„I really appreciate your commitment to our team. Since the time you have joined us our teamwork has changed. We talk more openly. Confronting us every time, we are not working as a team, is very useful”.
You are not judging us. You are not preaching what we should do” – said a Board member of a retail organization to the new HR Director.

The team was sitting in a circle. The appreciation exercises begun. The task was to find and share a positive thing, something they like about each other. Two Board members received their feedback. It was the HR Director’s turn. She was sitting quietly, listening to responses from her peers. It was the third month since her arrival to this organization.

“You are asking very good questions. Your concentration on business issues and results is incredible. I have never seen it before in HR” – continued other member of the team.

At the time when she has entered the organization people used to complain about lacking the vision and poor atmosphere. She had a lot of meetings in the forst two months. She met with all key managers from the main office and regional heads. She visited stores.

“I see the same picture everywhere. People do not trust each other. They do not trust the leadership team. People are complaining, blaming others and not taking any action” – though the HR director.

Facing Board members individually she has heard lots of opinions. They were very open and honest. She had an impression that during Board meetings they behave differently. Nobody shares real issues. Managers are focused on technical details. Different ideas and comments are discussed. The same topics are circulating and moving without resolution.

„How do employees perceive our team?” – she asked during the Board meeting.

The question was ignored at first. Nobody has reacted. She saw small nodding of two colleagues, the others seemed not to be interested. She asked the question again.

„What do you mean? Why do you ask this question? We are talking about the real issues here” – said the COO, Tom.
„Why did I ask this question? What do you think Tom?” – she bounced back the question to the COO.

The dynamic has shifted. All members were focused on what Tom would say. She had a clear answer to the question. After visiting stores, talking with lots of managers, she knew what to say. For some reason she decided to wait.

“Have no idea. People are busy with their tasks and have no time for thinking about us” – said another member of the team.

The COO was sitting silently, not responding to the question. One could see a question mark on his face. Other members were trying to answer. It seemed obvious that the team has no idea what their people really think about them.

After the meeting, she got back to her office. Five minutes later Paul, the Head of Trade and Marketing entered her room.

„We are not a team. Why have you asked this question? People see it. You know it. I told you about it” – said Paul.

Paul got irritated. He believed that the new HR Director would do something with the team. He met with her at the time she joined the organization on purpose. His purpose was to share openly all the problems. He expected she will solve them. Now he sees she only asks questions. He got disappointed.

„Yes, I know. Why haven’t you raised these issues during our meeting.” – she asked.

He did not know what to answer at first. She waited. After a dozen of seconds Paul replied:

„I do not trust them enough”.

The team gathered together in a conference room outside of the company. The only people missing in the room were the CEO Frank and the HR Director.

Two weeks before the meeting the HR Director approached Frank with request to focus next board meeting on only one topic. She shared with him her observations and impressions. She wanted the team to talk about trust. Frank was skeptical.

„They will not treat this topic seriously. You will hear some comments, but nothing will change. We tried to address it in the workshop last year. Nothing has changed” – said Frank.

Her confidence has impacted him. Although he knew the problem well, he felt that he was the only one who takes trust issue seriously. He had no idea how to deal with it.

The CEO and the HR Director have joined the team. Computers on the table. Few members of the team discussing their business issues. Others watching emails and pretending that they are listening. Nobody even wondered why they have gathered themselves outside of the company. The team got used to off-site meetings from time to time.

„Do we really trust each other?” – HR director asked.
„Why do you bother us again? Better do something serious” – commented ironically CFO, Hendrik.
„Stop being ironic Hendrik. This is exactly the question I want to get answered today. We cannot work in this way any longer. Please stand up” – said Frank at loud.

The team was asked to move from chairs and stand in the other part of the room. The instruction was to choose the position in the room which represent their perception of trust in the team. The team itself was represented by the piece of paper in the middle of the room. Each manager stood in his own place. It took a few minutes until everybody settled.

Frank asked the first question: „So, why have you chosen this position, how does it relate to your trust in the team?”

All members of the team had a chance to answer this question. Some of them were trying to comment opinions of others. They were stopped immediately. The rule was simple. Each team member has his/her time to reply. Comments allowed only at the end. We are not judging. What we want to see is a real openness, sincerity and understanding.

„What do you feel, standing here?” – the head of HR has asked every member.

Her question has raised lots of objections. Nobody talked about feelings before. The strategy of repeating the same question has helped. The comments became more and more honest. The dynamic started to be really interesting. Team members became curious and attentive. Each member shared his/her conclusion at the end of the exercise.

After the break, the team sat down on chairs in a circle. The appreciation session begun. One hour later the team got back to normal business discussions. They reached many conclusions and made key decisions much faster than before.

„We managed to finish our meeting ahead of time, for the first time in our history. It was a very productive day” – the COO said to the team. The others nodded.

The job of an HR Director is not an easy one, but rewarding when you stay on track. Faith in the value of your work, persistency and continuous effort give results.What do you think about a practice of appreciation in Your organization? Thank you for your comments bellow the text.

What do you think about a practice of appreciation in Your organization? Thank you for your comments bellow the text.

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