Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What You can Learn from High Trust Leader, Michael Scott

High trust companies are more productive than low trust companies. But how do you find the top trust companies? Well, I was interested in talking to Michael Scott after I heard him speak at a breakfast meeting. At the time, his company placed in the Top 100 'Great Places to Work'. In fact, they were number 8 on the list.

I was curious. I knew that inclusion into the 'Great Places to Work' list was based solely on assessments done anonymously by employees. But I wanted to know what the leaders for these top companies did differently. Here’s what I learned from Michael.

He makes good hiring decisions.
Michael spoke of a person who was referred to him as being extremely competent and highly regarded. During the interview the person did nothing but speak of themself. Michael realized they would not fit into the team because they were too self-focused. “I had two candidates, but one had a degree of curiosity and asked good questions. It’s one of our criteria that they (candidates) ask good questions.” Scott won’t fill a position until he’s satisfied the person will fit in with the rest of the team.

He makes a lot of policies using consensus.
“We’ve done an extraordinary amount of fundamental decisions by consensus here. An example is our storm policy. At what point do we decide to close shop and tell you that you don’t have to come in? Some pointed out that they couldn’t get out of their driveway. Some were ready to come in. What is fair? We put the whole thing to the company at large. There was a grassroots conversation that happened. We (the management team) had them figure it out. The principle was we trust you to do the right thing. Everyone bought in and it was never an issue."

He treats people fairly.
Michael pays attention to people and listens for what their needs are. When he is listening, he doesn’t do anything else - no multitasking. He focuses on the individual in front of him. Michael believes the people who work in his company deserve to be treated with respect and he answers their questions without steam rolling over them.

He discovers their strengths.
As well as placing people in their traditional roles, Michael looked for people’s passions and strengths, and how those skills fit with their role and the company's needs. People are happier and more productive when they are able to use their skills and are passionate about what they are doing.

He is a masterful communicator.
When a company is small, it’s easy to communicate with everyone. As it grows, communication needs to be crisp. Michael makes sure people know the 'WIGS' = Wildly Important Goals. He balances empowering people and not being too loose so things get overlooked.

During our conversation Michael and I talked about the amount of appreciation that he saw demonstrated between people. When I was walking through the hallways, I heard laughter and felt the camaraderie.

Although this conversation took place in 2011, the lessons I learned from Michael are timeless.

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