It was such a pleasant surprise to see my COO, at a famous restaurant in the city this weekend. My COO, is an accomplished professional with more than three decades of work experience. He has successfully led some of the top brands in his previous assignments and is currently leading our organization through a transformational phase. Thanks to his rich multinational experience, you wouldn’t miss admiring his leadership qualities and global mindset. He seemed to be in a lighter mood, and I did not want to miss a conversation with him. Let’s face it, it is not too often we get a chance to speak to true leaders in a relaxed environment, and either way, just like me he was by himself and that encouraged me to approach him. We exchanged greetings and pleasantries and I joined him at the table.
After an initial conversation on subjects of common interest, I decided to get into action to make the most of this opportunity. ‘So tell me sir, what according to you made you successful to come up to this level, and by that I mean, the top qualities or attributes or even a conscious effort, that you can truly relate to’. He looked very reflective and after almost couple of minutes, he replied, ‘I have had my share of struggles and luck to become the person that I am. Of all the things, there are two main things that I can think of, the first is trust, both being trustworthy and trusting other people or the companies we serve. Second, it is the willingness to accept change in whichever form it is presented. I embraced it and always looked for an opportunity to learn and excel through it’!.For the next 45 minutes or so he spoke about many instances in his professional life which complimented the two factors – Trust and Change. It was amazing to hear of the instances when he was asked to relocate to the US, UK, and different parts of India, almost in the same calendar year. After a wonderful conversation over lunch, we parted ways and I felt truly enriched by the time spent with him.
It just struck me very powerfully of what he mentioned about T&C (Trust and Change). So what exactly is T&C?
T – TRUST –A classic definition is ‘A psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another’ (Rousseau et al 1998).
So is this about a willingness to make oneself vulnerable in the face of uncertainty or insecurity? Or is that a risk-taking ability? Because the word Trust can be very different between being Trustworthy and to Trust others. Being trustworthy to a large extent can be justified and rationalized as it is mostly internal , within oneself, and it takes the expression of Ability, Benevolence, Integrity, Predictability etc. It is the latter, trusting others, which comes to play through social process that can be tricky because there are too many variables and uncertainties. In an organization context, it becomes even more complex as we are dealing with Trust not only between individuals but also between individuals and management.
C – CHANGE – Change needs no introduction and I’m of the opinion it should not and (cannot) be boxed in a definition. Change is a way of life both for individuals and organizations. Successful companies are nothing today like what they were when they started. Peter diamandis, the co- author of the new York best seller - Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think, summed up it well in present context stating “Between 2016 and 2022, there will be as many technological changes as many as we had between 1900s and 2000. That’s more than 2000% growth. and that’s just the beginning of the exponential curve’’. So there, Change is the oxygen of progress, Period!
For T&C to tango, the Past, Present and the Future should be considered in organizations.
First would be the past. Thought it is unusual to consider the past, it is very important to curb a particular organizational virus behavior called Cynicism. Usually displayed by a bunch of people, Cynics differ from people who resist change in a way that, they neither resist nor tend to be enthused about change. Both of it can be contagious in the form of apathy, dis-engagement and lack of enthusiasm leading to organizational cancer if not diagnosed. One way of overcoming this would be to promote consistent organizational management and leadership characteristics of Benevolence and Integrity. A great deal of that would be related to avoidance of Pseudo consultation and by promoting a genuine interest to involve employees. It is important not to mislead people into thinking that things are going to be better or more successful than they are. Under-promising and over-delivering tends to work better than over-promising and under-delivering.
Second would be the Present, through the level of Psychological contracting. Simply put, it is concerned with employee’s subjective beliefs, shaped by the organization, in relation to its current role as an employer. This is a key factor for organisations which embrace changes through High Trust. For it to be successful we should understand that both the parties can have different belief systems. Therefore the success is the concept of mutuality. This can be achieved by a Balanced and Relational psychological contracting. Key features of such contracting would be open-ended and relationship-oriented employment with well – specified performance terms subject to change over time. Openness, Transparency and Communication are some of the key ingredients of mutual expectations with an overall interest of the employee-employer relation.
Third would be the Future and is directly linked with T&C and People. Miller quoted ‘Change is ultimately about people – if they do not change, nothing significant happens’. People resist Change because of a multitude of factors in organizations. The best way to address this would be through Change agents. Their key responsibilities should make sure that the people affected by change know specifically how it satisfies criteria such as Benefit, Compatibility and Complexity. One effective way to do this would be to identify the resistors and give them the responsibility of being a Change agent. The advantage of such an approach is twofold. First people tend to support change initiatives that they are part of. Second is, their conviction about change can be so powerful, given that they have experienced resistance in the past, and this can promote a culture of High Trust and Change across the organisation.
There is no doubt that a comprehensive T&C tango will generate thundering applause, given the complexities of its moves. But what we need to be mindful about is the number of interacting elements that can behave in a Non-linear fashion. Almost all through the performance, the success lies in complimenting the moves between the partners of T&C, the music and the stage. While it will not be always possible to score a perfect ten, it will definitely be possible to set the ball rolling towards it.