Ep 95: How To Build Trust And Achieve Success Through Better Connections

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Melanie Katzman discusses the importance of connecting with others to personally build a foundation of trust and what organizations can do to build that trust in their culture. Katzman has found that connecting with others as humans is the solution to almost any workplace conflict, a topic she touches on in this podcast. HR leaders will pick up actionable advice on how to connect with others, as well as an important message for HR leaders about how to bring about change, starting with you.
 
Melanie Katzman on HR Studio PodcastDr. Melanie Katzman is a business psychologist, advisor, and consultant to the world’s top public and private companies, government agencies and nonprofits. She is the founder of Katzman Consulting and a founding partner of the social enterprise Leaders’ Quest. Katzman was a Senior Fellow at The Wharton School’s Center for Leadership and Change Management and cocreated/hosted the show “Women@Work” on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. She has been featured in the Financial Times, New York Times, O Magazine, South China Morning Post, Vanity Fair, and on ABC-TV, CBS-TV, and Lifetime. She lives in New York City. 
 
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Denises' interview with Melanie Katzman.
 

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Podcast Transcript

Denise Yosafat:
Welcome everyone to HR Studio Podcast. I'm Denise Yosafat, your host for today's episode. Today's topic is actionable ways to better connect as humans and how this strengthens our work environment. Joining us for this discussion is Dr. Melanie Katzman. Dr. Katzman is the founder of Katzman Consulting and for over 20 years she has been providing psychological expertise to organizations in transition, recovering from crisis, or seeking to grow impact. Along with her team, she facilitates strategy meetings, consults on corporate culture, and does executive coaching.

Denise Yosafat:
She has also held many faculty positions in different countries and was a senior fellow at Wharton Business School's Center for Leadership and Change Management. Dr. Katzman also co-created and co-hosted at the national radio show, Women at Work on Sirius XM and has lectured around the world. Dr Katzman is also the author of the book Connect First: 52 Simple Ways to Ignite Success, Meaning and Joy at Work. So it's a pleasure having you here today.

Melanie Katzman:
Thanks so much for having me, Denise.

Denise Yosafat:
So let's get right in. I know our time is a little, we're going to do this in about 22 minutes today, but you've worked with a lot of corporate senior leaders who are bottom-line focused. So how do you get them to respect the soft skills?

Melanie Katzman:
That's a great question, Denise. I think the most important thing is to stay focused on the outcomes that they're trying to achieve. And when we sit down and try to figure out why their best intentions aren't landing properly, why all of the project plans and corporate structures are in place, and yet the outcomes just aren't the way they hope.

Melanie Katzman:
Suddenly there's an interest in decoding the emotional cues so we become detectives, and we think about it in a very strategic way. Always focused on the goals and recognizing that the emotion is really the power and the energy behind the achievement that they desire.

Denise Yosafat:
I love that word, detectives. How can HR leaders, because our audience is HR leaders, how can they help us become those detectives?

Melanie Katzman:
Well, I think HR leaders are in a wonderful position to partner with the businesses that they support in trying to identify where the pain points are and to hold up, if you will, the emotional mirror, to ask the executives that you're working with, how are they responding and reacting to certain situations? Often the first clue as to what's going on is the emotions we hold within ourselves in response to an interaction. So if I'm feeling frustrated, angry, impatient, that may be a good indication that the people around me are feeling that way too.

Melanie Katzman:
And HR leaders can help give the language to the people that they're supporting to enable them to have the conversations they need to have.

Melanie Katzman quote on HR Studio PodcastDenise Yosafat:
Terrific. And so let's talk about some of that language. I know you talk about 52 simple things. So what are some of those things?

Melanie Katzman:
Well, so I think the very basic ones really are just encouraging people to make the connections that we're biologically wired to do. So for example, the book starts with a smile. It seems pretty basic, but you know what? A lot of people don't smile as beautifully as you are right now in our zoom meeting. But many people don't smile, and it's an automatic ignition key. It gets people to respond whether they want to or not. You can't resist a smile. Smile at me, I smile back and make eye contact. See the people around you. Who's in the room?

Melanie Katzman:
Too often I think we walk into a meeting, and we pay attention to the people we think are important, are the ones that we know. And so if you look at people and engage with them, then you start to realize that person is actually looking somewhat uncomfortable. They're detached. Why are they detached? Then you can have the conversation. So I encourage people to make space to have a conversation. We have so much technology that enables us to be interconnected, but we don't always connect. So I encourage people within the book and of course your listeners to sometimes pick up the phone. To make those in-person meetings and make them happen and turn off your electronics and have the engagement. That is only possible when I'm really with you when I'm really sitting and talking. And then we can go onto some other things as well.

Denise Yosafat:
So let's talk about the really sitting with you and listening and talking. There are some generational differences. You look at the younger people, and they're texting a lot. What do we do about that?

Melanie Katzman:
So I think that we need to model the behavior that we hope to have. And it's not just millennials or Gen Z'ers or Gen X's, but I work with executives who all are so time-crunched that they're sitting in there sneaking a look at their phone or they have their computers up and active, they have all the pings and dings on. First of all, we all know everyone's important, busy, and receiving incoming messages on every device. Turn off the ringers. You don't need a ringer to tell you that you just got a message, you did. Chances are, it's there. It's waiting for you.

Melanie Katzman:
So I really encourage people to, if you're having an in-person meeting, ask everybody to be there, be present, and assure them that you'll give them back the time to be able to check their devices. So rather than having a one-hour meeting, that's not efficient because everybody is half paying attention, we're going to have 45-minute meetings, and everyone has 15 minutes of device time. But for the time that we're together, let's be focused, efficient, and done. So let's reward the good behavior, model it and don't say it's a generational difference because I think we see it across the board now.

Denise Yosafat:
We're so used to using our computers to take notes, we have them in front of us and people might think we're doing something else. How do you handle that?

Melanie Katzman:
Actually, you know what? I tell people, bring some paper or have paper and pen. You don't need to probably take as many notes as you think. And probably people aren't taking as many notes as they are pretending to. If we're having a very efficient meeting that we're going to start with everybody introducing themselves very quickly. I always believe you have to have voices in the room from the very beginning. If people speak, they become more connected to the proceedings. So make sure everybody has a chance to speak. If you are the leader in any way possible, connect people to the outcome in a way that they feel important and that they are going to contribute and have some paper and pencil. And say, "We're going to have our conversation at the end. We can summarize what the action steps are, what people are responsible for, and then you can take a short note." But really what we want is the eye contact, the ear contact, the deep listening that is so difficult to achieve these days. We're all time deprived and attention deprived.

Denise Yosafat:
And so how do we get that behavior ingrained in the culture? People are very weary of programs, very weary of training, it's forgotten the next day. How do you get that into the culture?

Melanie Katzman:
Well that's part of the reason why I wrote Connect First is to give people 52 actionable steps. We started with talking about say hello with your eyes and your smile, but also saying please and thank you. But I go on in the book to talk about many different ways about apologizing, about clearing conflicts, about inviting other people in. And these are all things that we do as individuals. They're not programmed, but we take part in programs and it's almost as if the event has taken place and now we're done. And the responsibility is on the corporation or on the leader or somebody else to make the changes.

Melanie Katzman:
So here's the good news and the bad news, Denise, it all comes down to us. We have to make those changes. We have to be the example that we want others to follow. And so it's not a program, it's what you do every day. It's how you show up, it's how you conduct yourself. And that's the real change. And that I think is the big message for HR leaders is you don't run a program, you change yourself, and you encourage others to be infected by that good behavior.

Denise Yosafat:
And how can we cause that infection even more? There'll be people who look at these tips and they say, "Okay, I can do that. I'll do 30 of those 52. But I'm not going to do the other 22."

Melanie Katzman:
Oh believe me, if people did a few, they would already see the impact. Just start every day by thanking somebody for something that they did well, and you'll see the change. You don't need to do all 52. Dip into the book anytime that you have an issue, and I think that you might find a solution. So I don't think we should be overwhelmed with the number of things that we need to do, but to do anything differently, will make a change. First of all, it feels good to stimulate ourselves and to experiment with these different kinds of behaviors. But how many people don't want praise? I mean, I can't imagine the person who doesn't want to be praised. It's rocket fuel. And yet people don't praise often or enough within their organizations. It sounds so simple, but having done countless numbers of 360 reviews, I am continually giving people the feedback that the individuals reporting to them would like to hear that they did a good job. It seems so basic, right? It's so powerful.

Denise Yosafat:
Yeah. I heard from one individual, they said, "Well, if I praise too often it's not going to be meaningful." Well, yeah, but praise at least some.

Melanie Katzman:
Exactly. Anybody could take it to an extreme, right? I encourage people to take responsibility for things that go wrong, but you don't want to walk around all the time and say, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm sorry." But if you praise people and you tie it to an action, then it's legitimized. If I just say "you're the best", then that will become empty. But "I really appreciate what you did because it had this effect on me or on the group or on our outcome". That has might. That that has a meaning.

Melanie Katzman quote on HR Studio PodcastDenise Yosafat:
Right. So let's talk about one of the more difficult concepts, which is conflict management. And what are the behaviors around conflict management that people can adapt?

Melanie Katzman:
So one of the things is creating a situation such that the conversation is taking place in the most comfortable way possible. And so believe it or not, I have a section in the book called Be a Good Host, and I remember my editor at McGraw Hill saying, "Why is that under conflict management?" And I said, "Well, try walking into a meeting, and you don't know where to sit. You don't know where to hang your coat. You haven't been shown the bathroom. You don't have a glass of water, you don't know the names of the people in the room. Already you're going to be anxious before you even start."

Melanie Katzman:
So one of the things to do is really think about what's the right setting to have the conversation? How can people be made comfortable in that meeting? And how do you start from a place of shared concern? Not in your role, not defined by the position, but why are we here today and how do you want to feel at the end of this meeting? I think if we connected at the human level first, then we can find more shared outcomes that can be worked on in that conversation. If I show up as the person in this role who has to win you over in your role, then we're destined to have a more difficult time.

Denise Yosafat:
So let's talk about productivity, the productivity related to these behaviors. What are you seeing as people start to do these behaviors? How does it impact productivity? Because leaders want bottom-line results. So that's what they're looking for.

Melanie Katzman:
So one of the most important things is always, what is the unique solution? Or what is the alternative solution? Or what is it that we don't know that could possibly trip us up? So too often we operate from a place of fear, and fear causes us to close our minds and our doors. And it's just the opposite of what we need to be doing. So to increase productivity, to have often better decision making, it's important to be more inclusive. And that requires us to think about who else needs to be in this meeting? How do I get an invitation out in a way that it will be accepted? So that's sometimes requires a phone call. Sometimes it requires doing a little bit of research to make it a more personal invitation when you send a note. Bringing people in, helping them feel comfortable, and not being afraid to ask questions that you don't have answers to.

Melanie Katzman:
And I think that's where we see tremendous productivity changes, because we've got people in a room with different perspectives, different voices, and we're working together on the unknown in a way that's energizing and exciting. And that leads to not only a more engaged group of people, a more interested and interesting group, but often new solutions that can be very effective.

Denise Yosafat:
Right. So what have you found with these new solutions that can be very effective? Do you have any examples of when people have adopted some of these behaviors? Of course, not all 52 at once.

Melanie Katzman:
A great example is when I was working with an entertainment group where you have the branded content team who is trying to produce materials that, on the one hand, reflect things that their sponsors care about, and on the other hand are authentic for their audiences. And so then you have the content developers, and they are continually at odds with the people who are in ad sales.

Melanie Katzman:
There are people who are generating the business. They say we're keeping the lights on, and you have the creative team saying we have to be pure. And the two were continually aggravated with each other. So I brought them together, and we took a look as a group at the environment in which we're operating, in which there's this interaction that is happening between entertainment, information, advertising, and said, "Okay, what's happening in the world? Where does this organization sit, and where do each of you want to be if you were going to be declaring success?" So everybody talked about what success meant for them. What were the obstacles? The obstacles were timing, communication, and people didn't know who was responsible for what. The timing came in ways that were difficult to respond to. People were able to air their concerns but were asked to listen before they responded.

Melanie Katzman:
And as a result of having the right people in the room, slowing things down, not speaking in an accusatory way, and having information that everybody could respond to, we were able to then work through the emotions, which were, at the core, you don't respect me. You don't understand. That's often what happens, right? How many of your listeners end up being called in as HR professionals because someone doesn't feel respected or they don't feel understood. So we need to bring the people together, slow it down, allow them to connect around a shared mission or outcome, voice their concerns, and then get down to the specifics. Maybe that's what we need to do.

Denise Yosafat:
Yeah, that's a great example of getting them to get into problem-solving mode versus accusatory mode.

Melanie Katzman:
Right, but first a lot of people have to vent. It's like, okay let's vent. When I do these programs, I interview people ahead of time. I collect all of the emotion. I distill it into a few key messages that I can then put back into the room and say, "Let's take a look. This is what I heard about how people feel." We talk about that, the feelings matter, but they're not the endpoint, and I think that goes back to your original question. How do people come to respect emotions at work? Because they are the beginning. They're not the end, right? They allow us to have the conversations that get us to the place of having productive problem-solving conversations.

Melanie Katzman:
I don't want to just hear how you feel. I do you want to get how you feel because that's going to help you and me together connect as humans, deepen our trust, and not be afraid of managing the conflict because relationships always have conflict. Good relationships have conflict. You get through it, and you're on the other side of it, and the relationship is deepened because of the conflict, not because you avoided the conflict.

Denise Yosafat:
Right. Oh, I love that. I love that saying, "It's deepened because of the conflict. Instead of avoiding the conflict."

Melanie Katzman:
Yeah.

Denise Yosafat:
Because I think too many people avoid that conflict, thinking, I don't want to go there. And you're saying, no, no, no, you have to go there. To get to that problem solving mode, you have to air the feelings. You have to understand what's going on in the room and then deal with it effectively.

Melanie Katzman:
Ultimately everything in my book is about building trust, right? That if you don't have trust, you can't have the conversations. You can't name the elephant in the room for fear that there's going to be repercussions, right? You aren't going to voice a new idea. You're not going to admit that you're wrong. All of the innovation that we need, the kinds of courageous new actions that everyone is calling for, they all depend on people having the confidence that they can take a risk and they will not be punished for it. That requires trust. That's the whole concept of psychological safety and to work in an organization in which you don't feel psychologically safe, is to edit yourself and to restrain the actions of others. So ultimately that's really what we're after.

Denise Yosafat:
Right, because then you have an organization of fear and in what can I say? So it's building that foundation of trust in these 52 ways to help you get there.

Melanie Katzman:
Absolutely.

Denise Yosafat:
Wonderful. So any other final thoughts for our HR leaders in our audience?

Melanie Katzman:
So I think the most important thing to take away is that while there's always the advantages of having programs and banners and reminders about things that we should do, if you're building an inclusive culture, if you are trying to create an innovative, fast-moving, fast responding organization, that oftentimes we need to slow it down just a beat and take a look in the mirror and see that all of us have the responsibility and the opportunity to make a difference. That it's not going to be a program, that it's not going to be a boss or a leader. It's going to be you. And it doesn't take a lot of time. It doesn't take money, but it's how you show up. It's how you connect and it's what you do as an individual. And that will drive organizational change. That will drive system change.

Denise Yosafat:
One by one by one.

Melanie Katzman:
Absolutely. One by many, by many more.

Denise Yosafat:
By many more. I love it. I love it and especially in big organizations, right? Let's get [crosstalk 00:21:47].

Melanie Katzman:
Absolutely. It's so easy to feel like you don't have the power to make a difference and I don't buy it. I've worked with too many organizations and I see the individuals make up the organization and each individual makes a difference and so we need to step away from that disempowered sense of, I'm overwhelmed by all there is to do. What I do doesn't matter. Wrong. What you do matters greatly and will have a huge effect for you and for everybody around you.

Denise Yosafat:
What a wonderful way and thank you. I used one of the 52. Thank you for being here today. It was a really great conversation about what organizations can do to build that trust in their culture.

Melanie Katzman:

Thank you so much for having me Denise, and good luck with everything that you're doing. It's so important to have a podcast like yours.

Denise Yosafat:
Thank you. I want to just speak out to our all our podcasts listeners, if you are not a subscriber yet to HR Studio Podcast, you can become one by going to hrstudiopodcast.com and you'll be notified of episodes and also there you'll find all of our speakers' social handles, and more information about Dr. Katzman's book, so we look forward to that. Once again, thank you, and I'm going to get you out of here on time and we look forward to seeing your book.

Melanie Katzman:
Thank you so much. Great talking to you Denise.

Denise Yosafat:
All right, take care. Bye-bye.

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Date: 
Tuesday, December 24, 2019 - 8:00am
Industry: 
Management Consulting
Host: 
Denise Yosafat
Guest: 
Melanie Katzman
Type: 
HR Studio Podcast