Leaders: Hold Yourself Accountable

September 26, 2016

I work with leaders every day and focus on helping them build higher trust in their organizations. One observation I have made over the years is that nearly all leaders are passionate about accountability.

They do their best to make sure people in the organization produce the right things in the right ways and hold them accountable for doing so.

Unfortunately, I see very few leaders who are willing to step up to their own accountability. It is just not something that crosses their minds very often.

If something is wrong, they will blame the managers, or supervisors, or suppliers, or workers, or the government, or any other person or thing that is handy for the problems that hold the organization back.

The culture of every organization is created at the top and moves through the organization like water flowing down a mountain stream. If there are problems at any level of the organization, the top leader shares culpability because the buck stops at the top, where the source is located.

Case Example

Let’s take a case example and show the stubborn consistency of this theory. Suppose an organization has some delivery problems. They are making large engines to go into military vehicles, and they keep missing the deadlines.

The vehicle assembly company is missing their delivery dates because the engines are late. Financial penalties are imposed, and the profitability is impacted to the degree that the CEO is alarmed. He demands to know who is accountable for the delays.

He finds out that some of the suppliers have been sending low quality parts that require a lot of rework. The purchasing manager is called on the carpet for not creating a more specific quality specification. The incoming inspection manager is faulted for not catching the errors at the receiving dock.

The CEO calls in the production manager and demands to know why productivity on the line is down by 18% this year. The manager tells the CEO that people are really upset because of no raises in 3 years.

The CEO wanders out on the production line and sees 9 engines lined up to be reworked. He chews out the quality inspector who tries to explain that the finish on the cylinder bores is too rough.

He also notices that there is a lot more clutter than normal on the production floor and asks the supervisor why, only to find out the cleaning crew has staged an informal work slowdown. They take extended breaks and goof off, and their supervisor lets them get away with working only a couple hours a day.

By now the CEO is fuming. It is obvious why things are going wrong in every corner of the building. People at all levels are not doing the right things, and the whole organization is over budget, late, and producing a low quality product.

Now suppose this CEO decided to bring in a consultant to help get things back on track. He tells the consultant that all of the managers and supervisors need some basic training in how to do their jobs better and how to “motivate the troops.”

The consultant decides to do some checking before making a recommendation. She spends a few days looking at the data and talking with people all over the operation, then she reports back her assessment.

The CEO meets with the consultant, and is all ears on what needs to be done to bring the operation back into control. The consultant recommends that the CEO push his chair back from his desk, stand up, walk down the hall and go into the men’s room.

She suggests he take a good long look in the mirror at the source of his problems and ask himself some tough questions such as the following:

• Morale is terrible in this plant, and as the CEO, how have I been contributing to this problem?

• What is keeping me from fully holding myself accountable for this awful situation?

• In what ways have I been trying to lay the blame on the supervisors, employees, bad economy, suppliers, business downturn, competition, etc., and how can I deal with the current situations and business environment in a more empowering and effective way for all concerned?

• What fundamental changes in the structure, behaviors, values, and vision am I going to make to completely change the environment?

• What behaviors do I need to change at my level, starting right now, to build a culture of higher trust?

• In what ways can I change the attitudes of the workers by changing my own attitudes and behaviors?

• Since bonuses, or picnics, or parties, or hat days are not going to have much impact on long term motivation, how can I find out what really will inspire people and then implement the proper changes to the environment?

• How can I be a better mentor for my supervisors as well as train them to be better mentors to their own staff?

• How am I going to find a way to quadruple the time I have available to communicate with people?

• Do I need assistance to solve these issues? If so, what kind of help could I use and where can I find it?

• How can I know if, or when, it is time to pursue other opportunities and let someone with a different skill set handle the turnaround? Maybe someone else should be leading this company, since I have messed it up so badly.

Now the CEO is faced with an awful truth: the root cause of the problem is him. If he heeds the advice of the consultant, it means he needs to start by holding himself accountable, but that hurts too much.

It is so much easier to spot the symptoms and hold everyone else accountable. Unfortunately this CEO is not likely to hire that consultant, yet the advice he is hearing is spot on.

If we can get more top leaders to view their responsibility as creating a great culture where things work because everyone in the organization is turned on by the vision and trust in leadership is high, then excellence is possible.

It takes a wise and humble leader to view his or her role as creator and maintainer of the culture. Those who can do it will thrive, those who simply blame others will eventually fail.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, 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 500 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. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Golden Opportunities to Fail Better

September 18, 2016

When something does not go according to plan, we often get a sinking feeling of failure. Throughout our formative years, we were taught that success is the goal and failure is anathema.

In this brief article, I want to discuss how we can change around our mindset so that when things go wrong we gain the maximum benefit from the situation.

We learn much more from our failures than from our successes in life. Think about how you learned to walk. You tried to stand up, and gravity won over, time after time.

Each time you got back up, your skill level at balancing all that weight on those two tiny round feet improved. Over time you became so skilled that standing erect was easier than eating pumpkin pie.

I often think our education system is missing a key point by not having a primary school course in how to fail well. Instead, we teach our children that failure is to be avoided at all cost, so we carry that idea in our subconscious mind for the rest of our life.

The “Whatever you do, don’t fail” mentality needs to be replaced by “Make sure to embrace and learn from your failures.” Our failures not only allow us the opportunity to learn and grow, but they provide an opportunity to leap forward and make a paradigm change.

In every situation that doesn’t go our way, there is a moment of decision. We decide to just accept our bad luck and feel badly about it, or we decide to turn our problem into an advantage. This is true in our personal life, and it carries over to our business life as well.

A great recovery from something that didn’t go as planned is the hallmark of winners in any occupation. When we are able to take a bad situation and totally WOW the customer, the problem turns into a huge positive force for our business.

I read a story about Zappo’s Shoes in one of my favorite leadership books: Triple Crown Leadership by Bob and Gregg Vanourek. Apparently a woman arrived in Las Vegas and found that she had left the shoes she intended to wear that evening at home.

She called Zappo’s in a panic to reorder a new pair. The customer service person looked them up and explained that they were out of that style in her particular size.

This was the moment of decision for the service rep. He could have accepted the problem, or he could choose to do something to change it. The woman sighed, and the service rep said “What hotel are you staying at? I will take care of this.”

Then he left his work station and walked the malls until he found the shoes in her size. He had them gift wrapped, and hand delivered them to her room with no charge because they were out of stock.

Imagine the impact that recovery had on that woman and everyone who has heard the story since that time.

Taking a customer problem and finding some way to not only resolve it, but totally blow the customer away, really works. I call it the Golden Opportunity Moment.

Having a customer with a problem is a wonderful moment of truth because the customer is upset with you, and usually has low expectations based on typical customer service levels like “Tough luck you banana.”

Against the backdrop of low expectations, the customer is all primed to be totally amazed when you in effect leap over the counter and offer a significant accommodation that was above and beyond anything she expected.

There are numerous stories like the Zappo’s one where an organization was able to take a real live problem and turn it into a raving customer for life. Teach all people in your organization the philosophy of turning problems into Golden Opportunities.

Gregg Lederman wrote a good book on this idea with lots of examples, entitled ENGAGED!: Outbehave your Competition to Create Customers for Life.

Failure is a state of mind that can be overcome by replacing the sinking feeling with the joy of learning something new. Next time you start feeling down because something did not work as you had hoped, focus on what you have gained by the experience.

Whenever a failure makes another person disappointed, rather than add to the disappointment, take the initiative to turn it into a Golden Opportunity. When the other person is down is really the perfect time to create a lasting positive memory. You will have a wonderful feeling of satisfaction while creating a fan for life.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, 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 500 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. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Working With Millennials

September 12, 2016

There are numerous books and articles on the differences in generational work groups and how to manage them successfully. In this brief article I want to share some thoughts of my own on the topic of working with Millennials (defined as people born after 1980).

In no way will this be a complete treatise on the topic, rather I wanted to point out some of the dangers I see in some things I have read.

Beware of stereotypical generalities. We often read that millennials are lazy or less loyal than previous work groups. There may be some truth to the trend in specific cases, but individual differences make it dangerous to label everyone in a specific group as having specific traits.

It is important to understand each person as an individual and not deal with an entire generation with broad brush and biased labels.

I do agree that we need to pay attention to the different environment that each person grew up in as a significant force in shaping the way a person thinks or acts.

Way back in the late1980’s Dr. Morris Massey, who was at the University of Colorado at Boulder, did a series of programs entitled, “What You Are is Where You Were When (you were value programmed).”

At the time, Dr. Massey was focusing on the differences between Boomers (born between 1945-1964) and Generation X (born between 1965-1980). His conclusion was that significant behavioral patterns could be explained by the environment that an individual grew up in, but we had to leave significant room for individual differences before trying to pigeonhole people.

Undoubtedly the most significant difference between millennials and prior generations is in the area of communications. Millennials were the first fully digital generation, so their whole approach to interfacing with other people is different.

It is astonishing to me that millennials prefer to communicate via the juxtaposition of individual letters and spaces (with interspersed “emojis” and their own abbreviations)as has been the custom for centuries.

Curiously, the keyboard layout thumbed by all millennials to “text” each other was invented by Christopher Sholes in 1867.

You would think that their main mode of communication with each other would be voice and video. While there is plenty of that, the preferred method of conversation (even when sitting right next to the other person) is by the juxtaposition of letters and spaces projected onto a little screen.

One generality that I believe is true is that on average, millennials are less patient with a slow pace of their own development. This is a hint for all managers who are working with millennials.

It is much more important for people in this group to have a concrete development plan. This should include milestones and projected advancement. The danger here is that advancement opportunities are not totally predictable, and that could lead to frustration.

Once a person has gained the skills for the next level of career position, it is tedious to wait in line until the next opportunity to move up appears. Hence, we see millennials willing to job hop in order to move up if no opportunity is available in their current organization.

The antidote here is to cross train the person on additional skills so he or she becomes more valuable to the organization through the passage of time.

The lesson here is that if you try to keep a millennial static or keep promising movement that does not occur, you are usually going to lose the person to another organization. That pattern leads to high turnover, which is a major cost problem for any organization.

The Wegmans Grocery Chain was just awarded one of the best organizations for millennials. They have been on the list of 100 Best Workplaces for the past 19 years. The secret of their success is to train and cross train the young people constantly. It adds to bench strength and it allows Wegmans to operate with lower than 10% turnover in an industry that often runs in excess of 40% turnover. That is a huge financial advantage.

Another way to appeal to millennials is to have a principle centered business. These people are more interested in the social responsibility of the organization for which they work, because they are convinced that it leads to long term success.

The younger generation is less tolerant of hypocrisy and bureaucracy than more seasoned workers because they see it as a conscious choice, and they want to work at a place that has staying power.

Working with Millennials may seem frustrating if you are trying to apply the operating philosophies that worked for the Boomers or Generation X. You cannot fight the trends, and they are not going away. The best approach is to embrace the younger generation into the workforce and impress them with your operational excellence and vision for the future.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of 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 500 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. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Trust is Multi-faceted

September 5, 2016

I have been studying trust for several decades, teach it in corporate and academic settings, and have written four books on it.

Trust such a common word that it is used numerous times a day without thinking. Just listen to the advertisements on TV and you will hear the word trust in the majority of them.

Many people have a misconception about the concept of trust. They think of trust as a singular concept when the word is used in daily conversation. They picture it as a kind of bond between them and another person.

It takes on a singular connotation: either they trust another person or do not trust them at some level right now.

The way I get groups to think about trust at a deeper level is by asking them point blank what the word means. There is always a kind of pause and awkward silence for a few seconds as people try to define it.

Then, someone will offer that trust is the confidence that another person will perform in a certain way. Someone else will chime in that trust is taking a risk that they could be disappointed. A third person will add that trust is about having shared values. Then someone will add that trust is having their back or sticking up for them. Once the ball gets rolling, a group can come up with a couple dozen unique definitions of trust in about 15 minutes.

Now the group is ready to entertain the idea that trust is a multi-faceted concept that exists not only between people but with organizations, products, services, and all kinds of systems.

People get the idea that trust is ubiquitous and is all around them in every waking moment of their day. They recognize that before they get to work in the morning, they have experienced trust (usually unconsciously) several hundred times.

They walk into the bathroom and turn on the lights. They trust the whole system to provide light without thinking about where the electricity is coming from unless there is some kind of rare electrical failure.

They turn on the water and just expect potable water to come out without any problem. If it is the left faucet, they trust that the water will become warm, then hot with time.

From the time they first open their eyes until they reach the breakfast table, trust is experienced dozens of times; then things get really complicated.

At breakfast they are confident that the vitamin pill they are taking is safe even though they have no idea who made the pill and what ingredients went into it. They just swallow the pill and expect it to help.

They get into their car and turn the ignition key. Now, inside the engine, there are thousands of explosions each minute that allow the car to move while they peacefully enjoy the classical music on their favorite station and crank up the air conditioning if it is a hot day.

They have no worry when they press down on the brakes that the car will stop before hitting the truck that is stopped in front of them. They drive over numerous bridges and overpasses without blinking an eye and do not think of the consequences if the structure would become unsafe.

On and on it goes all day every day that they simply take for granted things will work as designed even though they recognize on occasion things might fail for some obscure reason.

The failures are so remote that they put them out of their mind unless something unusual is going on. Now let’s focus on how trust between people is built and lost for all of us.

In general, we all focus our conscious energy about trust on the relationships we have with other people. Often we forget about the transactional nature of trust. It is impacted by everything (seen and unseen) that happens between people.

Trust is bilateral. I trust you and you trust me at some level, and the levels are not the same. Something happens, and I may trust you more while you trust me less. The whole thing is dynamic and constant. Most of the trust interactions are going on in our subconscious minds.

Many authors, including me, have likened trust to a bank account where we have a balance, and we make deposits and withdrawals. The size of the deposit or withdrawal will vary depending on what is happening, and the transaction may be totally subconscious. We can make a huge withdrawal of trust with another person and be totally oblivious to it.

A few years ago I built a model that helps people visualize this trust account and how it works. I call it my “Trust Barometer” and show it at all my programs. People really get the message about how trust works very easily. Here is a link to a six minute video about how trust is built and lost. Take a peek at this fun description and see if it helps you picture the nature of trust in your life.

Trust is more complex and ubiquitous in our lives than we realize. Try to be more aware of this aspect of trust, and you can see it working for you more consciously on a daily basis. It is fun, and it certainly is an eye opener.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, 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 500 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. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Gap In Trust

August 29, 2016

Since I am in the trust business, I pay attention to the Edelman Trust Barometer when it comes out in February each year. Richard Edelman and his associates have been publishing a compendium of statistics on trust each year for more than 15 years.

Using online surveys, they measure the level of trust in 28 countries and categorize it into four sectors: Business, Government, Non-Government Organizations, and Media. For example, in the Business sector the question they ask is “Do you trust Business to do what is right?” Note: they intentionally leave the specific definition of what is “right” up to the person who is responding.

The sampling is also split between what they call “informed publics” (college educated populations with incomes in the top 25% and who follow the news daily) and they also survey the mass population who are less educated and often do not follow international trends closely.

I usually spend a couple days absorbing the latest information each year and updating my summary charts. It is good to keep abreast of the trends in trust around the world. There is an interesting trend in the worldwide information on trust that is particularly evident in the USA.

If you are a manager or leader, at any level, you will want to know about this trend so you can use it to improve your culture at work.

Ever since the recession of 2009, the gap in trust between what the informed publics report and what the mass populations report has been widening with the informed publics reporting higher trust.

In 2016, the gap has reached 12% worldwide, and that gap was greatest in the USA at 19%. The gap is evident in all four sectors measured in the survey.

A specific percentage of how people respond in a particular country or segment may not have second-decimal-place accuracy, but I believe the major trends give an accurate description of valid movement within the major groups.

The reason is that the Edelman Group has been using the same methodology each year for over a decade, and the sample size is large enough to produce valid information.

There is some speculation in the Edleman analysis about the cause of the gap, but they leave plenty of room for readers to interpret the cause of this widening gap for their own situation.

Their main hypothesis is that all four of the following forces are at work:

1. The rising income inequality
2. High profile revelations of greed and misbehavior
3. Democratization of the media
4. Growing schism between the “haves” and the “have-nots”

I believe there is another factor at work in addition to the ones they mention that would be of particular interest to organizational leaders or managers.

There are several movements toward a more balanced and ethical way of doing business springing up. One that I am involved with is “Conscious Capitalism,” which seeks to have organizations serve all stakeholders at the same time rather than just maximizing shareholder return.

Other trends are the “Green Movement,” “100 Best Companies to Work For,” and Measures like the “Ethics Bowl.”

The activity to accomplish movement within organizations is mostly driven by the “informed publics” population, and the mass population has significantly less visibility to the trends and the good work that is going on in numerous organizations.

Hence, it seems logical that more people in the higher echelons are seeing at least some forward progress and attention given to running more principle-centered organizations.

The trend also means that the greater mass of people working in organizations will be more skeptical about the level of trust than their managers.

It is necessary to communicate information more times in different ways in order to have people believe it to be true. Edelman has measured that most people working in organizations need to hear something three to five times before they believe it is likely to be true. Ten years ago hearing something once or twice would suffice.

That statistic represents a major challenge for any manager or leader.

No longer is a Town Hall Meeting sufficient to communicate vital information. Rather, you need to have several methods of communicating points and use them all when trying to convey important information.

The consequences of the trust gap have significance for us all, from how we elect our leaders, to how we keep the peace in our cities, to how we conduct business in each sector.

We need to pay attention and seek to broaden awareness of some of the good trends to combat the fear being promulgated by groups who want to ignore or reverse the progress that is being made.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, 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. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Mistakes in Motivation

August 22, 2016

How many times a week do you hear, “We’ve got to motivate our people?” This is usually followed by an idea or two to try to entice people to be more productive.

Seeking to motivate employees is a thought pattern leaders use every day, so what’s wrong with it?

Trying to motivate workers shows a lack of understanding about what motivation is and how it is achieved. Leaders who think this way rarely get the increased motivation they seek.

Reason: Motivation is an intrinsic phenomenon rather than something to be impressed upon people. Motivation is not something managers “do to” the workers.

The only person who can motivate you is you. The role of leaders is not to motivate workers, rather it is to create the kind of culture and environment where workers are inspired and choose to motivate themselves.

An example is when a leader sets a vision and goals, then allows people to use their initiative to get the job done as they see fit.

Why do many leaders try to motivate people by using either incentives (like bonuses) or threats (like penalties)?

1. Poor understanding of motivation

The notion that by adding perks to the workplace we somehow make people more motivated is flawed.

Over 50 years ago, Frederick Herzberg taught us that increasing the so-called “hygiene factors” is a good way to reduce dissatisfaction in the workplace, but a poor way to increase motivation.

Why? – because goodies like picnics, pizza parties, hat days, bonuses, new furniture, etc. often help people become happier at work, but they do little to impact the underlying reasons they are motivated to do their best work.

2. Taking the easy way out

Many leaders believe that by heaping nice things on top of people, it will feel like a better culture. The most direct way to improve the culture is to build trust.

By focusing on a better environment, managers enable people to motivate themselves.

3. Using the wrong approach

It is difficult to motivate another person. You can scare a person into compliance, but that’s not motivation; it is fear.

You can bribe a person into feeling happy, but that’s not motivation; it is temporary euphoria that is quickly replaced by a “what have you done for me lately” mentality.

4. Focusing on perks

Individuals are willing to accept any kind of treat the boss is willing to dish up, but the reason they go the extra mile is a personal choice based on the level of motivational factors, not the size of the carrot.

A better approach to create motivation is to work on the culture to build trust first. Improving the motivating factors, such as authority, reinforcement, growth, and responsibility creates the right environment for motivation to grow within people.

How can we tell when a leader has the wrong understanding about motivation?

A clear signal is when the word “motivate” is used as a verb – for example, “Let’s see if we can motivate the team by offering a bonus.”

If we seek to change other people’s attitude about work with perks, we are going to be disappointed frequently.

Using the word “motivation” as a noun usually shows a better understanding – “Let’s increase the motivation in our workforce by giving the team the ability to choose their own methods to achieve the goal.”

For an organization, “culture” means how people interact, what they believe, and how they create. If you could peel off the roof of an organization, you would see the manifestations of the culture in the physical world.

The actual culture is more esoteric because it resides in the hearts and minds of the society. It is the impetus for observable behaviors.

Achieving a state where all people are fully motivated is a large undertaking. It requires tremendous focus and leadership to achieve. It cannot be something you do on Tuesday afternoons or when you have special meetings.

It is not generated by giving out turkeys at Thanksgiving. Describe motivation as a new way of life rather than a program or event. You should see evidence of motivation based on trust in every nook and cranny of the organization.

Focus on improving the culture rather than using carrots or sticks to create true motivation.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Dealing With Risk

August 15, 2016

I saw something in the social media a while ago, that said “Give chances: don’t take them.”

I propose a different slant on the topic: “Give chances and take them.”

Since I am rather risk averse, the notion of not taking chances has a comforting ring to it. On the flip side, none of us can make progress in life without taking some kind of chances. Finding the right balance between taking calculated and strategic risks versus foolhardy ones is worthy of some analysis.

The trick is to determine the difference between smart risks and dumb ones. We need a system that helps us sort them out.

Focus on a personal risk that you have taken in the past year. Think about the process you used to sort through the risk/reward ratio and how you ultimately decided to make the plunge or not. In retrospect, would you do it again?

Do you thank yourself for taking intelligent risks, even if sometimes they do not pan out?

My system is to have a good strategic plan for my life. It covers my professional as well personal life. Every year I renew the plan and refresh what I intend to do for the next year. Having a written plan allows me to turn down some tempting things without feeling guilty for missing something.

For example, this year I made a strategic decision to back off on some teaching to allow more time for product development. That meant sacrificing current income in order to have the potential for a better future.

The result was not guaranteed, but the risk vs. reward tradeoff was a good one for me this year.

I have also made some heavy investments in my speaking career that are already starting to pay off and are bringing me more speaking engagements on my topics of trust and leadership.

Having a plan helps me know which calculated risks might be the best moves to make. The plan is never perfect, nor do I adhere to it with shackled rigidity. I believe we need to be flexible and alert to possibilities we may not have considered.

Still, operating with a backdrop of a well-considered plan has been quite useful in my life. I recommend the practice to you, and here is a link to the system I use, called “Renewal.”

Giving chances, allowing ourselves and others to try things, is a formula for enabling growth. We need to feel empowered to take a chance when it is prudent and encourage others to take responsible risks as well.

Sometimes we also need to give second chances in order to reap the true payoff. If we are too quick to pull the plug when an attempt at something goes sour, then we limit the learning experiences that come from overcoming failures.

I believe we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. We need to fail more intelligently and make corrections to maximize the life lessons. It is all about learning.

For example, walking and talking are easy for most people. Recall what it is like for a child to learn to walk or talk. It is simply a series of numerous failures followed by support and more chances that allow the eventual learning to take place.

But what if you had a stroke and had to learn these skills all over again? Thankfully, most of us never have to endure that agony. One person who did, and wrote insightfully about it, was Jill Bolte Taylor.

Jill wrote a wonderful book entitled, My Stroke of Insight. Here is a link to a TED Talk she gave on her experience. As a practicing brain surgeon, she suffered a massive stroke that destroyed the left side of her brain.

In her book, she described the painful process to regain full control of her functions, with the dedicated help of her amazing mother. She literally had to relearn how to walk and talk while using only the right side of her brain.

In the process, she discovered a kind of inner peace that is available to us all if we simply train ourselves to access it. I recommend this book to anyone who struggles with depression. It is not only about getting a second chance, but about the amazing personal skill of modifying our own thought patterns.

Giving second chances to ourselves and others is also an empowering activity. We allow the person to take ownership of the situation and figure out how to do better in the future. With this approach, people can take a creative and uplifting road to improvement rather than dwell in defeat.

The Connection of Risk and Trust

There is a direct link between risk and trust. If you trust someone, it is axiomatic that the person could disappoint you. You take that risk when you trust him or her.

Trust without risk is like a meal without food.

If you find one, the other has to be there. For example, it is impossible to drink a glass of water without trust.

If each of us would concentrate on taking intelligent chances with the right strategy and then extend chances if things go wrong, we would find the world to be happier and more productive, because we would be learning more all the time.

Key Points

1. Risk is present in most actions. We often overlook the risks involved in daily life.
2. Risk and trust are joined at the hip.
3. Taking calculated risks is good for us.
4. If there is no risk, there can be no progress.

Exercises for You

1. Name five risks you took before breakfast today.
2. Count the times a coworker or superior makes a risky decision in a single meeting. You will be amazed. It will open your eyes.
3. What system do you use to sort out the risks and get them lined up so you know which ones need the most attention?
4. If you took a risk that did not work out, how can you more quickly recognize the mistake?

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

New Book in 2014 – Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change For more information go to http://www.astd.org/transition