comes from?  Have you looked at your water bottles?   If you drink fresh juice, where did the water and fruit come from?

We trust people we have never met.  We trust a process we have never seen.  We trust in conditions we have no control over.   We do this without fail and we do this without excessive worry, concern, or thought.   When something bad happens, we simply respond to the situation.   The fact is, this isn’t about trust in a higher power.  This is trust in people.   This is trust in a group of people representing corporate and government interests.

This is our reality.  We trust so many people on many levels and in many ways for many reasons.  If you consider your own life and how intertwined and dependant you are on others for so many things including, clothing, food, fuels, power, connectivity, it is pretty amazing.

One of the greatest leaders in my life said to me that in order to be successful as a leader,  I have to trust my men, my equipment, and myself.   As a man of faith,  I recognize his trust in G-d before all things but what he was teaching me was about practical trust.   This pragmatic approach recognizes the flaws in our human condition and places probabilities aside.  Men (people) will fail us.  This is true and it is also true that with trust and faith, they will exceed our expectations and goals.  Equipment will fail us.  While this is also true, the equipment has multiple dependencies including the requirement for maintenance which is dependant on man (person).   I will fail myself.  This is also true as I am human and I make mistakes.

These are all as true as the fact that you and I don’t know who peed in our water upstream but we still drink it.

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If, Then & Why

It is important to take time to consciously reframe our thinking.   It is interesting at very least to consider an executive officer of a company asking for every detail of every process and practice while eating a salad possibly contaminated with salmonella.   He is attending to every detail and unearthing every possibility for failure of a program or practice as he consumes something which could be the end of him entirely.   The lesson here is to understand the truth about the things we can and can’t control.  If this same executive was as attentive to his lunch, maybe he would have directed someone to get the onions from a local farmer.  Then again, would he know if the local farmer used excessive pesticides on the onions or if they were washed appropriately before being placed on his salad?  To what extend should he go?  Should he himself make a garden in his back yard?  What if..?   There are too many variables I think.

As there are many types of context in which we need to consider leadership, there are some very basic common threads.   Leadership at the very core is about attaining goals and objectives.   We require leaders to help us with focus and understanding of “the goal” and outcome for which a group or organization seeks to achieve.   To this end,  a leader is a person orchestrating, conducting, and guiding towards the outcome.  If the expectation of a conductor is to know the details of each instrument, this person could never attend to the goal.

For those with a lot of experience in leadership with varied success in their own style,  you may already have the lessons learned and understanding required.   At this point, I am thinking of our emerging leaders. This is for people in the process of deciding or establishing themselves as leaders.   As a life long learner, I’ll put myself in this camp.

The goal of this post is to realize and recognize that trust between you and your people is the most impactful, effective, and overall beneficial way to achieve the goal and outcome.   The point of understanding in digging for details and pushing prodding and poking or seeking to know everything is that in the end, you have to recognize the truth. The truth is no matter how much you believe or think you know, you really don’t and you have to accept the reality that a lack of trust may create more risk.

At the very basic level,

  • Trust in your people.
  • Trust in your equipment. (which includes all those supply chain things)
  • Trust in me. (Trust in yourself)

When things happen, they will be sorted out.  We will be able to throw away the onions and live another day.

As a leader, we must focus on the goals, objectives, and what we are looking to achieve.  The details are important but these are much more important to those we place our trust in vs our own personal knowledge.

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