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“When I glance in the mirror of my career success and leadership, the reflection I see always has me standing behind those I could trust and those who trusted me.” Me

When I write and speak about leadership, motivation, teamwork and organizational success the discussion usually moves quickly to trust. When I ask “What is right”and“What needs attention” I often hear about a group of people with team pride and a will to serve who live their day to day with poor communications, micromanagement, and low morale and them against us attitudes. I attribute much of these “need attention” issues to a consistent lack of trust. 

Maybe I should have been a Zu Zu Man.

I was told the story of the Zu Zu Man years ago. The story teller was a mechanic and he was asked by his father-in-law to move to Africa to manage the family timber business. He found the business in a state of disrepair. The workers came from different groups and they did not communicate, associate or work well with each other. None of the workers maintained the expensive equipment or cared about company success or output. The trust was non-existent.

The new manager set up work groups and established regular drivers. He taught workers to inspect equipment and he established regular maintenance schedules for the equipment. He ordered equipment parts and inventory in order to reduce repair costs.

He met with group leaders and drivers and workers and was cordial and he let them know that he was appreciative of their efforts and that he could see their ability to achieve success. He gave trust and expected trust in return.

One day he noticed a few large truck tires were missing. He asked the group supervisors, the drivers and then all employees where the tires had gone. No one owned up.

A group supervisor volunteered to go to a nearby village and get the Zu Zu man and promised that he could determine if one of the workers had stolen the tires. The Zu Zu man lined up all workers and gave each an opportunity to confess to the theft. After no one confessed, the Zu Zu Man stood in front of each worker in the line from left to right. He then returned to one worker and they went off into the woods and never returned. The manager never lost another inventory item.

Who stole the trust from your department? Was it micromanaged back into the bush or were you treated as a mindless laborer with no communications, no concern for your well being and no appreciation for your work? Was your organization focused on cutting trees or building an exceptional timber company that cut trees? Were they focused at all?

After nearly forty-two years in the fire service, I from day one until today understood trust. It is vital to our success, from the newest Rookie to the top. Exceptional performance becomes a common occurrence when an organization is truly focused on trust.

I have felt trust given to me by highly respected leaders who understood that delegation included the three key components of responsibility, authority and trust. I tried never to disappoint them and I tried to learn from their example when I trusted others and taught them to lead.

Some people cannot be trusted. Fortunately, they are like a three alarm fire – easy to spot and smell.

Perhaps I am the Zu Zu man and maybe we all can learn from him.

If I trusted you and you dishonored that trust and I sent you out into the bush you know exactly why I did so, because I told you why. You chose dishonor, personal gain and your group over trust and you deceived me and stole from me. I didn’t have to bring in the Zoo Zu man in to identify you because you stood out to everyone as the dishonest thief of trust from your actions and from your face of shame.

Respect the sawyers and the climbers. Provide for, care about, encourage and trust them.

Do the sawyers and the climbers have families? Are they as important as the trees?

Trust should not be disposable. Earn it, value it, embrace it and teach it.

You have a profession founded on trust. Never disgrace or neglect that.

Thanks for reading, trusting and sharing.

Have a great day – it is a GREAT day for it.

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