One of my bosses, one of Kwela’s two owners, Russ, came to my choir concert the other Saturday night. Afterwards I introduced him to a good friend of mine who loves that he is a huge supporter of Sea Shepherd.
As they were chatting, she remarked to him how cool she thinks it is that her and I can be in my kitchen making brownies and when my phone rings, I flip into ‘Kwela Corp’ mode and conduct business for 10 min’s while the batter awaits.
Russ laughed and then parlayed that the most non-business setting he took a client call in was on the water in a kayak.
It really struck me how the telecommute model that Kwela employs requires a huge amount of trust – on all our parts, certainly, but especially on the parts of the owners. If one can make progress toward better conditions through employing more enlightened or liberal ideas, have Russ and Nic reached enlightenment because they trust us all so implicitly?
Over the course of my former life managing admin and customer service staff, the odd time someone from my group asked if they could knock off 3-4 hr’s early to take the huge pile of work they had (physical papers to sort) home – which they couldn’t get to at the office because of the high volume of calls, I have to admit that while I said yes, I felt uneasy about it.
That having been in the late 80s–mid 90s aside (many organizations have progressed to very liberal work environments since) – I can still see myself squirming when I replay those scenes in my head.
Was that a lack of trusting those individuals? Seeing their faces in my head now, I can’t think “I don’t trust this person”.
For me, I realize, it was about feeling like I was giving up control. While I’m a recovering perfectionist now, I was marinating in perfectionism then and the illusion of the loss of knowing what was going on with the work created a sense of mistrust within me.
It was as if I felt better seeing the huge pile on her desk, knowing we were 3 mo’s behind processing applications, versus her coming in the next morning all ready for those applications to be entered into the system lickety-split.
I know that Russ and Nic are not uncomfortable with ‘not knowing’ about all the work we do [or don’t do 😉 ] that they can’t see. While we all have to deliver tangible results – so it wouldn’t take long to find out if someone is not pulling their weight – they both took big leaps of faith from the get-go: to trust us fully as the starting point.
Speaking at least for myself, the benefits to us employees are significant: a flexible schedule, autonomy and a sense of ownership of our responsibilities, balanced lives, and above all, feeling comfortable with Management. Like there isn’t something to prove or that we need to hide … We can be ourselves and manage our work within that.
And I can imagine the benefits to Russ & Nic because of the trust they have in their employees. Owners of small businesses lose a lot of sleep, with added health risks from the level of stress that can come when we don’t trust. Many of those owners may feel it’s all about the employee and whether they’re a trustworthy person … And rightfully so, in some cases.
But when I hear of managers in organizations today – including organizations we work with, who try to control their employees’ every move, eg. watch every minute of their time, I do believe that’s not about the individual’s trustworthiness, but about the supervisor / manager [I’m sure in some instances, it’s organizational culture, which can start at the top – as it does at Kwela].
If you have a hard time trusting any one of your employees, see that person in your mind’s eye and ask yourself “do I think this person is untrustworthy?”
Do that with everyone who reports to you. While I recognize that trust is a complex matter, I do still feel that if you have a lack of trust in everyone or most team members, looking at your need for control, power, perfectionism, etc could be worthwhile.
Working on issues within yourself could free up wasted energy, lower your stress level – and who knows: you may even reach enlightenment 😉
Liz Zed, Administration & Client Services