Monthly Archives: May 2009

To inspire hope, work on trust.

 |  Leadership

A conversation with a client the other day about how to engage her team more completely led to an important question. She had some conversations with team members recently that revealed that the team is losing hope about their chances for success in the face of a very challenging business climate.  For her team “Yes we can.” was becoming “No we can’t.” Fast action is required without a doubt. But what’s a leader to do? In times of adaptive change, our teams want a message of hope and a reminder that through working together and trusting one another that they achieve their objectives. It is the role of the leader to provide hope and create an atmosphere typified by trust.

 While instilling hope in our teams and organizations is the desired outcome, I want to focus on what it means for an individual leader to be a person of hope. For it is always true that we cannot give what we do not have. Erich Fromm said, “To hope means to be ready at every moment for that which is not yet born, and yet not become desperate if there is no birth in our lifetime.”  How do we sustain an atmosphere in which we and our teams can make ready what must emerge for us to be successful? 

Hope presupposes trust. Without trust, there is no hope; for hope is fundamentally a sense of trust that all shall be well. Why shall all be well? Because I trust in my own abilities and I trust in others. Trusting in our individual and collective strength and capacity to achieve is hope-inspiring. Whatever I wish to do, dream I can do, or believe I can do, I can do. That is hope based on trust of self and trust of others.

A lack of trust in an organization is deadly. Without trust in leadership, in other teams, in products and services, in systems, you name it, there is little hope that the organization can accomplish what it sets out to do, nor that leaders will follow through on promises to people. In times of adaptive change (like now), the leader must be a person of hope and must inspire people to trust. To do that, the leader must trust himself and others. In that way, the leader demonstrates what it means to be a person of hope.

What does it mean to be a person of hope? The seeds of hope are either planted or scattered early in our life. What we learn about trust at that early age is reinforced in our relationships throughout our life. We each have beliefs that determine how and to what degree we engage life and people, including our work and our business relationships.  We fundamentally trust others to be there for us when we need them or not. We fundamentally trust our own worth or not. These are deep, core beliefs that we each hold and use as filters for decision making every day, albeit unconsciously. Knowing our core beliefs, we can begin to shift our mindset if necessary in order to engage others and our work in a more productive way.

 Self-awareness of our core beliefs about trust, mis-trust, and hope empowers our self-leadership and growth. Are you a person of hope? Do you believe in yourself and your abilities? Is there a part of you that cannot have hope? Do you dread the future or anticipate it excitedly?

 How would you answer these questions?


I look forward to tomorrow.    YES   NO

I like to spend time with others.    YES   NO

I believe my needs were met and I was well cared for as an infant. YES NO

I am a very capable person.      YES   NO

I believe that I can make what I want of life and that there are people out there who can help me.    YES  NO

I easily trust other people.     YES   NO

I become upset when someone violates my trust.    YES  NO

I prefer to work alone.     YES   NO

I trust myself to make the right decisions for me.     YES  NO

I can count on others when I need help.      YES   NO

I am comfortable working in groups.     YES   NO

I easily delegate tasks.     YES   NO

I look forward to tomorrow with excitement and anticipation.    YES   NO

I have hope in the future.   YES   NO

The glass is half full.    YES   NO

Life is an adventure.  YES   NO

The more ‘yes’ answers you record the more likely it is that you are a person of hope. The more ‘no’ answers you record the more likely that trust may be an issue for you.

When we want to make a lasting transformation, we want to change not only our outward actions, but also our inner thoughts and feelings.  Transforming thoughts and actions are inter-related and codependent. If I change my activities, my thoughts will go along. If I change my thoughts, I will act accordingly as well.


I offer a couple suggestions for further exploring hope and trust:

1.           Read. Find some books or articles on trust and hope and/or people who you believe to embody these traits and see if you can find some attitudes or behaviors to emulate. Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is a tremendous and powerful expression of hope as is The Art of Happiness by HH the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, M.D.

2.            Every day when you get up, tell yourself to have hope. Tell yourself that you have what you need to make a wonderful life for yourself today. Tell yourself to make a conscious effort to trust someone today. Make a sign that says “hope” and put it up in your bathroom, over your desk, on the dashboard of your car, somewhere, anywhere where you will be reminded to trust and have hope today.

3.  Connect with other people of hope. Associate with positive and optimistic people.

4.  Dream. Set some goals for yourself. Put a plan of action into place to make your dream a reality. Hint: Doing number three will give you the support system you need to accomplish number four!

By exploring and growing our individual capacity for hope and trust, we grow our capacity to lead others in times of adaptive change.

Fight Chaos and Complexity with Simplicity

 |  Leadership

Almost every senior leader I talk to now tells me the same thing, “There’s too much going on. We don’t know what’s happening. It’s chaos.” These are in quotation marks for a reason; they’re quotes. My response is always the same; I ask a question, “If you’re anxious in this business environment, what must it be like for your people a few levels down?”

Some have taken the time to find out; most haven’t. And because they don’t, they often impose new rules or announce a decision that makes sense at their level and makes their lives easier (they think) without carefully considering the impact in the field.

In times like these, keeping your workforce engaged and performing is a more difficult task. The news, the pace, the rumors, and the emotional realities of every individual member of your organization are working against you at almost every turn.

When things get complex, I like to find a way to make them simple again. If a person or team is not as engaged as I would like or performing at the level I know they could, there is a barrier in the way. Three questions help me identify the barrier and take steps to increase engagement and raise performance:

  • What does this person or team need clarity about in order to engage and perform at a high level (vision, strategy, game plan, role, responsibility, success measures, accountabilities)?
  • What about the atmosphere needs to start, stop, change (structure, systems, resources, communications, trust)?
  • What can we start, stop, change to better develop the talent (aptitude & attitude) of this person or team?

To see how your team would score you on what kind of clarity you provide, atmosphere you shape, and talent you have and develop, have them take our free Leadership CAT Scan today ( It’s a simple solution for fighting the chaos and complexity. It’s the best 360 feedback you’ll get because it gives you direct information about how you can address the realities your team is facing and create the conditions for success right now.