Podcast
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Podcast

The importance of building trustful relationships

Angel investor and entrepreneur, Nicole Herzog, speaks with former BBC interviewer, Nisha Pillai, about building trustful relationships with leaders and teams, and running successful companies.

Nicole Herzog
The Agenda Podcasts

The Agenda brought to you by Sherpany uncovers the journey leaders take from facing challenges to making decisions. In this unique series of podcasts, leaders talk candidly with former BBC World Service interviewer, Nisha Pillai. #LeadingTogether

In this podcast episode, you will hear:

Angel investor and entrepreneur, Nicole Herzog, as she talks candidly about her own career and experiences in business, and the lessons she has learned along the way. Nicole is a strong believer that building trustful relationships with leaders and team members is a must for any business to be successful. She refers to meetings as a reflection of leadership culture, and talks openly about going through a burnout herself. Here are some of the topics covered in the podcast:

  • Building an environment of trust with leaders and teams
  • Meetings as a reflection of leadership culture, and a safe space for people to speak up
  • Why trust and the environment of trust is essential to inclusion in the workplace
  • Living a balanced life and staying healthy for you, and your team.

 

The importance of building trustful relationships with Nicole Herzog

Building an environment of trust with leaders and teams

You must have observed many different leadership styles. What, in your opinion, makes a great leader? How does one build this thing called trust?

"Authenticity, for one. And you need to leave your ego at the door. It's not about you. It's about the results. And it's about the people you want to empower. [...] 

Imagine working without a trustful relationship with your leader or your team. You know, when I did my internship, I had a boss who had a toxic leadership style. She blamed me for making mistakes — even in front of clients. In the end, I was so terrified of making mistakes, I couldn't even perform anymore. So I learned the hard way how it is if you have a leader who does not trust in your skills and who does not have your back. [...]

I had a positive experience as well, very early in my career. So I learned the two sides of leadership, the positive one and the negative one. 

When I started my own company, Humantis, a tech company, we lost our CTO. He left the company, unfortunately, and we didn't have a successor. So I took over, and as you might know, I'm a lawyer by training, so I'm totally not the obvious choice.

I had to lead this team of engineers, so I was forced into this leadership style of trusting the people we hired, of trusting the experts. And they rewarded me with amazing results. And they trusted me as well. And they knew I relied on them, and they knew as well that I will have their back. So that's how I learned what trust can do for performance and for a team. [...]

In my experience, trust is reciprocal. So if you trust and if you show trust and if you show yourself vulnerable and open to your team, this helps the team to trust you. And as a leader, you have to like people."

 

Meetings as a reflection of leadership culture, and a safe space for people to speak up

"In my opinion, meetings are a mirror of your leadership culture. So, if you want to know how you lead or what kind of leader you are, try to reflect on how you lead your meetings. More specifically, who is talking? How much? Is it just you? How do you take decisions? Do you usually come out of a meeting with the decision you wanted to take?

Are there opposing opinions? Are people open to opposition and to opinions? Or are they just quiet? If you reflect on this, you get quite a good sense of what kind of leader you are and what kind of culture there is in your team. [...]

Virtual meetings are more challenging than physical ones. I start meetings, especially the difficult ones, in writing down why we meet, what is the purpose of the meeting, and what we want to achieve together. 

Then I establish do's and don'ts, meeting rules. How do we talk to each other? What is important? We listen, we reflect on what anyone said, or we agree that everyone in the room wants to contribute. Then I start with, for example, setting the scene, meaning that I ask the people, are there any obstacles for them to contribute to the meeting?"

 

In my experience, trust is reciprocal. If you trust and show trust, this helps the team to trust you.


Why trust and the environment of trust is essential to inclusion in the workplace

"Diverse teams bring better results. I'm totally convinced about this. Diversity is just how you set up your team. Now you have to bring your team up to work, meaning you have to include them. And for me, trust and the environment of trust is key to inclusion.

In the end, inclusion needs the commitment of everyone in the team. It's not just the leader. We all have to contribute to inclusion. [...] We need tolerance. We need openness. 

On the other hand, we need courage in the sense of if we see that a team is not inclusive, we have to speak up. Or, for example if you're a successful woman in business, then we have to be role models for the younger ones. [...] 

Everyone has a role to play in inclusion. We all have to work on this. We all have to put the results first and not our ego. And if we put the results first, then we include all the diverse team members we have, because it's about the results, and not about me as a person, as a leader, or as a team member."

 

Living a balanced life and staying healthy for you, and your team

"[...] as a leader you need to take care of yourself first. If you cannot take care of yourself, you cannot take care of anyone else. I had to experience this. I had a burnout 12 years ago. I also learned the hard way that a balanced life needs different pillars.

Let me make that a little bit clearer. If your life is based on four pillars and one breaks down, for example, work or health or whatever, you still have three pillars that hold your building stable, but if your life is only based on two pillars and one breaks down, you're in trouble. And you can become sick, you can get a burnout.

You truly struggle. And for me to make it a little bit more specific, those four pillars are work, I love to work. But it's not only work. It's a healthy relationship. It's family, friends, and hobbies. Me time. Exercising. My dog. So, these are my four pillars, and I really try to work on all of them. And if I am balanced, I can also be balanced as a leader, and I also can support my team in staying healthy."

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Nicole Herzog
About the author
Nicole Herzog is a passionate angel investor and entrepreneur, with experience in digital transformation, management and communication. She is co-founder and former COO of Haufe-Umantis, a German Team Management software company. Nicole currently serves on the boards of Swiss companies, and she is Chairperson of ideas beyond AG and Sherpany.