Global Teams Need Trust to Innovate and Excel

Professor Tsedal Neeley of the Harvard Business School recently blogged about important moments that global teams all need to have to develop the necessary cohesion and perform at the highest levels.

Global teams face the challenge of having to operate with limited face-to-face contact and across vast distances, time zones, language backgrounds, and contexts, as well as cultural differences. In turn, these differences generate disruptions to team cohesion and top performance outcomes.

To counter those cohesion and performance risks, managing such a globally-dispersed team requires deliberate planning that helps bridge those boundaries. In my work centered on coordination of work across national boundaries — including the implementation of a standard language — I have learned that the most powerful way to overcome these differences is for global managers to create “moments,” sometimes difficult moments. Four types of moments make material difference:

4.  Creating “awareness” moments. One of the greatest problems with global teams is that they don’t share the same context in their everyday work. Members have no idea about the work environment, pace, scale or scope of their counterparts worldwide. The lack of a shared context leads people to make misattribution errors (he’s stupid), generates conflict (it’s their fault if something goes wrong), and a whole host of other disruptive behaviors.

My colleague, Mark Mortensen, and I have identified two types of knowledge — direct and reflected — that help fill those awareness contextual gaps. Direct knowledge involves norms, rules, and context about the personal characteristics, relationships, and behaviors of other collaborators. You build it ideally through short site visits, but you can also build it through extended online interactions. Working side-by-side for a time allows people to observe, for instance, who works well under pressure, how people allocate their time, and how the social networks play out on a day-to-day basis. Such insights give teammates a better understanding of their colleagues’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations, fostering the development of trust. Site visits aren’t always practical, of course, and extended online interactions can be a reasonable proxy.

In our own recent work with leaders of global teams, we’ve learned that that there is no substitute for face-time among team members.  This allows them to develop the trust that is absolutely critical to foster innovation and lasting positive performance by 1) sharing information, 2) making decisions collectively, and 3) collaborating over always-scarce resources.  Still, the costs in time, money, and other material resources required for such face-to-face interactions means that they will be infrequent.   They must then be followed up with a variety of interactions that although not physically direct, still allow for a rich communication and joint problem-solving.
In our forthcoming book sequel, Becoming a Trustworthy Leader:  Psychology and Practice, we profile how leaders of two different global Fortune 500 teams are building trust across multiple continents, cultures, and businesses in order to create lasting innovation.  To get started on learning how they do this, we recommend reading our first book, Trust is Everything.  You can download a free excerpt of that book here.

Some LinkedIn recommendations are just like thank-you notes…

I have been blessed by recommendations from my students at Wake Forest University, Meredith College, and Michigan State University.  In thinking more about thank-you notes, I realized that one of my recommendations reads more like a thank-you note than a recommendation.  (Here’s is my recent post about thank-you notes, which has been the most popular post we’ve written in years.)

Ricki was in my retail promotions class at Michigan State and then became my TA for that class the next semester.  I think we hit it off because she is a kind and down-to-earth person, but also because we discovered that we had encountered similar tough times in our lives and felt like kindred spirits.  I realized once again that my role as a teacher is about more than teaching the material in the syllabus.  It is also being able to give students perspective on life, help them discover their strengths, and lead them to new dreams.

I am so proud of her for following her dreams to become a district manager for Acura in California.  When she asked me to be a reference, I was so ready to tell Acura every wonderful thing about her, but they never called.  Thankfully, they already had an earful from all of her other references and offered her the job!  When she shared the  news on Facebook this week, I recalled the kind words she said about me on her recommendation and realized that it was really a thank-you note she was writing to me.  I don’t think students realize how much those words mean to us as professors. Yes, we teach because we love to teach (and do our research), but deep down, I choose to teach because I hope that I am making a positive difference in my students’ lives.

If you have a teacher or mentor that made a difference to you, let them know.

(Thanks for this cute apple by

Who Does More Childcare in Your Family, and Why is That?

A recent article by Tara Parker-Hope in the New York Times discussed why women do more childcare than their husbands.

On 16 out of 25 child-care tasks — like changing diapers, taking a child to the doctor or getting up in the middle of a night to attend to a child — women reported statistically significant higher levels of enjoyment than men. The only parenting issue that gave women less pleasure than it gave men was having to manage who does what for the child. Over all, women’s scores were 10 percent higher than men’s.

Is it really true that women end up shouldering more of the parenting burden simply because they like it more — or at least dislike it less? Steven Rhoads, a University of Virginia political-science professor and the study’s lead author, surmised that some women may have inflated their enjoyment scores because of feelings of guilt or cultural pressure. But he also said some research suggests that a woman’s parenting skills are deeply rooted in biology. Women with high levels of testosterone, for instance, often show less interest in babies, while a father’s testosterone levels are known to drop when a new baby arrives, ostensibly a biological mechanism to encourage bonding with the infant.

Here is what I commented:

I self-scored a 74, but of course I’d like to see what my wife scores for herself, as she probably does more childcare than I do. I rated all the tasks even though some of them we haven’t performed in years, as both kids are now teenagers. Also, I rated the tasks as much as for how often I did them as much as whether I liked them. Who really enjoys changing diapers? Nonetheless, I’ve changed thousands, and not only for my own children, but also for my younger siblings and when I did occasionally nursery duty at church.

As much as biology, I’d have to say it’s upbringing and environment that influences who does what in terms of household chores and child-rearing. My wife and I are both first-borns, and we did tons of both BEFORE we married each other. My mom taught me how to clean, and as she passed away when I was 12, I had to learn how to do laundry and cook at a young age, too.

I’m the fastidious one in the family, and so I do the vast majority of housecleaning; our teenagers do their own laundry most of the time. My wife does most of the cooking, and the kids and I do the dishes. My son helps me the most with the cleaning, and my daughter helps in other ways.

Here’s what I recommend:  have both spouses take the quiz at the New York Times site, and then have a discussion about the results, preferably away from your kids, and perhaps over a quiet dinner.  Then let us know what you learned about each other, and whether you need to take some steps to balance out the childcare responsibilities.


Greg Smith Speaks Truth to Power at Goldman Sachs

Update 1-16-12:

Goldman Sachs reviewing conflicts policies for M&A bankers according to the Wall Street Journal.

Original Post 1-15-12:

Occasionally, employees and former employees have the courage to speak the truth about what really takes place in their organizations.  The results are typically not pretty, but such honesty is essential to restoring trust and addressing endemic problems in an organization’s culture.  Given that our country is still dealing with the aftermath of the financial meltdown, we need much more honesty from people like Greg Smith.

Here’s what the Wall Street Journal wrote today:

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS +2.40% said it will examine claims by an employee who quit Wednesday that executives “callously” talk about “ripping their clients off” in order to make more money for the securities firm.

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

The pledge was part of a daylong scramble by the New York company to contain potential damage from the public attack. The employee, 33-year-old Greg Smith, wrote in the New York Times that he had decided to walk away from his 12-year career at Goldman because of the firm’s “toxic and destructive” culture—a 1,270-word denunciation that ricocheted around the world in sharply divided tweets, Facebook comments and blog posts.

At Goldman, the op-ed prompted anger toward Mr. Smith and new introspection among executives stung by persistent outside criticism of the company since the financial crisis began. Unlike previous incidents in which Goldman seemed to be caught flat-footed, company officials quickly launched a public-relations counteroffensive Wednesday that minimized Mr. Smith’s role at the firm.

In a memo to employees, Goldman Chairman and Chief Executive Lloyd C. Blankfein and President Gary D. Cohnwrote that Mr. Smith was one “of nearly 12,000 vice presidents” among more than 30,000 employees at the company.

This kind of news is only going to make it harder for Wall Street to recruit on college campuses, according to The New York Times‘s Dealbook.

By the way, here’s an excellent whjte paper about speaking truth to power, organizational culture, and organizational change by leadership guru Jim O’Toole.  It also contains a neat discussion of Sophocles’s Antigone, one of the original sources for the concept of speaking truth to power, as well.



Leadership is a shared process

Ron Riggio is one of the editors for our new book and is featured in this issue of Inc. He makes a great point about leadership not being a singular act, but being a shared process, one in which people come together to make change.

When you look at leadership that way, you can see how the role of trust is so critical in this process. If I don’t trust my manager, why will I work harder toward his goals or even our departmental goals if I don’t trust that his intentions are worthy or he has my best interests at heart while we work towards that goal?

In order to achieve a shared process, it is our job as leaders to be courageous and imagine a better future, to be humble and ask for help to achieve that better future goal, and to be authentic in working with others to get there.

It reminds me of my UNC basketball team the other night. They beat Duke in Duke’s Cameron Stadium after Duke had already beat them on UNC’s home court. Yet, they had a vision of something else and worked together to imagine a better future. They worked together well to achieve that goal and you would not believe the grousing you heard in Durham the next day when UNC prevailed! That was leadership in action!Image


Trust is Everything Now Available in Amazon Kindle Format

Our first book, Trust is Everything:  Become the Leader Others Will Follow is now available in Amazon Kindle format, and for only $6.99, a savings of 65% over the print version!

If you haven’t read our book yet, you’ll want to buy it before our sequel. Becoming a Trustworthy Leader:  Psychology and Practice, is published by Routledge Press this summer.  If you have read it already, you’ll want the ebook version for handing referencing and bookmarking.

In addition to the Kindle models, including the new Kindle Fire, uou can read it on any device with the Kindle app, including iPhones, as well as Android phones and e-readers.

Our book is also available on iTunes in iPad format, and for the Kindle Nook at Barnes and Noble.

Please share this with anyone among your networks you who think might benefit from reading our book.

We look forward to hearing from you as you read it!

Aneil and Karen