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Marya Wilson, PhD is the Principal and Organizational Dietician for MW Advising.
Marya has an extensive business and industry career in the areas of manufacturing, information management, telecommunications, ISP, and the semiconductor industries of the Silicon Valley, CA at the companies 3M, Imation, and Pentagon Technologies, and various others.
She is also the Director of the Leadership Institute and an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She teaches in the areas of organizational leadership and behavior, operations management, quality management, training and development, and sustainable management. Her research interests include psychological contracts, trust and emotions in the workplace, and organizational exit. Her current research involves the understanding of the lived experience for professionals who are pushed out of their careers.
Marya serves the manufacturing, service, higher education, non-profit, and government sectors. She brings not only first-hand knowledge to the learning experience but also a clear understanding of the underlying emotional processes that drive behaviors and create individual and team success. She has a BA in Psychology, MS in Management Technology, MA in Human Development, and a PhD in Human and Organizational Systems.
Why is trust so important to the success of an organization?
So along with my entrepreneurial endeavors, I also teach at The University of Wisconsin Stout so I have a pretty extensive research background as well. The research that I get into is in organizational exit. So why are people leaving organizations? Usually, I get a sort of that “Duh” look because most people think they know why people leave, but there’s so much more to it. It’s so important for organizations to really understand why people are leaving, especially their high performers. Pretty much the number one reason that people leave their organizations is because there’s a betrayal of trust. There’s this trust factor that is so important in organizations and so one of the things that I do is work with leaders and work with organizations to strengthen that trust between the individuals of the organization as well as the leaders and their organizations. Losing people isn’t just a financial hardship, it’s a really big hit on morale and the overall organizational culture. The last thing any organization wants is to hit that toxic realm and it’s easy to do when we’re not paying attention to trust and not paying attention to those relationships that are part of that organization. Yeah, we’ve got a job to do, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve got things to do, we’ve got expectations to meet, we’ve got goals to meet, we have customer expectations, but that relationship side of the organization is as important as getting the job done, sometimes I’m fairly certain it’s a little more important. So trust is a big factor and it’s one of the things that I love to talk about and love to continue to research too.
Is organizational trust the same in face-to-face and remote work environments?
March 2020 was one of the most disruptive changes we’ve seen in almost 100 years. The definition that I use for trust is an individual’s belief and willingness to act on someone’s actions, decisions, and words. The truth of the matter is that there’s no difference between that face-to-face and in the remote or the virtual. It’s all in our actions, it’s all in what we say, it’s all in how we interact. Is it different? Of course, face-to-face is much richer, you can see the nonverbals, you can see body language, you can see those facial expressions. There’s just so much there that you can see that you can’t necessarily see in a virtual or remote environment. But one of the things that have been interesting the last couple of years is listening to leaders go, “We need everybody back and we need them back now because we don’t have good relationships anymore.” So I’ll ask them why that is and they’ll say, “Well, people can’t see each other,” and I thought, “Okay, but you’re doing these great video meetings, you’re doing these great virtual events so why do you have to necessarily be in the same room in order to build a relationship?” And you don’t. It’s different, but there’s so much that we can glean in a virtual setting. I mean, look at us. We’re doing this podcast, I can’t see you, but I can hear your voice and so we can build a relationship that way. So is it different? Yes, but the tenants are the same. Building trust, being able to believe and act on someone’s words, actions, and decisions. It’s the same thing in a remote or virtual environment as it would be in a face-to-face. What I would say as well, is that it falls on us to be more cognizant of it. When you’re face to face, I don’t want to say it’s easy, but in some ways it is. We’ve been face to face for so long that we haven’t really learned how to do that trust-building and relationship building when we’re not face to face. So it’s really pushed a lot of people out of their comfort zone so it’s been interesting to watch over the last couple of years. I will say that the companies and clients that I work with that are successful at this trust-building approach and relationship-building approach make time to connect. It doesn’t have to be on a video call, it could just be a phone call, it’s about the connection.
Do you think that some companies and employers are overthinking this?
Honestly, I don’t think they’re thinking about it enough! Think about this: We were going through this massive disruptive change, which is extremely scary. Any change, positive or negative creates uncertainty and uncertainty creates fear. If we don’t pay attention to it, that fear will create chaos. So the great thing about communication is the ability to keep people in the loop. It shows respect, it puts accountability there. Communication builds trust. People may not like what you have to say, but the fact that you’re telling them shows a level of respect that you’re being transparent about what’s going on. What I’m seeing right now is that there’s a level of fear. Let’s just take manufacturers in Wisconsin, I just did a panel discussion with a couple of different manufacturers in the state and what we discovered is that we have a lot of leaders of organizations that are very scared and they’re trying to survive. The supply chain has been massively disrupted so our leaders are fearful which is understandable. But what happens is when people become afraid, that’s when the chaos ensues so when I’m saying that they’re not thinking about this enough, our leaders are kind of getting caught up in their own ego. I don’t mean that to belittle anybody, it’s actually a normal human reaction. But in leadership, we need to really think about how in uncertain and fearful environments, that communication is absolutely crucial. It needs to be regular, and it needs to be thought about, and it needs to be at the forefront because that’s what helps get people through uncertainty.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you’ve had?
I think some of the more fun ones have been the ones that I wasn’t even planning. This is from my days in the Silicon Valley, I was actually laid off from a job. So I’m driving around and I stop off because traffic was horrendous and just stopped off. There was a restaurant near one of our clients at the time which was Intel. So I stopped off and tried to let traffic die down. I’m sitting at the bar, and just having conversations with people and the gentleman sitting next to me was about to become my future CEO. It’s that conversation, just connecting and those kinds of things. Those are the things that you don’t plan for, the stuff that I plan for probably the most fun that I have is LinkedIn right now. I have met some of the most amazing people on LinkedIn. I met my business partner on a goof, she read one of my blogs, we connected on LinkedIn and now we’re business partners even though she’s in Europe and I’m here in the States!
How do you stay in front of and best nurture the relationships you’ve created?
There are a lot of different things I do. I work hard to even just send short messages like, “I haven’t talked to you in a long time and I just wanted to reach out to let you know I was thinking about you, I hope everything is well.” I don’t do that from a brown-nosing perspective, so to speak. I know some people think that’s really trite, but that’s genuine for me. If you get a message like that from me, it really does mean that I was thinking about you and that something made me think about you, and I just wanted to reach out and let you know. That’s big for me.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
What I would tell myself is to have more confidence and be strong in myself. I was such a comparer and that constant act of comparing myself to others was such a roadblock. So just be you, be confident, focus on your strengths, because everybody on this planet has got something of value that they can give wherever they’re at. But that comparison thing is just a killer. The best example that I can use is that I got my PhD later in my career. I did it in my 40s and I have a friend that wants to get a second PhD, and I’m really questioning her mental state because it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life! I had this extensive business industry experience, which was amazing and I worked on my PhD a little later. So I’m in the academic life a little bit later and I’m in this entrepreneurial role a little bit later and if you’re gonna compare yourself to everybody else, it’s really easy to start questioning the things that you’re doing. The things that I’m doing right now are really great and I’m insanely excited for 2022. I’ve got a book coming out, I’ve got new research coming out, there’s some really great stuff going on with my company, I’m just so excited! But it’s super easy to get caught up in that comparison and I wish my 20-year-old self would have known that a little bit more because it can be a bit of a roadblock.
Connect with Marya
Connect with Marya through her website at https://www.mwadvising.com/contact and schedule an appointment!