Building Higher Trust 78 Trust and Nepotism

July 1, 2022

The word nepotism comes from the Latin root “nepos” meaning nephew. In ancient times, nepotism described a process in the Catholic Church whereby celibate clergy would elevate their nephews to higher positions because they had no offspring of their own.

Common practice in some societies

In modern organizations, the practice of nepotism is alive and well, and it can have devastating impacts on trust. It is interesting because in some cases we tolerate nepotism without question. In other cases, we find the practice repugnant.

Several societies still have a monarchy whereby a person is born into the line of succession. We accept this practice in numerous legitimate societies without difficulty.  We also usually accept the practice of passing on a family-owned business to the offspring of the owner.

Why people hate nepotism

People struggle with the appointment of a close relative if the person appears to be underqualified for the position. The future of people working in an organization is linked to the health of the entity. It hurts to see a weak candidate appointed as a leader due to a blood connection. It feels like a slap in the face at best.

The same helpless feeling occurs in the more common practice of cronyism. A leader selects a favorite person based on their relationship rather than skills. 

No real cure

The sad truth is that there is no effective cure for this problem.  It can go on at any level in any organization, and it usually trashes trust. How can leaders do a better job of bringing along new talent if there is favoritism involved? First, you must realize it is a rare situation where there is absolutely zero favoritism.  Few leaders will promote based solely on the credentials of the individual without regard to the fit.  Some form of advantage is at play in most promotions.

Try being upfront with it

I think it would be a refreshing change if a leader got up and said, “I am appointing my cousin Mark to the job of VP HR. You all realize that Mark and I are related but I trust him.” Being upfront about a decision is far better than just ignoring the bias and expecting people not to care. They do care, and the honest approach will at least show some integrity along with a modicum of sensitivity.

Don’t run a sham

One thing to avoid is trying to run a sham where the leader indicates they are interviewing several candidates. However, the team has already chosen who is going to get the position. That practice is debilitating and easily detected. The leader who does this is going to suffer a huge loss of credibility and trust.  If you have already made up your mind, do not run an interview process that looks like a fair one. You will become exposed more often than not.

There are exceptions where there is a legal precedent for interviewing several people even if the choice appears obvious. It may be an internal company rule that each position must have competition before making a selection.  Keeping an open mind that a better candidate may surface is the antidote. It is often the case.

Make sure there is a chance to succeed

When trying to appoint a relative, make sure the person has at least the potential to do well. There have been numerous examples of a leader bringing in a son or daughter which led to the demise of the organization.  Dr. An Wang, appointed his son Fred to succeed him at Wang Laboratories in 1986. The company was losing its technological advantage, and Fred was unqualified to reverse the slide. By 1989, Dr. Wang fired his son, but it was too late to save the company.

Summary

Keeping the leadership in the family can work out well if there is adequate attention to grooming the individual. Also, the person must have the requisite skill levels in terms of Emotional Intelligence and mental agility.  One thing is for sure, the practice is not going to end any time soon, so get used to it.  

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.  For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763.


Leadership Barometer 152 Leaders Create Culture

June 29, 2022

In any organization, leaders create the culture. Apathetic people exist in every organization.  One can fault workers who trap themselves in a state of despair.  Managers typically describe these people as having “bad attitudes.” The culture created by leaders is often the root cause of the problem.

Place these individuals in a culture of trust, respect, and challenge. You will see many of them quickly rise up to become happy and productive workers. It is essential that each individual in the workforce find real meaning in the organizational culture. Culture is determined by numerous actions and concepts, but it starts with the values and vision of the leader.

The culture of an organization is not easy to define.  Most of the leadership textbooks I have read describe the culture in terms of physical attributes that characterize an organization. For example, here is a typical list of the things purported to make up a company culture.

  • Physical structure
  • Language and symbols
  • Rituals, ceremonies, gossip, and jokes
  • Stories, legends, and heroes
  • Beliefs
  • Values and norms
  • Assumptions

The above list is a montage of the lists in many textbooks. When you think about it, these items do go a long way toward defining the culture of an organization. Unfortunately, I believe these items fall short because they fail to include the emotions of the people. After all, organizations are made up of people, at all levels, interacting in a social structure for a purpose.  Let us extend the list of things that make up the culture of an organization.

  • Is there a high level of trust within the organization?
  • To what extent do people have the opportunity to grow in this organization?
  • Do people feel safe and secure, or are they basically fearful?
  • Is the company financially stable?
  • How do people treat each other on their own level and on higher or lower levels?
  • Is there mutual respect between management and workers?
  • Is the culture inclusive or exclusive?
  • Do people generally feel like winners or losers at work?
  • Is the culture one of reinforcement or punishment?
  • Are managers viewed as enablers or barriers?
  • Are people trying to get into the organization or trying to get out?
  • What is the level of satisfaction for people in this organization?
  • Can people “speak their truth” without fear of reprisal?
  • Do people follow the rules or find ways to avoid following them?
  • Do people receive a living wage?

How can leaders build the right culture where people have a sense of purpose and meaning in their work?  Here are eight approaches that are used by successful leaders.

  1. Have high ethical and moral standards. Operate from a set of values, and make sure people know why those values are important.
  2. Operate with high Emotional Intelligence. The ability to work well with people is critical.
  3. Build trust. Trust is the glue that holds people together in a framework of positive purpose. Without trust, we are just playing games with each other, hoping to get through the day unscathed.
  4. Create a positive vision of the future. Vision is critical because without it people see no sense of direction for their work. Create a common goal that is exciting.
  5. Lead change well. Change processes are in play in every organization daily, yet most leaders struggle with change processes.
  6. Build High Performing Teams. Enhance a sense of purpose where there is a kind of peer cohesion brought on by good teamwork.
  7. Build morale the right way. Motivation is derived by treating people with respect and giving them a clear vision and autonomy. Avoid trying to motivate people by adding hygiene factors, like picnics, bonuses, or hat days.
  8. Reinforce good behaviors.

Most of the above concepts sound like common sense; unfortunately, they are not common practice in many groups. This void contributes to much of the apathy in organizations. To have people rise to their level of potential, you need a strong culture. To accomplish that, focus on the above concepts, and see a remarkable transformation in your organization. Become a student of these skills, and teach them to other leaders. Learn how to personify the concepts listed above to rise to the level of great leadership.

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 47 Other People’s Pain

June 27, 2022

Empathy is critical if we want to help other people who are experiencing pain.  There ought to be a course somewhere in the education system on EMP-101.  This article brings up some cautions about how we express our empathy when people are in crisis.

You will hear the phrase “I know how you feel” perhaps thousands of times in your lifetime. The truth is that other people can never fully feel your pain.  They may be able to approximate it based on their own experiences. They may be able to deduce how you feel by extrapolating the situation and how you look or sound. They can never fully experience what you are going through.

Far better to say something like, “I am sorry you are going through this. Is there any way I can help?” You cannot put yourself fully in the other person’s shoes. Why utter banal phrases that make it seem like you can? 

I will direct this article mostly to a term called “Professional Hurt.” I learned the term from Dr. Ruby Brown from Jamaica, who coined the phrase. I met Ruby while speaking at the Caribbean Leadership Program in Trinidad. She wrote her dissertation on the topic of Professional Hurt.  It is when a person in a professional setting is abused somehow by managers or circumstances beyond control.

Professional Hurt also occurs when a person gets demoted or fired. It may be the result of being passed over for a promotion or being marginalized in some way. 

When someone else is hurting, spend more time listening to the person.  Avoid the temptation to say, “Oh that is just like how I felt last year when they withheld a promised raise.”  That is not going to make the other person feel any better.  Listening to stories of people who are worse off or have had the same problem does not relieve the person’s pain today. Rather, ask thoughtful questions if the person wants to talk. Just be present if the person is in shock or unable to verbalize the pain. 

Body language is particularly important when dealing with another person who is in a crisis. You can show that you care more with your facial expression than you can with a constant stream of babble. Just listening and nodding may be the best thing you can do for the other person at that moment. 

Logic is not a good approach. You may be tempted to cheer the person up by saying, “These things don’t last forever; you’ll be feeling better soon.”  That kind of approach often backfires. It can belittle the person who is suffering to imply that time alone will heal things. 

Try to avoid hackneyed expressions that are commonly used in the working world. If your friend has just been fired, don’t tell him, “Whenever one door is closed, another will open.”  Do not try to cheer him up with “Nobody likes working for that jerk anyway.” Shut your trap and take your cues from the person who is hurting. 

Let your presence and body language do the talking for you.  If it seems the other person needs input, try “you’re strong enough to overcome this.” Another phrase is “what would you like to happen now,” but the laconic approach is usually superior.

Do not recount how your neighbor had the same situation and ended up with a big promotion.  All those kinds of phrases may make you feel like you are helping. In reality, little real comfort is coming through the overused phrases or comparisons.

Above all, recognize that you do not know how the other person is feeling and the best thing you can do is admit that. Show your love and feeling by avoiding the typical mistakes made by well-intended people.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, 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 77 Leading Older People

June 24, 2022

Regardless of how you got to your management position, eventually, you will find yourself managing people older than you. I met one manager last week who is the youngest person in her department. That situation is pretty common these days. It is a scary one for many leaders, especially those who are not well seasoned. 

Here are ten tips to be successful at gaining the necessary trust to lead senior people effectively.

  1. The first few hours matter most

The first few hours or minutes are incredibly important. That is when you plant the seeds of confidence or doubt in your abilities.  Be authentic and do not play head games with people. Show immediate interest in and respect for the people who will be working for you. Get to know them personally as quickly as you can.  Every small gesture of interest in them and their thoughts will transform into credibility for you.

  1. Be observant before you try to change things

Many young leaders figure they need to impress people with their power or brilliance to get respect.  That approach usually backfires. Before seeking to influence the future, appreciate how things were done in the past. Do not spout out theories you learned in school in an attempt to snow people into respecting your knowledge.

  1. Ask questions

Many new leaders make a lot of statements and expect the workers to listen or take notes.  Instead, ask a lot of questions. The best approach is not knowing the right answers; it is knowing the right questions and using them wisely. 

  1. Put the age issue out to pasture quickly

People really do not care if their leader is older or younger than them. What they want is competence, compassion, and integrity.  Show those three things and respect people for their knowledge. They will quickly forget that you are 20-30 years younger than they are.

  1. Be genuine

Head games are for losers.  Be genuine and real.  Try to figure out what matters and pay attention to those things.  Do not make the mistake of trying to be popular all the time, but also don’t be a jerk.  Think about the behaviors that you respect in a leader and emulate those.  Respect people older than you for the experiences they have lived through, and listen to their stories with interest.  Avoid doing a “one-up” on an experience that one of your reports conveys to you.

  1. Begin to work on the culture

It is the culture of the work group that governs the quality of work-life most of all. Work to figure out what is already working well and support that.  Where things need improvement, ask for advice about what people think would work.  You do not need to do everything suggested, but you need to let people have a voice.

Work to build higher trust by making it safe for people to tell you what they really feel. In most areas that have morale problems, it is because people are afraid or feel disrespected.  Be approachable and be willing to listen deeply to the opinions of others.  Make up your own mind what to do, but only after you have internalized and considered the ideas of others.

  1. Be sincere, but not overly lavish, with your praise

People can smell a phony a mile away. They will have no respect if you just try to butter them up in an effort to gain control.  Make sure that 100% of your reinforcement comes from your heart. People will know by the look in your eyes if you mean it or you are just saying it.  Mean it!

  1. Create a positive culture of motivation

Motivation comes from within a person. If you try to manipulate the situation by providing perks to motivate the workers, you will fail. “Motivate” is not something you can do to another person; rather it is something a person does alone. Work to create the kind of environment where the workers decide this is a better place to work than before. They will motivate themselves in short order. 

  1. Be humble

People do not warm up to a braggart. Trying to impress them with your Harvard MBA will set you back in terms of your ability to lead.  People relate to someone who is genuine and willing to learn from them.  That attitude is far more effective than trying to win them over with your own prestigious background.

  1. Care

There is a saying that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That is really the secret to effective leadership of people who are older than you.

Conclusion

Once you have built confidence in yourself as a leader, the issue of age goes away quickly. You have overcome a stumbling block that trips many bright young leaders.  I grant that it is possible to muscle in and force compliance with an older population. The problem is that compliance is another word for mediocrity.  What you need from people is brilliant engagement. That is what you will get if you follow the ten tips above.

 

 

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.  For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763.

 


Leadership Barometer 151 Self Assessments

June 21, 2022

When I get involved with the topic of Emotional Intelligence it usually begins with a self-assessment. I have done this many times, and I always have a strange feeling while doing it for several reasons.

Reasons for feeling strange

  1. What I am really doing is reacting to a bunch of questions created by researchers. They ask me to respond to a set of standard scenarios with some kind of “typical reaction for me.”  The problem is that these scenarios are never set up the exact way I have been exposed to them.  I am simply guessing what I would do. I have no idea, and my reactions would be highly situation dependent.
  2. Daniel Goleman pointed out that people who have low Emotional Intelligence often have the most significant blind spots. The phenomenon we are attempting to assess has a significant component that varies with the level we are trying to measure. I may believe my Emotional Intelligence is generally high, but others may not see it. There is a kind of Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle involved here. The simple act of trying to measure the situation actually impacts the phenomenon we are trying to measure.
  3. Emotional Intelligence has to do with how I react to stimuli. Do I have the skill of considering my response from the left side of my brain before I react? I am not a good judge of how efficient my neural responses really are. My responses are automatic and often I do not consciously control them.
  4. There is a fair amount of gaming involved in the assessment. I believe I know how a person should react under a certain set of conditions. I may be tempted to answer based on what I think the “right” answer is.

Problems with other assessments

I have the same problem with taking personality tests like the DiSC Assessment or the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. What these evaluations measure is how I perceive my own preferences as opposed to objectively how I show up in the world. There may be a gap between these two sets of information. The gap may be wide, particularly if my own behaviors are inconsistent.  

Paired comparisons 

The personality indicators do have an advantage because they simply ask me to choose which I prefer given a paired comparison.  That is easier to do than to try to predict how I will react emotionally to a stimulus.

On the flip side, I know what is going on within myself better than other people do. They can only infer by my behaviors how I am reacting to various things. 

I shouldn’t try to pinpoint my EI skills without a full understanding of how I translate the external stimuli into behaviors. There are obvious clues, but there is a big missing piece: whether I believe my actions are justified

An example 

There was a critical moment near the end of a basketball game between Syracuse and Duke. The referee made a call that the Syracuse coach, Jim Boeheim, called “the worst call of the season.”  The score was 58-60 in favor of Duke with only 10 seconds left in the ballgame. A basket by Syracuse player C.J. Fair was waived-off for what the referee called a charging violation.

Boeheim obviously did not agree with the call. He totally lost his wits and charged the ref yelling over and over that the call was “Bullsh*#”. He stuck his finger right between the eyes of the ref.  video clip of the call and Boeheim’s reaction to it.

As a seasoned coach, Jim was well aware of the consequences of his actions before he did them. SU got a technical foul, and Boeheim was ejected from the game. Duke went on to win the game easily.

Even though Boeheim knew the consequences, he was unable to control his rage and reacted in a way that was not at all helpful to his objectives. That shows low EI, right? Not so fast.

Hijack behavior

This is a prime example of “hijack behavior,” where the emotional reaction simply overpowers the ability to perform logic.  Does this mean Boeheim has low Emotional Intelligence?  I think not, and if you had him do a self-evaluation of his EI, he would probably score pretty high. In that instance, in front of thousands of witnesses, he displayed amazingly low EI. Reason: In his mind the reaction was justified. That was based on the importance of the game, the nature of the call, and all of the other emotions within him.

If his reaction was not justified to him, he would not have done it. If there was a better course of action, he would have done that. Instead, he threw away any chance to win and looked like a raving idiot to thousands of fans.

Problematic practice 

My point is that doing self-evaluations on psychological topics is problematic. It may be helpful for some kinds of insight, but the accuracy of the result may be suspect for the reasons given above.

If you would say “I am an ENFP,” you would be stretching the point.  Rather you should say, “according to my opinion of myself at the moment, my best MBTI match is ENFP.” That is a far more accurate statement than the first one.  

Conclusion

I say, “I measure high in Emotional Intelligence.” If that assessment was done by me, we should discount the statement.  A far more accurate phrase might be, “I did the survey and it showed me to be high in Emotional Intelligence. I need to beware that I am not blind to the reality of the situation.”

Do not misunderstand; I believe there is good value and insight in doing a self Emotional Intelligence Survey. I just caution that the accuracy of the information may be questionable. Take the test and learn what you can, then observe your own behaviors based on what you have learned.

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.  For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763.

 

 


Reducing Conflict 46 Perception Problems

June 19, 2022

This article is about perception problems in everyday life.  No two people will see a phenomenon the same way. As our fingerprints are all unique, so is our perception of what is going on around us.

Hold up a Quarter

To demonstrate perception, I can hold a quarter out in front of me while I am facing you. I will describe a round metal object with an embossed head on it.  You will describe a round metal object with an embossed picture of an eagle sitting on a branch.  We are both describing the exact same object, yet we see it differently.

The phenomenon is generally true

The same phenomenon happens when two people see any kind of situation at work or at home. They see the same thing, but it has a different appearance depending on their personal vantage point.

This difference means they will draw different conclusions about what just happened and the significance of it.  Taking the next step requires each individual to react to the stimulus in an appropriate way.  Each person is free to react however he or she feels is appropriate for the situation.  This is true even if both people perceived exactly the same thing. What would seem appropriate to one person might be the wrong thing to do for the other. All this discrepancy leads to squabbles about actions taken.

Example of an attendance problem

For example, let’s suppose a manager is discussing an employee with a severe attendance problem with her supervisor. The manager and supervisor may have different opinions about the problem itself. Perhaps the supervisor knows the lady has a child who has special needs. This situation calls for many trips to the child’s doctor. The supervisor wants to be lenient based on this knowledge.

From the manager’s perception, this employee needs to have the same set of rules as everyone else. Special treatment will lead to poor discipline in the unit. The manager sees an untenable situation that needs progressive counseling, while the supervisor sees the need for flexibility.

Differences of opinion create a great deal of conflict in any workplace.  From my perspective, I will be pretty sure my way is right.  The trouble is that another person will be just as sure his perception and remedy are right. 

The opposite of right is wrong

If I know that I am right, and you see things differently, then by definition, you must be wrong.  In most instances, my reaction to this dichotomy is to try to educate you on why your perception is incorrect.  You will try to get me to realize the error of my thinking.  We are off to the races in conflict.

This genesis of conflict is going on in small and large ways each and every day. Is it any wonder there is so much acrimony in the workplace and at home?  This problem is ubiquitous. What are some antidotes so we can reduce the conflicts between people?

  1. Seek to understand assumptions – What is behind the perception?
  2. Try reversing the roles – Force yourself to see a different perspective.
  3. Use Reflective Listening – Make sure you are hearing the other person.
  4. Watch the language – Ask more questions and avoid edgy statements.
  5. Agree to Disagree – You can still be friends.
  6. Don’t blow things out of proportion – Keep differences small.
  7. Get a good mediator – A third person can be helpful.
  8. Give in – Letting the other person win is often a great strategy.
  9. Discuss calmly – A calm rational discussion can often clear up the difference.
  10. Show love – Keeping things positive helps a lot.

Humans have a remarkable ability to drive each other crazy. This tendency is worse when people are in close proximity. It is the reason why you can appreciate and love members of your family until they come to visit for a week.  At a distance, it is easy to manage disagreements most of the time. When people are underfoot every day, the little things tend to become so irritating, that the conflict begins to snowball.

We all see things through a slightly different lens. We process assumptions about what is happening through our parochial brain. Conflict is going to happen. Take some of the evasive steps like the ones above to keep the volume down on interpersonal differences.  Life is too short to be habitually annoyed by fellow workers or family members. 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, 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 76 Trust But Verify

June 17, 2022

The phrase “Trust but verify” was made famous by Ronald Reagan. He used it in December 1987 after the signing of the INF Treaty with Mikhail Gorbachev. The Russian leader quipped, “You repeat that at every meeting,” to which Reagan replied, “I like it.” The origin of the phrase is actually from a Russian proverb, “doveryai no proveryai” (Trust but verify ). 

Last year, I read the notion by one trust expert, “If you have to verify, it isn’t trust.”  I got into a similar discussion last week with a local friend. I wanted to give my opinion on the matter because the conundrum is interesting.

The phrase is an oxymoron

The concept of “trust but verify” being an oxymoron makes sense because the word “but” is often an eraser word.  When used in a comparative context, the conjunction “but” renders whatever comes before it as moot. If I say, “I liked your book, but it was too long,” what is the meaning? Normally what you interpret is that I did not like the book.

Don’t apply blind trust

The need to verify implies that complete trust in the other party is lacking.  I am troubled by that because it implies that in order to be real trust, it must be blind. The concept of blind trust is covered in Smart Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey. He says that blind trust is not the best strategy to employ in a low-trust world. Sure, we can point to exceptions, and yet the general rule is wise. Try asking the former clients of Bernie Madoff. Most of them would have achieved a better result if they had verified.

“Though we’ve become very good at recognizing the cost of trusting too much, we’re not nearly as good at recognizing the cost of not trusting enough.”  Stephen M.R. Covey.

The point is that when we extend more trust to others, we will normally receive more trust in return. I call that “The first law of trust.”

A Better phrase to use

Consider changing the phrase from “Trust but verify” to “Trust and confirm.” That might make the phrase less of a dichotomy and make it more operational.  The reason we must confirm is that there is a finite chance that the person did not understand.

When we confirm that our expectations were met, we reduce the chance of being disappointed in the result. The reason I like the second phrase better is that the more inclusive conjunction “and” replaces the exclusive conjunction “but.” 

The confirmation process is the due diligence that recognizes the fact that activities do not happen in a vacuum. We often act as the agents for others as we trust someone to perform a task.  Confirming that things are correct is just being prudent and being true to the trust others have in us. If people know we are responsible by confirmation, they will be more likely to perform to a high standard.

“Trust and confirm” does not sound like an oxymoron to me. The concept of “trust and confirm” leaves the concept of trust more intact than “trust but verify.”  It is not just a matter of semantics.

Conclusion

The words we choose make a difference in how people interpret meaning. You will have a better result if you avoid using the phrase “trust but verify.” By using “trust and confirm” you will send an unambiguous message that avoids blind trust.

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.  For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763.


Leadership Barometer 150 Scope Creep

June 15, 2022

One of the most insidious problems in any kind of project work is scope creep. Scope creep occurs when the deliverables of a project change while it is underway. The impact of scope creep is often a dissatisfied customer or a loss of profit for the vendor. Either way, the situation has caused the result to be less satisfying than expected.

How scope creep happens 

It is very easy to understand how scope creep happens. Nobody can anticipate every minute detail of a project before doing the work. There are always going to be surprises that come up along the way. Here are some examples of surprises:

  • unexpected delays,
  • schemes that did not work as expected,
  • resources being unavailable,
  • new features requested by the customer,
  • material shortages requiring workarounds.

These kinds of problems are common on most projects.

Recognize the changes 

There is no 100% guarantee that any project is going to completion without some change in scope. The trick to managing scope creep effectively is to recognize when a change occurs. It is very easy to accommodate small or subtle changes in the specification for the project. The sum of many small changes can mean a huge difference in the success of the project.

Make sure to discuss all changes to the specification openly. That transparency will protect you at least partially. It will notify the customer of a change from the original design. You can then renegotiate the price or the delivery time in order to accommodate the change in scope. 

How the customer reacts

If you are the customer, recognize that the vendor was not able to envision all of the things that might happen. In reality, changes in scope will be happening for both the vendor and the customer on every project.  Life happens, and both parties are going to have to roll with the vicissitudes they are facing daily.

12 tips that can help reduce the stress of scope creep: 

  1. Ensure there is enough communication with the customer when creating the specifications.
  2. Do not start a project with preconceived notions of what the customer really wants.
  3. Have detailed and specific specifications. Any vague deliverables are going to be areas of contention down the road.
  4. Factor in the potential for scope creep by building contingencies or safety factors into the bidding process.
  5. Keep a ledger of requested changes on both sides. It is not necessary to renegotiate the entire deal for each change. It is important to have all changes documented.
  6. Plan the job in phases with sign-off gates at specific milestones. A scope change can be confined to one phase of the project and not infect the entire effort.
  7. Look for win-win solutions to problems. Often a creative solution is available that will delight both the vendor and the customer.
  8. Avoid rigidity about the job. Make sure the entire project is constantly moving in the direction of a successful conclusion. If things get significantly off the track, call for a meeting to clarify the issues and brainstorm solutions together.
  9. Keep the customer well informed about the progress of the project.
  10. Express gratitude when the other party is willing to make a concession. Goodwill is important in every project because life is a series of projects. A poor reputation can severely hamper future income.
  11. Have a formal closing to the project where each party expresses gratitude for a job well done. If there were any specific lessons learned during this job, document them. Both parties can benefit from these lessons in the future.
  12. Plan an appropriate celebration at the end of a challenging project to let people feel good about what they have done and reduce the pressure.

Conclusion

The best defense for stress caused by scope creep is to bring all changes out in the open. Changes can occur on either side of the equation. Make the impact on the total delivery visible. The key objective is to avoid disappointing surprises that result from a lack of communication between various stakeholders throughout the process.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, 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 45 Adopt Problem People

June 12, 2022

Managing problem people is an art that can be very complicated and frustrating. Most managers recognize that they are spending an inordinate amount of time with a few problem employees. The Pareto principle applies in this instance: usually, 20% of the people will require 80% of a manager’s attention.

Problem people are a distraction

When you have problem people on the team it is a great distraction. It prevents you from spending time on the strategy or on reinforcing people who are doing good work. I found a technique that helped me convert some of the more difficult workers into superstars.

Adopt the difficult cases

The idea is to select one or two of the most difficult cases and “adopt” them. Don’t tell them you are doing this; just start operating in a different way. The first thing to do is decide which of the problem people are worth saving. You will not be successful at saving them all, but by using this technique you can convert around 50% of the difficult cases. That progress can be a huge benefit to your effectiveness.

Real example

Ruth was a caustic employee in one of the departments reporting to me. She once told her manager, “You’ve got no right to be in business.”  Ruth was an informal leader of the people on her shift because she was witty and quick.  People listened to her, which was bad news for the manager because she was spreading negativity. I saw great potential in Ruth if she could change her attitude.  I genuinely liked her despite the rough exterior and acid tongue. She had strengths, but there were too many rough edges.

I started getting to know Ruth a lot better. I found out about her unique set of needs and opinions. After a while, I started to understand what made her tick. I made it a point to drop into the break room almost daily before the start of her shift. I would sit with her group and just listen.  At first, it was awkward, but they tolerated me and soon they actually welcomed me to their table.

The root cause of the problem

It turns out that the reason Ruth was acting out was severe racial abuse by her prior manager. The scars left her skeptical of all people in management.

I started improving the relationship with Ruth by asking her opinion. I encouraged her manager to listen openly to her ideas. Look for the insight they might provide instead of rejecting anything that came out of her mouth. Ruth started to turn and soften the rhetoric because she felt more respected.

Recognizing the opportunity

We were now in a position to take the next step. We asked Ruth to head up a planning group for a new packaging line.  Her natural leadership showed in this effort. She was able to quickly get the cooperation of the operators and maintenance people. The job turned out to be a big success. We brought in top management and let Ruth tell how the job finished early and under budget.  Top managers were impressed and said so. 

Building on success

Having a success to build on, we took a further risk and appointed Ruth to a supervisory position.  We also sent her for some excellent leadership training. She was excited to see these moves because there was real upward momentum in her career. It was something she never dreamed would happen. She was making more money and having greater influence in the business.  At the same time, the negativity was melting away.  Gone was the caustic sarcasm that was her trademark for years before. She was a strong advocate for the management side of contemplated actions.

Ruth ended up retiring as a very successful supervisor. If she had stayed on, I was considering making her a department manager, she was that strong and effective. The best part is that she felt better about herself and what she had accomplished in her career.

Conclusion

Recognize that you cannot save all individuals who are problem employees. You can, however, change some of them. They can go from a drain or negative influence on the environment to a very positive, even stellar, performer. Imagine the power of taking people who are a drag on performance and making them into your superstars. That is well worth the effort.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, 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 75 Team Behaviors

June 10, 2022

Each group of leaders should establish a list of team behaviors they intend to follow as a group. Vaporware and wishy-washy concepts are inadequate. They make it impossible for the team to hold each other accountable for abiding by the rules. 

Avoid a long shopping list of 20-30 rules because it becomes too complicated to remember them all.  I think 5-7 behavioral rules work well for a management team. One rule I wish every group would adopt is the “Keep it real” rule.

Keeping it Real

The idea is that we are all on the same team here. We are not here to play games with each other. Trying to impress the other team members is a common tactic of low-performing management groups.  Disruptive team members bring down the effectiveness of the entire group by orders of magnitude. I have seen it happen numerous times.

Example of a Team Behavior

If a team adopts a “Keep it real” rule, then stick to it. One technique is to have a signal to be used when someone forgets to follow the rule.  Perhaps it might be a raised index finger or some other recognizable sign that the team has agreed to. The team needs to agree there will be no negative repercussions for anyone giving the sign. This is especially important when it is the boss who is causing the problem.

Having a pre-selected safe signal allows the whole team to police the behaviors. That permission quickly extinguishes the wrong behavior. 

 Example of Team Behavior in Action

I was once with a team that was world-class at making jokes at the expense of each other. The jokes were digs intended to be in jest and were taken that way on the surface. Unfortunately, there was damage done under the surface when people picked on each other. 

They invented a signal to use when someone made a joke at the expense of another person. This was the third item on their list of rules. They elected to use three extended fingers to indicate someone had violated the rule.

Result of the Policy

The results were simply amazing. In less than an hour, the behavior that was ingrained in the team’s makeup was totally extinguished. It only took a couple of times of one member giving the sign to another for people to catch on.

The results in this group were transformational. The little barbs stopped, and from that point on, the tone of the group was much more supportive. They still had fun and made jokes; they just did not do it at the expense of others.

Conclusion

Take the time with your team to invent some behavioral rules. Also, invent some kind of signal to give if people ignore the rules. You will find that it can make a big difference in the culture of the entire team.

 

 

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.