Culture Over Coffee

The Importance of Earned Trust with Allison Delagrange

January 04, 2023 Beth Sunshine Season 1 Episode 5
Culture Over Coffee
The Importance of Earned Trust with Allison Delagrange
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we’re continuing our deep dive into each of the Four Engagement Elevators. Today we’re taking a ride in elevator number 4: Earned Trust. This is the elevator where people mean what they say and live the values they espouse every day which are reflected in their day-to-day actions.  

And when it comes to discussing Earned Trust, it’d be hard to do better than a chat with Allison Delagrange, General Sales Manager at Federated Media. 

Allison makes so many amazing points, like: 

  • Why you should never underestimate the value of communication 
  • How keeping a watchful eye on your “company campfire” can go a long way towards fostering and maintaining trust among your employees 
  • And, contrary to popular thought, good business IS personal!  

About Up Your Culture:
Up Your Culture, an employee engagement and company culture firm, was designed by The Center for Sales Strategy which has almost 40 years of experience improving business performance.

ENGAGE 2022: The Company Culture Report:

Allison Delagrange:

Beth Sunshine:

Up Your Culture:

(05:19) Everybody's having trouble finding good people, but if you have a sense of who your company is, people wanna be part of that
(08:30) Employees want to hear from top level leadership
(11:24) Maintaining your company campfire
(13:09) Tips for giving and receiving feedback
(18:32) You can't wait until you have an opening to start searching for the next rockstar
(20:50) Good business is personal
(26:34) Schedule time on your calendar to focus on culture

Beth Sunshine: (00:15)
Hello and welcome to Culture Over Coffee, a podcast focused on improving company culture and fostering employee engagement. Every week we chat with experts and thought leaders about the latest information and proven practices you can use to reduce reputable turnover, increase productivity on your team, and retain key customers. So, pour a cup of your favorite brew and join us. I'm your host, Beth Sunshine, SVP at Up Your Culture and the Center for Sales Strategy.

Beth Sunshine: (00:48)
In this episode, we're continuing our deep dive into each of the four engagement elevators, and today we're taking a ride in elevator. Number four, earn trust. This is the elevator where people mean what they say and live the values they espouse every day, which are reflected in their day-to-day actions. And when it comes to discussing earned trust, it's hard to do better than a chat with Allison Delagrange, general Sales Manager at Federated Media. Allison makes so many amazing points, like why you should never underestimate the value of communication, how keeping a watchful eye on your company campfire can go a long way towards fostering and maintaining trust among your employees. And how contrary to popular thought, good business is personal. Allison, thank you so much for joining me today for Culture Over Coffee. We have, uh, boy, we've worked together for a long time now in the talent world. I was thinking, I mean, is it 15 years? Is that right? I

Allison Delagrange: (01:53)
Mean, um, almost, yeah. Almost 15 years, so Oh my gosh. A decade and a half to make it living longer, right?

Beth Sunshine: (02:01)
Yeah. And you look younger every time I see you  really crazy. You have always paid such close attention to all the things that matter to me, hiring top talent, coaching people to maximize their strengths, retaining them over time. I know how important your people are to you, and one of the things I think you've done really well over the years is earning their trust. And that's really what I wanna focus on today. So I was really glad you were able to do this with us at up Your culture. You know this, but there are four engagement elevators that we use to lift culture or to elevate engagement. That's where the elevator term comes from. And we've been talking about them over the course of this season's podcast. The fourth elevator, I think is potentially kind of the key to it all. Yeah. You probably know, we call it earn trust.

Beth Sunshine: (02:54)
Yeah. And we believe it's especially important because even if you do everything else right, even if you create a strong shared mission and you, you know, focus on people development, all those things, if you don't earn their trust, if your people don't truly trust you, there's just no way you can have a thriving culture. So, right. I'd like to especially focus on that with you today and get your perspective on a variety of subjects mostly related to earn trust. But I do have kind of a general question just to start us off. Sound good? Sounds

Allison Delagrange: (03:24)
Good. Yeah, absolutely. I'm glad to be here. Good.

Beth Sunshine: (03:27)
Oh, me too. Alright, so I'd like to start with just like I said, a very general question just about culture and engagement before we dig into Earn Trust. Why do you think that it's important to focus on company culture? Why, why is it important to, to focus on employee engagement? What benefits have you seen for companies or for employees when that is a focus?

Allison Delagrange: (03:50)
Right. It's such a good question and I could seriously camp out on this for an entire podcast, but I won't do that. So, um, but a few things that come to mind. First of all, it's so timely right now for a few different reasons. You know, one, it's no secret that a lot of people are working remote or some hybrid version of remote work plus in office. So it's not enough anymore to say we're gonna put a pool table in a fancy coffee machine in the break room and, and check the culture box, you know, because people are not in one central location for the most part. So it's gotta be about shared values and those intangibles mm-hmm. , um, not only that, but I mean, nobody wants to talk about Covid anymore, but it did cause people to look to be face-to-face with mortality and mm-hmm. ,

Allison Delagrange: (04:42)
Um, think through things like purpose and having meaning in their work. And, you know, that's also led to this, this whole idea of quiet, quitting and, you know, people that are still working but taking pride in doing less, ugh, . So now there's this opportunity really for companies that have a well-defined culture to retain employees, um, because they feel like they're part of something bigger than themselves, but also it's a great opportunity for recruitment. Everybody's having trouble finding good people, but if you have a sense of who your company is, people wanna be part of that. Um, and what that looks like for, for Federated Media specifically, it was so well timed for us to work with up your culture right before Covid hit. Hmm. Because, you know, we had no idea what was coming, but we took a hard look over the course of a year with up your culture really partnering together and saying, okay, how do people feel about working here?

Allison Delagrange: (05:56)
And let's take a hard honest look at this. And we identified things that we needed to work on, and we also were articulating our core values. Um, so then when Covid hit and we were all, you know, separated, we still knew what we stood for. Hmm. And we had those things to hold onto. Um, and then fast forward to this year, we've really focused on what we offer that separates us in this crazy recruitment environment. And, um, we've focused on work-life balance. So what that looks like for me is over the last year I've been able to recruit a couple new people who they actually took a pay cut to come join my team because they liked the work-life balance that we offer. And we see, they see that we, we actually mean it. You know, we've, we've implemented things like flexible paid time off, so, you know, you, you can take the time that you need with your family. Yeah. Um, so it's so important to focus on company culture and, and engagement, um, to both retain the people that you have and then grow your business too.

Beth Sunshine: (07:16)
I love the way you approach that, talking about it really from recruitment, which Yes, it's such a pain point right now all the way to retention. Yeah. And what I will say about you and everyone we work with at Federated Media is, you, you don't let things just be a philosophy. You put things into action. So I actually, it's interesting, I think it probably was very good timing for us to work together because you really followed through on things that were an anchor for you. So I'm glad you you answered it that way. I totally agree.

Allison Delagrange: (07:49)
Yeah. Yeah.

Beth Sunshine: (07:50)
Yeah. Moving into then the topic of earned trust, we've found that when companies are really transparent, when they, um, you know, promote transparency and their employees feel as though they are getting the information they need in general, they have more confidence, right?

Allison Delagrange: (08:07)

Beth Sunshine: (08:08)
Have confidence in company decisions, more confidence in the faith and integrity of their leaders. What are some ways that you think from the very highest levels, like even at the executive level, that a company can earn the trust of their employees?

Allison Delagrange: (08:22)
Yeah, so I think that transparency is so important and also just consistent communication mm-hmm. . So, um, employees want to hear from top level leadership. So if you are in a position like that, never underestimate the value of your communication. And it doesn't have to just be when there's some major announcement, you know, communicate the big things, communicate the small things too. You know, um, our general manager started doing a weekly update. So on Fridays there's an email that goes out that says, you know, here's what's happening. And it's not all, you know, here's who had the biggest sales this week, or, um, you know, the, the major news. It's, it's also the smaller things that happen, um, recognizing company or employee birthdays or anniversaries mm-hmm.  and, um, recognizing the, the smaller teamwork efforts that are happening. So it's a consistent message that goes out every week, and I think it just makes people feel more connected to leadership.

Allison Delagrange: (09:30)
Um, you know, con communicating that vision and how people all play, play a role in that. Um, those are ways that that leaders can, can help, um, establish that trust and also don't underestimate the value of being involved in the grunt work. Um, earlier this year, we had a major change that required everybody to stop and do a lot of data entry into a new system that we were using. And kudos to my general manager because he said, you know what? We're all gonna have to roll up our sleeves and do this. And he said, here's the orders that I'm gonna put in.

Beth Sunshine: (10:09)

Allison Delagrange: (10:09)
Wow. Um, I think that's really powerful. You know, are you gonna be a leader that is just sipping your coffee while everybody else is doing the work, or are you gonna get involved? Mm-hmm. , um, that goes a long way with establishing trust just to say that, you know, I'm in this with you and I'm willing to do the work. Also,

Beth Sunshine: (10:28)
I love that transparency weekly. I like the, just the connection to the human element. You know, not just recognizing the sales, but, but touching what's happening with the people and Sure. Rolling up your sleeves and diving in. These are, these are really good tips.

Allison Delagrange: (10:43)
Yeah. So

Beth Sunshine: (10:45)
As long as we're talking about transparency, then, um, you know, I was flipping through our engaged 2022 report last night when I was kind of thinking about this conversation we were gonna have. And I noticed that 72% of the people who responded to our survey said they work for a company that provides an open forum, sort of a town hall. We sometimes call them and ask me anything meeting. I would, I was actually pleasantly surprised. 72% said that they do have some sort of forum where employees can ask unfiltered questions. Um, is that something that, that open forum meeting something that you would recommend?

Allison Delagrange: (11:24)
So it's a tricky answer and I think it depends on a couple of things. One is the people you have and two is the topic mm-hmm. . So I love the analogy that up your culture has about the company campfire. So if you haven't read it yet, the idea is that there's three different types of engagement. So there's the people that are engaged, and if you're at a company campfire, they're the ones that are rubbing sticks together and, and trying to create a spark and, and keep the fire going. There's the people that are, you know, disengaged that are kind of just hanging out, they're there for the company camp fire, but they're not necessarily contributing mm-hmm. . And then there's those dangerous people who are actively disengaged. Yeah. They're taking logs on the fire and putting water on it. Like, so if you look at the people in your company and you're in a spot where you know that you have a lot of those people that are gonna pour water on the fire, now it's not a good time for one of these open forum meetings.

Allison Delagrange: (12:27)
Mm. You gotta do recruitment first and get the right people there. The other thing is the topic. If you are, if you know that you're going to discuss a topic that you really aren't open for feedback about, you know, this is a decision that's been made, um, this is the direction we're going, we don't, feedback is not welcome, then that's not a, that's not a open forum type of situation. Mm-hmm. . So if you do have, for the most part the people that you want on your team, and I'm not just talking about a couple outliers that everybody, you know, we've, everybody's got one, right? Yeah. Not the

Beth Sunshine: (13:08)
Bad apple, but Right. In

Allison Delagrange: (13:09)
General, if that, if, if you for the most part have the people and it's a topic that you really do welcome their feedback mm-hmm. , um, by all means do it, have that open forum. Um, and there's a couple things you can do to, to make it go smoothly. I think if this is something new, it might be wise to have people submit some questions ahead of time and maybe even give them a chance to do it anonymously. If you don't have that earned trust yet and, and people feel more comfortable, you know, not letting everybody know who's asking the question and maybe give your leadership a chance to look at them ahead of time too, so that they can be really, um, prepared because, um, it, it, it's also fair to put out there like, Hey, we're gonna take your feedback. That doesn't mean that we're gonna be able to implement everything you say, but we are going to listen. And doing that again gives people that sense of ownership and that, that they matter. And, and that's ultimately I think, what people want.

Beth Sunshine: (14:14)
Those are some good best practices. So you need the right people in the town hall in order to have a good town hall meeting. Yeah. So kinda goes back to what you were saying, like recruiting the right people, making sure that you've got the culture that you want and then you can more openly open the doors. Yeah. Um, I like that also, defining the topic, asking for questions in advance, allowing them to be on anonymous. I love that. In our company, we do a quarterly, we call it a state of the state where we sort of put it all out there. I, I've never seen a company as transparent, although I know there are lots of levels of it. And we do the same thing. We ask for questions, any question in advance, and every question gets a response. Sometimes it's going to be a public discussion in the town hall, sometimes it could be a more private, let's talk more seriously about this since it matters to you. Right. Um, any other best practices that that jump to mind?

Allison Delagrange: (15:15)
Um, I think just whoever's leading it, make sure that they're prepared to just take it all in. Hmm. Um, you don't have to have a response to everything in that moment. Um, just being willing to listen and have an open mind. Um, cuz so often people just want to be heard. Yeah. So to not have an immediate answer for every question is Okay. I think people are are accepting of that.

Beth Sunshine: (15:44)
Well said. I love that. And I agree. People wanna be heard.

Allison Delagrange: (15:47)
Yeah. Okay.

Beth Sunshine: (15:48)
Looking more specifically about you and, and the role you play in earning trust with your team, um, you know, I'm sure you'd agree, it's, it's difficult for an employee to feel engaged if they don't like or trust their manager. Right.

Allison Delagrange: (16:03)

Beth Sunshine: (16:03)
Really feel like you care about them, you have their back. The Engage 2022 report revealed, and this was sort of heartbreaking to me, um, only 64% of employees that responded believe that their manager always does what they say they will do. And 28% reported that they can only trust their managers sometimes. And I just think there's a lot there to unpack. So I just wanna start with first, what is your reaction to those numbers?

Allison Delagrange: (16:34)
Well, first of all, ouch. Right? Because, you know, sometimes the truth hurts. Um, but second, I'm not really surprised and I think there's a few things that could be going on. Um, first I would say most managers have the intention to do what they say that they're going to do for all the time. Um, but sometimes there are things that happen and things that are out of c our control and we're human, we, we mess up. So in those cases, you can either ignore it and move on or you can do something that, you know, you could say a couple words that aren't often used in a business setting and that's, I'm sorry, you know, here's where I messed up and here's how I'm gonna fix it. You know, so, so that's one thing that could be going on. Um, I think also we forget that there's so much boss watching that happens and people wanna know why you do the things that you do.

Allison Delagrange: (17:37)
So for an example, uh, when I first started as a sales manager, I dove into the role knowing that a lot of what I had to do was recruitment. Um, so I was having a lot of people in the office for interviews and I'm just doing my job. Right? Well, what's that do to the people that are currently there working? They're wondering, okay, is this new person that just came in the door for an interview, is that my replacement? Am I on the hot seat? And, and that does something to them mentally. So once I realized that there was that concern, I started in my onboarding process just telling people the why behind that. Well, you know, it's not, I'm recruiting all the time, not because our, you know, turnover is super high and not because you're not doing your job, but because we believe that talent is rare.

Allison Delagrange: (18:32)
So we can't wait until we have an opening to start searching for the next rockstar. We, we want you to have good teammates and we know it's gonna take a while. Mm-hmm. . So things like that, communicating the why behind what you do, that that can play into it too. Um, and the last thing I would say that some sometimes happen that's really unfortunate is that there's some people that are in management for the wrong reasons. And, um, that's gonna ruin the trust too because if, if you have come into management because it was, you know, you wanted the title or felt like the next step on the ladder, those types of people make it all about them. Mm-hmm. , it really should be all about the people you're coaching. And so I think maybe that's why some of these people have responded to the survey in the way that they did.

Beth Sunshine: (19:24)
That's a really interesting take and I think you're spot on. Um, we, I think human nature is to want to grow, to want to improve. And so in sales specifically, um, you know, a really great salesperson often thinks to grow here, I need to become a manager. Yeah. And you're exactly right that someone can be born for sales and not at all cut out to be a great manager. And, and that works the other way around too. Totally. I thought about until you said that how you could sort of lose trust if you are more focused on yourself and your career than on the people around you. I really eyeopening and thank you for saying that. Any, any strategies you'd recommend that managers use? Um, tips to earn trust in on their team?

Allison Delagrange: (20:17)
Yeah. Well, so you have to make it personal. Um, there's a phrase that we hear a lot that that kills me. And it's that it's not personal, it's just business . Well, when we're talking about culture, we're asking people to be emotionally involved with their work to care about it, to want to do their best. And so we're not managing robots here. If we were this culture conversation wouldn't matter. Um, so it good business is personal, right? Mm-hmm. . So it starts with, you know, using great tools like the growth guide where you're actually sitting down and having a conversation that's all about that person. Tell me about what you like about your job. Tell me about your goals. Mm-hmm. , um, tell me about what motivates you, learning those things and then putting them into practice. I, I love the question when you're successful, who do you want to hear about it?

Allison Delagrange: (21:22)
Um, if you find out the answer to that question and that person says, my mom, my dad, my spouse, and then you actually do it, that is such a powerful way to earn trust because they feel like, oh my goodness. Right? Listened and you acted on it. Um, so things like the growth guide, but also just setting clear expectations and giving consistent performance feedback. It's so important to tell people not just what they're doing wrong, but what they're doing right? Yeah. Um, because then they can duplicate it, right? So much of coaching is like parenting. I have small children and if we go out to eat and afterwards I say, Hey, I'm really proud of you. You did a good job in there. I can't assume that they know why it was good. Mm-hmm. . So if I take the time and I say, you know, I liked the way that you sat still in your share, I liked how polite you were to the server. I liked how you cleaned up your area. They know what to do to for the next experience to also be good. Mm-hmm.  and it's so simple, but it's the same way with adults. You know, they wanna know what can they do to be good the next time, don't let them get lost, um, in what's important in wondering what's important. And then the other thing is just do what you say you'll do. If, if you say you're gonna do something, then do it. And if for some reason you can't tell them why.

Beth Sunshine: (22:59)
And the I'm sorry.

Allison Delagrange: (23:00)
Yeah. And I'm, yeah, I'm sorry. Yeah.

Beth Sunshine: (23:03)

Allison Delagrange: (23:03)
This step I'm human too. ,

Beth Sunshine: (23:05)
I love that. Love the analogy about your children because you're exactly right. Even though we're talking about adult professionals here, it's the same thing. We need to to know specifically what what is leading to success. And you kind of got the bookends there, setting expectations and then noticing those positive behaviors along the way. Great, great ideas for earning trust. And of course you talked about the growth guide, which is my love language,

Allison Delagrange: (23:31)
So Yeah. Yeah. ,

Beth Sunshine: (23:32)
We're on the same page there. That's

Allison Delagrange: (23:34)
Great. So

Beth Sunshine: (23:35)
Let's, um, we only have a couple minutes left. Few minutes. Maybe I wanna flip this around for just a moment cuz we've been talking about trust builders so far, far, but I also know that there are some things that I would consider trust breakers. Yeah. So what are some things you think managers should specifically envo avoid if they wanna be sure not to break the bonds of trust they have with their people?

Allison Delagrange: (23:58)
Right. So some of 'em are obvious, like, you know, being deceitful, don't do that. Don't tell guys, um, don't put someone in a position where you know they're not gonna be successful. You know, the person who can't think on their feet, don't call them out in the middle of a a meeting and say, what do you think about that? Um, you don't wanna embarrass them. Um, don't, you know, do a growth guide and find out what motivates them and then just forget about it. It's almost better if you wouldn't have done it in the first place then because now that you know this about them, you have a responsibility. You, you, you can't just be blissfully ignorant anymore. .

Beth Sunshine: (24:41)
Right. Powerful. That's true.

Allison Delagrange: (24:44)
Uh, inconsistency. You wanna avoid that. I mean, we've all worked with someone that, or at least I think so that shows up and you're never sure which version of them you're gonna get that day. Yeah. You know, are you gonna be the one that's on top of it and looking for paperwork and all the i dotted and ts crossed or are you just gonna be the one that's kind of disengaged today? Like, you know, be con you gotta be consistent. Yeah. Um, and the one thing I thought about that's a little, you know, outside the box I guess is just avoid over promising. So we know that doing what you say you're gonna do, you're gonna do, it's very important. And I think as managers we have, uh, the to-do list is longer than the, the day is right? Yeah. So be cautious about, you know, setting some boundaries about what you are actually able to do and the timeframe in which you're able to do it. Um, cause it's one thing to say like, I'm here for you and I'll give you a timely response, but it's another to be, you know, held to I'm gonna respond within an hour. Well, sometimes that's not always feasible, so, right. So avoid over promising by setting some boundaries of what actually is realistic for you as a manager.

Beth Sunshine: (25:58)
Set yourself up for success. Yeah, exactly. Right. Very good. Oh, well I could just, gosh, I could just do this all day with you. Honestly, I even said at the beginning, we're gonna wanna have you as a guest again sometime in the future because I, I think you have such a great perspective on so many things, but I do, I'd like to end our coffee chat with a quick question. So here's the question in just a sentence or two, what would be the one piece of advice you would give your closest friends if they ask you how to improve culture or to improve engagement at their company right now? One tip, what would it be?

Allison Delagrange: (26:33)
Yeah, I would say schedule time on your calendar to focus on culture. Hmm. Um, we all know how things get busy and culture is probably not gonna be the most, it probably won't ever feel like the most urgent and important item on your to-do list. So you've got to schedule time to think about it and use that time to figure out a way to get some feedback. You know, you can partner with up your culture for sure. To come up with structured ways to get that feedback. And then come up with a plan and focus on just a couple of things that you wanna improve. You can overwhelm yourself and think, oh my goodness, I can't do any of this. So then nothing gets done. Pick a couple things, but start by just plot blocking out some time on your calendar for it so that you, so that you get some things done to impact halter.

Beth Sunshine: (27:32)
Priceless advice. A bunch of us were just talking yesterday about how if you ask any leader in any company, anywhere, if culture or engagement is important, every one of you will say yes. Every one of you will tell you that it's a priority. Every, not every one of you, every one of them will tell you that it's a priority. However, doing it is a whole different thing. And yeah, you're exactly right. You have to actually schedule time and I wonder how often that happens because of all the fires that get put out. That's a great place for us to end something to really think about how can you schedule that time and make it not just a priority in your mind, but a priority in your business effort.

Allison Delagrange: (28:16)
So yes,

Beth Sunshine: (28:19)
Thank you Alison, for the time you've spent today talking about culture with me. You've shared a lot of good information, a lot of good ideas. I'm sure our listeners have found them valuable. Now, for those listening, I'm gonna drop Allison's contact information in the show notes because, uh, she's the best. You're, you're probably gonna wanna reach out and connect with her at some point. We'll make that easy for you. I'm also gonna drop in the link to the Engage 2022 Culture report. Um, you may wanna dive into some of those details as well. So thank you Allison and thank you everyone, uh, enjoy the journey to up your culture.

Allison Delagrange: (28:53)
Thank you for having me.

Beth Sunshine: (29:00)
Thanks so much for spending time with us. I'm Culture Over Coffee. If you've enjoyed the conversation, be sure to subscribe and join us for every episode. For more helpful information on the topics of company culture and employee engagement, visit