It was 2002, shortly after the DotCom bubble burst and chaos ensued. I was the GM at an Advertising Agency based in Houston Texas at the time. There were massive cuts and many of my employees that I called friends had to be let go. Eventually, I left as well as the end was eminent. It was ... well, it was horrible.
This is the day my life changed - for the better.
I relocated from Texas to Michigan to work with Bob Anderson. Bob at that time was the COO of a Packaging and Printing company and he offered me a Senior Leadership role in the company. I had responsibility for technology and operations of a few departments, but the primary goal for us was to effect cultural change within the organization.
I was the new face in the company - an outsider - that was trying to change the status quo. I stayed to myself and was very private about personal matters, not wanting to "let anyone in". People new little about me beyond what was stated in the press release.
Over several months, Bob, myself, HR and a few other senior positions worked to bring a more positive environment to the workplace. Formal training was done related to workplace behavior and various leadership styles. The problem was - the areas I had responsibility for were not making good progress.
Bob and I had developed a friendship almost immediately and he had became my most trusted advisor and mentor. I was in Bobs office early one morning talking with him before the day started and brought up the fact that I could see I wasn't making the progress needed and voiced my frustration. When I was done, Bob just asked me if I knew "why" I was struggling to effect the change we all wanted. I was honest and said I was at a loss.
This is when Bob said something that shocked me. He said "its because they don't trust you".
I was furious. I had in no way demonstrated behavior that would cause them to distrust me. And how could Bob, the man that was my mentor say that to me.
Bob said those words to me because he cared about me as a person. Sometimes it is hard to be honest with those you care about.
Bob explained to me that the reason the employees didn't trust me was because I never let them in. I never let them see a personal side of me and that instilled fear. One of Bobs quotes was that "in the absence of information, people make things up". He was right, and you know what? What gets made up is almost never good.
I started opening up more with my team. Talking about my children, what happened on the weekend and engaging them with questions about their personal lives. Fast forward a few months, the train was back on the tracks and I honestly believe all of us were better for the short lived initial derailment.
The learning for me, and hopefully for those reading this is to not shut people out. Be as transparent as you feel comfortable. The more you share and the more legitimate interest you take in those around you - both personally and professionally, the more trust and respect you will given.