Trust no one unless you have eaten much salt with him — Cicero
My father and I haven’t always gotten along. I was a quiet, short-sighted kid who loved books and music and taking radios apart. He wasn’t. Although we like and respect each other, for many years we both agreed that spending more than a week together was hard on both of us (and our wives/my mother).
One thing we did get right was the weekends we went canoeing and camping together. He had a couple of buddies with a cabin in the Whiteshell. Many times we would camp out on the point nearby. It was a neutral place for us to just enjoy each other’s company. I got pretty good at paddling and camping, which carried into my later life as a Scout leader. Getting out in the woods is something I still do to blow the cobwebs out from between my ears. A gift from my father that I’ve always appreciated and never forgotten.
Building relationships is hard and takes time. No matter who and where we are. At work, trust and openness isn’t something you get by virtue of your position, or your expertise. Especially in today’s ‘matrix’ organizations.
Positional authority is rare. Many titles abound, yet only a few have the power to spend money, or hire & fire people . That’s what matrix organizations do. The consequence is that fewer and fewer managers are being properly trained, but that’s another rant. Expertise authority is now concentrated in the one or two at the top of the pool of similar resources, instead of being spread across an organization.
Relational authority is the only authority left to many managers and leaders responsible for delivering results. Unless you’re one of the few ‘functional’ managers responsible for actually hiring, firing, and promoting staff, you don’t have positional authority. Unless you’re one of the top two or three experts in your field in your company, then you don’t have technical authority. Your work now depends on getting things accomplished through other people. If you can’t work with other people, you won’t deliver.
Getting work done with and through others means they have to trust you, and you them. When you have trust then you have influence. When you have influence, you can get things done.
It starts with basics like learning names, being interested in others’ lives and aspirations, showing interest by asking questions, ‘catching’ them doing things right and giving positive feedback. Attention over time builds trust.
A couple of weekends ago my father came up from Winnipeg. He and I, and my adult son packed up the trailer for a weekend of hunting in the Alberta foothills. The only game we saw was the south-end of some north-bound deer. After a day in the woods we sat around the trailer’s kitchen table and shared stories that we hadn’t told each other before. Stories of grandfathers and family, things we did when we were kids. It meant a lot to me, because my son was there to see my father and I sharing with each other.
The trust that built between us happened because we spent time together. Maybe the gin helped, but the bonding would have happened with or without it.
(The picture above is of my daughter steering a canoe down the Red Deer River on a Scout canoe trip two summers ago.)