Reducing Conflict 41 Short Staff

May 15, 2022

I once graded a paper written by an MBA student. She wrote, “Short staff think only inside the box.”  The unusual wording made an impact on me, and I decided to write a blog on the concept. 

Of course, she was not referring to people of lesser physical stature. She was commenting on the habitual practice of numerous organizations to run thin. These organizations have staffing levels so low that they compromise the viability of the business.

What is the “Right” Staff Level?

Knowing the “correct” level of staff is a tricky business for sure.  I have done consulting for organizations where the employees scream about their overload.  Later on, working with these same groups, people would grumble about how most people were goofing off.  In truth, most organizations get only a small fraction of the discretionary effort inherent in the workforce.

I concur with Gallup. They measured that in the average company only about 1/3 of the workers were fully engaged.   

What the Staff Says

Some leaders use the amount of screaming for more resources as a guide to hiring.  If the whining is low, they figure the organization is running too fat.  If people are complaining but toughing it out, they conclude things are about right.  If people are becoming ill and if turnover is sky high, they grudgingly agree to put on a couple more people. 

Gauging the level of staff based on the complaint level is dangerous.  If things get too thin for an extended period, the best people just leave. The Great Resignation was a classic example of how that happens.  

What About Creativity?

I thought my student’s comment on the impact that running too thin has on creativity was spot on. You can observe overworked people in numerous venues.  When workers are stretched beyond reasonable limits, there is no energy to focus on creative solutions to improve conditions.

Let’s examine a specific occupation as an example.

According to the Gallup Organization, the nursing occupation is the most-highly trusted occupation category. This was true every year since they have been measuring trust in organizations. 

Nurses have so many critical tasks that they hardly find time to eat, let alone try to figure out creative solutions to problems. Also, during the pandemic, many health care workers were putting in double shifts just to handle the load.

Asking for that level of effort only works until it impacts the viability of the health professionals. I am only singling out nurses because it is easy to observe this situation; in reality, the problem occurs in numerous types of jobs. 

Don’t Exceed the Elastic Limit of People

In an effort to improve productivity, leaders stretch their resources like a rubber band.  The problem is that if you do that, eventually you will exceed the elastic limit of the rubber, and it will permanently deform or just snap. 

In those conditions, people are going to do the requirements as best they can. They will not be very engaged in improving the conditions. They become case hardened and bitter.  When people feel abused, they go into survival mode. Continuous improvement is non-existent, so the managers get exactly what they deserve. It becomes a vicious cycle.

A Better Approach to Workforce Staffing

The antidote is to work on changing the culture so that the current workforce is producing at a multiple of their prior productivity. Work on trust rather than forcing existing people to work in a constant state of overload. It means investing in the resources you have and maybe even adding some. Continually cutting back in an effort to survive is a losing game. You may survive in the short term, but your long-term prognosis is terminal.

When I suggest to leaders that they need to invest in their culture, I often get an incredulous or outraged look in return.  “How can we possibly afford to work on our culture when everybody is already at the limit of their capability?”  Well, you cannot unless you change your attitude about how people work. Maintain the right level of resources so that you can invest in the culture. That path will ensure a better future.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind

Building Higher Trust 71 Open Door Caveats

May 13, 2022

If you are like most professionals, your company has an “open door” policy. The stated rule is that if an employee feels something is not right, he or she has an open door to discuss the problem with the supervisor.  If the supervisor cannot resolve the issue, then the employee has an open door to go higher in the chain or to HR for resolution.

This process is one of the most commonly employed HR strategies to ensure individuals do not feel trapped under an ogre of a supervisor with no way to communicate their frustration. Open door will be effective if there is high trust between the employee and supervisor. If there is not, then the employee must escalate the issue to a higher level, and that is where the trouble starts.

Unfortunately, the strategy is often dysfunctional, and it can actually do more harm than good. Let’s put the “open door” policy under the microscope and see what makes it dangerous, then suggest an antidote that can help.

The Open Door Policy sounds so inherently right, few employees question it until they are embroiled in a problem and have to try to obtain the intended benefits. It reminds me of an insurance policy. You assume protection until you have a claim, then you find out what the fine print was all about.

Likewise, many managers hide behind the open door as a kind of cure-all for organizational low trust. Both symptoms mask an underlying malaise that must be rooted out and destroyed. On the surface, the open door leads to greater transparency and fairness, but in the real world, there are several reasons it rarely works that way.

The “Open Door” policy can be a shamIf an employee wants to use the open door policy it is usually because of some kind of rift with his or her immediate supervisor. There is something bad going on according to the employee’s interpretation, and the supervisor is unwilling or incapable of dealing with the situation. 

During these times, trust between the individual and level-one supervision is at an all-time low. Since talking it out with level one will only bring additional grief, the employee uses the open door and tries to clear the air by talking to level two.

The level-two manager is not fully familiar with the issue, so the only recourse is to listen politely to the employee and then have a chat with the level-one supervisor. In the process, the level-one supervisor immediately becomes aware that he or she has been “blown in” to the boss.

Regardless of how professional both leaders are, this series of discussions usually results in a further reduction of trust between the three levels and the individuals involved.  Since trust was compromised to begin with, the poor employee is now under an even more ominous cloud. 

The “Open Door” can lead to games – I recall a discussion with my boss. He wanted to use the open door policy correctly and not jeopardize the employee, who was working for me.  At the time, I had nearly 2,000 people working in my organization.

My boss told me one of my employees had complained that I was not treating the person fairly (he was careful to keep the discussion gender-neutral to make it harder for me to guess who might have the issue).

I had taken over a new area, and the trust in me was under development. My boss would not tell me who the individual was, or the specific area involved.  He would only tell me that there was someone out there that did not trust me to treat him or her fairly.

He would not share the specific area of concern nor give me enough data to have a clue for how to fix it.  This discussion served to put me on notice, but it caused me to start second guessing every interface or action attempting to uncover the problem.

In the end, I never did figure out who the person was or what the issue was. For months I went around like Sherlock Holmes trying to figure out what incorrect signals this one individual had been getting. Meanwhile, the rest of the population, who were not concerned with my fairness, thought I was acting a little weird.

“Open Door” has a bad reputation on the shop floorIn many organizations, employees are fully aware that the open door policy is something that makes management feel good and looks good in the employee handbook, but it is a poor vehicle to use if there is an actual issue on the shop floor.

If the symptom leading to the need for an open door conversation is low trust, then how can escalating the issue to the next higher level be helpful? There are also folk tales of the poor soul who got so upset with a situation that he actually did use the open door and lived to regret it every day thereafter until he finally quit the organization.

Far better to suffer the current injustice than call in the big guns and ensure more pain.

Open Door” failures lead to Ombudsmen – When the open door gets a reputation for causing additional grief and not resolving problems, organizations often resort to a third party grievance resolution mechanism called an Ombudsman.

Again, from an HR or legal perspective, this practice seems reasonable and fair. It really can resolve some issues, but it is also fraught with cloak and dagger nonsense that usually further undermines trust as the clueless Ombudsman seeks to understand what is really going on without upsetting people.

Meanwhile, the employee is on tenterhooks hoping the desperate action to call in a third party will not backfire. Once again, since the root cause of the problem can be traced to a lack of trust, the Ombudsman approach is at best a last resort effort to save utter collapse.

What if the level-two manager is a jerk too? If an employee has a problem with the integrity of the level-one supervisor, then the level-two supervisor is often in question as well.

From a shop floor perspective, all management is painted with the same brush. Actually, there are situations where there is a bad apple in the middle and employees really do trust the second level more than the first level.

More often, all management is suspect if there are weak links. After all, if the big boss tolerates a bully in the supervisory ranks, then that manager is not doing his or her job either. Why would employees feel high trust for that person? They more likely picture the big boss as a well-intended but clueless manager who has no idea how miserable things are two levels below. 

These are five very real symptoms of problems with the open door policy.  I am not saying it is a bad thing to have or that it never works. What I am suggesting is that there is a better way.

The Antidote

What if we taught managers at all levels to reinforce candor? Employees would learn that is not a career-threatening opportunity to bring an issue to the immediate boss. In fact, when they bring up scary stuff or perceived inequities, they are rewarded in some way. The reward would be regardless of the level.

It would mean that the need for escalation would be significantly reduced in the first place, and for those few situations where a higher level discussion would be useful, then the employee is still reinforced.

Imagine the poor Ombudsman with less work than the Maytag Repairman. Imagine an entire workforce concentrating on the mission and vision of the organization instead of constantly negotiating their way through minefields of bureaucratic protectionism. Imagine running an organization based on trust instead of fear. It is possible if we simply teach leaders to reinforce candor. 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Leadership Barometer 145 Clear Vision

May 10, 2022

It is a universal vision; every leader would like to obtain higher trust within his or her organization. It stands to reason because trust links directly to the profitability and market value of an organization. 

When trust is high, people work together with high productivity toward the vision of the organization. Low trust groups waste time and resources in unproductive bickering and dysfunctional blind alleys.

I see a conundrum in many organizations. Leaders are often unable to see the connection between their own behaviors and the level of trust within their organization.  They feel somehow trapped by a system that demands herculean quarterly financial results while having to navigate through oppressive regulations. They try to motivate disinterested employees and keep up with a daily avalanche of information.

It seems impossible to achieve the expected results every quarter when dealing with the realities of leading an organization. Driving productivity is more of a challenge when many employees are working remotely.

The thought of trying to build a culture of high trust while constantly feeling like a gladiator in the lion’s den strains credibility. Top leaders try to survive, and that often means taking some actions that appear to compromise the trust.  This article shares a way out of the dilemma. I will share that the key to solving the puzzle is already in the hands of the senior leader. 

Leaders often cannot see how their actions prevent the very thing that will create a more successful existence for everyone.  They are effectively blind to what is causing their problems. If they would change their own behaviors relative to the culture in their organization, things would improve.

Helen Keller said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”    So how can a leader begin to see more clearly? Here are eight ideas that can improve your vision.

  1. Become a Level 5 Leader as described by Jim Collins in Good to Great (2001). Get some coaching on humility and begin using the “window/mirror” analogy. The leader looks out the window when things are going well, but in the mirror when there are problems. Less trust-building leaders do exactly the reverse. They congratulate themselves when things go well but blame employees or other managers when things go poorly.
  2. Reinforce Candor – Create a culture where people feel rewarded when they bring up doubts about the wisdom of an action or decision. That culture gives the CEO a new set of eyes to see clearly how his actions may be compromising trust.
  3. Become a mentor – Seek out several informal leaders in the organization and begin to mentor them. This practice allows the flow of critical information about whether the leader is sending mixed or incorrect signals.
  4. Do more “management by walking around” – Being more visible may seem awkward at first because the CEO may prefer the isolation of the ivory tower. That is one hallmark of the problem. Too many meetings and private lunches give rise to insulation that renders the top executive insensitive to organizational heat.
  5. Conduct a 360 Degree Leadership Evaluation – A periodic measure of high-level leadership skills is one way to prevent a top leader from kidding herself. There are numerous instruments to accomplish this. Doing an assessment is important, but taking the data seriously and creating a plan from the information is crucial.
  6. Get a good coach – Every leader needs a coach to help prevent myopic thinking. Seek out a trusted advisor for a long-term relationship that is candid and challenging. Coaching sessions can be efficient by doing them after hours on the phone or by using online technology.
  7. Develop a leadership study group – A leader can grow personally in parallel with others. Invest some time studying the inspirational writings of top leadership authors. Benchmark leaders from other organizations. There are literally thousands of resources available that can both inspire and challenge any group. These investments are very low cost.

Many leaders prefer the “lunch and learn” sessions. Some leaders work with a skilled facilitator to keep things on track. Other leaders prefer to proceed on their own without outside assistance. If face time is impractical due to travel, that does not prevent an online discussion on leadership concepts from literature.

  1. Subscribe to some Leadership LinkedIn Groups – There are dozens of excellent leadership groups on LinkedIn. These groups have tens of thousands of leaders who can benchmark each other and help resolve typical problems. There are also numerous local and national organizations on leadership development that can provide provocative ideas for growth.

These are just a few ideas that can broaden the view of a top executive. Having a clear vision has the wonderful effect of helping a leader become more effective over time. I believe it is incumbent on all leaders to have a personal development plan. Give it a high priority in terms of effort and budget.  Seeking to constantly grow as a leader is truly important. Growing other leaders should be the highest calling for any leader.

Once a leader knows how his behaviors are impacting trust within the entire organization, then conditions start to improve rapidly. People are not playing games with each other, and productivity goes up dramatically. Everyone feels better about the work and the culture, so people feel empowered to go the extra mile. Performance goals are met and exceeded as the whole organization becomes aligned with a new vision.  Trust starts with the behaviors of the leader.

Ken Blanchard was asked what gives rise to incredible levels of improved organizational performance. He quipped, “It’s always the leader, it’s always the leader, it’s always the leader”  Ken Blanchard “It’s Always The Leader”



Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.  .


Reducing Conflict 40 We Versus They

May 9, 2022

Whenever two groups are trying to work together you can often hear “we versus they” conversations.

In this article, I use the example of mergers and acquisitions, but the phenomenon applies to all situations with different groups.

After announcing a merger or acquisition, there is a period of integration while the cultures reach a new equilibrium. During this process, it is common to hear a lot of “we versus they” language coming from both groups.

If not addressed, this parochial thinking process can go on for a long time. The rhetoric undermines the benefits of the combined entity. This article highlights some ideas on how to move from a “we/they” point of view and get more quickly to “us.”

Operating as Separate Entities

Sometimes there is a setup where both organizations are supposed to go on as if they were still separate entities.  For example, when Amazon acquired Zappos they allowed Zappos to operate as if the acquisition had not occurred.  The goal was for less disruption. 

That logic may hold for a while, but eventually, the benefits of operating efficiently together will take the upper hand. Sooner or later, people are going to have to work as a team and trust one another. 

Lack of Trust

In the majority of cases, the integration is a rocky process because trust is low from the start. Getting groups to work together with one common set of processes is a journey that can take years to accomplish.

On paper, the plan usually calls for full integration in a couple of months. In reality, you can hear the “we versus they” logic for several years after the announcement.

Geographic Complications

Geographic separation tends to exacerbate the situation. For example, you would hear, “We always did it this way, but they will not let us do it.” For multinational organizations, the problem is a constant source of irritation.

Why Does it Happen

What gives rise to we/they thinking? I believe it is because people naturally fear change and try to make the inevitable changes impact the other group.  Both groups feel they have been taken over or greatly inconvenienced by the need to “do it their way.” 

People dig in their heels and try to subvert the changes. That attitude is tantamount to sabotage. It can sink all efforts to create the kind of efficient, homogeneous entity that the planners intended.

Starting Over

One method is to toss out the procedures for each entity. Invent joint processes that serve both organizations from the ground up. That process sounds like a fair one until you get into it. Realize that you are fighting both groups on each and every process change. It is still we versus they but with a different flavor. 

Deflecting Energy from Goals

The most significant issue with the “we versus they” attitude is that it siphons off energy away from the main goals.  Instead, people spend significant time and resources arguing over the nits of process details. The customer is left wondering what happened to the good old level of service that was the norm before the merger.

How to Avoid the Problem

What steps can leaders take to eliminate “we versus they” and get to “us” more quickly?  One method is to transplant enough people from one entity to the other that it becomes difficult to tell who are “we” and who are “they.”  That process is not always a popular one, but it does lead to a faster integration of the populations. It also enhances bench strength due to cross-training.

Another Way to Fix

One cure to the “we versus they” feeling is if another larger entity comes along and gobbles up the merged group. They are now fighting off a different “they” and quickly become the “we” together. Let me explain that a bit more so it is clear.  You have the merger of A & B.  There is significant angst because both groups feel taken over. They are trying to resolve their differences when Group C buys out the sum of A & B.  Now as if by magic, the merged A & B get along great and work to fend off the effects of the big bad C Group.

Use Better Language

One effective and inexpensive way to address the problem is for the leaders to always model the use of integrated language. They need to coach those who use oppositional language to change their pattern of speech.  Replace “them” with “us” whenever possible and do not support discussions that pit one side versus the other. 

Having both groups meet together to chart a mutual shared purpose and strategy often goes a long way toward getting to “us.”  When people put significant energy into crafting a collaborative vision, they tend to become closer as a result.

If both leaders of the prior entities are still on board heading up the combined unit, it helps to have them swap positions. That process adds to the knowledge base for bench strength and eliminates parochial thinking at the top.

In a merger or acquisition, it is wise to tackle the problem of “we/they” thinking with a conscious strategy.  If not, the journey to full integration could be a long and painful one.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He is the author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind


Building Higher Trust 70 Loose Lipped Leaders

May 5, 2022

A leader with loose lips is a real disaster. I recall early in my career overhearing a manager in my division going from one cubicle to the next, and saying to each person, “This isn’t public knowledge, so don’t tell anybody, but…” 

The Impact of Spreading Gossip

After hearing this manager share the same information with 3-4 other people asking each person not to tell anyone else, I lost all respect for that leader. Doing this in an area where there were cubicles rather than closed offices shows that this manager had a deficiency in intelligence as well as discretion.

Integrity is one of the most important characteristics for any leader. The idea of a leader who intentionally spreads gossip is repugnant.

Why They Do it

I can only imagine the motivation of the errant manager for his actions. I suppose he was attempting to buy loyalty by letting certain people in on the inside dope. The ploy backfired. 

We labeled him as an individual who could not be trusted to keep private information confidential. A leader who is not trustworthy gains no trust.

It reminds me of the leader who tells one employee some negative information about a fellow employee. It might sound like this, “Confidentially, I am worried about Martha; I think she may have a drinking problem, but please keep that to yourself.” 

Any employee hearing such inappropriate information casually leaked by a manager would wonder, “What is he telling other people about me when I am not around to defend myself?”  A manager with no integrity simply has no credibility. We all know this, so why do some leaders spread gossip anyway?

Sharing a Real Example

Depending on the topic and other conditions in the organization, it may be tempting at times to share privileged information based on some rationalism. For example, picture a work unit that will be experiencing a downsizing in the next quarter. The announcement has not been made yet, but the leader wants to be sure adequate cross-training occurs for a particular individual who will replace one of the exiting employees.

The manager may pull Martha, the employee who is staying, aside and say something like, “I need to share that Alice is going to be leaving in the layoff next month. This is not public information yet, so please keep it confidential, but you will be taking on her responsibilities. Please begin to pay attention to what she is doing with her clients, because there will not be much time for cross-training once the layoffs are announced.”

Impact of Spreading Gossip

Trying to mitigate potential problems by warning certain individuals of an action ahead of time may sound like a positive step, but it is a disaster on many levels. Let’s examine the real impact of such a discussion.

  • It will cause Martha to act in ways that tip Alice off that she is doomed.
  • It plays favorites with one employee, which will leak out to others.
  • Martha may also leak the information to others either unwittingly or on purpose.
  • Other people may surface asking about their status in the layoff.
  • The manager has lost the respect of Martha, at least, and many others as well.

Better to Be Transparent

A far better approach is to be transparent about the entire situation early to allow public discussions of how people can cope with this difficult transition. Even if the news is bad, you are better off making it public as early as possible, because then you can be more helpful to both the employees who leave and the employees who remain.

  • It allows the impacted people to look for other work while still employed
  • It provides for adequate training of the replacement
  • It treats people like adults


One way to build trust with people is to refuse to discuss information out of turn. One of the easiest ways to destroy trust is to show a violation of someone else’s trust when talking in private to another person.  Don’t do it!

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Leadership Barometer 144 Measures

May 4, 2022

Having the wrong measures is a common and hurtful practice in many organizations.  The old adage is that “what gets measured gets done” is true. It is also very harmful to performance if the measures are not well constructed.  Reason: if you measure the wrong thing, it will drive people to do things different from your objectives.  If you are skeptical, consider the following real examples. 

Driving the Wrong Behaviors

In an effort to increase revenue, a computer company decided to measure the number of calls made by the sales force.  History showed that the level of sales was correlated to the number of calls.  When they instituted the measure, sales people realized they could make more money by making more calls. The quality of the calls became less important than the quantity. The result was a reduction in revenue. Make sure all your measures are driving the right behaviors.

Trading One Problem for Another

An organization was concerned that the “employee satisfaction” numbers were slipping in the Quality of Work-Life Survey. The HR manager read that satisfaction in many organizations is highly correlated to the amount of development conducted.  To improve satisfaction, they mandated at least 50 hours of training for every employee.  The measure caused them to do a knee-jerk reaction to the real problem.

The problem was that the managers implementing the training did not deploy it well. They forced people to go to meaningless training in order to make the 50-hour mandate. They did not backfill for employees when they were out for training. When the employees returned to work, they found a huge mess.  “Employee satisfaction” actually got worse, even though the measure (number of training hours) showed they met the goal. Make sure your program to improve one measure does not force a more important measure to get worse.

Focusing on the Wrong Things

A plumbing supply house was interested in improving customer satisfaction. They increased the lighting in the showroom and arranged for better snow plowing of the parking lot. Those measures had no significant positive impact on customer satisfaction.

It turns out the real customers were more interested in getting all of their parts delivered to the job site exactly on time.  If some parts were late or were the wrong parts, it had a huge impact on contractors doing the work. The store was measuring the wrong things.

Five Ways to Make Measures Work

It is so easy to fall into these traps when inventing measures. The antidote is to always verify that every measure is doing the following things:

  1. Actually measuring what is important
  2. Driving the right behaviors
  3. Not easy to manipulate or “game”
  4. Easy for people to understand
  5. Producing the desired results


The verification step is extremely important to do before, during, and after implementation of a new measure.  If you forget to do this, a well-intended measure may be working at cross purposes to your objectives.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.  .


Reducing Conflict 39 Magic Goals

May 1, 2022

Goals have the ability to create magic in our lives. A goal is a vision of the future that pulls you toward an objective. 

You can sail in a ship without a rudder, but you will have little chance of getting to an interesting place. You will just sail around aimlessly wherever the wind blows, like many people do with their lives. 

A specific goal (also called vision) of your destination creates a magic force that works to your advantage. You now have a rudder and can steer the moments of your life to keep you moving toward the goal. You have a much greater chance of reaching it. 

Oh sure, there are going to be stormy days and nights. There will be times when there is no wind at all to propel your boat. Since you have the goal, no matter what comes up, you are always heading in the right direction. That is why goals create magic in our lives.

Brian Tracy once wrote, “People with clear, written goals accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine.” Problems are obstacles in the pathway, but they do not stop you; they teach you. Goals align the atoms and molecules to enhance your chances of accomplishing great things in your life.

With all of these advantages of goals, it is still a fact that most people do not have specific, written goals for their lives. They have dreams to do things, like a bucket list, but they miss the true power of goals. Here are 10 habits that can move you from hazy and wishful dreams to productive and powerful goals.

  1. Make your goals tangible

Vague goals or mental wish lists are a dime a dozen.  You may have good intentions and dreams, but to really engage the magic of goals, you simply must write them down.

  1. Goals should represent reach

Easy goals are not powerful because you can accomplish them without effort. Pie-in-the-sky goals are also not very powerful because you may see them as impossible. To be effective, goals must be difficult to accomplish, but possible to achieve with great effort. Sometimes it is helpful to have sub-goals. These goals are a little easier to attain but they form a pathway to a major change. You can create momentum and witness progress along the path. That prevents you from becoming discouraged.

  1. It is better to err on the side of too great a goal than too small

Since goals pull you in the direction you want to go, having an aggressive goal is much more valuable than an easy goal. As Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.”  He actually did pretty well in his time, if you recall.

  1. Tell other people your goals

Sharing your goals with people you respect and love has a way of legitimizing them in your mind. It also helps garner a friend’s support and creativity as you work toward your goals. “I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.” (Bob Dylan said that.)

  1. Refine the goals to just a vital few

Avoid having a long shopping list of goals. One or two good goals are enough. Reason: Goals help us focus critical energy on essential tasks. If you have 15 goals for the next increment of time, you will get confused and discouraged. “One solid goal is more powerful than 10 dreams.” (I said that.)

  1. Repeat the key goals every morning and evening

Letting your goals sit idle on the shelf like a hoary old book renders them quaint, but useless. You must engage your subconscious mind continually to consider all the things you can do to pursue your goals. The best way to do that is to make a conscious affirmation in the morning and evening.

As you restate your goals daily, you call up the power of the universe. That power helps you align your thoughts and actions to be consistent with your goals. This magic power allows a magnet-like attraction that draws you toward the things you seek. 

  1. Form a group of people who understand and agree with your goals

Unless your goal is to be a hermit, you are better off with a Mastermind Group helping you. The concept of a Mastermind Group came from Napoleon Hill as he prepared his philosophy called “The Science of Personal Achievement.” 

  1. Celebrate the small steps along the way

Achieving a challenging goal is often a lot of work. For most people, the work involved in achieving a worthy goal is often tedious and unpleasant. Winners gladly engage in the effort because the smell of success is so alluring.

It is wise to celebrate the baby steps on the way toward your goal. Celebration helps remind you why you are subjecting yourself to all the work in the first place.

  1. Enjoy the ride

The ride is really the prize. Most people think the achievement is the big deal, and they are often surprised to find out that the magic was during the struggle.

  1. Look back with pride

Look over your shoulder to see how far you have come. The progress is often slow enough that you do not even recognize it: like watching a child grow up. You need to remind yourself of what is really happening.

The best way I have found to do this is to list my accomplishments each year. I typically do that on New Year’s Eve. I am often blown away with the things that were accomplished that I never would have thought possible. The vast majority of them were enabled by my following the steps above.

Could I have done better?  Of course! Did I do better than I thought possible?  You betcha! Am I energized to do better next year?  Just throw down the puck, and watch me go.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind

Building Higher Trust 69 Instill Values

April 29, 2022

A vital function of leadership is to instill a coherent set of values in the organization. Notice I did not say the function is to “articulate” good values.

Too many leaders believe they have accomplished the job when there is a set of values hanging on the wall.  Unfortunately, that attitude does more harm than good because any hypocrisy in living the values ends up undermining the whole concept.

Leaders need to exemplify the values and talk about them at every opportunity for them to become firmly planted into the hearts of the organization’s people. Here are some tips that can make your values shine and create a foundational bedrock for the work of your business.

Create the values together

Values do not come from one person. They come into being through a process of creation and selection. There are literally thousands of values one could choose. Words like integrity, loyalty, respect, trust, and flexibility are frequent choices. Words like honor, dependability, family, innovation, and transparency are less often used, but equally effective. It is important for people in the organization to participate in the crafting of a master brainstorm list and the voting on how to winnow the list to a vital few.

Don’t have too many values

To be most helpful, values must reside in the hearts of the population and be simple enough to remember.  It is a mistake to have a dozen or more values for an organization. Few people will be able to remember the entire set.  I recommend five values or six at the most. These will form the core of why we do things the way we do. Take the time to do a  Pareto vote to cull out the less important candidates from the longer list.

Announce the values

Make sure everyone knows the values by communicating them at every possible opportunity. Say things like, “We have decided to tell people about this problem because one of our core values is transparency.”  As people hear a value reinforced every time leaders model it in the organization, it becomes stronger and more useful to the business.

Reinforce people who point out inconsistencies

If an action or decision does not appear to be consistent with a stated value, it is important to encourage and reinforce employees who point out the apparent contradiction. If employees feel punished when they voice concern over a possible lapse, then they will clam up, and the values will quickly lose their potency for the organization. If leaders reward people for bringing up concerns, then the values will spring to life and become even stronger with time.

Allow infrequent changes

Values form a bedrock for the actions of a community. It is important that these statements of intent have stability, and yet it is a mistake to be totally rigid. If an additional value to the current list would help clarify some common activities, feel free to add a new value with great ceremony.  Beyond some number, it is wise to retire a less relevant value when adding a new one. This can be tricky because no value is totally useless.  If you retire a value, make sure to state it is still important, just less frequently called upon in the current environment.

Reinforce actions consistent with the values

The easiest way to perpetuate actions consistent with the values is to reinforce people when they follow them.  A simple thank you is not sufficient reinforcement here. The conversation should sound more like this, “That was a great point, Martha. When you recognized Ed for not backing down in the face of pressure from the angry employee, you demonstrated empathy, which is one of our key values.”

The magic in having values is teaching all people to model them every day, but that is only half of the job. You must make the connection between actions and values highly visible at every opportunity to ensure the values drive the right behaviors far into the future.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Leadership Barometer 143 Developing Leaders

April 26, 2022

Recently I was in a conversation about the importance of developing leaders in an organization.  I believe it is the highest calling for leaders to grow other leaders, hence the name of my company: Leadergrow.

This imperative is not a random idea.  It’s an observation after nearly 60 years in the study and application of developing leaders. I am not the only person to have found a connection between great leaders and those who grow other leaders. For example, Tom Peters once wrote, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”

Become a Teacher and You Will Learn Better

The best leaders create the right kind of culture for people to rise to their highest level of engagement.  As a side benefit, it is when we teach something to other people that we learn it best for ourselves.  I learned that lesson long ago in business school.

I was struggling in Macro Economics and failing. When called upon to help another student who knew even less than me, I started doing better. My ultimate grade for the course was an “A.” Something about becoming a teacher changes the ballgame in terms of our own ability to learn.  When we become the teachers of developing leaders, we are actually helping ourselves as much as the leaders we mentor. 

A Great Book on Developing Leaders

Bob and Gregg Vanourek have a term they use in their outstanding Leadership book, Triple Crown Leadership.  In horse racing, they have individuals called “stewards” who monitor the process of running a stable to ensure integrity.

Stewards in organizations are leaders who ensure people understand the desired culture and work to align the entire team.  Bob explains that “Triple Crown Leaders” act as stewards who envision that each person really has two jobs.

The first one is the functional job of running the business in whatever capacity is evident on the organization chart. The second job is to be a steward of the culture they are trying to build.  That means not only being a role model personally but also being a strong advocate and mentor for others. This practice helps the organization gain momentum, and trust grows rapidly.

Stewards have a mandate to be the preachers of the gospel of trust. They also must be the coaches and enforcers when they see some leaders not living up to the shared values.  When a leader has a problem with following the values, he or she needs to go. 

Compelling story from a CEO

Bob tells the story of when he interviewed Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox. He asked her what action they take when individuals do not follow the values. Before he had even finished the question, Ursula said, “We fire them.” 

When he asked about the warning process, she repeated, “We fire them.”  He gave her a third chance to equivocate, and she said, “Bob, you are not hearing me. If we find someone who does not live by our values, we fire the person.”

Leaders as Teachers Learn More

Ed Betof wrote a book, Leaders as Teachers, in which he describes the Leadership University at Beckton Dickinson. Rather than hire professional trainers to teach leadership development, they called upon the senior leaders to perform this vital task. 

They noted that people enjoyed the training much more, and the skills translated more fully into the developing leaders. They also noted that the senior leaders themselves seemed to benefit from the work. They became more familiar with the breadth of leadership and more cognizant of their own actions in modeling the way.

My Personal Habit

My personal habit was to find ways to devote 30% of my calendar time to developing and conducting leadership training activities. I was a Division Manager at a Fortune 500 Company. My observation was that developing leaders was a better use of my time than tending to the details of the business. There were experts who were better than me with the various aspects of supply chain, information technology, finance, benefits, maintenance, etc.

My expertise was in creating the right culture, so I spent a great deal of time doing that. It allowed me to have fun while making a contribution to the lives of others in my organization.


The other side of the equation was that helping to grow other leaders caused me to become a more effective leader myself as well.  It is like spreading pixie dust. It really works! In the end, you get a lot of dust on yourself, but who cares, it’s the right kind of dust!

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.  .




Reducing Conflict 38 Prevent Social Loafing

April 24, 2022

“Social loafing” is a name given to the phenomenon where one or more people fail to pull their fair share of the load.

We see evidence of it in every aspect of our lives from family slackers who leave messes for others to clean up, to sports teams where some players like to skip practice, to hospitals where some staff work at their own pace even when most people are maxed out.

Reason for Team Stress

In a work setting, social loafing is one of the biggest reasons for team stress. I contend it is a rare team that does not experience some form of social loafing, and it creates ill will among the group every time.

 Some people will have issues that prevent them from contributing as much as others.  The issues may be legitimate, like a death in the family, or a chronic health condition, or it may be that the person is just lazy.  Since the load is never completely equal, those who pull more than their fair share become resentful of those who get equal credit but fail to do equal work.

Example from Education Setting

I do a lot of teaching in the online environment. Students have individual assignments and team assignments (usually papers to write) where several remote individuals must do a lot of work on a project.

Students come into the team environment with good intentions assuming all students will do their fair share of the work, but inevitably one or two people will fall behind the pace and hold the team back. 

This condition results in the other members having to scramble to get the paper finished at the last minute because one student did not do his assigned part.  That infuriates the other students, because their grades on the team paper may be lower than expected. 

In every single team, there is this same problem to some degree. Occasionally it is hard to detect due to a particular set of individuals, but even there I see signs of stress when one student procrastinates a bit and leaves the others waiting and wondering.

The cure is so simple. If we spell out a strategy and agreement for working together including a penalty for goofing off specifically at the start, then the stress goes away and performance improves.

Suppose the team agrees that all team members will submit their draft of the paper three days before it is due, to allow time for editing and clean up.  Now comes the critical element. 

The team agrees that if one member does not comply with the agreed timing, his name will not be on the team paper, and he will receive no points for the assignment. That is a very stiff penalty because it will immediately lower the final grade for a course for that student by one letter grade. 

By agreeing on a specific consequence at the start of the course (when everyone has good intentions) then the social loafing rarely occurs. Reason: The would-be slacker has already agreed to accept the dreaded consequence, so there is no doubt about what will happen to him if he fails to meet expectations. 

If he tests the system and finds he got no points for the assignment, he cannot cry foul. He already signed off on the consequence.  The result is that he never does it again.

Teams in Different Settings

The most common place to observe social loafing is in a team setting at work. If some members of the team are not pulling their fair share of the load, there is going to be conflict. In this instance, having an agreed-upon penalty can drastically cut down on the frequency of the problem occurring.

This theory is more difficult to employ if the team is all volunteers.  In these groups, people are stepping up to volunteer their time and talent for a cause. Coming up with a penalty for social loafing in these groups is tricky because if there is conflict, the volunteer can just drop out. In this situation, perhaps the upfront agreement might include having the volunteer find a back-up for when other life priorities make it impossible to carry the load.   

There is a cure

The trick is to create an agreement at the start that everyone will pull his or her share of the load. People usually buy into the concept at the start of a team: after all, fair is fair.  It is only after the team gets going that life happens and the slackers surface.  Good intentions at the start of an activity are necessary but not sufficient to prevent social loafing.


Having a specific penalty associated with failure to perform up to good intentions is an effective way to prevent social loafing or deal with it when it happens.  Try it in your group and see how this simple step is like a miracle for better teamwork.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind