Building Higher Trust 110 Five Cs To Initiate Trust

February 2, 2023

Can you initiate trust with a new acquaintance by focusing on five Cs? The answer is YES! In this article, I explain that five concepts that begin with the letter C will help initiate trust.

This article is a companion to one that I wrote at the start of this series. That article was entitled “Planting a Seed of Trust in the First 10 Seconds.” The idea here is that an initial relationship of trust is established.  Full, mature trust does still take time to grow. That is because people need to witness your consistency over time.

You can initiate trust quickly

Most people believe that trust takes years to kindle. Trust requires that you have the opportunity to interface over an extended period of time. I disagree with this analysis. I think trust can kindle very quickly between two individuals. There is even a name for this, “swift trust,” coined by Debra Meyerson. After that, trust grows or shrinks based on the interactions that occur between individuals over time.

You can initiate trust in only a few minutes of time if the proper conditions are present. Trust rests on the relationship between two individuals. If you are going to trust me, you need to be personally convinced that I fulfill 5 conditions that all begin with the letter C.

These items form the basis for trust to start. We convey them from one person to another in short order. The first two conditions I borrowed from Stephen M.R. Covey’s bestselling book, The Speed of Trust. The rest of the list is from my personal experience and background.

Here are the 5 C’s to initiate trust

Competence – You must be convinced that I know what I’m doing to view me as credible. I pass the competence test if you believe I can deliver on my statements. If you doubt that I can deliver, then you will remain skeptical until you test me.

Character – Do I have the integrity to do what is right? You need to feel that I am not duplicitous. I will stand up for what I believe is right. It does not mean that we always need to agree on every point.  You need to see me as a person of high moral and ethical fiber before trusting me.

Consistency – You need to be convinced that I will do what I say. This characteristic normally takes people a long time to test. It doesn’t need to take months for someone to be convinced that I am consistent. You can discern the value of consistency through the way I word my intentions. Even the body language I use to chat with you contains clues. Am I relaxed and genuine, or am I uptight and rigid?

The ability to follow through with intended actions is easy to spot. You can also get back to the other person if conditions change. It is also easy to observe a blowhard who says nice things but has little fortitude to actually do them.

For example, if I promise to send you an article and I ask for your card, that signals my intent to follow up.

Congeniality – You are not going to grant initial trust to someone who comes across as morose or stern. To gain your trust, I need to smile and show that it comes from the heart.

A genuine cordial facial expression when first meeting a person is a prerequisite for trust to kindle. If I put on a false smile it is the kiss of death. It pegs me as someone who cannot be trusted at all.

Care – The final “C” in this handful is to project that I really do care about you. Again, people might say it takes years to show I do care about you. I disagree. Care can be displayed in hundreds of ways, just as selfishness can be worn like a suit of armor.

Giving deference to the feelings of others is an important component of Emotional Intelligence. People who have low Emotional Intelligence have the biggest blind spots, according to Daniel Goleman. If I come across as a phony, I will have little ability to detect this in myself. You will usually be able to see it quickly.

Conclusion

I cannot fake the 5 C’s. Words, actions, tone, and body language must all be consistent.  To initiate trust in just a few minutes, pay attention to the 5 Cs. It is then up to me to remain consistent and keep building on that base over time.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, 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 182 Evaluate Alternatives

January 31, 2023

Are you happy with your process to evaluate alternatives? Leaders make decisions every day, and they rarely stop and think of the alternatives that are left behind. That practice can be devastating to the business.  This article shines a light on the practice of evaluating alternatives and suggests some improvements.

Always consider and evaluate alternatives

You owe it to yourself and your organization to consider the alternate path. Don’t jump to the one that seems most appealing at first. When you fixate on the most logical path forward, you exclude all possible alternatives.

When you elect to take an action, let’s say “buy a new packaging line,” you have a choice.  Clearly, one alternative is to do nothing. The null hypothesis is always available, and it may be the best choice.

In our example, let’s suppose we have been contracting with another firm to package some of our products because we are out of capacity. The cost of hiring another firm to package our product has severely cut into the profit margin.

Why we tend to jump to the “obvious” course of action 

We are so close to the issue that a logical solution practically tackles us. The easy answer is always the case to beat. Few leaders ask for specific alternatives that were considered but rejected.

We concern ourselves with the short-term solution that eases the pain. In doing this, we tend to overlook an option that has far greater appeal in the long run. We also fail to evaluate a more creative solution that might have many side benefits.

For example, in the case we described above, the obvious solution was to buy a packaging line. It would handle the razor line we have been selling. It is a specific machine for that purpose.  We don’t realize there is an alternative. For very little extra cost we could purchase a line that could handle razors, batteries, and light bulbs. That would provide the factory with a significant advantage in flexibility.

Evaluate alternatives as a conscious process 

Before making a major decision, always ask if we have considered at least three different solutions. That way we can confidently say that we did not make a snap judgment. Be sure to look at the options from all angles, not just the obvious ones.

When evaluating alternatives, avoid analysis paralysis 

You can study alternative ways to do anything until you are old and grey. That is clearly a waste of resources in a different way. Grab onto three or four different courses of action and evaluate the long and short impacts of each one. Make a reasonable decision and sleep soundly knowing you made a fair comparison.

Conclusion

The flow of ideas will steer you toward solutions that may not be the right ones for your business.  Be sure to take the time and energy to evaluate alternative approaches.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, 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 78 Didn’t You Read My Email?

January 29, 2023

When someone says, “Didn’t you read my email?”  there can be many reasons for it. Many times it is the fault of the sender. In this article, I will describe the typical reasons why conflict arises from poor email communication.

Poor communication is the #1 complaint in most employee satisfaction surveys. Habitually, communication has been a major source of conflict in organizations.  Even though communication tools have morphed into all kinds of wonderful remote technologies, the problem is still there. It is even worse today. Many people tend to rely too much on electronic means to communicate information.

The sad truth is that many people put information in an e-mail and honestly believe they have communicated to others. Let’s examine some of the reasons this opinion is incorrect.

People rarely read long and complex e-mails

Managers who put out long emails believe that the employees read every word and absorb all the points.  Hogwash!  If it takes more than about 30 seconds to read a note, most people will only skim it for the general topic.

If an email is 3 pages long, I suspect not 1 in 10 people are going to internalize the meaning. In fact, when most people open a note, they quickly scan to the bottom to see how long it is. If the text goes “over the horizon” beyond the first page, they close the note. They will either delete the note without reading it or leave it in the inbox for a more convenient time.

Naturally, a more convenient time does not surface, so the note is allowed to mold in the inbox. Eventually, it is thrown out in some kind of purge when the stench becomes too much to bear.

You must augment email messages with verbal enhancements

The written email should contain simply an outline of the salient points.  Reinforce the key points in other forms of communication.  Use other remote or face-to-face methods. This would also include the opportunity for personal involvement or at least dialog, so people can ponder the meaning and impact. Questions for clarification will enhance understanding.

Give people the opportunity to absorb your meaning fully.

Formatting is really important if you want people to read your email

E-mail notes should be as short and easy to digest as possible. Aim to have the message internalized at a glance and with only 15-30 seconds of attention. Contrast the two notes below to see which one you would understand.

Example of a poorly formatted and wordy email: 

“I wanted to inform you all that the financial trend for this quarter is not looking good. In order to meet our goals, I believe we must enhance our sales push, especially in the South East Region and in the West.  Those two regions are lagging behind at the moment, but I am sure we can catch up before the end of the quarter.  Let’s increase the advertising in the local paper so that we get more buzz about the new product. The increased exposure will help now and also in the next quarter. Advertising has a way of building up sales equity. Also, I am canceling our monthly meeting at headquarters. This decision will keep the sales force in the field as much as possible. You can give your full attention to making customer calls. I am available to travel to the regions next week if you would like to have me meet face-to-face with your customers. I look forward to celebrating a great success when we have our Fall Sales Meeting. Thank you very much for your extra effort at this critical time for our company…  Jake Alsop”

An improved format that people will read

“Let’s look forward to celebrating success at the Fall Sales Meeting.  We are currently behind the pace (particularly in the South East and Western regions).  I am asking for the following:

  • Increase newspaper advertising to improve exposure
  • Stay in the field this month; we will skip the monthly meeting
  • Request my help with customer presentations if you want it

Thanks…Jake”

People will be more likely to read and understand the second note.  When the sales force opens up the first note, they would see an unformatted block of text that is a burden to wade through. There are no paragraph breaks to give the eyes a rest between concepts. It contains several instructions amid redundant platitudes and drivel.

People can internalize the second note in a glance. It would be far more likely to produce results. Note the use of bullets eliminates wordy construction.

Summary

Use the “Golden Rule” for writing e-mails: “Write notes that you would enjoy receiving.” Utilize many different forms of communication rather than relying on just email.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, 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. 

 

 


Building Higher Trust 109 Your “Stop Doing” List

January 26, 2023

Do you have a “Stop Doing” list? From time to time, we all get overwhelmed with activities. Most of us turn to a “To Do” list to manage our priorities.  There are many systems that help keep people organized and assist them in making the most of their time. In this article, I suggest that having a specific “Stop Doing” list can be just as helpful at managing time as having a “To Do” list.

A Stop Doing list helps conserve time

Time is the most precious commodity we have. What makes something precious is comprised of two factors.  The thing must be of intrinsic value to us, and it must be scarce.  Diamonds and coal are chemically identical and both have intrinsic value to us. Diamonds are very hard to find, so their value is infinitely higher. Time has value to us because it is all we have to live with. Nobody can get more than 24/7 each day. Therefore, time has extremely high value; it is both important and scarce.

Making decisions on your stop-doing list

The world serves up a huge smorgasbord of activities every day. I am sure that each person reading this article has a huge number of things to do today.  Carving out a couple minutes to absorb this information means that something else is not going to get done. 

We normally make decisions on our use of time thousands of times a day. Most of these decisions are unconscious. It becomes more critical to make the right decisions in times of peak load.  I am pretty sure you have not had a day this year in which you could just kick back and do whatever you wanted for the entire day. We manage our time by prioritizing the things we must do or want to do. 

Rarely do we take an objective look at the time-burning habits that are not really logical. Sometimes we do these by rote and don’t think about it. An example of this might be putting on makeup. For me, I have a habit of checking my blood pressure ten times in a row each morning and averaging the numbers to arrive at a data point for today. One time would probably be sufficient.

Purge your list

If we had a system of bringing our time-consuming habits up for conscious decision regularly, we might be able to purge several things off our list. It is a gut reaction to sort the things we want to do in terms of priority, but it takes specific effort to focus on time wasters and cull out the ones we can live without.

Experiment

Try this experiment. Sit down in a quiet place and try to identify at least 10 things you could stop doing this week. If you find the exercise helpful, you might want to make a date with yourself. Do it a couple of times a year to hone your “Stop Doing” list.  You will have a wonderful feeling of really managing the most important commodity in your life: your time.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, 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 181 Avoid Playing Favorites

January 24, 2023

As a leader, how do you avoid playing favorites at work? I ask this question in my consulting and teaching work frequently. Most times leaders think about this for several seconds. Then say with a shrug, “Well, I guess I do play favorites, but I try not to.”

Occasionally I will have some managers or supervisors who are adamant, “No, I do not play favorites.” As we discuss this a bit more, the managers realize that they do favor some people.  They feel more compatible with them than others. In every group, there are people you would rather work with, if possible.

Avoiding playing favorites is more challenging when people are working remotely or hybrid

As the logistics of who is working where, and when become much more complicated, the problem is more difficult. Since the frequency of face-to-face discussions is now lower, leaders need to be more sensitive about signals they send.  People who do not know the details will make certain assumptions about a leader’s relationship with a coworker.

Playing favorites is human nature

When making decisions about who does what in an organization, leaders habitually “play favorites.” They do it even though they know it is a real trustbuster. Let’s examine why this is and suggest a few antidotes that allow you to operate freely.

See the truth about playing favorites

First, recognize that you do have people that you prefer to work with on specific jobs. You click with them and work well together. They may have a special skill and track record that gives you confidence the job will be done well. These are your “go to” people for specific jobs.

When you use certain people in a special assignment, you appear to be paying favorites. That can create unfortunate conversations about you behind your back.

Techniques to reduce the problem of playing favorites

Can you usually operate with your “go-to” people and still beat the stigma of playing favorites? There are several ideas to consider:

  1. Have a kind of standard for special assignments. You select George to do the budget work because he has accounting training. That is something you can explain to others.
  2. Discuss the situation openly with employees and offer flexibility. Give other people the opportunity to learn the skill. This method has three advantages. First, by openly addressing the issue of favorites, it becomes impossible for people to accuse you of being clueless. Second, you have shown a willingness to develop others in this special role, if they want to step up. Finally, no one is the heir apparent just because she has done you a few favors in the past.
  3. The easiest way to beat the favorites stigma is to operate outside your “normal groove” on a few occasions. You only need to do this a time or two to beat the rap. The vast majority of times you can go with your gut or normal pattern. You get to choose which circumstance has some latitude. Also, be sure to include the remote workers in your analysis. Do not always favor the most accessible employee.
  4. Cross-training everyone on a few jobs is another easy way to reduce the favorites issue. This is a simple matter of developing bench strength, which is a sign of an astute organization anyway.

How to be more objective

There is an interesting backlash to the issue of having or playing favorites. If you are in a leadership position, you want all of your feedback and appraisal information to be objective. How do you know when you are being objective? The best way out is to have a solid correlation process among managers to review all performance appraisals. Be on the lookout for any local bias.

It is amazing how people cannot see their own biases toward certain individuals. In order to have an environment of trust, people need to know they will be treated fairly.

Conclusion

Be constantly aware of the issue of playing favorites. It is a significant trust buster in every organization. By using the techniques outlined above, any leader can avoid the trap. At the same time, you can use your “go-to” people most of the time for critical assignments.

 

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, 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 77 Positive Conflict

January 23, 2023

I believe there is such a thing as “positive conflict?” Most of the time we consider conflict as a bad thing.  Let’s examine the conditions and results when we consider the positive side of conflict.

When conflict occurs

One root of conflict is when individuals have differing opinions on a specific topic. I dig in my heels and try to prove my viewpoint is right and yours is wrong. You fire back with the same zeal supporting your opinion. There may be several people involved and we end up with group conflict. The conversation devolves into rancor where people actually fight for their opinion.

The topic of conflict is so common that we almost expect to see it every day.  Now, what if we modify the thinking process just a bit?

Positive conflict offers more opportunities for creative solutions

Set aside all the rancor and put the issues side by side. Then, we may see a third opinion that turns out to help everybody. We can turn the equation around and focus on the good things with each position. Then we enter a more constructive thought pattern.

Positive conflict starts by asking what’s right with the opposing view

It takes some courage to verbalize what is right about your opponent’s outlook, but it reduces the rancor. It might even open the door for the other person to expound on the benefits of your solution.  This kind of “role reversal” can help clear the air. Some combination of both sides might emerge as a brilliant solution. At least you are less likely to have a fistfight.

In times of remote or hybrid work arrangements, the polarization of ideas is more prevalent.  People do not always have the benefit of observing the body language of others with differing views.  That factor makes it more difficult to envision possible creative solutions or even make people want to cooperate.

The role of a mediator in creating positive conflict

Since conflict is so pervasive in our society, it really helps to have some people who are excellent mediators. These people can see the escalating conflict brewing.  It is more difficult for the proponents of each side to see conflict when they are immersed in it. They may not even be communicating face to face. When working remotely, it is easy to ignore the benefits of a more constructive dialog. The mediator steps in and asks if there might be a more helpful way to articulate the disagreement.

It is beneficial to nurture the role of a mediator and reward the people who fill it. You might find a particular individual who is outstanding in this role. It also is helpful for the entire population to witness a breakthrough as a result of keeping open minds. Once people see the benefits it is a lot easier to suggest the technique during a future tangle.

Positive conflict relies on people treating others with dignity. Team building and encouraging a culture of trust help create the right environment. People must care about other people. Sometimes they may need help feeling like they are part of the group. This is especially important when people are working remotely.

Conclusion

Human beings have a way of driving each other crazy.  If we can keep calm and recognize there are wonderful solutions, then we can use positive conflict well. Doing so not only supports the best position, it also leaves the people feeling better about each other. A happier workplace also has another big advantage: higher productivity.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, 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. 

 


Building Higher Trust 108 Humility

January 20, 2023

Humility is a key characteristic for everyone to embrace. True humility is not seen often in the ranks of leaders. Ego, rather than humility, seems to be the more common trait in management circles. Let’s examine why this is and suggest some ideas to modify the pattern.

Anyone who has reached a leadership position has a tale to tell. He or she got there through a series of steps and events.  Some steps were deserved, and some of them were just being in the right place at the right time. Another common factor is knowing the right people.

Getting ahead

It usually takes a lot of energy and talent to get ahead. People in the organization may look at a newly appointed leader and remark how they “lucked into it.” As Earl Nightingale said in Lead The Field, “Luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity.” There should be some level of personal satisfaction for a leader when he or she emerges from the pack and is elevated. We should celebrate this kind of milestone.

The tendency toward inflated egos

Upon reaching a higher level, the leader quickly becomes aware of an increase in power and influence. I once got a big promotion, and a Dilbert-like IT employee in the new organization started calling me “thou” and “thee” until I put an end to it. It is very easy to let the trappings or perks of a higher level inflate one’s ego. There is nothing wrong with appreciating one’s self-worth if it is kept in proper perspective. It is also important that the person also appreciates and publicly acknowledges the worth of others.

Unfortunately, many leaders do lose perspective and start acting like jerks. Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert Cartoon Series, would have needed to make a living in some other field if not for the hubris of leaders.

How humility helps

The role of humility in creating and maintaining trust in organizations was well documented by Jim Collins in Good to Great. Collins identified passion and humility as two common traits of the most effective leaders – he called them “level 5 leaders.” Here is a very brief video clip of Jim Collins describing the difference between a level four leader and a level five leader.

It would be easy to say, “don’t be too full of yourself,” and show the benefits of humility. Unfortunately for the narcissist leader, changing the thought patterns and behaviors is extremely difficult.

How to fix it?

If it is so important, what can we do about it? Is there a kind of anti-hubris powder we can sneak into the orange juice of over-inflated executives? Oh, if it was only that easy.

What we are talking about here is re-educating the boss with influence from below. We want to let him know that his own attitude is getting in the way of trust. Reeducating the boss is always tricky. It reminds me of the adage, “Never wrestle a pig…you get all muddy and the pig loves it.”

Work to educate the leader

One suggestion is to form a kind of support network with the employees and leaders on the topic of leadership. Book clubs where employees along with their leaders take a lunch hour once a week to study the topic can begin a constructive dialog.

You can’t just march into the boss’s office and say, “You are a total narcissist, knock it off and get down from your pedestal.” You need to use a water drop treatment with lots of Socratic Questions.

Conclusion

If you are a leader, try this little test. If you think you are a humble servant leader all the time, you are probably off-base. Chances are you have some serious blind spots. Go and get it checked out! If your mental picture is one of an imperfect person trying to learn more about how to lead, then you are probably okay.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, 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 180 Political Success

January 18, 2023

Political success is sometimes a bit elusive. There is an old saying “Too soon old, too late smart.” During my long career in a large organization, I somehow managed to do some pretty bonehead things politically. I will never be someone who is politically brilliant because I am far too outspoken. There have been many times I wish I had kept my mouth shut.

Mistakes I have made

I realized in retrospect that there were plenty of times when I shared my opinion and nobody wanted to hear it. If I had learned to button my lip and observe what was happening, I would have made fewer blunders. This article will share some of the valuable lessons I have learned so far. I also share some rules I have made for myself.

My learning style

In some training sessions, we learn about how people have their own unique learning style. Some of us learn only by doing, some by hearing, some by visualizing, etc. I remember one class where we all had to reveal our most useful learning style. When it got to my turn, I said, “My style of learning is the rake.”

Everyone in the class looked a little puzzled, so I explained. If I step on a rake and the handle comes up and thwapps me in the face, I have learned something. I will never forget it.

That is a pretty accurate description of how I learned my horse sense on political mistakes to avoid. It is not to say I have found all the potential rakes out there. I still get konked from time to time. Hopefully, each new learning is from a rake I have not experienced before.

Ideas I have learned

I will share my own list below only as an example. It is more helpful if you make up your own list based on your personality and situation or the mistakes you have already made. Start with just one or two key things and build your list over time. It is a simple matter of keeping a computer file. Remember to add to it every time a rake handle hits you in the face.

Bob’s 14 Rules for Political Survival

  1. Know who butters your bread and act that way.
  2. Act consistent with your values and spiritual rightness.
  3. Make 20 positive remarks for every negative one.
  4. Don’t grandstand. Practice humility. No cheap shots.
  5. Understand the intentions and motivations of others.
  6. Follow up on everything. Be alert & reliable.
  7. Do the dirty work cheerfully, not too good for it.
  8. Agree to disagree. Walk away with respect.
  9. Don’t beat dead horses. Repetition is a rat hole.
  10. Be aggressive, but not a pest. It’s a fine line.
  11. Constantly read people’s intentions and desires.
  12. Administrative people have real power. Cultivate them.
  13. Keep an appropriate social life with work associates.
  14. Always, always be considerate and gracious.

I often wonder how long my list will be when I take my last breath in the nursing home. We tend to learn political lessons in all areas of our life, not just at work.

Conclusion

Keep track of how you want to show up for the world. We all step on a few rakes in life, so learn your lessons from your mistakes.

 

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, 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 76 Peer Conflict

January 16, 2023

Peer conflict within your organization can squander the energy and creativity of your team. Nobody enjoys conflict, but often the actions of some people kindle internal battles they could avoid.

Where is energy being consumed?

Measure where the energy in your organization is consumed. Most of it may be evaporating with internal squabbles. It should be applied toward customer satisfaction or beating the competition.

Peer relationships are especially prone to conflict

Conflict among peers is particularly hurtful. People who function in parallel roles must cooperate for the organization to achieve its goals. Lower peer conflict means more resources directed at the organization’s goals.

Why does peer conflict occur, and how can we reduce it? Peers see themselves in a conflict situation from the start, especially if they report to different units.

Too much “I win, you lose” mentality

Loyalty to one’s own parochial point of view often means a built-in conflict among individuals. In the scramble for scarce resources, peers struggle to gain the lion’s share for themselves. This “I win, you lose” mentality is the fuel for the fire of peer conflict. You can improve the track record within your organization by practicing some simple concepts.

The ideas listed below are not a set of underhanded tricks or manipulation of others. Rather, these concepts help define the high road to interpersonal prowess. Following them shows your level of integrity, maturity, and moral fiber. Do these things because they are right, not to come out on top. They represent the causeway to peer cooperation.

A dozen ways to improve peer cooperation

  1. Treat your peers and superiors with respect and integrity. Often that is a challenge because you compete with them for critical resources. The best advice is to always use the golden rule.
  2. Find ways to help peers in ways they recognize. Visualize yourself walking around the office with a bundle of olive branches strapped to your back. Each day, see how many olive branches you can give away to people who would normally squabble with you.
  3. Whenever possible, be a vocal supporter of your peer’s position in meetings. If you act like an ally, it is more difficult for peers to view you as an adversary. If you think of them as the enemy, they will reciprocate.
  4. Go the extra mile to help peers solve problems. Sometimes that means taking problem people off their hands to make a fresh start in your organization. It might mean the loan of equipment or other tangible assets. Be bountiful with your assistance. Favors lead to goodwill and often result in returned favors.
  5. Bond with peers whenever possible in social settings. This is more difficult in hybrid situations. Get to know their families and their hobbies. The closer you are as friends, the more they will help you at work. The basis of politics is that “friends do things for other friends.”
  6. Often, you will negotiate with peers for resources. Establish a track record of being fair and looking for win-win opportunities. Never try to win at the other person’s expense. It will usually boomerang, and you will lose in the end.
  7. Be visible with your concessions. Demonstrate that you deal with fairness.
  8. Resist the temptation to “blow in” a peer after a mistake. It may feel good at the time, but you have made an enemy. You can never afford an enemy if it can be avoided, and it usually can. Some people go around creating enemies to satisfy their ego, their lust for conquest, or just to have fun. They don’t last very long, and they create a lot of damage for others to clean up. If a peer makes a mistake, it is a great opportunity to help him or her regain equilibrium, not a time to twist the knife. Kindness pays off.
  9. Do not engage in email battles. If a peer is less than kind in an email, respond to it with courtesy and maturity. Getting into a public food fight over some issue has no place in the adult world, yet we see it all the time. Be bigger than that.
  10. Don’t belittle, berate, or embarrass people, even if they do things to deserve it. This is a test of your maturity.
  11. When you create a political faux pas, admit it immediately and ask for forgiveness. Don’t try to hide your blunders. People who admit mistakes earn the respect of their peers. Those who try to cover up gaffs often appear duplicitous and lower their credibility.
  12. Offer help when your peer is in a crisis. We all need help from time to time, and we remember those who were gracious with their assistance.

There are hundreds of other ways to foster cooperation among your peers and superiors. They are just common sense. They reiterate the advice of the famous football coach Lou Holtz: “Do what is right.” Doing the right thing is about being authentic rather than manipulative. Sparring and counterpunches should be focused on the competition rather than on your valued teammates.

Conclusion

When peers can rise above the temptation to be parochial, it allows the greater good to happen. Reducing conflict and tension makes people enjoy their work more. It also allows them to focus more energy on activities critical to organizational health.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, 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. 

 


Building Higher Trust 107 Trust Cultures

January 12, 2023

Over the past forty years, I have studied trust cultures. I have witnessed literally hundreds of organizations and seen the best of the best and the other extreme. Throughout this conquest, I have kept notes on the differences and similarities in order to draw some conclusions.

High trust cultures

The atmosphere in high-trust organizations is refreshing and light. People enjoy coming to work because they have fun and enjoy their coworkers. They are also more than twice as productive as their counterparts in lower trust areas. They honestly feel like winners.

People rarely leave high-trust organizations, because they are aware of how precious their culture really is. High-trust groups still have significant problems to solve, but they do so efficiently and with low acrimony.

Low trust cultures

In groups with low trust, the atmosphere is oppressive. People describe their work as a hopeless string of sapping activities and abuse. These things are foisted upon them by the clueless morons who run the place. Many people are either looking for better employment or simply retired in place. They feel like losers.

Most top leaders understand all of the above. The conundrum is, they sincerely want to build an environment of higher trust. Unfortunately, they consistently do things that take them in the wrong direction. I made a  brief video about my observations of many leaders. The video is entitled “The Role of Leaders.”

Many leaders end up hiring expensive consultants to help create a better environment within their organization. This practice rarely works because the leader does not realize the problem cannot be fixed by an outsider. To fix the problem of low trust, the leader needs to fess up. “The atmosphere around here stinks, and it must be my fault because I am the one in charge. How can I change my own behavior in order to turn the tide toward an environment of higher trust”?

With that attitude, there is a real possibility an outside coach or consultant can help the organization. Unfortunately, most leaders have a blind spot on their own contribution to low trust, so in those groups. there is little hope of a lasting change.

Leader behaviors that build or destroy trust

It is easy to brainstorm a list of a hundred things leaders can do to build trust.  The opposite of these things will destroy trust.  For example, if a leader always walks the talk, then trust will grow.  If the leader does not walk the talk, then trust will be destroyed. In my classes, I share a couple dozen of the big things that build or destroy trust. If you are interested, here is an article on “Trust Behaviors” that names several of these factors.

There is one factor that enables all the other factors to work well. I believe it is the key leadership behavior to build trust.

Create psychological safety

If you have built psychological safety, then people in your organization know they can share their true feelings without fear of being put down. Once you build that level of confidence with all your people, maintain it. Then all of the other trust-building behaviors work like magic.

As a leader, you build psychological safety by reinforcing people when they are candid. Basically, you make people feel glad they brought up a scary issue. Most leaders cannot reinforce candor consistently, and that is why so many organizations fail to have high trust.

Conclusion

A culture of high trust is precious for any organization.  If you have it, you will succeed and if you don’t you will surely fail.  It is vital to create and maintain high trust in your organization. Leaders create trust by reinforcing candor.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, 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