Trust on Purpose

How can new leaders build trust with their teams?

April 07, 2024
How can new leaders build trust with their teams?
Trust on Purpose
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Trust on Purpose
How can new leaders build trust with their teams?
Apr 07, 2024

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Ila and Charles talk with Sean Joyce about his personal journey to becoming a trusted team leader. He challenges the notion that anyone is fully prepared for a leadership role, emphasizing the more realistic, nuanced and gradual evolution of becoming an effective leader.

Sean emphasizes the importance of fostering a culture of collaboration and discusses the significance of transparency, acknowledging imperfections, and creating opportunities for open dialogue within the team. He believes that trust is built when we provide our teams the opportunity to work together toward a clear objective. Sean highlights the role of leaders as facilitators, solution providers, and catalysts for teamwork and innovation - not as someone who has all the answers.

Whether you're a seasoned leader or just embarking on your leadership journey, this episode offers practical advice on cultivating authenticity, setting clear shared objectives, prioritizing the collective success of the team, and, of course, building and maintaining trust.


We want to thank the team that continues to support us in producing, editing and sharing our work. Jonah Smith for the heartfelt intro music you hear at the beginning of each podcast. We LOVE it. Hillary Rideout for writing descriptions, designing covers and helping us share our work on social media. Chad Penner for his superpower editing work to take our recordings from bumpy and glitchy to smooth and easy to listen to episodes for you to enjoy. From our hearts, we are so thankful for this team and the support they provide us.

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Send us a message - we'd love to hear from you

Ila and Charles talk with Sean Joyce about his personal journey to becoming a trusted team leader. He challenges the notion that anyone is fully prepared for a leadership role, emphasizing the more realistic, nuanced and gradual evolution of becoming an effective leader.

Sean emphasizes the importance of fostering a culture of collaboration and discusses the significance of transparency, acknowledging imperfections, and creating opportunities for open dialogue within the team. He believes that trust is built when we provide our teams the opportunity to work together toward a clear objective. Sean highlights the role of leaders as facilitators, solution providers, and catalysts for teamwork and innovation - not as someone who has all the answers.

Whether you're a seasoned leader or just embarking on your leadership journey, this episode offers practical advice on cultivating authenticity, setting clear shared objectives, prioritizing the collective success of the team, and, of course, building and maintaining trust.


We want to thank the team that continues to support us in producing, editing and sharing our work. Jonah Smith for the heartfelt intro music you hear at the beginning of each podcast. We LOVE it. Hillary Rideout for writing descriptions, designing covers and helping us share our work on social media. Chad Penner for his superpower editing work to take our recordings from bumpy and glitchy to smooth and easy to listen to episodes for you to enjoy. From our hearts, we are so thankful for this team and the support they provide us.

Speaker 2:

Hello, my name is Charles Feldman.

Speaker 3:

And my name is Ila Edgar, and we're here for another episode of Trust on Purpose.

Speaker 2:

And today we have something a little bit different, and I'm going to turn it over initially to you, ila, to get that ball rolling, because you're the one who has the connection with our guest for today.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, thank you. So our guest today is Sean Joyce. Sean is a leader that I have worked with in the past and I am really inspired and also so curious about his particular leadership journey. A couple of data points is an organization, a large organization up here in Canada, that has gone through substantial change, not only as a result of COVID, but a number of things that happened after that. The other really curious thing is that Sean is often moved to different roles and jumps from team to team, and we'll go into that a little bit more. But what I was really interested in is Charles and I have had a number of different authors join us and different guests, and what I really wanted to bring to the podcast was the opportunity to hear a leader that literally has boots on the ground and how do you navigate all of this? And so maybe where we'll start, sean, is like a little bit about your leadership journey, yeah, and like who are you?

Speaker 1:

Thanks, sheila. First of all, thank you so much for having me on. I do feel honored to join this podcast, my leadership journey. I would suggest, as all leaders, when we transition into leadership, I would say no one's really ready to start that transition from doer to leader. I would suggest I made that transition over the course of the first few years, with a lot of bumps on the road and learning to support the team that you're leading, coach the workers on your team on their assignments and really being mindful of falling into doer tendencies. That's always been my struggle as a leader and something that I tell my team members today. Actually, if I fall into tendencies of doing, please let me know.

Speaker 1:

My leadership outlook substantially changed when I started working with Ila as a coach several years ago. At a point in time in my career I viewed leadership as a transactional interaction with people that you worked with, less focus on the how and more focus on the what. And as you transition into leadership positions higher and higher in your organization, I felt that gap just continued to widen, or my assumption or my opinion was that gap widened. I would suggest, since getting some formal leadership coaching, my perspective on that gap widened. I would suggest since getting some formal leadership coaching, my perspective on that has completely changed Helping your team with the what and the how and ensuring that you're having consistent touch points with your team, not to ensure that everything is going to be perfect, because nothing is perfect, but to build a mutual understanding and trust that we're in this together and we're only going to realize the outcome that we put forth for ourselves. We'll say the desired outcome is if your team feels like their leadership trusts them and has the ability to support them in their day-to-day tasks.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. Can I ask you a question, sean, please? Just for clarification, I suspect. Well, I certainly know, eli and I understand this, and probably many of our listeners, but I'd love you to clarify. If you would clarify, how you're using the term doer.

Speaker 1:

Doer that's a great question is, instead of coaching the how, you do the how and you really hope someone's watching closely as you do the how. Because, again, there's an assumption that if you do the how in front of someone or in and around someone, that they've now learned the how. But again, if you fall into do and you perform the how, you're actually robbing that individual of an opportunity to learn the how and perhaps they could provide a better way on the how, but're actually robbing that individual of an opportunity to learn the how and perhaps they could provide a better way on the how, but you've lost that opportunity. So that would be my definition of doer is transitioning from leader to coach, to worker. And then there's something that I always lean on but when you start taking responsibility for the work and not responsibility for the team, that's when you know that you've become a doer.

Speaker 2:

That's a great description. I love it. Thank you. Taking responsibility at the wrong level and in the wrong context, that's right. Thank you, lovely, eli. It looked like you were about to say something or ask a thing.

Speaker 3:

I wanted to actually go back to one of your initial statements, sean, in that you are clear and transparent with your team. That if I fall into doing to, let me know.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think at times, being open with your areas of continuous improvement with your team can sometimes be awkward, especially if a team has never seen that from a leader. Awkward, especially if a team has never seen that from a leader. I think, hila, you really help me be a bit more willing to share. I hate saying the word baggage, but let's just say baggage with your team and letting them know that you're not a finished product either. Yeah, you're fulfilling a role and you have roles and responsibilities, but, again, you're not going to be perfect in satisfying those roles and responsibilities every day. And there's things as a leader I think every leader needs to continue working on. No leader has landed on on end goal right, we're all working to better ourselves. I also would suggest that being open with the areas of continuous improvement for yourself as a leader just opens the door for your work, for your team, to then share what things that they want to work on, the areas of improvement that they've been working on.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and just again, opens more doors, as a leader, to support your team yeah, I love what you said earlier too in your some introduction for yourself, that you want your team to trust, that you trust them and that you're there to support them. So there's those two pieces I trust you and I'm here to support you in doing this work and being your best in learning and all of those things. I'm adding a lot to it, but I'm inferring that that's kind of part of what supporting them is about. It starts with you extending them trust to do stuff, try it out, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes, and then you're there to support them in doing that learning. That, to me, is really a powerful leadership skill that you just named in that.

Speaker 1:

Thank, you and I would add to that too, charles, like you trust me and I trust you.

Speaker 1:

These are great things to start a relationship with, but there's also show me and I think, as a leader, every leader has certain skill sets that got them to be a leader, because every leader has transitioned from being a doer. I'll just take my personal experience. My strength is process and designing process and providing structure and cadence. So my show me to my team is providing that. So my show me to my team is providing that, if there's an area that we feel is too gray, some processes are implicit, explicit. If we do need implicit process as a leader, that's where I feel I have an opportunity to show them that important, to identify the areas you can support your team with and try to do that early in building a relationship. I feel like if your team has confidence in your abilities and they've seen you put in the work to set them up for success, it will transition into a mutual relationship where you each will be trying to help one another, as opposed to a leader waiting for results to happen.

Speaker 2:

That's how I would add to that how you can actually build one of your leadership skills that you just so articulately defined brings up for me the question your skill matches what your folks need in a leader? Do some of the people that you lead now also lead others?

Speaker 1:

Yes, yeah, also lead others. Yes, yeah, some of my team members do provide work direction to others that I would say I have limited engagement with, just because of the nature of my team's relationship with those individuals.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So my question is how do you support someone who's really what would I say, important skills or capacity doesn't really match what kind of support that their people need, the people they're leading, need.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, great question. Yeah, how do you support someone that may not fit within your strengths, of your skill set? I would suggest the first place to start is really understanding how they need support. In this instance that I'm currently in, I'm very lucky in the area of support that I can give is something that I like. I like doing. There's been experiences in previous leadership roles where some of the gaps or some of the assistance that could have been provided is something that I'm not comfortable in, something that I'm not skilled in.

Speaker 1:

I think, as a leader, we're very fortunate that we have a broad network within the companies or organizations that we work within. So I would say spreading your span laterally to find individuals that can actually help. The team is in the toolbox as well. It doesn't need to be the leader providing all the solutions. The leader can also be a conduit to solution finders and bring them in with the team. Yeah, at the end of the day, I just like bringing in a whole bunch of smart people into a boardroom and let's hash it out. Ultimately, as a leader, I take responsibility in facilitating that conversation, getting those minds in a room. That's how I would answer your question, I guess, if you're looking to help a team where you're not comfortable in the area. I guess solution that you're looking for look outwardly, bring people in. That can help fix the problem.

Speaker 2:

And boy, I can imagine how that builds trust. If that's done well, you're not just trying to run the whole show yourself and falling on your face. You're trusting that you can bring other people in and they'll help you and they'll help the team. And part of that is you're trusting that they're not going to overrun you in some way.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I also think an important piece of that is the follow-up. You know, following up with actions that you've done with the intent to support, it's one thing to, in this example, facilitate a conversation with experts, with your team, to hopefully land on the solution. I've had experiences where something similar to that would have occurred and perhaps there's no follow-up. So you know the activity happened, but did you land on the outcome you were hoping for? And I think the timely follow-ups of those kind of situations is again, not that you're hoping that everything is perfect after this networking session, after this collaboration session, but you're demonstrating trust in the sense that at least you cared enough to follow up to see if the individual received the support they were looking for or if there's motion in progress on that solution on that solution.

Speaker 3:

I'd like to chime in here on things that I actually saw you do while we were working together and proactively reaching out to other subject matter experts, although they weren't necessarily used to having that kind of collaboration. But I think what I really appreciated about how you approach this was that together we can fix this or together we can figure out the outcome, and that it was always from an intention of care, like how do we do this together? And I think of one situation where it felt like there was some resistance, like whoa, hang on, you're in my backyard, what are you doing here, sean? Yeah, yeah, yeah and that you didn't give up. Rather, you continued to reinforce I want to do this with you, I want to problem solve with you.

Speaker 3:

I want to collaborate with you because together we can figure this out and I think what that resulted in what I saw kind of left and right in your network is that you developed truly a network of people that knew that you cared not just about the output of work but that being able to do this together. You work in a an environment that, again, there's a lot of change but there can be uncertainty. You open this box and you're not sure what's going to be in there.

Speaker 3:

Maybe it's going to be what you thought. Maybe it's not, and so how do you deal with the uncertainty, but also the urgency of getting the work done?

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

And so I see that you have intentionally developed, created relationships where now people know if you come knocking, you're like oh yeah, sean, yeah, we're here to help, sean yeah, how can we do this together? So I want to segue a little bit of that into your role. Does take you sometimes into working and environments or teams that are not your everyday teams, and so what is that like being shot, put into a temporary situation and how are you using your networks and your trust, building behaviors, to help you navigate that?

Speaker 1:

Your description of like everyone's doing stuff but having sometimes a leader to bring in. I compare it to like imagine everyone playing tug of war but everyone's pulling in a different direction. I think the influence that can be provided to let everyone know that we can pull on the same direction on this and at least let's understand the common goal. And then I'll transition to that and to the question you asked I think defining most teams not all teams, but most teams are working towards fixing a problem or realizing an opportunity. So I think defining that early is one of the most effective ways that, if you are being dropped into a new team, get that on the whiteboard. What is this group here to do? What are we looking to achieve? I think from there is defining.

Speaker 1:

Again, I go back to the what and how, but defining the what and how and how the team is working together to realize the desired outcome, is one of the most powerful activities that you can do with a group.

Speaker 1:

It sounds simple, perhaps even trivial, to get on a whiteboard or a note and pen and write these things down, but the moment you can provide black and white as opposed to gray and you can define the activities and tasks and frequency. It just puts everyone in a harmonious relationship on how they work together. I go back to designing process and I don't want to talk about process the entire time, but I do think establishing, we'll say, a standardized cadence or a way of working is a very powerful, powerful thing. I would also suggest by doing that, the trust will almost come naturally working that process as a team. When you provide an opportunity for a team to work together on the way that we're going to work together, the solutions are coming from the experts, as opposed from a top down approach where you have someone, you don't have a previous relationship, you don't have a lot of trust and they're already allowing you in. Again, I think it's a very powerful way to allow people to work together with a new leader.

Speaker 3:

Actually, I love that you keep bringing process in. When I hear process, I actually hear stability, consistency, which I would put in that domain of reliability. I had an interaction with a client this morning and we actually talked about the opposite of that consistency and process and how the inconsistency or I don't understand the process, or it's inconsistently applied and the cost that it has mentally, physically, emotionally and people spinning, pulling the rope in the wrong direction. Yeah, yeah, charles, I'm curious about your perspective here.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, stability is something that teams need, for sure, and you're going in and helping them determine what their process is and what they're responsible for what they're trying to do. So reliability for sure, but also care. I think care is fundamental there that we're going in the same direction, we care about the same thing, we have our interests are aligned, and so now all we need to do is, underneath that alignment of interest, is create an alignment of stability and alignment of process that will allow us to move collectively towards what we want. Yeah, so I think those two are synergistic and I love the way you talk about that.

Speaker 1:

I like comparing it to. I have conversations with my team and the way that we kind of talk about process is let's agree on the foundation and framework. Yeah, and if you guys want to pick the colors and the drapes and the flooring, feel free to let your individual talents flourish. But we have to have some continuity that we come back to when, if you get transitioned to a new role tomorrow which in this industry is very likely to happen the person moving into your house knows they have a firm foundation, they have structurally sound walls and now that new individual coming into that house can decorate that the way they want to, because you don't want to shackle people. There's so many brilliant and beautiful minds out there. You don't want to shackle individuals a process. You really want to let their skill sets flourish, but in a way that doesn't potentially harm the outcome that we're looking for as a professional organization.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, nicely put. I love that metaphor too of the house where you have good bones is kind of the terminology to do up in here, where you, you know it may be kind of a mess but it's got good bones so we can fix it up. So being able to distinguish from okay, decorating looks like this, the paint is this color, and so on.

Speaker 1:

The beautiful thing with that as well is process is not finite, it's infinite. You can continue working process. I would say one of the most rewarding things that I can have as a leader is when a worker or team member comes back to me and says this can be improved. And these are the reasons why and I feel passionately about this that this can help us do the work better, safer, more cost-effectively. When you have someone work to process and identify improvements, it satisfies everything that you could possibly ever want from a leadership perspective, because they trusted you in utilizing the process and they also trusted telling you that it can be approved upon. Yeah, and that's what that structure that provides. It provides an opportunity to let the people, the worker, provide the solutions.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, lovely, I love, yeah, lovely, I love it. Well said, I love it.

Speaker 3:

I also would like to highlight, I think, one of the other authentically Sean leadership qualities that you bring your sense of humor and lightness and the ability, like you don't take yourself too seriously. Now, although the work that you do and you're responsible for is important, there's a high safety regard required, but you don't hold yourself like so seriously. So, like I know, everything that you really invite that's lightness and play, even as you're in our conversation with us. How do we actually laugh and have fun along the way? Because that's also a trust-building behavior, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Thanks, hila, because I think the first interaction that we had when you asked me some of the most important values for me and I think I said levity I think keeping things light reached fresh with people. Well, first of all, it just makes everyone more relaxed, and I think when people are not stressed, that's when the real good work can get done. In saying that, though, that's just myself, I'm not trying to be anything but myself. When I use the word levity and I try to provide levity in the workplace, when I use the word levity and I try to provide levity in the workplace, for me, again, it's a thing that I would call a strength, and I utilize it to my strength and my ability to build trust.

Speaker 1:

If levity is not your area of strength as a leader, again, it never hurts to keep things light, but don't force yourself to be something you're not, I think, coming across genuine and sincere. We talk about building trust. That's it. But, yeah, I feel very strongly about making sure the team knows we're here to get some really important work done, and there's some seriously bad stuff that could happen if things go sideways, but if you're not coming to work with a smile, you're already not getting the best day out of yourself. So if you can put the smile on lots a smile, you're already not getting the best day out of yourself. So if you can put the smile on lots of potential of how you can manage your workday, workweek, career.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, love it. So if you had I'm going to put you on the spot a little bit here If you had a room full of new leaders that were coming to learn and mentor under you or in your area, what are some things that you would share or invite them to consider? What direction or insight would you give them as new leaders?

Speaker 1:

Oh, the loaded one.

Speaker 3:

I know.

Speaker 1:

I would suggest the first activity is what is important to you as a person, irrespective of the role, in whatever capacity they're being a leader in, is what is important to you as a person, irrespective of the role, in whatever capacity they're being a leader in, is what is important to you. Try to write down three or five things that with working with people what is important. And I would also ask them to ask their question why do you want to be a leader? And I would ask them to really consider and be honest with themselves on what they write down before they decide that leadership is a career that they want to pursue.

Speaker 2:

I'd like to, if I could, comment on that, because what you're doing here is you're saying, essentially, that leadership is its own competency. Being a leader is a career in and of itself and it can be applied across many different areas or contexts or kinds of work or whatever it is, but it's a competency all on its own. Sometimes we think about leadership as being part of whatever your expertise is in engineering or healthcare or whatever but it is actually its own competency, and I love that you're pointing to that directly, yeah, which is great.

Speaker 1:

I would also add to that there's no wrong answers. If I would have wrote down those questions to myself when I was just transitioning into a leader and if I would have read them today, I probably would have said, oh wow, I was really new to this and probably wasn't ready at the time. If I were to grade myself to what I would write down today, I think it would be a lot different, and I think in five years from now think it would be a lot different, and I think in five years from now it'll be a lot different. I think you're going to continue to grow. I do think it's important to understand that as a leader, you need to selflessly serve and I think that's something that you do learn. But mentally, I think you need to prep yourself that you need to be relentlessly selfless with how you serve your team, and you'll have to go to look for the answers from your team to best provide them the leader that they're probably looking for.

Speaker 2:

Can I just ask what do you mean by selfless?

Speaker 1:

My definition of selfless is that there's going to be a lot of work that you will have to put in in the right areas to provide your team the opportunity to have success. And it's success that, if things go right, you you won't be taking credit for. The credit will be going to the team that you are supporting. The result will be shared by all, but the work that you put in is actually at the benefit of the worker, the team member.

Speaker 2:

Which, again, in the context of trust and trust building, really is. It's right, in this sweet spot of the domain of care, yeah, that you really care about where you're all going as a team and how you're going to get there, as opposed to caring about what you're going to get there, as opposed to caring about what you're going to get out of this as the leader. Yeah, definitely, that's beautiful, well said, thank you.

Speaker 3:

I think, circling it back to how we started this entire conversation, that we're all a continued work in progress. I think what I know about you and regardless of what you wrote, and then what you'd look at today and what we'd write tomorrow and I think that I know about you and regardless of what you wrote, and then what you'd look at today and what we'd write tomorrow, and I think that that's our normal invitation and evolution as a human and especially as a leader, that we don't have it all figured out every day and we're not supposed to, and that our learning and our growth continues because we're committed to that selfless leadership, that we are truly in service of others. And how do we become a stronger, more impactful leader? That then, in turn, helps and strengthens the teams that we really support? That's what we're here for.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's the beautiful part of life. I think leadership in a professional setting is on the micro level. Yeah, that's the beautiful part of life. I think leadership in a professional setting is on the micro level. If you look at the macro of life and how you grow year over year, I put the same lens on my professional career as a leader as I do in my life. You're just continuously developing and learning new things and applying those learnings to better yourself and serving your team.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

I love it. You've left me so much to consider and even reflect on my own life, because, even though Charles and I do this work every day, guess what? We're still working on things. We're also still figuring things out, and I think that's how you'd left us here is such a great reminder for each of us and our listeners, and that it's a choice and a commitment that we can make every day. Now, not rock stars every day. Of course, not every day is perfect, but what are you committed to and how are your behaviors helping support the habit, the life, the values, the leadership that is really important to you?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and well said like it's hard and it's not linear. There's going to be a lot of ups and downs on that graph but you know, if you take the step back you see the line is continuously on an upward direction. Again, I think perspective is key in that there's going to be days, weeks, perhaps months, that things don't feel real good, but you keep going back to the groundstone and you put the work in with your team. It will move to where you want it to go. You just got to believe in it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, awesome, sean, this has been great. I really appreciate you joining us and having this conversation with us, bringing some of your own personal experience to what is often a somewhat step removed, because neither you and I although we do lead in many ways we don't actually every day go to work and lead a single team of people, or maybe a couple of different teams of people. It's really great to hear from you and hear your experience, really love it.

Speaker 3:

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you so much.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, thank you. I'm really grateful for having the opportunity. I think it's really cool that yourself and Hila decided to have someone like me on the show and provide inputs on my perspectives as a leader. I really hope this provides others an opportunity to get an insight of what other we'll say professional workplace leaders are going through. I just really appreciate the opportunity to speak on this.

Speaker 2:

This has been great. Thank you so much for being with us and sharing your thoughts, your process, with us.

Speaker 1:

Thanks Charles and thanks Eli, take care.

Speaker 3:

On behalf of both Charles and myself, we want to say a big thank you to our producer and sound editor, chad Penner. Hillary Rideout of Inside Out Branding, who does our promotion, our amazing graphics and marketing for us, and our theme music was composed by Jonas Smith. If you have any questions or comments for us about the podcast, if you have a trust-related situation that you'd like us to take up in one of our episodes, we'd love to hear from you at trust, at trustonpurposeorg.

Speaker 2:

And we'd also like to thank you, our listeners. Take care and keep building trust on purpose Until next time.

Speaker 3:

Until next time.

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