Delegation and Trust

November 21, 2015

When Gordon Bethune became CEO of Continental Airlines in 1994, the company had gone through their second bankruptcy. The workers had been so abused by managers with so many rules, that they showed no initiative.

Using good leadership skills, Gordon showed more trust over the next few years and started to delegate more. At one point, he had all the policy manuals taken out to the parking lot and burned publicly.

Rather than relying on controlling rules, he established objectives and trusted the employees to do the right thing. The stock price went from $2 to over $50, and by the time Gordon left in 2004, Fortune Magazine ranked Continental as the Most Admired Global Airline.

By delegating more and trusting the employees, he turned around the company in just 10 years. After Gordon left, things fell apart again for Continental, and they were merged with United Airlines in 2012.

The lesson here is that performance can be turned around by great leadership, but that does not guarantee a rosy future if a weak leader follows.

The trick with delegation is to let go of the ropes in a way that sets up employees for success. Of course, there is always a risk that a delegated task will not be done to the satisfaction of the manager, but the upside in terms of allowing employees to use their creativity and energy to complete tasks dwarfs the risk that something bad will happen.

I am sure there were times when Gordon Bethune saw something done differently than he would have done it, and yet the end result was one of the more amazing corporate reversals in history.

Trust and delegation go hand in hand, because when you delegate something to another person you are demonstrating trust that the individual will do what is right.

The best way to build more trust in a relationship it to find ways to extend more trust to others.

Leaders who have a hard time delegating often use the excuse that they just want to be sure things are done the right way. Unfortunately the signal being sent to the workers is that they are not trusted to do the right thing, so the culture becomes one of apathy.

By taking the risk of delegating more tasks, leaders can foster an environment of higher trust.

Exercise for you: Today, keep track of the number of tasks that you do yourself and see what percentage might be delegated to other people if you truly trusted them to do the job right. You may be surprised at the amount of time you can gain by this practice and also the amount of employee engagement you can generate.

Here are six tips to implement more delegation in your sphere of influence.

Announce intention – Talk about the issue of delegation and let people know you would like to practice more if it. Ask that they suggest areas where they might enjoy doing a task currently done by you.

Take the risk – You will find that by letting go of the control, your performance almost always improves, sometimes dramatically.

Keep communication channels open – Avoid micromanaging delegated tasks, because that constitutes false delegation. Rather, stay interested and accessible. Keep track of the little opportunities to encourage and praise progress along the way.

Provide exposure – Let the people at higher levels see the great work being done by your subordinates. Promote their good progress. The senior executives will also view you in a more positive light for making the effort, which benefits your career.

Be flexible when things go wrong – You will never achieve 100% success with delegation, but 90% success and 10% opportunities to learn is an excellent ratio for progress in any organization.

Use your newly-found time well – An additional side benefit of delegating more is that you have the opportunity to do more strategic work yourself. You get to become more valuable to your organization when you are not tied up in details and are able to think at a higher level.

It is easy to make excuses for not delegating work to other individuals. Most of the excuses do not stand up in the light of analysis. They reveal a mindset of low trust that employees pick up on quickly.

Those leaders smart enough to let go, find the employees willing and able to do the job. Sure there is some risk involved, but the upside is so huge it is worth the risk.

The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to

Trust and Accountability

November 7, 2015

AccountableAccountability is one of the most frequently used words used in business today. It is often teamed with the verb “to hold.”

When managers “hold people accountable” at work, it often causes a hit to trust as demonstrated in this example.

I was called in to do some consulting work on trust by the principal of a large high school. The school had combined with another high school and was having some challenges integrating the cultures.

As I interviewed the principal he kept using the phrase “hold our people accountable.”

I noticed that he fell into the same trap that I find most executives in the corporate world do. Leaders typically refer to holding people accountable as catching people doing things wrong and then pointing it out in a punitive way.

The ironic thing here is that most people on most days are doing good work and should be praised. Therefore holding people accountable should be a positive thing much of the time.

Most leaders forget about the positive things and only hold people accountable when they have done something wrong. I believe that is a big mistake because it destroys trust.

Employees in organizations of all kinds often complain that the only time they hear from management is when they’ve done something wrong. Therefore the issue of accountability becomes a negative statement in the vast majority of cases, and accountability becomes a punitive action.

What if we held people accountable in a proactive way and basically gave feedback in proportion to the good work as well as the areas for improvement.

I even invented a word for the concept. I call it holding people “procountable.” That practice would allow for a much more positive environment to permeate the organization.

Exercise for you: Today, be aware of when you seek to “hold people accountable” in a negative or punitive way. Recognize that there is an alternative. You could easily hold people accountable in a proactive way and give feedback on their good work as well as their areas of opportunity.

My model for helping leaders do a better job with accountability uses five words that all start with the letter “C.”

Clarify Expectations – When delegating tasks, the expected deliverables should be crystal clear. Do not rely on your interpretation of the understanding, always verify that the employee knows specifically what is expected by when. If there is a track record of missing expectations, write the specific details down and make two copies.

Comprehensive – Feedback the positive things as well as the opportunities for improvement. Make sure the ratio of positive to negative feedback reflects the actual holistic performance.

Contribution – Leaders should consider that there are two people involved in the conversation. In most cases, the leader might have prevented the shortfall in performance by taking action sooner. This does not absolve the employee of responsibility, but it does acknowledge that the leader is always a part of the equation.

Care – Corrective feedback should be done from a framework of care and respect for the individual. Even negative information should be given in a way that shows that you truly care about the other person.

Collective Responsibility – This is the knowledge that you and the employee being coached are really on the same team. You cannot succeed unless both of you succeed together.

Think about being more proactive with your accountability feedback. You can do so in a more principle centered way. When we hold people accountable in a punitive way it works against a culture of trust every time.

By being more balanced in our feedback, we can improve the environment in any organization.

The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to

The Leader’s Role in Building Trust

October 31, 2015

CEOOver a period of several decades, I have observed how the trust level in any organization is influenced the most by one single factor. The behaviors of the senior leaders in any organization will have more impact on trust than anything else.

Therefore, if the trust in an organization is not as high as needed, the senior leaders need to take a good long look in the mirror. It is the behaviors of the senior leaders that are almost always the root cause of a trust problem in an organization.

Please do not misunderstand, there will be trust issues evident at all levels of the organization, and often severe untrustworthy behaviors exist at the operational level.

The cold reality is that in most organizations nearly all employees will perform in a trustworthy manner if they are properly led.

Many leaders reject their culpability indicating that it is the workers who are not being trustworthy that account for low trust. Upon closer examination, I find that it is almost always the behavior of the senior leaders that causes employees at various levels to act in a non-trustworthy manner.

The culture of any organization is established from the top. Certainly there are many levels in any organization, and there can be trust issues at any level, but the tone of the environment is created by the behaviors and policies set out by the most senior leader.

Trying to get leaders to step up to this responsibility is one of the most difficult challenges I face in my consulting business. They would much rather blame others, or circumstances, or customers, or the economy, or anything other than themselves as being the cause of the difficulties they face.

Exercise for leaders: Today, ask yourself what behaviors you would need to change in order to begin a new culture within your organization. Think about your role as a leader in establishing the environment in which all employees work. That environment is the creator of either excellence or difficulties in trust.

I rarely meet an executive who will say, “there is a lack of trust in the organization, and since I am the leader here, it must be originating with me.” Occasionally I will run into someone who thinks that way, but it is pretty rare.

The more we can convince leaders of their responsibility in terms of creating the right culture, the more trust we can create in the world.

Here are four “foundational behaviors” leaders can exhibit that will move the culture to one of higher trust along with my favorite quote on each one:
1. Reinforce Candor – make people unafraid to bring up issues. “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”
2. Hold people accountable in a balanced way, not just when they have messed up. “Hold people ‘procountable’ rather than accountable.”
3. Extend more trust in the people within the organization. “The First Law of trust: If you want to see more trust, then extend more trust.”
4. Have firm values and demonstrate those values every single day. “Stated values that are not demonstrated by leaders act like nuclear missiles to the fragile trust ecosystem.”

Once leaders can do these four things consistently, then there are hundreds of other behaviors that will take root and begin to accelerate the pace of building trust. I will mention just a few of the behaviors here for the sake of brevity:

1. Do what you say
2. Treat people well
3. Tell the truth
4. Demonstrate respect
5. Be transparent
6. Use Golden Rule
7. Stick up for people
8. Be ethical
9. Admit mistakes
10. Care for other person
11. Adhere to values
12. Listen well
13. Reinforce good behavior
14. Practice humility
15. Be consistent
16. Right wrongs

If you are a leader, step up to your role as the primary force that is creating the culture in your organization. If there are problems, then it is up to you to change the culture to eliminate them.

If you are not the leader, print out this article and put it on the desk of that person. It may have an impact.

The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to

Reinforcing Candor: The Key to Building Trust

October 17, 2015

Whenever I hired a new manager in my organization, the very first conversation I had with that individual was about “reinforcing candor.”

Over a period of 30 years I’ve discovered that reinforcing candor is the single most powerful way to create trust within an organization.

For leaders, it is imperative for them to understand what this means and be able to practice it. The idea is, when an employee comes forward with a concern about something that the leader has said or done, rather than punishing the employee, the leader makes the person glad to have brought up the issue.

This behavior is not easy to do, because the leader does not see a problem with what was being done. In essence, everyone in the organization, including the leader, wears a button saying, “I AM RIGHT.”

If an employee challenges an action, then it’s only human for a leader to become defensive and punish the person in some way for bringing it up.

It takes superhuman effort on the part of leaders to consistently reinforce candor, but the impact on the organization is so great that those leaders who can understand the wisdom of this technique have a huge advantage in terms of building trust.

Without reinforcing candor, all of the other actions to build trust are somewhat blunted. They work a little bit but they are not very powerful.

Once the leader understands how to reinforce candor, a whole new world opens up, and all of the other actions to build trust work like magic.

Exercise for You: In your organization, work to reinforce candor the next time someone tells you something that you did not want to hear, but has some truth to it.

You will find it difficult at first, but the more you practice this technique, the easier it becomes, and soon you can change your entire pattern of behavior when you’re challenged.

The ability to reinforce candor is the most powerful method of creating trust, because it allows a safe environment where employees know they will not be punished when they bring up scary stuff. I call this skill the key for building trust.

What if you are not the top leader but wish to be a positive influence on that person? If you can get the top leader in an organization to reinforce candor more, trust will spread rapidly throughout the entire population.

The challenge is how to get the leader to develop the skill and patience to reinforce candor when he or she may not see the need to do so.

Here are six ideas that can help encourage a leader to practice reinforcing candor. Try to use these in the spirit of helpfulness rather than manipulation. The idea is to help shape behavior over time, so if any of these ideas are creating tension, back off and go slower.

1. Start by planting a seed in the leader’s mind that there is a potential for a much better culture if higher trust can be generated. Point out that trust grows when people are made to feel glad when they bring up their concerns.

2. All leaders want higher trust, so the opportunity to make things better by some changes in their behavior should be appealing.

3. Start small. The goal is for the leader to see the benefits of reinforcing candor and try to be less defensive when people push back on actions or statements.

4. Model the principle of reinforcing candor yourself when working with the leader.

5. Talk openly about how you are using the skill and ask how the leader is responding to it.

6. Catch the leader applying these techniques and praise the effort. Also make note of the positive response on the part of the person who was reinforced for being candid.

No leader will ever get to 100% perfection at reinforcing candor, but if the percentage can go from 5% (which is about what most leaders typically achieve) to something like 70% of the time, the culture will make a seismic shift toward higher trust in short order.

You can help shape the behavior of your leader toward the benefits of reinforcing candor. It may take a while for the concept to gain traction, but once the leader experiences the forward progress, he or she will be anxious to do more of it.

The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to

Actions That Enable Higher Trust

October 10, 2015

My Leadergrow Trust Model has a set of what I call “Enabling Actions.” These behaviors are different from the “Table Stakes” I discussed last week.

If a leader does not possess one of the “Enabling Actions” it doesn’t disqualify him or her completely, but it does hinder the process of achieving maximum trust.

With the “Enabling Actions,” the more you can practice them the more trust you can build within your group.

There are an infinite number of enabling actions. Let me mention a few as examples to illustrate:

• do what you say you’re going to do,
• admit mistakes,
• coach people in private rather than berate them in public, and
• act in the interest of others.

The list of possible “Enabling Actions” is really endless, and the more you can practice these behaviors the more consistently you will build trust.

Since organizational trust is created mostly by the behavior of leaders, it is useful to have a list of the kinds of leadership behaviors that are most effective at building trust.

Once again, the specific “Enabling Actions” would be specific to a particular industry and workplace although the majority of them will apply everywhere.

If I’m working in a law office, the enabling actions might be different from a group of executives running a garbage collection company. The distinguishing factor for “Enabling Actions” is that their absence does not prevent any trust; it simply limits the level of trust that is achievable.

Exercise for today: Take out a sheet of paper and work with your team to develop a list of 12 to 20 trust enabling actions in your environment. You will find this brainstorming activity to be easy, and it may lead to some interesting discussions about trust in your organization.

The enabling actions are extremely important, because the more you can identify them and practice them the higher trust you can achieve in your group. Make sure to keep brainstorming ideas for how to add more enabling actions to your list.

The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to

Trust Table Stakes

October 3, 2015

There are many models for improved leadership that are very complex. My “Leadergrow Trust Model” is simple.

It has only three parts.



  1. Table Stakes,
  2.  Enabling Actions, and
  3.  Reinforcing Candor.

I will tackle “Table Stakes” in this article. I’ll cover the other two in subsequent weeks.

In Las Vegas, if you play poker, you do not get dealt a hand unless you have an “ante” in the pot. You need some minimum investment before you can even play the game.

The same phenomenon happens in leadership. You must be able to have some minimum characteristics before you can even begin to build trust as a leader.

For example, if you are not honest, it disqualifies you from building trust as a leader. Likewise, if you cannot communicate, be open, care about people, honor your commitments, be consistent, and other minimum standards of leadership behavior, you have no chance of building trust, and you’re basically locked out of the game.

You might as well take off the uniform and hit the showers.

The “Table Stakes” are really prerequisites and act as the foundation upon which leaders build trust. “Table Stakes” are necessary, but not sufficient, to create trust.

Without the foundation, trust is impossible.

When I work with organizations, we discuss what the “Table Stakes” are for that particular group, because they may be different for different industries. For example, in a hospital setting the table stakes may be somewhat different from those in a manufacturing environment.

Each group should spend a few minutes creating a short list of example table stake behaviors for leaders in their organization.

The “Table Stakes” for a particular group may be difficult to discern. For example, what are the “Table Stakes” for political candidates where exaggeration, sensationalism, and rhetoric seem to be the expected behavior these days?

Exercise for you today. Spend some time thinking about the table stakes for your environment. As you lead your organization, what minimum standards of behavior are needed in order to have any chance of building trust within your group? Write down a list of the table stakes you identify and review it with your group to see what additional items they would recommend.

Naturally the next important step is to evaluate whether you actually abide by the “Table Stakes” at all times. This exercise is more difficult, because you must be brutally honest with yourself; no rationalizations. That is a tall order for any leader due to the immense pressure for performance on a continual basis.

If downplaying the impact of a customer issue creates a more favorable impression with the Board of Directors, does not the end justify the means? The answer is no; a lie is a lie.

Be careful when you create your list of “Table Stakes,” because these will be the standards by which you measure your worthiness as a leader. The expectation is simple; “Table Stakes” must be adhered to 100% of the time or you lose the ability to build trust.

The concept of having “Table Stakes” for leaders is a simple one, but it is very important to recognize this and identify what those minimum standards are. Without them, there is no basis or foundation for building trust.

The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to



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