8 Ways to Spot Untrustworthy People

2012/01/09

Another one on trust!!! As I said in a previous post, I’m a stickler for trust. Without that, I don’t think we can clearly distinguish ourselves from a carnivore that eats whatever it can when hungry. But still, we find untrustworthy people, who, in their late 20’s, think the best way to survive in “today’s world” is being manipulative.  I really feel the urge to ask them how many other worlds they know. I don’t, and before I digress, these are some traits I’ve noticed pretty consistently in untrustworthy people.

  • Not Sticking to Commitments – They don’t stick to their own commitments and find ways to the blame the meekest person, or the weather for that matter for not meeting them. Seriously, I had a team member who blamed sudden rains for not meeting deliverables, and he was in office that day.
  • Back Talking – They talk to you nicely, but talk about others in a, hmm, not so nice way. But if you catch them talking nicely to the same people whom they bitched about to you, don’t be surprised.
  • Seeing everyone as competition – They really can’t differentiate between a peer and a competitor. In their world, there is only one survivor at the end of each and every day, and as a result, it is imperative they should be the one. Many people can argue that is the case in reality, but it need not be – and I can write a 1500 words post on that alone.
  • Being politically right – Being nice is more important for them than being right. Such people just can’t talk anything on your face, nice or otherwise. There is always a hidden personal agenda. Sometimes, it can also be a result of the organization culture. I worked in a company that had an online training program titled Being Politically Savvy. I was not sure if it was a joke, but it reflected in the way most of the employees dealt with each other in that company.
  • Blab information – They pride in knowing information others don’t. Most times, the information might not even pertain to the conversation. It just does not matter. They know something, and even if they were not supposed to say it, they will, because they need to prove they know more than you.
  • Also, conceal information – This is also a typical trait. They believe in playing their cards close to their chest – which is not wrong – but many times, they conceal information to such extent that it even leads to failure of larger goals, if they don’t have major stakes on those results. If they do, they display traits of point 1. Sometimes, you can spot the same person showing this and the previous trait. They blab totally unrelated information, but conceal important information that leads to success of a common goal.
  • Flaunt a false sense of power – If such people are somewhere in the junior/middle management, they just don’t know what power is. Their only notion of power is – getting their subordinates to listen to them and not think. Well, do I really have to expand this further – I’m sure all of have had such bosses or even been one. Just a confession – I’ve had such bosses and also been one. But then, there are people who don’t have to be bosses to exhibit such traits.
  • Flaunt contacts they don’t have – If you know people who always know someone in anyplace, then you know what I’m talking about. The moment you utter some kind of problem or help you need, they fire all guns to tell you they know someone who can help you, but invariably that person would not be available just when you need them, though they had a conversation only the previous week. This might sound an innocuous trait, but please don’t depend on such people to get something done. And hey, I have done that many times over – to feel a false sense of pride.

These are some traits I have observed from my own experiences. I’m sure there are more, so how do you spot untrustworthy people?

Advertisements

Why Good Leaders Fail…

2011/12/26

The internet and even book shelves are filled with numerous articles on the traits of bad managers, and some traits of good managers too. It might sound a bit ironic, but all my time spent on reading and searching has proven this – there are more bad managerial traits than there are the good ones available in any format.

But there are those that fall in-between, ones that were good managers, got excellent results for the business through people, created a thriving environment for everybody to grow, ensured individual motivators are leveraged to achieve key results, and in the process let a few of them grow, and if possible, even over grow themselves. I know these kind of idealistic phrases are generally associated with angels and some religious representations that cannot take a human form, but I have come across a few people (very few though!!!) who are capable of this. But the moment you put them in another environment or organization, they start to break down. All parts of the phrase above reflect the exact opposite now. They miserably fail in meeting the expectations of their direct reports and managers. They lose touch with reality and sometimes it also affects the lives of people around.

So why do such managers fail in one environment, while been wildly successful in another? These are some reasons that I have come across in my experience. Please do feel free to add your thoughts too.

  • The value systems are entirely different – Weather they move from a mature to an immature value system or vice versa, there is a natural tendency to under-perform. And if they move from a non-political (trust me, there are such for-profit organizations) to a highly political environment, it becomes a turmoil.
  • Parameters for trust are entirely different – If you read my posts even irregularly, you would have guessed it by now. I’m a stickler for trust. Some of my friends even call me an old-school person. Either way, I’ve been in situations where trust means different things for different people. In fact, I’ve been in situations where trust does not hold any meaning at all. So, if what we mean by trust is entirely different, between team members, peers and our supervisors, then this is a sure-fire recipe for failure.
  • The new manager is not as mature as you – This is again a sure-fire recipe for total disaster. You have gained experience the hard way, making terrible mistakes, embarrassing yourself, doing a few right things – basically the hard way. But your new manager is, hmm, political and raw. And then the conflict of interests starts. Either way, please remember, you are never going to win a battle with such a boss. Either work around them, or just work in a different place.
  • The manager is not able to establish credibility with the new team – This is entirely up to the manager. If the manager had been working with a team for a few years, then it is more like a known devil situation. But, direct and indirect reports don’t look at new manager as an unknown angel. The sooner the manager establishes credibility, the better. This is best done by exactly defining goals, guidelines to reach them and what will happen if those goals are not met or met. This will ensure people really don’t care about the person and concentrate on results. Not being popular is much better than making people chase shadows to be liked by a few people.
  • The Manger is probably too “good” – A lot of manager fall into this trap – in fact I’ve been there too when I started out as a first line manager almost 8 years back. They take management as a popularity contest and fail on their basic responsibilities – defining goals that directly impact the business, and helping the team achieve them too. This urge for being popular becomes all the more imperative when the manager takes charge of a new team.

So what do you think? Why do leaders fail sometimes, while being wildly successful elsewhere?


12 Lessons Learnt from Failure…

2011/12/22

Learning from failure is a very important management principle that people talk about so much these days. It is a good tool no doubt, and I cannot claim that I don’t learn from them as much I can’t claim I don’t fail. So, here is a short list of my lessons from personal failures in whatever little experience I have. I definitely don’t have the breadth of experience to make a long list, so I will keep adding them as I get it.

  • Humility is an effective tool only if you have the power. If you don’t and still want to value humility, you are just a sitting duck.
  • If you think you are smarter than your boss, just shut up and find a better a job. You will not win the battle in case you decide to go for it.
  • If you do something embarrassing, own it, apologize and forget it. But beyond a point, pretend it didn’t happen. This holds true even if you have to live it up all the way.
  • Laugh at yourself. It’s much better than others laughing at you. And the chances of no one ever not laughing at you never exists.

These are lessons I learnt the hard way from other’s failures.

  • Behavior, intent & values should be consistent and complement one another. Bad behavior and good intent is pardonable. Good behavior but bad intent is a trait of the lesser being, easily identifiable, and not worth in the long run.
  • Insecurity breeds only in people who have absolutely no confidence in their skills and knowledge.
  • Having the right connections is no substitute for bad results. Even your connections will find ways of moving away if you produce bad results consistently.
  • Don’t do anything with money as the primary motivator. There is no way you will make enough money with inflation around.
  • But then, don’t pretend you don’t need money and you can survive on air and water. By the way, you need to pay your dues even for water.
  • Don’t try to work around people who deal with you honestly. You can never ever get back to them and there are not many people who do deal fairly.
  • BSing works in the short-term. Please don’t be apologetic in case you have short-term goals and BS to achieve it.
  • Kharma has its way of following you. Good and Bad!!!

So, what are your lessons from failures?


What can you do about a culture of Mistrust…

2011/07/01

Trust is a very personal thing. Many people can believe trust should between two people and should not be confused as a culture to be followed or propagated. But in many organizations, dysfunctions and interpersonal issues are mostly (from my personal experiences) offshoot’s of an underlying thread of mistrust. Most people are not willing to see anything beyond the layer of behavior and talk at lengths about what’s wrong and more importantly, with whom. Of course an organization is only a place we spend time in to fulfill a lot of our personal aspirations, but we spend considerable amount of time there. And if it bleeds of mistrust, we just can’t get up in the morning looking forward for a day’s work, even if it means just a check list item.

Some common symptoms of organizations bleeding in a culture of mistrust could include:

  • No meaningful confrontation happens, every dialogue happens through the immediate supervisor.
  • Only tasks are delegated, not responsibilities.
  • Issues are never isolated from people. Resolving issues always means pulling up people connected to it.
  • Data is not an important aspect in operations.
  • Data provided for anything is not validated, but contended.
  • Being politically right is more important than being right.
  • Personal interests always score over team/organizational goals, at any point of time.
  • People are more interested in saving the ass, rather than resolving issues.

The list can go on, but these are some of the major symptoms I have noticed from my experience. Requesting you to add your thoughts too in case I missed any.

And sometimes, we just accept this as reality and wait for the first opportunity to move on. Though that’s not wrong, I would say we can first try a few things to see if there is something we can do to make things better for us, and honestly for people around us before taking that step. And if we work in the capacity of managers, I guess it is our responsibility to try our best to make things better for our team and other teams as well.

Resort to meaningful dialogue – Talk directly to people to whom we have question. Rather than going to the manager, its better we talk to the people directly. It might work, or might not work, but it’s worth the try. This involves a lot of courage, but we should not forget it involves some consideration as well. Being honest is not an excuse for not treating people with respect.

Make Data the primary performance parameter N. R. Narayana Murthy once famously said, “In god we believe, everyone else brings data to the table”. This should not mean we must remove the human aspect out of the equation. Alarming data points can be used as a basis to understand issues, derive action items and then arrive at people responsible for them. In many cases, issues/deviation is more a factor of the process.

Identify process issues before people issues – Again this does not mean we should neglect people issues – which is very common – but does the process itself allow for eccentricities? You cannot expect a project to be profitable if it goes through 10 review cycles by different people, and expect the primary contributor to have a keen eye for detail too. You will end up overshooting the budget, and at the end of the day, the primary contributor will not be interested in doing things the first time right, given people are anyway going to have “new ideas” over every coffee they have.

Confront mistrust with honesty – M.K. Gandhi said the worst punishment you can hand over to an untrustworthy person is treating him/her with honestly. Nothing can be farther from truth. Always be honest and forthright with people, but don’t expect that favor to be returned.

Isolate issues from people – Whenever we need to resolve issues, its better we talk about the issue rather than the person responsible for it. Again, this is not to say people don’t screw up, but at least will help in building a culture of trust. Start with the issue, and then move to the people responsible for it.

Place facts over feelings – Feelings are generally an offshoot of behaviors. People “feel” something about others based on what he/she has “done” in the past. Though this is not something we should just disregard, it will help if we ask for facts. Feelings can be subjective, facts just cannot.

Trust people conditionally, and treat them respectfully – This is from one of my favorite authors – Stephen Covey. Trusting should not mean we blindly trust whatever people say. It’s better to also place accountability to what is said. We should specifically ask for instances/data when people generally provide malicious information about others. And this does not mean we should undervalue the importance of respect just because we have evidence of deviations. By treating people with respect and trusting them conditionally, we send out a very important message – I’m prepared to deal with issues and people who deviate from specified norms that you bring up, but that does not mean I will blindly trust you into pulling people up for “allegations”.

All the above points are a reflection of what can be done for a team/organization that is at the lowest level of trust quotient. Once the trust factor is established, we can move to more mature management/leadership principles like collaboration etc. What do you think?


When Am I a Successful Manager?

2011/03/28

Being a manager means so many things to so many people. And unfortunately, success for a manager is also defined in so many different ways that it’s a rare chance two people will always give the same answer if ever asked. These are something’s I see as success indicators for a manager, but then, these are my opinions and experiences, and could be right, wrong or even left. Looking forward for thoughts, comments and of course, criticism too.

Success for a manager can probably be seen in two ways, success in terms of business results and success in terms of team’s performance. When it comes to team’s performance:

  • Success is not about low turn around rates always. More than low turn around rates, success for a manager is also about where and how people from the team are placed once they move out. A team member sticking to a particular team or manager may not only be a result of his/her preference, but also the fact that the manager has not enabled the people he/she is responsible for enough to actually be successful beyond the particular job function. This is dicey for both the team and the manager. It could well be because the manager actually does not think beyond the current role for both the team and himself/herself.
  • Being popular need not mean being successful. This is probably the most clichéd quote, so I’m probably not going to explain this further. That being said, being unpopular with the team and popular with executives is not a sign of success either. A truly successful manager is popular with both the team and the management – and not for antics, but for results.
  • Another key success trait for a manager is when each and every reportee of him/her knows exactly what is expected of them. This could again sound clichéd, but more than knowing what is expected, I also feel it is important for a manager to share exactly what each of the performance standards mean and how a person will be rated during the dreaded performance cycles. I feel every reportee should know what each performance parameter means to the manager, what is the scale of rating, and what each point in the scale means.
  • Also important is the knowledge of what it takes to move to the next level. This sets a level playing field, and also shows that the manager is truly interested in the success of his/her people not just in the current job roles, but also larger ones.

Success from business results stand point of view is actually pretty simple. Whatever you do, please meet customer expectations!!! Sounds simple right? But this is probably the toughest thing for any manager to do. There is so much talk about “customer delight” in the Indian IT industry in particular, but honestly, customers would be more than happy if we just meet their expectations I guess. This was the success mantra of Flipkart.com, and boy have they grown!!! Reflecting on the instances when we were customers, I’m sure we will agree that we will be more than happy if Chinese food smelt and tasted like Chinese food, and being exquisite etc will only be over and above satisfying that primary need.

What do you think? These are just a set of thoughts I could think of, and would definitely add more when I think of them.


What is your default mode?

2010/05/06

There is always a gray area between the black and white right? Most of us would like to remain in the gray area for some reason. Sometimes it could be our own indecisiveness and in some other times, it could also be insecurity. But irrespective of the fact that all humans thrive on the gray area, most of us are “branded” by the mode we display predominantly.

This mode counts dearly when we are in a corporate set up all the more. By and large, we are identified as being in one of the two modes – Open & Closed – and this is justified to an extent too.

When we are in the “open” mode, we are generally keen buyers of new ideas and willing to change our working style more often. We also readily take on that challenge, which differentiates a go-getter and a naysayer. It’s not to say we don’t say “no” to anything, but we give it our best shot before the “no”. And when we say “yes”, we give it our everything.

I know you got the point by now, but when we are in the “closed” mode, we generally prefer to stick to routine and detest change. We refer to the same formula for success in all situations despite the nature of challenges. We also only try to tweak the parameters, but not the formula, when trust upon a new situation.

There could be many other things around this, but when it comes to “branding” the attitude of a person at work, these two modes would probably be the first identifiers  for us.

So, what do you think? And what is your default mode?

Hmm… A friend just told me that there are some scientific explanations for being either, which only reinforces our “default mode” by the way.


%d bloggers like this: