Talent Development 34 Encourage Dialog

April 19, 2021

Section 3.3 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Organization and Culture. Skill Statement D has “Skill in creating a culture which encourages and/or creates opportunities for dialog and feedback between individuals and groups, for example designing collaborative work practices and/or spaces, and role modeling effective feedback techniques.”

This article will highlight some techniques that can lead to excellent dialog in organizations and allow the free flow of information. Recognize that communication methods and patterns are significantly different in the post COVID-19 world, so new challenges and opportunities will unfold for some time.

Clarify Your Intentions

The first order of business is to ensure all groups are aligned behind a solid Strategy with Common Values and Expected Behaviors. It is vital for there to be a common understanding of how people will interact and be respectful of each other. Leaders need to create a culture of support in which all people feel included.

When these critical components are missing or weak, it allows silos of power to emerge. These silos work against open communication and create inter-organizational stress and loss of trust.

Look at the Physical Plant

Often organizations with conventional cubicle or office structures suffer from poor communication that is encouraged by the layout. Consider open architecture where people can see each other and interface easily. Many organizations are moving toward these open environments, but there are downsides. It is harder to focus in an open environment, and some people experience a lack of privacy.

In a hybrid world, where some people are working remotely, it is necessary to increase communication so that people do not become disconnected from the flow of information.

It is particularly important that everyone receives the same information so that you do not foster an environment of “haves” and “have-nots.” People working from home have the additional burden of being required to focus on work issues while there may be chaos even within the same room.

Trying to focus on the flood of emails is equally daunting. Get creative with ways to keep things going without having distractions at home. Sometimes additional help is useful.

Build a Culture of Trust

The concept of trust is extremely powerful in terms of having people work well together. I believe the most important aspect of building trust between people and groups is to ensure psychological safety, where people know they will not be punished for voicing their opinions.

In some cultures, people feel stifled and not able to share their opinions without negative consequences. The thrust to improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in most organizations is one way to help all people feel invited to share their thoughts, yet in these same cultures people can still feel stifled.

Work to build respect and a fondness between people that will enhance the trust and move quickly to repair any damaged trust regardless of the source.

Try for a Variety of Work Experiences

When people feel locked into a single working configuration over extended periods of time, they become calcified and rigid. Work to liven up the culture where the work flow has some spice and fluidity. This practice not only lowers the tendency for boredom, it also lowers the potential for cliques or silos to emerge.

Take the time to have some fun along the way; it really helps the culture blossom.

Recognize People and Teams doing Good Work

Recognition goes a long way toward creating an open culture. The only caveat here is to be sure the reinforcement is proportional to the effort and results. If one group feels slighted by lack of recognition, it can do a lot of damage quickly.

Rotate People

One organization I have read about has people work in pairs, and they rotate the pairs often to keep people from becoming overly associated with a specific other person. I think the practice is smart, but you would need to experiment with the group size and rotation pattern to ensure it is working as expected.

One caveat is to ensure people have the skill set for the work they currently are asked to do. There also could be a downside, as some people would be forced to work with some others who they dislike or who have annoying habits.

These are just a few of the methods you can try to keep things fresh and lively at work. The most important aspect is to always move toward higher trust within the group.

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, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.


Building Higher Trust 17 Table stakes

April 16, 2021

Table StakesMy model for building Trust starts out with a group of leadership behaviors that I call “Table Stakes.” The name comes from the gambling industry. When you play poker in Las Vegas, you do not get dealt a hand unless you have the “ante” in the pot.

I believe the same kind of thing happens when leaders attempt to build trust. There is a set of behaviors that a leader must practice without fail or there is simply no chance to build trust. They are not even in the game. These behaviors I call “Table Stakes.”

Let’s look at some of the table stakes. Recognize this is only a partial list and that for different industries or different circumstances the table stakes may vary somewhat.

Be Open

A leader must believe in and practice behaviors of open communications. This does not mean absolute transparency, since there are situations where transparency is illegal, immoral, unkind, or just plain dumb. A general tendency to share what is possible to share and not withhold information is required to build trust.

Be Honest

People need to believe in what a leader says to earn their trust. This is why so few politicians garner high trust. Some politicians manufacture “facts” to suit their current purpose. We have become so used to our leaders lying to us, often in the face of ironclad proof, that the collective trust in these leaders is nonexistent.

Without integrity, a leader has no chance to create or maintain trust.

Be Ethical

If a leader does underhanded things to get out of tough spots, then trust will quickly be extinguished. Most people have a good nose to smell out unethical behavior. Once a leader is proven to have done something unethical, it is impossible to generate trust. The leader is locked out of the game for a very long time.

Honor Commitments

This is to simply not be duplicitous. Leaders who “talk the talk” but don’t “walk the walk” are simply shut out of the trust quest.

Communicate
Some leaders pretend to communicate but really fail to keep their people in the know. They may make a lot of noise or talk a lot, but real communication means getting messages into the hearts of people. Communication is not a head game; it is a gut game.

Be Consistent

Leaders who are unpredictable and inconsistent have little chance to build high trust. People believe these leaders are just playing games with them. They be amused or frightened at times, but real trust will be lacking.

These are just six examples of leader behavior that constitute the table stakes required to build trust. In the next article I will share the second category of behaviors which I call “Enabling Actions.”

Bonus video

Here is a brief video about Trust and Table Stakes


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations



Leadership Barometer 88 Read Body Language

April 14, 2021

There are hundreds of assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly. You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership.

There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

 Read Body Language

Body language is extremely important when communicating with others and reading their emotions. This skill is critical for leaders to master. There is a ton of data on body language, and I have been studying the topic since 1977.  I still have much to learn.  The purpose of this article is to highlight some key ideas about body language in the hope that it will stimulate you to read more about it. 

Last year I wrote 100 blog articles on this topic.  Here is a list of the articles on Body Language. The list also has links to each individual article in case a particular title catches your interest.

Body Language is Ubiquitous

All people show body language in hundreds of ways all day long.  We reveal our emotions in ways we do not even realize ourselves.  For example, the dilation of your pupils has a wealth of information about your mental state, yet without a mirror, you have no way of knowing how dilated your pupils are.

In fact, most body language we display is subconscious, yet it is in plain sight for other people to see at all times. Reading the various signals accurately is a skill that is extremely helpful in all types of interfaces, especially for leaders. 

Body Language is More Powerful Than Your Words

Albert Mehrabian did a series of measurements over 50 years ago indicating that only 7% of the meaning we get in face-to-face conversation with another individual comes from our words. The remaining 93% of meaning comes from  tone of voice and body language. Mehrabian’s research focused on people who were speaking about their feelings or emotions.

When the words and body language do not agree, we always interpret meaning consistent with the body language rather than the words we use.

Body Language is Culture Specific

It is a mistake to rely heavily on body language cues when dealing with a person from a different culture.  Each culture has its own set of signals, and sometimes they are actually opposite. You need to be very careful when working in a mixed culture atmosphere that you are getting an accurate read of another person’s emotions. For example, if you are Inuit, shaking your head from side-to-side means “yes” and nodding it up and down means “no.” There are some good reference books that are helpful on this topic. One of my favorites is “How to Read a Person Like a Book,” by Gerard Nierenberg.

Look for a Cluster of Signals

One specific bit of body language is not enough to decode the meaning accurately.  It may be an indication, but to get a firm reading on the emotion, you need to see more than two synergistic signals indicating the same emotion. If you pick up a signal, check it out carefully before ascribing specific meaning.  

Avoid sending mixed signals.  When body language is incongruent, it confuses and often annoys people.  Trying to force a particular expression is dangerous because some of your natural signals will be fighting the opposing signals. For example, if you try to look happy when you really are not, it will show in many detectable ways.  Sending mixed signals also works against trust. Try to never put on a specific body language pose.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585-392-7763.


Talent Development 33 Identify Relationships

April 12, 2021
Organization Chart

Section 3.3 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Organization and Culture. Skill Statement C has “Skill in identifying formal and informal relationships and hierarchies and power dynamics in an organization.”  

The Formal Structure

The formal power structure in most organizations is easy to identify. Simply start with the organization chart, and pay attention to any dotted line relationships that are identified.  A dotted line indicates an influence but not a direct reporting relationship.

It is important to recognize that any organization chart represents a point in time.  The actual organization is always in a state of flux, whereby some people are in the process of moving up the organization while others may be leaving or even moving down.  The issue of succession planning needs to be handled with great care, because it not only defines the future state of the organization but impacts the morale of people currently working in it.

It is common to have the issue of impending succession be the root cause of all kinds of political infighting within an organization. Most people perform today’s tasks with one eye on their future potential and the other eye on what other people might be planning.

The power will be distributed in a way that reflects the solid line relationships between managers and subordinates, but there is a caveat.

The chart will tell you who reports to whom and what the basic structure looks like. Some organizations have very loose or vague organization charts, and there are some groups that prefer to have no chart at all.  For these situations, you need to identify the informal relationships and power dynamics. You need to stay alert for the signals of people operating in ways that are not consistent with the formal organization.

Modifications for a Virtual or Hybrid Situation

When some or all of the people are working remotely, the formal structure is still in place, but the inter-office dynamics can be very different from the conventional patterns. In a virtual world, interfaces are usually planned in advance without the opportunity for chance encounters that are so important for interpersonal dialog. Meetings usually involve groups of people, so individual coaching is less prevalent than in a conventional office environment. Supervisors should be encouraged to have frequent one-on-one time with each of their direct reports.

Informal Power Structures

In parallel to the official formal structure is a kind of web of influence that permeates every organization.  These paths of authority often go around the official or intended layout and frequently operate in a clandestine manner.

The best way to describe the informal paths of influence is to give some examples. This is not a complete list, but is a series of things that might come up in a typical arrangement.

Outside influence

You might find a situation where Mary is reporting to Alice directly, yet she is being given “advice” from another manager who is at Alice’s level or above.  Alice may or may not be aware of this parallel path, and it may lead to significant friction at times when Mary does not do the bidding of her official supervisor.

Friendships

Often, people who are fond of each other will seek to influence decisions about placements or decisions based on history rather than potential. The basis of politics is that people do things for people they like.  You need to keep alert to this type of potential disruption.

Nepotism

Family ties can be the basis for power struggles in any organization. An employee may have a relative who is in a position to influence him or her outside the normal chain of command.  This pattern often becomes a stumbling block when succession planning is happening.  Sometimes the illogical advance of a relative usurps the normal progression of functions and upsets people or causes loss of motivation.

Favoritism

Favoritism is similar to nepotism. It occurs when one person singles out a specific person for special attention.  The perception of favoritism usually leads to a loss of trust within an organization.  When trust is lost, people do all kinds of crazy things to hang onto power. It can get very messy.

Diversity

The stated goals of an organization may include Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.  Unfortunately, in many organizations, managers prefer to advance people who look and think like they do. The perception is that people who think and act differently will upset the normal chain of command and cause decision making to be more cumbersome. 

This habit is a dangerous one because it works against diversity, which is a highly effective means to keep “groupthink” in check.  Having people with differing points of view is a significant advantage in any organization because it leads to more robust solutions.  It is sad that many organizations find themselves operating with a “monoculture” when it comes to specific functions.

There is a delicate balance here.  You want to achieve a state where diverse opinions are heard and respected, but you also want to avoid having disruptive conversations that cause people to become polarized. The key defense here is to keep working on a culture of high trust where all voices are included and mutual respect is the expectation.

The Antidote

When assessing the relationships and power structure of a group, it is important to be highly vigilant and constantly look for potential abuses.  Try to build a culture of high trust where diversity is valued and succession is an open discussion. Shut down the back channels of influence and be as transparent as possible with all decisions regarding the placement of people.

Be willing to confront abuses directly and expose people who abuse power for their own advancement. Check your own choices and make sure you are doing succession decisions with the highest level of integrity and always with an eye toward Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

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, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Building Higher Trust 16 Engagement

April 9, 2021

The level of engagement of workers in the operation has a lot to with their productivity.

There have been several studies indicating that workers with very high engagement are at least two times more productive that workers who are not engaged.

The Gallup Organization has a study each year that attempts to measure the percentage of workers in the average organization that are fully engaged in the work.

Their research fluctuates a bit from year to year, but the estimate is normally about 30% of the workforce are engaged.

Those two factors taken together point to a huge opportunity to improve productivity in the average organization.

By changing the way people are led so that the engagement is over 50%, the productivity improvement would be astronomical.

That opportunity becomes a significant area of challenge for leaders, because the level of worker engagement is very much in their control.

Lower Fear and Raise Trust

A close examination of the factors that increase trust reveals a strong link between trust and fear.

If leaders can figure out how to reduce the fear in an organization, trust will grow with little effort. My favorite quote on this dynamic is, “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”

So how do you lower fear?

The answer is simple. Leaders need to create an environment where people at all levels are not afraid to say what they are thinking.

In most organizations, people fail to speak up because they fear their leader will make some kind of retribution on them.

What leaders need to do is provide “psychological safety” for the workers whereby they know if they speak their truth they will not be punished. In fact, they will be rewarded for their candor.

Leaders Need to Reinforce Candor

If leaders let people know they will honor people’s input, even if it is not 100% congruent with what the leader thinks, people will begin to trust them.

The workers will become more engaged and hence much more productive. The improvement is guaranteed.

This formula is the single most important lesson for leaders to grasp.

I have written on this aspect of leadership as the most important lessons for leaders to internalize in all my books. It really helps an organization obtain much better performance.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video about Trust and Engagement

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.



Leadership Barometer 87 Clarify Values

April 7, 2021

There are hundreds of assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly. You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership.

There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

          Clarify Values

The starting point is to understand your own bedrock beliefs and have your actions flow from them. Congruity is a central issue to good leadership. People will notice every hypocritical action or statement that is inconsistent with the values.

For example, if you claim “people are our most important asset” as a value, be prepared to defend all actions in light of that strong statement. In “The Leader Manager,” William Hitt describes the issue this way:

“The decisions and actions of upper management would strongly indicate that quarterly profits are the only real concern.  When it comes to setting actual priorities, it is obvious that employees and their welfare are nowhere near the top.”

Hitt points out that the hypocrisy is not lost on the employees, and it serves to lower their trust in upper management every time.

Mahatma Gandhi was a perfect example of congruity.  His strength was derived from understanding his values and giving up all the trappings of conventional power. 

His objective was not to fix everyone else; it was simply to live a life consistent with his beliefs and stubbornly refuse to back away from that commitment, whatever the cost. 

Gandhi ended up one of the most powerful leaders in history, having incredible influence on his nation and the world. He taught, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Transform yourself before attempting to influence others.

Identify Your Values

Start by creating a list of your deeply held values.  These must be real beliefs and not just nice things to say, as they will be tested thousands of times. This first step is so critical, it is worth taking the time to do it right. 

Get away from distractions while attempting to extract your core beliefs.  The key is to examine yourself very carefully. You may want to work with a facilitator or group of friends on this, but start the process alone. Bring in others once you have a first draft to share.

Brainstorming is a helpful tool for this.  Sit alone in a comfortable chair with eyes closed and some non-intrusive background music playing, and let your mind wander on the subject of your core beliefs. 

Write down anything that comes to mind, exactly as you think it, without trying to make it politically correct.  Just capture the thoughts.  This may be difficult to do honestly. 

This exercise can take a few hours, and more than one try might be necessary. Once you are comfortable with the process, ideas will flow rapidly.

Soak on the Data

When it feels complete, put the list away and do not analyze it until later.  Resist the temptation to charge ahead to the next step.

Allow your subconscious mind time to work on the list.  Additional items will flow naturally over the next week or so, when you are in a meeting, in the shower, driving, or even sleeping. 

You must capture this extremely valuable information. Keep a pad handy to jot down thoughts as they arise.

Do an Affinity Analysis

You should capture 40-50 items over a couple weeks, and the list will feel more complete.  Start the winnowing process by doing an analysis of similar items.

Write each item on a card, and arrange them into piles with common themes. Consolidate the piles down to a handful of key values. Four to six piles would be optimal, although you could have more.

One pile might focus on your beliefs about what drives people, like: “I believe all people are basically good and want to do well” or “I believe people do their best work when they feel trusted.”

Whatever your cards say will dictate the piles.  Next, give each pile a name. In our previous example, the name would be “what motivates people.”  Another pile might be “how to make our business prosper” or “what I want out of life.”  Let the data speak for itself.

Distill and Focus

Distill the input in each pile down to its essence and express it in a single phrase or sentence.  This may be challenging or frustrating but it is an essential part of the process.  Keep working the cards until you get to a handful of key concepts central to your beliefs as a leader.

If there are private beliefs not helpful to share in a work setting, you can cull these out before sharing, but understand these are also keys to what drives you.

It is insightful to compare your values to those of the parent organization. They may not be exactly the same, but they must be compatible. 

If you have been dissatisfied or uncomfortable in your job, this exercise may help you understand why. You may be better off leaving to find a more compatible environment if the organization’s values are not congruent with your own.

After clarifying your values, let others reflect on them and do a similar process. Working with your team, repeat the same steps to construct a set of values for your group. Doing your personal homework ahead of time will make the process faster and easier.

The process of “wordsmithing” these lists can be frustrating. It is possible to have groups spend hours arguing over exact words for a values statement or a vision and get stuck on it every time it comes up.  A professional facilitator can help streamline the process and avoid lengthy debate sessions.

Use the 80/20 Rule

If you are unanimous in spirit but hung up on words, get it roughly right and move forward. Use the 80/20 rule for this. (The 80/20 rule is derived from the “Pareto Principle,” which states that in any grouping of items, 80% of the value will be contained in 20% of the items.) Focus energy on the 20% of items that contain 80% of the value and table the others. The words that are not as important as the spirit and understanding.

The final result should be a set of values fully supported by your key leaders that grew out of discussions of everyone’s personal values. Putting this information on charts for the wall is helpful, but it is much more important to implant it in the minds and hearts of everyone.

Only when the team internalizes them will the values do any good. People will need to model behavior consistent with the values at all times.

If you are not in a formal leadership position, documenting your personal values is still important. Use them to chart your personal course.  Sharing them with others in your group or with your boss shows maturity and facilitates communication.

Caveat

One caution: Values Clarification should be done with care and only when there is a proper rapport between people. Sharing your personal values in the wrong way at the wrong time can backfire. It is better to weave the ideas into natural conversation than to force them on people. 

For example, you might say, “Let’s allow Sally to provide her own wording for the proposal. I believe people become more engaged in the work if they have the personal freedom to choose how to do it.  In fact, that is one of my core values.”

Conclusion

Having a firm grip on your personal values is extremely important. Those leaders who take the time to follow the steps above will have a much better chance at living a fruitful life.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585-392-7763.


Talent Development 32 Organizational Data

April 5, 2021

Section 3.7 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Data and Analysis. Section D reads, “Skill in gathering and organizing data from internal and/or external sources in logical and/or practical ways to support retrieval and manipulation.”

My prior article addressed performance analysis for the purpose of designing a development program. This article will deal with where you find the data and how you organize it for maximum use over time.

I will use an example of a manufacturing operation in this article. A similar approach could be used by any kind of entity, but it would contain different items depending on the industry involved.

Where to find the data

Sometimes it is obvious what the relevant data are for an operation. For example, in a manufacturing unit, the output per day and machine efficiency along with yield information would be important to track. 

While some information is obvious, there are secondary sources of data that may be even more powerful at monitoring performance.  For example, for the manufacturing unit above, there may be numerous indirect measures that are critical to track.  The delivery performance of the material supplier is vital to know and track. 

Any disruption in the supply chain can shut down an operation. These things include invoice accuracy, shipping delays, weather related downtime, strikes, and numerous other disruptions that can shut down an operation. 

Likewise, the distribution function is important to keep things flowing once product has been produced. 

Internally, the inventory accuracy is critical, so that the right materials are delivered to the line in time. 

Central Database

In most cases, it is a good idea to track all of these variables in a central database. In this way, spot shortages or outages can be identified in time to deploy work-around measures so that the main operation is not impacted. 

The supply chain manager usually is responsible for tracking all of the vital measures and sounding the alarm if something is off standard. 

Lean Thinking

In most industries, the concepts of lean thinking allow managers to understand how things are supposed to work and what things to track.  It becomes like a giant puzzle where hundreds of things can go wrong. It is the role of the supply chain manager to monitor the key factors and take preventive measures to avoid a stock out.

Lean thinking attempts to reduce the levels of inventory required to keep an operation in production without sacrificing overall unit performance.  Things like “just in time” delivery of supplies will keep the cost down without undue risk. These processes must be designed carefully by known experts in order to be robust.

Trying to implement a lean manufacturing process without the specific content knowledge can lead to a disastrous outcome. It is best to relay on experts in the design and testing of any system.

Once a system is in operation and proven, then you can reduce the expert support to lower the overall costs, but there needs to be warning flares that go off if one of the variables is about to go out of spec.

Every variable needs to have an alarm level that prevents an upset from jeopardizing the main operation.  The job is not complete until the alarm and work-around measures are in place.

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, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 


Building Higher Trust 15 Reinforcement

April 3, 2021

We all know that when leaders and managers reinforce people for doing well, they tend to do more of the good work.

There is an interesting dynamic between reinforcing in a high trust environment versus trying to thank people when there is low trust.

This article will explore the connection between level of trust and the effectiveness of reinforcement attempts. 

When Trust is High

If a culture of high trust has been established by leaders, then when they go to thank people for a job well done, it is normally accepted. The reinforcement has the desired effect, which is to obtain more of the good performance.

Workers see their leader as reliable and sincere with the feeling of gratitude.  In those situations, a sincere “thank you” or even some form of tangible reinforcement will work out well. Workers can relate to the sincerity and feel good about it.

When Trust is Low

The opposite is true when trust is low. The reason is that workers are skeptical to begin with, so they see any attempt to reinforce workers as some kind of trick to get even more performance out of them.

The workers view the leaders as insincere with their praise or maybe they think the leaders are slanting the praise too much in favor of one group versus another.

If the leader gives out small trinkets to make workers feel good (for example a sticker or button), the workers are insulted by the trivial nature of the reinforcement. 

If the leader heaps on verbal praise, the workers see it as insincere and take some offense at being duped by a bunch of phony gratitude. 

The Overview about Reinforcement  

Good reinforcement is a powerful positive force in any organization. It helps encourage people to do more of the excellent work. However, it is vital to have a culture of high trust before trying to enhance operations by using reinforcement.

If trust in not sustained, then attempts by management to reinforce workers often backfires. I have even seen instances where well-intended reinforcement does more harm than good.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video about the relationship of trust and reinforcement

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations


Leadership Barometer 86 Better Teamwork

March 31, 2021

There are hundreds of assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly.

You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership.

There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership.

These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

Better Teamwork

The culture of a team governs its effectiveness. Most teams have a culture that allows adequate performance despite many unfortunate outbreaks of tension and sometimes childish behavior.

It is unfortunate that more teams do not experience the exhilaration of working in a supportive culture that produces excellent results. The methods of building teams into high performing units are well documented, but most teams do not go through the rigor required to get to that level.

This article blends well known processes with horse sense born of experience that will allow any team to perform better.

The Tuckman Model

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman described four stages that every team goes through. They are Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.

Forming

A critical time for any team is when it is forming, when the team is trying to figure out its role and goals. Members are not sure of their status or contribution at this point, and personal bonding is a key element to the eventual success of the team.

It is advisable for the group to go offsite for some initial teambuilding activities. Many leaders avoid this step, because often team building activities involve a kind of game atmosphere that does not feel like “work.”

In fact, team building is real work that may be fun at the moment, but it is deadly serious business that can result in millions of dollars of profit if done well or millions of dollars in damage control if not done at all.

Storming

During the storming phase, there is some kind of power struggle where members vie for position and influence. It is up to the team leader to help the team move quickly through this awkward time.

Usually, the storming stage is short simply because it is painful. People want to get out of the rut of consternation and move on to getting the work done.

Norming

It is in the norming phase that the team decides the degree of effectiveness it will ultimately enjoy. If individual and team behaviors are agreed upon with conviction, the team will immediately begin to perform with excellence.

Included in this phase is identifying the individual skills brought to the team by the diversity of talent in the group, the goals of the team, the ground rules of expected behavior, and the consequences of failing to comply with team expectations.

Performing

This step is the logical consequence of the first three steps. The bulk of the time a team is together will be spent in the performing phase, and the quality of the work will be dependent on how the first three steps are handled.

Two Key Building Blocks

The two most basic things required for any team to become a high performing unit are 1) a common goal, and 2) trust. If you put these building blocks in place, all of the rest of the team dynamics (like excellent communication) will sort themselves out.

If either of these conditions is missing, the team will sputter and struggle to meet expectations.

Insist on Respect

A key rule fostered by most teams that is most often compromised is to treat each member with respect. There is a kind of disease that sets in most teams where members subtly undermine each other.

People often make jokes in team meetings. Keep your antenna up and you will discover that, for most groups, the majority of jokes are sarcastic digs about other people in the room.

Everyone knows the barbs are only jokes, and they laugh, but deep down there is always some damage.

Smart groups have a conscious norm that they will enjoy humor in meetings but never make a joke at someone else’s expense. It may seem like a small thing, but over time this practice can really help improve the function of any team.

Set the Expectation

Setting expectations is easy to accomplish. The leader just needs to insist on agreed-upon behaviors and remind people when they slip up.

In coaching some groups with a particularly bad habit on this, I have suggested that any time a person makes a joke that is a dig, he or she has to put $5 in a kitty. The money is used later by the group for a party. This small change can actually change the entire culture of a team.

Look for these behaviors and keep track in a few meetings with some hash marks on a piece of paper. You will be astonished how pervasive this problem is and also how some people are addicted to the practice. Then, solve the problem and begin enjoying the benefits of better teamwork.

I have coached hundreds of teams and find that there are patterns that lead to success and other patterns that lead to extreme frustration and failure.

Most Common Problem

There is one condition that rises above all the others when it comes to dysfunctional teams. When some members of the team believe other members are not pulling their fair share of the load, the team is going to have major problems.

This problem is so common there is even a name for it. The practice is called “social loafing,” where one or more people slack off and let others do more than their portion of the work.

Unfortunately, this situation is so common, it is almost universal, yet there is a simple cure that is about 95% successful at preventing this condition or stopping it if it happens. The cure is to have an agreed upon Charter for the team upfront, before behavior problems surface.

Create a Charter

During the forming stage of a team, there is an opportunity to document several critical parameters of how the team will operate. These include:

1. A list of the talents and skills each member of the team can contribute
2. A set of solid, measurable performance goals for the team
3. A set of agreed upon behaviors that the members pledge to follow
4. A statement of the consequences that will occur if a member fails to live up to the behaviors

When teams take the time at the start to document these four items, the chances of success are much higher than if this step is omitted.

The most powerful item is #4, and it is the one that is most often omitted from a charter. The reason it has power is that when the team is forming usually all members have good intentions to pull their weight for the good of the team.

If team members agree that letting the team down by slacking off and having others pick up the slack will result in some unhappy consequence (like being voted off the team, or having no points on an assignment, or having to do extra clean-up work, or some other penalty), they are far less likely to practice “social loafing.” If they are tempted to goof off, then the penalty they have already agreed to is applied, and the bad behavior is quickly extinguished.

Most teams without a good charter end up in the frustration of having one or more people believing that they are unfairly doing more than their fair share of the work. When a good charter spells out the expected behaviors and the penalty for non-compliance before the team experiences a problem, it greatly reduces this most common of all team maladies.


Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585-392-7763.


Talent Development 31 Performance Analysis

March 29, 2021

Section 3.5 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Performance Improvement. Section C reads, “Skill in conducting performance analysis to identify goals, gaps, or opportunities.”

In this brief article, I will share my thoughts on the important aspect of performance improvement.

Understanding the Gaps

There is no way to identify gaps without a clear picture of two things. First, we need to know exactly what the current performance level is, and second, we need to know what it needs to be in the future.

Step 1 Measure Current Performance

Current performance means different things for every organization.  Start by identifying the critical few descriptors of performance relevant to your operation. 

If you are in a manufacturing plant, the measures would likely revolve around productivity, quality, reliability, and other tangible factors that describe ideal conditions.

If you are a service organization, customer satisfaction would be high on the list of relevant measures.  Cost performance would be another important factor. 

If you were in health care, then patient outcomes would dominate the discussions along with unit efficiency.

If you were running a law firm, then the percentage of successful outcomes would be vital information along with the time devoted to each type of case. 

Look for extant data that already exists and is relevant to the key measures for your situation.  Usually there is plenty of information about how the operation is currently running.

Get creative so you look beyond the direct measures and try to uncover some things that are indicative of problems that may be causing the primary measure to suffer.  These might be things like turnover rates, grievance documentation, attendance records, or supervisor counseling reports.

If you find key measures where the data is not readily available, then the first order of business is to create ways to identify what the current performance level actually is.

Step 2 Identify a Vision of the future

To identify gaps, you also need to have an accurate statement of the future state.  This information should be available by studying the vision statement for the organization. 

Break the vision statement into areas that conform to the measures you identified in step one.  What you need to generate is a concrete set of goals for every relevant performance measure for that specific unit. 

By comparing the current performance level to the desired one on a case-by-case basis, you begin to identify the specific gaps that need to be addressed in your development program.

Step 3 Brainstorm Opportunities

Opportunities become the creative ways you go about resolving the gaps. Sometimes you will use a direct approach that is obvious from the analysis.  For example, in a manufacturing plant, if the yield is below the desired level, the opportunity may be to work with the raw materials supplier to have more consistent supplies.

Often you will identify opportunities for indirect development, such as improved leadership skills, as being the most powerful way to change the system.

Step 4 Create Engagement

Keep in mind that the attitude and engagement of the people doing the work is always a key factor to investigate. In most cases only a small portion of the existing workforce is fully engaged in the work.  The Gallup Organization consistently estimates that the average organization routinely achieves only about 30% of fully engaged workers. Changing that level to over 50% by improving the quality of leadership would have a major impact on performance.

To improve the level of engagement, focus on creating a culture of higher trust.  Raising the trust level just a few points will translate into major improvements in morale, motivation, and productivity in any organization.

Step 5 Keep Track of Your Progress

Regardless of the specific measures you have uncovered, keep track of the performance and design development efforts to close the gaps as quickly as possible.

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, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.