Key to Success: People, Trust, Integrity
First of all, this is not my invention. I might even have missed it a few times and only finally heard about it in our latest Open Day. In the presentation, our key factors to success were presented as People, Trust and Integrity. I talked to a few visitors and found it’s an interesting topic when we think about it and dig into it. I myself have a few stories that I want to go over with everyone. So, here we go.
We are not pessimistic. We’d like to think of the bright side of the stories. We’d avoid judgment if we are not directly involved or don’t have ‘enough’ information. I believe most of people, at least most of us – the bright educated minds of the country, are like that. BUT, in more than one company I worked at, I heard people complain (and I found myself did too). Complaining is not the problem, the problem is that no proof or credibility was needed, no critical thinking was done, a person just says it and others are likely to agree. Just a few examples of the complaints so you can imagine what I’m talking about:
The bosses had an expensive party at a luxury bar. People will complain it will impact the company cash flow.
The performance review, salary increase and promotion are just announced. People start spreading the rumors that the amount of increase and the chance to get promoted all depend on a “quota” for their group. The explanation for not getting a good increase or not getting promoted are just something the management made up for their decision. It has never been about the individual performance or capability.
The company decided to put security cameras in the work place for security purpose. People will say it’s for spying on the employees and there’s no freedom.
Let’s face this, these complains can be true, or can be just total fabrication. None of the people who said this or the people were accepting this had any information supporting their complaints (i.e. how do they know the bosses are not using their own money? Were they involved in the salary adjustment / promotion decision making process? Did they get to see how the camera recordings are used?). Yet people still complain about virtually each and every decision or change the management made.
Integrity is very important. If the company is running in the way that when something is put up, it means to be followed, and followed by everyone. When something is said, the person said it really means it. When something is supposed to be done will surely be done. That’s when my examples above have no room to stay. That’s when people can be logical again and go back to base on facts, not the implications or possibilities behind them.
I hope we all agreed integrity is important and we want to have it. But to build integrity, keeping promises is not always enough since there are many things you say other people cannot verify. For example, if you say “The company’s financial is bad, I volunteer to give up 3 months of my salary, starting today”. Nobody except your boss can verify that you actually give it up, or you are just saying. That’s when trust comes in. If people trust you, if you have been a honest person, if they believe you are not someone who lies for breakfast, they probably believe you and stop asking for salary increase. But if you’re just a manager who only talks when you want something, people will laugh and say “go ahead if you want, you got enough money for the next 3 years already”.
I worked at a company several years ago. The company split into two companies and there had been fights between the two management teams. I was moved to the new company. When it came to the labor contract signing, an appendix was prepared by a lawyer and we were asked to sign it. It was well designed, in the way that it granted the company all the rights over its employees. I don’t remember all of the terms, but I do remember employees have to provide their personal information if the company requests, and there is a fidelity bonds purchased to ensure the employees will be chased down if any damage happen. As if we were the criminals! I knew they tried to protect themselves from the other company, but I didn’t sign it, and nobody else did. A short time later I left the company, left the war that I didn’t want to be in. If the company cannot trust me, or if I can’t trust the company not doing something ethically wrong, it’s not gonna work. The company can have loyal employees by being straight forward with them, by telling them the truth and proving them that it’s the right thing to do, not by a well-designed contract.
How can we build a trusted environment? Let’s go back to the question, who do you trust? The simple answer is we trust honest people. We trust people who want to say the truth, even if the truth will bring to them disadvantages. We trust people who keep their ethic even when nobody knows. We trust people who won’t steal credits, won’t fake achievements, will accept their mistakes, and won’t make up reasons… The company has to be a group of trusted people, from top to bottom, left to right and spare no space for liars.
I think it will be easy to get everyone agreed with this. For software companies, people is the single most important assess to their success. Not the laptops, the licenses nor the expensive servers. Actually I mean RIGHT people. The company wouldn’t want people who cannot bring values to the company, or even worse, damage the values it has been building.
There was a team I worked with the other day. There were a few persons who were not strong at technical and couldn’t complete their work without help from others. It was a burden to other team members. When the burden built up, the good people were busy patching and avoiding problems. There would be no time for great success. There would be no reason for optimistic or creative thoughts. Nobody was happy, and to complete the circle (well, I think it’s actually a spiral down), nobody did a good work.
So I think getting the right people on board is very important. The right people will bring up the company core values and get a lot of work done. The wrong person will slow others down and even worse, pulling things backwards.
I want to end this article with an old story about the ants. There’s a piece of bread and a bunch of ants. If the ants pull the bread in all directions, nothing moves. If all the ants pull the bread in the same direction, they will be able to bring it home. And it’s best if all the ants are strong ants, no one slows the others down. That will be the best group of ants ever and success is inevitable.