The Real T&C’s

We all know what T&C’s are, the TERMS & CONDITIONS that ensure the exchange we are about to encounter is communicated and fair to both parties. Usually, these are related to a business transaction with an individual or another business.

According to the Business Dictionary, T&C’s are defined as “General and special arrangements, provisions, requirements, rules, specifications, and standards that form an integral part of an agreement or contract.”

Most often we read the T&C’s when we are engaging in a relationship for the first time and the parties are unknown to each other or a relationship lacks trust. You buy a Groupon and read the ‘fine print’ of the offer to ensure you can redeem within the specified T&C’s.

Why do we do this? Why do we feel the need to write these T&C’s as well as read them? I’m going to propose that it’s because we have used the wrong words for T&C’s and the wrong definition. What if, the real issue is not the Terms & Conditions (further referred to as the technical T&C’s) but the TRUST & COMMUNICATION (further referred to as the soft T&C’s) between two parties. When someone clearly communicates and is trustworthy would you ever be concerned with the fine print? Probably not. Let’s take the Nordstrom policy and effect. When you shop at Nordstrom, do you read the return policy? No, because they have built a reputation of trust and communication with their customers and within the industry of a ‘no questions asked’ return policy.  The trust that has been built with their consumers is deep and evokes deep loyalty. So can we then take it a step further and assume that if you want your customers to remain deeply loyal, no matter what your technical T&C’s are, your soft T&C’s need to be fair and consistent? You’ll always have the outliers that want to bend and stretch the technical T&C’s but that’s generally because they themselves are not often givers of the soft T&C’s.

Which brings me to the office. It’s one thing to talk about T&C’s with your customers but as leaders in an organization, I’d like to suggest that we too have operating technical T&C’s that often go unspoken but have huge ramifications, affecting the soft T&C’s.

Recently I sat in a leadership meeting in which the CEO reminded a group of us top leaders in the company about confidentiality among us. In my world that is a given, I trust that when we are communicating with each other, that stays between us. If I need to say to you, “This is between us.”, stating a term & condition around the conversation then we have not established trust and communication with each other. Or worse yet, in our previous communications you’ve broken that trust with me.

So then what? What does it look like in business when trust is broken and can it be repaired?  What does it look like when trust exists? I recently attended a short Stephen Covey, Speed of Trust seminar, it was mind-blowing truth about relationships and the effect of trust levels on working together. I’ll be digging into the book this month but just the brief 2 hours put practical steps to earning and growing trust among your teams. I highly recommend.

I’d like to propose to you one of the first questions that Mr. Covey asked us, “What does it look like working with someone that you really trust? How quickly and efficiently do you get things done?” By the sheer nature of the question, you are already thinking about who that person is that you trust, that you don’t have to say “this is between us” that you don’t have to frame terms and conditions around because you’ve built trust and communication. You work together efficiently, have higher levels of output and frankly, enjoy the encounters. Not only that, you have a deep sense of loyalty to that person and/or team, you have the Nordstrom effect in place.

You can also do the reverse. You know that person or team that you don’t trust, that communication is constantly framed with old-school terms and conditions, which are also called CYA’s (Cover Your Ass) in a working relationship, because you aren’t sure that things will be followed through with, done right, and there is certainly no loyalty between you. So what do you do? You don’t have a choice, you have to work with this person and/or team.

I’d like to offer four basic steps to surviving beyond terms and conditions to trust and communication. Be YOU! You can only control you. You can not make an untrustworthy person or team trustworthy. You can control you and your trust level. Be you, by being a person of your word, character, and integrity. Do what you say you are going to do. Be loyal, be Nordstrom to others around you.

  1. Speak Truth – Be gentle but honest always.
  2. Meet the deadline – Work hard, make it happen, don’t say you’re going to meet it and don’t. Do what you need to do to uphold your part of the situation and do not make excuses.
  3. Keep confidentiality – I kind of can’t believe this is even an issue but it is because otherwise “gossip” in the world wouldn’t exist. The old telephone game is no game, it’s real life and it hurts people and businesses. It decimates culture.
  4. Communicate Often – I’ve found there is no such thing as over-communicating. It always says, ‘trust me’ as I reassure you that I am aware, still working on it, haven’t forgotten, am not hiding, I am on your side and what I am offering to you is consistent clarity.

Know that you can’t change others but you can change how you interact. Be the person that nobody needs to frame technical T&C’s around because you’ve built soft and very solid T&C’s.


You’re Fired!

Have you ever had to say those two words before? It’s a necessary evil of management…but is it?

Several years ago, we had a team member, really nice gal, I’ll call her Becky for the sake of anonymity. Becky worked in our design department. Good personality, a quiet worker, showed up ‘mostly on time’ (here’s where the problem begins…you’ll see a pattern), great eye for design, and many years in the industry with a lot of design experience. Becky had a keen eye for photography as a side hobby, so she jumped right in when we said we were thinking of updating our website and adding photo’s of team members and departments to the website, we had only done professional shots once previously and she had an eye for capturing people like I hadn’t seen, a true gift.

However, (Yes, you saw that however coming) she had a very difficult time following instructions, whether client generated requests or repeat orders. She wanted to add her own flare on to everything. She consistently did things her own way and absolutely ignored two key elements necessary in the industry we were in; instructions and timelines. Not only could she not follow the clock to get to work on time, she couldn’t follow deadlines. Not a single instruction or timeline was met or followed on a regular basis.

After numerous discussions, systems of organization and conversation, I came to realize it was not going to work long-term. Yes, I did the Good to Great analyzation, right person, wrong seat? No, she was not the right team member no matter what seat she sat in on the bus or her gifts of contribution. Isn’t coming to that conclusion though so hard? There is a great responsibility in management and if you are reading this, you probably already understand it. People that work for you, have mortgages or rent to pay, children to take care of, parents that may need their help, so just saying “You’re Fired” is not as easy as spewing out your mouth those two words IF you care about humans. Especially, if you see your job as more than a manager, you see yourself as a coach. And if you don’t, on a side note, you shouldn’t be given the responsibility of managing! The coaching position often spills over from job to life coach and confidant, so firing someone is not as easy as “You didn’t do what we asked, couldn’t follow the pathway, no matter how many warnings you’ve had, you’re fired” Managers/Coaches worth their weight in gold, agonize over the decision, even when they’ve done everything they could.

Unless, and this doesn’t make it easy, it makes it palatable…you know you’ve coached, you’ve managed, you’ve analyzed right person, right seat and you can come to grips with, maybe it’s not firing them but releasing them to their future. Because what good managers also know is that their primary responsibility that works with, not against the humanity side, it to the overall health and well being of the company and when one person’s actions or lack thereof, begin to encroach and negatively affect that, you must make a choice. The time leading up to the decision, the actual releasing them and the hours afterward are referred to as ’36 Hours of Pain’ in the book Traction by Gino Wickman.

Releasing team members to their future is their choice, ultimately. If they are not able to do what is needed to be a productive part of the team then they are meant to be on someone else’s team. Maybe they are even meant to be on their own. That’s what happened with Becky. I brought her into my office, I released her with two weeks notice and I said to her, “You are meant for photography, you have a gift and sitting in our office designing with constraints is not what you were meant to do.” She was livid! May have been the second most angry person to ever walk out of my office (the first, that was a doozy and a story for another time). She didn’t accept my “releasing her to do what she was meant to do” and she grabbed her things and stormed out! She did not come back for the two weeks and I mailed her final check to her. Let’s just say, that hadn’t gone how I had planned it in my head. How could she not be grateful, I was giving her the opportunity to grow!? I really thought she was going to thank me, for encouraging her to do what she was so gifted at and on top of that, she would be so grateful for my gracious compliment of her photography, right!?!? Not so much, none of it!

Fast forward 6 months and we had a new client that needed some headshots and team photo’s done. I had seen Becky on LinkedIn advertising her photography and she was now doing it full time! I referred the client to her, the client loved her work and she was hired on the spot. I’d love to say that she came back to me and thanked me greatly for releasing her to her future and what she was meant to do, but no, she didn’t. That doesn’t really matter though because I know. I know that I did what was right for my company, my whole team, my clients and ultimately, Becky.

So is it time to let go? If you are the kind of manager that I think you probably are, if you’re reading this, the words “You’re Fired” don’t roll easily off your tongue. But “Letting You Go into your future” or “Releasing You into your future” are still simple words that ease more truth into what you are really doing. Do you have a team member that you are actually holding back from their own future because you don’t have the courage to look at it that way? You don’t have the courage to wade through the 36 hours of pain? The cost to your company, your team and this team member is greater than you know…until you know.

P.S…Photo credit above, one of my favorite pictures of my husband and I, goes to Becky!

My Expectations are Too High??

My Expectation is Your Potential

If hear I have high expectations and I might need to lower them, one more time…I might just blog about it!

How about you? Are you one of those go-getters, thought leaders, always pushing the envelope of what can be done for yourself and your team?

When I was in 5th grade, my teacher at the time, Mrs. Hawk (shout out to all the great teachers in the world!) called my parents in for a conference and told them that if I didn’t learn to make mistakes and let some things go, I was going to suffer an ulcer at an early age. Now, I should tell you that I did not have parents who were pushing me, they had no idea why I was so driven. I was born in the early 70’s and let’s just say that there were things that happened in my household growing up that may not have been of the legal sort. My parents were hippies and way more concerned about their own growing up than me achieving an ‘A’ in shape of a letter. So, my drive was internal, intrinsic and self-motivated.

Fast forward, it took me a lot of years and a lot of time and money in counseling (which would be funny if it weren’t true) to learn how to drive with realistic expectations of myself. How to have fun and let go when needed. But I won’t apologize for my intrinsic drive and I won’t stop trying to be better today than yesterday. This blog isn’t about me though and how I learned that but how does that affect my leadership today?

I’ve been told that I have “high-expectations” and that is true, sort of. The height of the expectation is dependent upon you. Not because I expect my team members to be like me or you or any other thought-leader out there. I have come to realize that my expectation for each team member is his or her own potential.

When I get new team members, I like to spend time with them and understand what makes them tick and adjust my communications to what they need. I take copious notes on each one; this one needs to talk, this one needs to be acknowledged, this one needs recognition, this one is task oriented and wants to know what to do, this one just wants to earn the ‘A’. All of this and much more for each team member. Once I understand who they are and what they need, I then ask a lot of questions about what do they want to do and be? If they could do any job in the world, even if it wasn’t with this company, what would it be and when would you be doing it? When you ask these questions you also get a feel for where to push and what their personal goals are. Then I set out to lead them down the path to their success. Not mine but what I see they can do and I see potential in every single person. I believe in where you’re headed, often more than you believe it for yourself and it drives me to do all I can to help you get there. If I can show you how you can reach your potential and you do it, then yes, you’ve met my expectations. If I can see your potential and you aren’t walking out what it takes to get there, if you are self-sabotaging, then no, you haven’t met my expectations. Simple as that, it’s not about me, it’s about you and your potential.

You see, I know where I came from and where I am today and don’t take that for granted for one minute. I know that the people in my life, the books I’ve read, the podcasts I’ve listened to, and how I’ve handled the struggles I’ve gone through; all have shaped me, grown me, stretched me and helped me to daily reach my potential. And none of that was comfortable, none of it was fun at the moment, well actually, there were a few roller coasters business moments that were fun, but they have all been worth the ride!

So the next time someone is pushing you, stretching you, helping you to grow and you think, ”He/She has such high expectations.” Maybe think to yourself instead, they see that much potential in me!