Evan Hackel opened a recent Training Unleashed Podcast by asking his guest David Spencer a provocative question . . .

“Let’s just pretend for a moment it’s 20 years from now. What has changed in leadership?”

Eric is just the right person to put on his thinking cap and consider big questions like that. He is COO of SkyeTeam.com and a founder of CultivateAtWork.com. He has spent more than 20years shaping HR for organizations, from startups to Fortune 100 companies. He is a sought-after consultant, speaker and mentor in the field of maximizing leadership and organizational culture.

We know you will enjoy and benefit from every big idea about leadership that these two men shared. Please make time to listen today!

Evan and Eric Talk Leadership

Here are some edited excerpts from their Podcast conversation . . .

Evan Hackel: Let’s just pretend for a moment it’s 20 years from now. What has changed in leadership?

Eric Spencer:  Evan, I think 20 years from now we will have figured out some things about leading remotely. We squeezed about a decade’s worth of change in the last two years. There are some folks out there that are doing it well and some folks that are just sort of feeling their way around in the dark still when it comes to leading remotely

I think if you fast forward 20 years from today, we’ll have learned how to do remote leadership really well, really effectively. Distributed teams won’t be presenting the challenges that we’re dealing with today.

Evan: I think there are great opportunities that didn’t exist before, because people are getting used to the technology. You are a leadership expert. What is your advice for someone right now, today? I mean, we just talked about the future, but what should people be doing now to grow their leadership?

Eric: It’s knowing your people. It’s knowing your people beyond what they do at work and how they do their work. It’s about knowing who they are, how they’re wired and what lights them up.

We’ve had an opportunity to see literally into people’s homes for the last 18 months. We’ve seen their pets step into the frame. We’ve seen kids jump into the picture. We’ve sometimes seen not very clothed spouses pass through the frame.

We’ve seen a lot of stuff, but a lot of folks out there haven’t capitalized on the opportunities to really get to know their people. We were in a loneliness epidemic prior to COVID, and it’s only intensified. So if I was going to focus on one thing, it would be the quality and depth of the relationships you have with the people on your team.

Evan: Can we talk about the four questions you have developed that leaders can use to check their relationships?

Eric: I call them the four yeses. They are simple questions to help you understand where you are in any given relationship.

Question number one is, “can I count on you?” Meaning, can I count on you to show up and do your job?

Question number two is, “can I depend on you?” Question number one (“Can I count on you?”) is reactive. It’s about showing up. But question two is much more proactive. It’s centered on issues like, “Are you going to give me the warnings of impending disaster?” and, “Are you going to give me the heads up that something’s coming, like the boss is expecting something on Friday that I know you’re on the hook for?” You can have a perfectly acceptable work relationship at the “count on you” and depend on you” level. But the magic starts to happen with the next two, final questions.

Question number three is, “Do I care about you?” And it’s not a group hug. This is, “Do I care about you as a human being? Do I know your story? Do I know who you are, what you’re about?”

Question number four is the kicker question, “Do I trust you?” It’s about codependent care and trust, which are how we assess the quality of relationships.

And if you don’t say yes to all four of those questions, you’re not in what we call an ally relationship. That might be OK in certain relationships at work but once we know that, we have a choice to make as to what we’re going to do in that relationship. Will we invest in it? Hang back? Are we comfortable where it is? Or do we need it to be in a different spot?

Evan: So I would assume that this is more important in certain kinds of roles than in others. So if someone’s working on the production floor – not to say that they’re not important, but maybe the relationship is different than if somebody you’re working with daily. So when you look at these four questions. What types of people are you referring to? Or is it literally everybody?

Eric: I think that’s the beautiful thing about the questions, because they’re applicable at whatever level or however you want to cut your relationships. On the shop floor, we can have a perfectly effective relationship at the count on “ and “show up and do your stuff” levels.

But if we need to elevate that relationship, if we’re looking to increase efficiency, productivity throughput rate, if we’re thinking about the quality of the relationships of the people on that line, it’s going to be different. Right? Productivity is going to be different. If I know you, Evan (and I trust you and I like you), the chances of me having your back, even in that shop floor situation, are way higher, right? Versus letting you fail and costing the team productivity.

In a leadership role, you have a lot of power to assess relationships at multiple levels.

Evan: How does a leader create trust and how does an employee create trust? And which comes first?

Eric: Yeah, chickens and eggs, right? So I’ll say a couple of things about that. I think you create trust by walking the walk. You know, people often ask us, “How do I get more allies in my relationships?” And our answer is simple. You’ve got to be one. You’ve got to show up as one. You’ve got to do the things you say you’re going to do. You’ve got to hold yourself accountable. When you screw up, you’ve got to own it. You’ve got to step in and take accountability for that.

In workshops and at keynotes when I talk about trust I’ll often ask, “Who here has ever flown in an airplane?” People raise their hands. And I say, “I’m assuming that you interviewed the pilot and crew and made sure that they were sufficiently trained.” And of course, nobody does that. We get on the plane. We don’t even know who’s up there in the cabin, other than the voice. But we grant that trust to that person, to that crew that is going to get us where we intend to go, reasonably close to the time we intend to get there in one piece. Right? So we always grant some trust, given the structure of the relationship.

Where it gets interesting and somewhat wonky is as we move up the corporate ladder, people tend to get a little bit more puffy-chested and they’ll say things like, “Well, you’ve got to earn my trust,” And I think really, people give it to the pilot, you give it to the chef cooking your dinner, but not the guy who works in your organization?

Evan: Now we’re at the most fun part of the podcast, which is what if you had one tip to share, what would that tip be?

Eric: If you take nothing else away from our conversation about relationships at work, take away the concept of what I call The Relationship Pulse Check. It’s the easiest thing that you can do to see where things are with a specific person with whom you work. It is made up of just three questions you ask:

  • What’s working for you in our relationship?
  • What’s not working?
  • What’s one thing that I can do to help us or you be more successful?

A Special Offer from Eric to Members of the Training Unleashed Community

Eric personally invites you to visit his company website, CultivateAtWork.com, where you will find a number of learning and training modules that members of the Training Unleashed family can access free of charge.

“And when you get in there and choose your modules,” Eric says, “go to Check Out and type in the coupon code `training unleashed’ (all lower-case letters) and the modules you choose will be available to you free of charge.”

Let’s all learn about those four powerful questions Eric has created, and how to use them to improve our leadership and company performance!

Thank you, Eric!

About Our Guest

Eric Spencer, COO of SkyeTeam.com and a founder of CultivateAtWork.com, has spent 20+ years shaping HR for organizations, from startups to Fortune 100 companies. He is a leading consultant, speaker and mentor in the field of maximizing leadership and organizational culture.

Eric’s books include You, Me, We: Why We All Need to Be a Friend at Work (and How to Show Up as One!), which he co-authored with Morag Barrett.