Chapter 3: Trust
As much as Scarlett dreaded facing the conversations with her employees, she set up lunches with both of them in order to begin the process she and Jack discussed. It was going to be hard to create a different dynamic than what they had now, but she had to give this a real try.
On the day of the lunch with Melissa, her assistant, they walked over to the bistro across the street and got a table. After some small talk about work Scarlett opened up about the feedback on her 360 and what she was learning through working with Jack. She said she realized she had to work more on her relationships, especially the ones she had with her and Steve. She apologized if she had not been the best boss and told her she wanted to get better. She asked Melissa what she could do to better support her in her job and make it a better experience. Although Melissa’s performance gaps lingered in Scarlett’s mind, she bit her tongue so as not to address them yet.
Melissa hesitated but then said. “I like working here, but sometimes I do feel a bit on edge. I am not always sure how you are going to react to things or if you are going to come to me with issues on something I had done days before. I sometimes wish you would tell me things right away if they are not up to the level you need. That way I can fix it then and there.”
“Melissa, thank you for being straight with me. I am sorry if I can get curt at you. I get stressed and sometimes take it out on you, especially when there are client deadlines. I would like to be more aware of how my reactions affect those around me and try to be more proactive in bringing things up as they come.”
They continued their conversation throughout lunch during which Scarlett learned more about Melissa’s interests in rollerblading, hockey and her son. For her part, Scarlett talked about her childhood and why she decided to stay in Maryland following graduate school in order to stay close to her family. Scarlett realized it felt good to be opening the lines of communication with her staff to lay a foundation for trust. She was also learning some new things about herself.
When they walked back to the office Melissa said, “Thank you. I appreciate this conversation as I know it must not have been easy for you.”
“Thanks, Melissa. I appreciate your honesty and will look for more ways to be supportive of you.”
The next day Scarlett did the same thing with Steve, her associate, opening up to him about her desire to work better with her team. He told her that he wished she would mentor him a bit more as she was a bit distant and did not seem to have time when he wanted to learn more.
Scarlett wasn’t too surprised by his input as she knew she wasn’t that good at developing her staff. “I am committed to helping you more. I know it is something that will help our team now and help us grow in the long run.”
As they chatted more he revealed that he really liked estate planning, their line of business, and was thinking of specializing in it.
“Well I’m glad to hear it because I do have some new projects coming up that I think you can take a larger role in. I could really use the help, as these are some new clients. Would you like that?”
“Very much so. I look forward to learning more of the intricacies of this field as well as taking on more responsibility by learning more from you.” He said cautiously.
“There are some meetings I can take you to as well as some more review I can do of your work. Will that be helpful?”
“Yes and just some feedback on the current work I am doing would be great as well.”
Scarlett felt good that she was beginning to get to know her employees and their needs. She was realizing that making even a little investment in her employees was opening up a different perspective for all of them. She could see that if she spent more time with them and was open in her communications she could build a lot more trust. Maybe Jack was right, she thought.
Monica Thakrar has over 18 years experience in business focused mainly on strategy, change management, leadership development, training and coaching resulting in successful implementations of large scale transformation programs.