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


Reducing Conflict at Work

September 26, 2015

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to observe that people in a work setting have a remarkable ability to drive each other crazy. The same is true for our personal lives, but I want to focus on the work environment in this article.

Here are 12 simple ideas that can reduce the conflict between people and provide a more pleasant work environment:

1. Reverse Roles – When people take opposing sides in an argument, they become blind to the alternate way of thinking. This polarization causes people to become intransigent, and the rancor escalates.

A simple fix is to get each party to verbalize the points being made by the other person. To accomplish this, each person must truly understand the other person’s perspective, which is why the technique is effective.

2. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Most of the things that drive you crazy about a co-worker are things that you won’t remember by the end of the day or certainly not later in the week.

Recognize that the things annoying you about another person are really insignificant when considering the bigger picture and the numerous things both of you have in common.

3. Live and Let Live – The other person’s personal habits are just the way he or she is built. Don’t fixate on trying to change the person to conform to what you think should happen. Focus your attention on the things you like to do.

4. Take a Vacation – When pressure builds up, just take a brief vacation in your mind. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and visualize a happier place and time.

For example, you can take a vicarious trip to the beach anytime you wish. One trick with this technique is to get as many senses involved as possible;

  • feel the warm air on your cheek,
  • taste the salt water on your lips,
  • hear the gentle lapping of the waves,
  • smell the seaweed by your feet,
  • touch the warm sand on which you are sitting,
  • see the beautiful sunset over the water.

5. Be Nice – Kindness begets kindness. Share a treat, say something soothing, compliment the other person, do something helpful. These things make it more difficult for the ill feelings to spread.

6. Extend Trust – Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” We’ll forgive the flawed grammar, since Ernest is already in the grave, and also since his meaning is powerfully true.

Trust is bilateral, and you can usually increase trust by extending more of it to others. In my work, I call this “The First Law of Trust.”

7. Don’t Talk Behind their Back – When you spread gossip about people, a little of it eventually leaks back to them, and it will destroy the relationship. If there is an issue, handle it directly, just as you would have that person do with you.

8. Don’t Regress to Childish Behavior – It is easy for adults in the work setting to act like children. You can witness it every day. Get off the playground, and remember to act like an adult.

Work is not a place to have tantrums, sulk, pout, have a food fight, undermine, or any number of common tactics used by people who are short on coping mechanisms because of their immaturity.

9. Care About the Person – It is hard to be upset with someone you really care about. Recognize that the load other people carry is equal or heavier than your own.

Show empathy and try to help them in every way possible. This mindset is the route to real gratitude.

10. Listen More Than You Speak – When you are talking or otherwise expounding, it is impossible to be sensitive to the feelings of the other person. Take the time to listen to the other person.

Practice reflective listening and keep the ratio of talking to listening well below 50%.

11. Create Your Development Plan – Most individuals have a long list of what other people need to do to shape up but a rather short list of the things they need to improve upon. Make sure you identify the things in your own behavior that need to change, and you will take the focus off the shortcomings of others.

12. Follow the Golden Rule – The famous Golden Rule will cure most strife in any organization. We tend to forget to apply it to our everyday battles at work.

If we would all follow these 12 simple rules, there would be a lot less conflict in the work place. It takes some effort, but it is really worth it because we spend so much time working with other people.

Following these rules also means leading by example. If just a few people in an organization model these ideas, other people will see the impact and start to abide by them as well. That initiative can form a trend that will change an entire culture in a short period of time.

The above ideas are part of a set of videos for improving human interactions. The program is entitled “Surviving the Corporate Jungle.” You can view three demo videos for free by clicking on this link. Each segment is just 3 minutes in duration. If you are interested in purchasing the entire 30 video set, use promo code JUNGLE to obtain a 70% discount.

Trust Leads to Engagement

September 19, 2015

Wedding RingsOver the past couple years I have read numerous studies that indicate the average organization has only about 1/3 of employees engaged in the work.

There is some variation from one study to another, but the general trend is clear. For example, the Dale Carnegie Organization came up with 29% engaged, 45% not engaged and 26% actively not engaged.

Said another way, if you are the CEO of an average company, you have as many employees pulling against your vision as you have pulling for it and the rest of the people are not pulling much at all.

The result of this condition is a gaping hole in financial viability of many organizations bigger than the hole that sunk the Titanic. Improving the level of trust between layers in the organization is the best way to plug the hole and right the ship.

Of course, some organizations beat this trend with much higher engagement, still others are even worse off than the average statistics. A common denominator of the groups that are doing well is that they have built a culture of trust.

It turns out that trust shows a very high correlation with having engaged workers. It is not a chicken or egg question here, the trust comes first.

After studying trust in organizations for over 30 years, I believe that improving the trust level by just 2 percentage points will translate into productivity improvements between 10-20%. The reason is that engagement in the work increases dramatically when leaders change their behaviors to increase the trust level.

The change must be sustained or the gains will quickly fade, but if leaders are sincerely trying to improve trust, employees will recognize and appreciate the effort and put more effort in their jobs.

The most important trust-building behavior for leaders is to create an environment of low fear where people know it is safe to voice their concerns and not have to worry about retribution.

Exercise for you: Try to guess what percentage of your team members are truly engaged in their work. Listen to what they say; if it is positive and about the goals of the organization, they are engaged; if it is negative and griping about conditions, they are likely not engaged.

If employee engagement is above 50%, you are beating the odds: keep up the good work and expand it to others! If it is below 50%, you have a lot to be gained by improving the level of trust.

Engagement of the workforce does not happen by default or because people need a paycheck to survive. It does not kindle with empowerment seminars or employee satisfaction surveys.

The surest way to obtain the productivity that comes from high employee engagement is for leaders to learn and practice the behaviors that foster a culture of high 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

Trust and Development of People

September 12, 2015

There are many things leaders need to do to build a culture of high trust. One important concept is to continually develop their people.

When people see a pathway to higher capability, their work is more interesting and rewarding, so they become more engaged in it.

In high development organizations, people trust the managers to improve their lot in life by making them more valuable to the organization. They recognize the company’s investment in growing them, and they naturally return the favor by applying themselves further to their work.

There is a solid correlation between development of people and the level of trust an organization can achieve with the work force.

Development of people also creates low employee turnover because employees are happier. Here is a prime example of the connection.

Wegmans is a grocery chain in the northeast United States that is based in Rochester NY. This private organization has been on the list of top 100 companies to work for in America every year since 1998, often scoring in the top 10, and won the top slot in 2005.

I am familiar with this company because I live in Rochester. They have worked for years on developing a culture of high trust. They do this through numerous methods championed by their late founder, Robert Wegman.

One hallmark of Wegmans is that they are fanatical about the development of people. It is not the only underpinning of their culture, but it is an obvious pillar of why they are so successful.

People are cross trained, which adds variety and substance to their employment. It also creates bench strength.

A side benefit is that the employees themselves become the teachers, which means that they learn their own jobs better as they teach the process to others.

As a result, Wegmans has extremely low employee turnover: significantly lower than 10% percent in an industry that normally suffers high turnover of about 40% per year.

Colleen Wegman, the current CEO of Wegmans, was asked how she can afford to do so much training in the low margin grocery business. She replied that the money they save by having lower turnover dwarfs the training costs.

Exercise for you: Take stock of how much development you are doing in your organization. Benchmark companies spend more than $1500 per employee and provide more than 50 hours of training each year. If you are doing less, think about increasing that amount.

Every organization I have seen wants to improve employee satisfaction. Managers work feverously on various techniques aimed at making the workplace a better place for the employees.

Not too many organizations recognize that developing people is one of the best and easiest ways to improve employee satisfaction.

Low trust groups think of training in terms of a burden: like compliance with mandated safety training. That mindset is counterproductive and simply overlooks a prime method of creating a great culture.

If you are interested in developing more trust in your organization, consider making larger investments in the development of employees. It is one of the hallmarks of an excellent 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

Trust and Reinforcement

September 5, 2015

AwesomeIn groups with high trust, management attempts to reinforce workers usually work well. People are appreciative that management notices good performance and expends effort to recognize them.

Since reinforcement is one of the best ways to shape future performance, any organization that has high trust between management and the workers has a significant advantage.

In groups with low trust, attempts to reinforce workers are often met with apathy or suspicion, and they frequently backfire. This reaction happens because of the low trust, and workers feel the reinforcement is likely some form of manipulation.

Here is an example of how an attempt to reinforce workers did not work well.

Marvin was the big boss in the organization where I worked. He wanted to reinforce a group of employees who had put in a lot of overtime over several weeks. He asked the manager to buy theater tickets for everyone in the department.

The problem was that he failed to provide a similar reinforcement to another department who worked in the same building and had put in similar crazy hours. So by trying to reinforce one group, Marvin caused significant loss of motivation in the other.

It was an ugly scene, and he tried to smooth things by buying tickets for the second department, but the damage had already been done.

Although reinforcement is a powerful way to improve performance if done well, it can be a minefield if there is not a basis for trust behind it because it feels manipulative.

People ask “what is he up to now,” or say “there must be something more he wants from us,” or “uh oh, he is trying to butter us up to tell us some bad news.”

Often thoughtless leaders try to reinforce workers from their own personal perspective rather than the perspective of the workers themselves.

An example is the supervisor who decided to have an ice cream social to celebrate a production milestone.

He had forgotten that over half of the workers had signed a pledge to lose 20% of their weight in an effort toward better health.

Most of the workers boycotted the social, and the hapless supervisor ended up with the scoop in his hand and a lot of melted ice cream. Worse, his crude attempt to celebrate with the workers made him the laughing stock of the production area.

Here are six ways that well-intended managers blow it when trying to reinforce workers:

1. Reinforcing too much with trinkets like t-shirts or hats, etc.
2. Being insincere when reinforcing
3. Having the reward something the workers really don’t want – like the ice cream story
4. Unfair application of rewards where one person or group is favored over others
5. Recognition not timely to the actions that caused them
6. Automatic or mechanical reinforcement that does not come from the heart

Exercise for you: Think about your own successes and failures when trying to reinforce people. Try to pinpoint the root cause of why any problems occurred.

Think about what could have been done differently to prevent the resulting loss of motivation. With effort, you can usually spot the error in logic and the cure. This gives you a chance to apologize and not make the same type of mistake in the future.

Reinforcement is a powerful method of improving performance, but only if it is done with skill. Having high trust is a great enabler of effective reinforcement. It helps managers avoid the many pitfalls that can happen.

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 Creates Motivation

August 29, 2015

When managers use the word “motivate” as a verb, it is as if motivation is something they can “do to” the workers. This approach shows a lack of understanding of what motivation truly is and where it comes from.

Over fifty years ago, Frederick Herzberg taught us that the strongest motivation is created intrinsically, not by some extrinsic factor, like money.

The only person who can truly motivate you is you. It is the role of leaders to create the environment such that people freely elect to become motivated. Here is a quick story of a manager who knew how to create motivation.

In 1993, I asked Alice to take over a production department with about 120 employees. It was a tough assignment because the prior leader was competent but not a good builder of culture.

Some workers were apathetic and just floated along without much focus. Others were angry and verbally hostile most of the time.

I have never witnessed such a turnaround in my life. Within six months, the department had doubled productivity and the employees were really turned on and having a great time smashing the aggressive goals they had set up.

How did Alice accomplish this amazing turn around?

She simply worked to drive out fear and replaced it with trust.

Most managers try to find ways to “motivate” the workers, but Alice was more of a leader than a manager. She focused on creating a culture of trust where the workers decided to motivate themselves.

Exercise for you: Pay attention to the words you use when describing motivating people. Notice how many times you use the word “motivate” as a verb. You may utter phrases like “We have to find a better way to motivate the team.”

This error in leading people is very common in most cultures, and that is why motivation is typically low. A culture of trust avoids the problem.

Always use the word “motivation” as a noun, like something that will occur within people when they are well led. You will find your track record of producing exceptional results is greatly enhanced.


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


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 580 other followers