Talent Development 48 The Perfect Storm

July 26, 2021

Section 3.8 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Future Readiness. Section B states, “Knowledge of internal and external factors that influence talent development, for example organizational/business strategies, availability of labor, developments in other industries, social trends, and technological advances.”

The world learned some amazing lessons on future readiness in 2020 that the framers of the ATD Certification Program could not have dreamed would converge on all of us at the same time. Through incredible personal and corporate struggles, we learned that survival requires us to be nimble and react very quickly to the forces that are around us.

I will describe some of the forces of change as I observed them. Recognize these forces were all external at the start but quickly became internal as organizations tried to invent their way around the obstacles. Let’s take a look at the major forces that impacted 2020 and the first half of 2021.

The COVID 19 Pandemic

At the start, the pandemic looked like a minor blip on the scale having to do with the health of a few workers. As the number of people in Intensive Care reached the capacity of our hospitals, we realized that the pandemic was real, and it would be the most disruptive force impacting every single organization in the world.

Groups needed to pivot to a configuration where all jobs that could be done from home would be done from home, and jobs that required a person be in attendance had to find ways to change operations to allow protective gear and social distancing. The magnitude of the change was exacerbated by the speed with which all this change needed to be done.

Many organizations went from an in-person environment to a working-from-home model over the span of just one weekend: March 13-15, 2020. As we crawl out of the lockdown, it is still unclear what the ultimate configuration will be. Some hybrid form of operation is expected to continue for many years. It also affects the labor force in many ways. For example, many industries are not able to find enough workers to operate.

In addition, the pandemic caused global supply chain interruptions that created shortages that are ongoing. Many organizations were unable to perform their function because they simply could not get the required parts or supplies. The economic impact of these disruptions is immense and ongoing.

Extreme Social Unrest

The death of George Floyd on Memorial Day, 2020 started an avalanche of protests and marches that is still in evidence, and the fallout is likely to be felt for decades into the future. Our society woke up to recognize that the kind of racial biases that have been the model for hundreds of years were not only unfair but intolerable. Yet, to disentangle the society norms and practices that did not allow true Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is going to take many decades of concerted work and patience on the part of us all.

The ongoing outcome of all this social unrest is that the world is a lot more dangerous for everyone. Homicides have shy rocketed this year, and it will be many years of work and expense to get back to a safer environment. Couple that reality with many new laws and actions that are making it more difficult for the police and less secure for businesses, so the trend is for less rather than more safety.

To have all this confusion dumped onto the society at the exact time when we were vulnerable due to the pandemic was breathtaking.

Environmental Disasters

A third element we had to deal with at the same time was a string of disasters long in the making due to our inability to recognize we have damaged our spaceship to the point that it may be unrepairable. The California wild fires were just one piece of evidence that we are currently out of control and slipping badly. We need to anticipate things getting much worse before they get better. 

At least in this area you can see more signs of leaders paying attention and trying to make the necessary changes.  It is hard to be optimistic that we can change quickly enough to have a livable world over the next few decades.

Out of Control Political Situations

Simultaneously piled on top of the first three disasters, we have witnessed a melt down of our systems of orderly transition of power the likes of which we have never seen before. I am not going to get political here, but just recognize that the system is seriously broken and in need of some major repair.

Widespread Power and Internet Failures

We have endured wide-spread power and internet interruptions throughout the period. The root cause is twofold. First, since all resources are stretched thin or not allocated in a balanced way, critical infrastructure is bound to suffer lower reliability. Second, cyber criminals have become more sophisticated, so the internet as a place to do business is much more problematical. Ransomware, hacking, and denial of service attacks are bringing down major online service providers and vendors.


For Talent Development professionals to operate in this environment is like trying to navigate in the midst of five tornadoes at the same time. It takes a strong hand and incredible wisdom and patience to do the right things under these conditions, yet we have no choice but to do that.

The worst may be behind us, but it will take decades to unscramble the messes we now have before us. We will never forget the pain and helplessness we all experienced over the past couple years.


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

Mastering Mentoring 3 Questions

July 24, 2021

Any mentoring relationship will have lots of time to dialog. It is the exchange of ideas that leads to growth for both the mentor and the protégé. The fundamental objective is to learn from each other by a series of discussions.  How these discussions are conducted will have a lot to say about the relative effectiveness of the relationship.

Use Questions

Try to slant your verbal expressions to the other person in the form of open-ended questions.  An open-ended question is one that cannot be answered “yes” or “no.”

I think it is possible to overdo this advice. I know one consultant who is a former lawyer. He frames up every single thought in the form of an open ended question.  It is just in his DNA, like he is incapable of making a declarative statement..  Whenever I meet with this person I come away exhausted as if we are playing some kind of communication jousting match. If you ask him a question, he will respond with another question.  It is annoying. 

It will be tempting to suggest techniques or actions in a declarative form. The reason is that the effort has the feel of one person teaching another.  Let me share a couple examples to contrast the two styles.


If you are the mentor, you might be tempted to advise the protégé with a statement like, “Never interrupt another person who is in the middle of a thought.” That is good advice, but it might be better to frame it up as follows, “How do you react when someone cuts you off before you have finished your point?”

A protégé might be tempted to say, “We should plan to meet at least once per week.” A more fruitful discussion of timing might start with the question, “How can we tell when it’s time for us to meet physically?”

Vary Your Communication Style

Be a bit flexible, and vary your style of communication so that most, but not all, of your ideas are presented in the form of questions. The flow of conversation should take on the feel of two people who are respectfully exploring the ideas under consideration by doing a lot of listening. Mentors would do well to shoot for conversations being 70% listening and 30% speaking and remember to use all forms of communications.

Keep in mind that not all communication will be face to face,  All modes of communication will be used at times in the relationship. Electronic communication is frequently used to coach a protégé. Typically, exchanges using e-mail or texting can be an efficient mode of mentoring. Even body language will become part of the method of conveying meaning between the parties.


A great mentor relationship can last for years or even decades, because both parties are getting benefit from the relationship. If both parties frequently point out their gratitude for the relationship, you are on the right track. Invest in these relationships because they will bring out the best in both people.

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 31 Degrees of Trust

July 23, 2021

Many people use the word trust as if it is a singular concept. You either trust someone or you don’t. Of course, most people realize there are degrees of trust: you can trust someone a little or a lot. A common perception is that the word means one thing, as Webster puts it, “Trust – belief in the honesty, reliability, etc. of another.”  The “etc.” in that definition actually covers a lot of ground.

 I believe trust is far more complex than can be captured in a single concept.  Picture an infinite variety of types of trust and numerous levels of trust for each type.  We might consider the different shades of trust to be as plentiful as the different shades of color, and the intensities of trust going from fully saturated to almost transparent. I will share six categories of trust with some specific examples. Recognize this is not an exhaustive treatment of the types of trust, but rather some typical concepts to illustrate the variety and complexity of trust.

Trust Between People

Between any two people who know each other, there is some balance of trust, rather like a bank account balance. The variety of trusting relationships is nearly infinite. Examples are easy to describe, like: parent-child, spouse-spouse, or boss-subordinate.

In every pair of individuals there exist two threads of trust, one is person A’s trust in person B. The other thread is the reverse of that. The levels of trust from one person to the other are never exactly duplicated in reverse. The level of trust fluctuates on a moment-to-moment basis as we go about our daily interactions. It is like there are tiny deposits or withdrawals going on whenever these two people interface in any way (even virtually). Although most deposits are small, sometimes a special circumstance allows a large deposit. Often small withdrawals can become large ones if not handled correctly. I call this “The ratchet effect,” meaning trust is usually built up with many small clicks of the ratchet but can quickly spin back to zero if the pawl becomes disengaged.

Trust in Systems or Agencies

We have some level of faith in a myriad of supportive groups at all times. We often take these things for granted.  We trust (or don’t trust) governments at all levels to take care of our society. People trusted Bernie Madoff and his organization for more than 30 years. Other examples in this category are easy to name. For example, we have some level of trust with the military, FDA, banking, the Stock Market, or the media, although our trust in any one of these entities may have slipped dramatically in recent years.

Trust in the media is particularly interesting because a lack of trust in this system has huge impacts in our trust in all the other agencies. Data shows that trust in the media in the United States is at an all-time low of less than 30%, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer. This means that most people do not believe what they are being told is happening in the world, at least not fully. The data also shows that many people suspend judgment on what they will believe until they have received the same information at least three to five times from different trusted sources.

Trust in products

Our trust in products is also something we take for granted until we experience a product failure that grabs our attention.  A student of mine went to a famous pizza establishment last week and ended up in the hospital for several days with food poisoning.  Mattel had to recall numerous infant toys when it was discovered the factories in China did not have control over the suppliers of paint, and there was a potential for lead poisoning of children.

When you stop and think of the trust we place in products of all kinds, it is staggering.  Consider the following tiny subset of products we rely on: medications, automobiles, airplanes, tools, internet, and elevators.  How often do you worry when getting into an elevator that the cable will break?

Trust in Concepts

We all have various levels of trust with certain concepts or ideals and rarely stop to think about them.  For example, we might trust in: the power of prayer, positive thinking, Murphy’s Law, supply and demand, the value of education, or living by values. These concepts help define our relationship to the world and form our total world view.  They were programmed into us by the forces impacting us during our formative years. They govern our sense of what is right and wrong and are the basis of our moral and ethical perspectives on life.

Trust in Organizations

We can describe some highly tangible examples of trust in institutions. For example, your level of trust in your own organization, The Red Cross, your grocery store, your auto mechanic, a hospital, the insurance company. Any time we interface with any organization, we are relying on or modifying our perception of our trust in that entity. We usually do not stop and think about it, but our level of confidence is fluctuating based on every interaction, large or small.

For example, if the insurance company finds some fine print in your contract that states you cannot be compensated for your water-damaged house because you could not prove it was specifically caused by “the weight of ice and snow,” you begin to wonder why bother to have insurance in the first place. In other words, you no longer trust that what you think you purchased is actually what you purchased.

I know a man who went into a hospital for a routine knee operation and had his leg amputated above the knee by mistake. Imagine the trust betrayal he felt when he awoke from the anesthesia.

Trust in Infrastructure

Many of the items in this paper are things we take for granted. Trust in infrastructure is probably the thing we take for granted the most.  We turn on the light switch and expect there to be electricity. We turn on the faucet and expect potable water to come out. We expect not to have any deep potholes in the road (although some of us get disappointed on that one).  Public transportation is expected to be there on time barring some kind of natural disaster. We expect the school bus to come by to pick up our kids. When we drive over a bridge, we rarely worry that it will collapse and kill us. 

All of the infrastructure items are things we just assume will be there whenever we want to use them, and we don’t spend energy worrying about them unless there is some kind of failure due to an emergency situation.

The list could go on forever, and the possibilities for positive or negative trust are infinite. For every situation, there is a unique aspect to the trust that exists between individuals.  In addition to different types of trust, there are different degrees or levels of trust, and the variety of these is also infinite. Let me share just one example of this to clarify.

Trust in one’s boss is one of the more complex and interesting trust relationships in our lives.  We think of it as a single thing, like how much do I really trust my boss right now? Actually, I believe there are several dimensions that make up the level of trust with one’s boss.  Attempting to show this graphically, I tried to form a three dimensional picture of trust but quickly realized there were more than three dimensions that govern how much we trust our boss at any point in time.  Here are five examples to illustrate. Actually, there are probably 20 or so similar dimensions we could describe.

Does your boss really care about you?

Saying she cares about you is not the same thing as acting that way when the chips are down. You know instinctively without being told if your boss is saying wonderful things but really does not care about you as a person. Human beings have very sensitive noses for phony concern. Since we are all that way, it strikes me as odd that so many bosses feign caring about people. Don’t they realize that people instantly pick up on the subterfuge on the inaudible channel?

Does your boss know what he is doing?

If your boss is not competent to manage things in an appropriate way, you will find it difficult to trust him without at least checking up on him frequently. Some clueless bosses surround themselves with competent assistants. That works in terms of getting things done well, but it does not enable you to trust the boss.

Is your boss consistent?

Does your boss habitually do what she says she will do?  If so, you have built up a reliance on her to deliver on promises. That bodes well for your ability to put your trust in her. If your boss is duplicitous, you never know which face she will be wearing today or what to expect in a certain kind of interface. That ambiguity destroys trust.

Does your boss have integrity?

Do you know that your boss will not try to skate by with half-truths or spin in an effort to make people happy? Many leaders mistake popularity for character. A boss who tries to have everyone happy all the time is a weak boss because he or she will make decisions that are not the best ones for the organization.  Do not get the wrong idea. I am not advocating that every boss try to make it difficult for people. I am advocating that the boss needs the integrity to do the right thing at all times, even if it means being unpopular for some percentage of the time.

Does your boss seek to optimize the culture?

Is your boss so consumed with pinching every penny and putting the maximum pressure on people that he has lost the true key to motivation? If he tries to “motivate” people by simply providing incentives while simultaneously grinding everyone down to a bloody stump, people are not going to be motivated, and they are not going to trust him.

These are just five easy tests to determine your level of trust in your boss at any point in time.  There are several other trust criteria we could name.  The point here is that trust in one’s boss is a very complex equation. The degree to which you trust your boss will be a combination of the five things above plus several other factors. It will vary from day to day or even hour to hour, and trust in your boss is only one slice of how you deal with trust issues in your life. Recognize this and be aware of the incredible variety of trust interactions we have daily. We all want people to trust us, and yet we sometimes forget how complex trust is and how it depends on numerous behavioral actions to endure.  


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 102 Leading Volunteer Groups

July 21, 2021

Most of my writing on the topic of leadership is centered on organizations (for profit and not for profit) where people are paid to work. The leadership dynamics often focus on the power implied in the hierarchy. When one person has economic influence over other people, it sets up some challenging dynamics.

There is another category of leadership that deals with people who volunteer to invest their time because they believe in a cause.  In every community there are numerous examples of this from the Boy and Girl Scouts to Rotary and a host of other volunteer or service groups.

My wife and I both have been leading volunteer organizations for years. She is involved with a large international group, while I am leading a local effort. We find that there are a number of different concepts to think about when leading a group of volunteers. Here are some of the obvious differences between volunteer groups and commercial or business groups.                                        



Volunteer Group

Commercial Group

People donate their time, talent, and treasure for a cause that is meaningful to them

People are paid to work and hope to advance to higher pay

Members often have other higher priority commitments: job, family, etc.

Employees often have a full time job and balance family life

Tenure lasts only as long as the interest is there and it fits the schedule

Tenure is often over a period of many years or a career

People perform well because they are highly motivated by the cause and the relationships/friendships they develop in the group

People perform well in order to advance to earn more money

Organizations are often made up of several teams or committees

Organizations often exist in a military style hierarchy

Organization is fluid and morphs to meet current needs

Organizations are more fixed and slower to change



Solidify Purpose, Mission, and Vision

In a volunteer organization, people are not paid to do this work, so keeping them fully engaged in the Purpose of the organization is essential.  Leaders must continually remind people why we do what we do. The purpose statement leads directly to the Mission statement, which gives a succinct statement of what we do. The Vision statement tells us where we are going and why it will be a better world when we get there.

Agree on a set of Values

Values give us a firm grip on how we behave in any situation. It is vital that the leader always model the values, especially when it in inconvenient or expensive to do it. This behavior allows trust to grow. Trust is just as important in volunteer organizations as it is in commercial organization.

Agree on a Set of Expected Behaviors

This aspect is critical for volunteer organizations because people (including the leader) need to follow the rules they have agreed to.  A lot of times groups skip over the documentation of behaviors. This is a big mistake, because it weakens the ability for all members to hold each other accountable. When behaviors get out of hand, volunteers sometimes leave rather than deal with it constructively.

In a commercial entity, the positional power of the leaders as a result of having control of the purse strings usually helps keep people doing the right things.

A volunteer organization rewards people in non-monetary ways, such as fellowship, pursuit of a cause, the joy of helping others, etc. People need to feel appreciated and should experience some fun with the activities. When people start feeling overworked, it is time to bring in more help so volunteers don’t burn out.

Create Strategies, Tactics and Goals

Strategies describe the main pathway from the current situation to the vision. We must do these things to reach our destination together. The tactics tell us who is going to do what by when in order to accomplish the strategies. The goals are how we measure progress on the journey. The best goals are called “SMART Goals (for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time- Bound). Volunteers need to be involved in setting the goals of the group.

Constantly Monitor the Succession Plan  

The pace of personnel moves in a volunteer organization can be more fluid than for a commercial venture. Reason: people can join and leave at very little personal cost and with very little warning.  It is critical to have good bench strength and be flexible to adapt quickly to changing conditions.  

I found out this aspect the hard way.  I am chair of the Board of Directors of an organization that reinforces ethical behaviors with an award program.  I had a successor all lined up to take over my position a couple years ago. Abruptly, she had to move out of the area due to her husband’s health, so I went back to the drawing board. The next year I had a wonderful replacement lined up and trained, but she was just offered a dream job in another state and will not be able to succeed me. So, once again I have to look for a successor.

You also need to be constantly recruiting people to replace the ones that end up leaving. I found that being involved in many different local organizations was the best way to meet good people who are looking for an opportunity to demonstrate what they can do.  Often these people are gainfully employed with a commercial organization and are volunteering for your organization as a side interest.  That double allegiance really adds to the potential for volatility.

It is much more challenging to get national and international volunteers and incorporate them into the operation of the organization. The era of interactive virtual events that draw interested people from around the world makes it easier to connect. Also, proper utilization of social media can build interest in the organization and draw in both volunteers and donors.

When leading a volunteer organization, the cardinal rule it to expect the unexpected and remain flexible.  If you have put in place the elements outlined in this article, you will be more successful. 



The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on www.leadergrow.com.


Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.



Talent Development 47 Use of Models

July 19, 2021

Section 2.2 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Instructional Design. Section C states, “Skill in designing blueprints, schematics, and/or other visualization representations of learning and development solutions, for example wireframes, storyboards, and mock-ups.”

I do not use wireframes or storyboards in my work, but I do make heavy use of physical models because they help the concepts permeate into the brain much deeper. I will share a few examples of how I use physical models to spice up the training. 

Trust Barometer

I specialize in teaching leaders how to build higher trust.  In part of my material, I want to emphasize how trust is built usually in small steps, but it can be destroyed easily in large steps.  It start out by describing a ratchet that goes one way with a series of clicks, but once the pawl is disengaged all the progress can be lost very quickly.

I actually built a “Trust Barometer” to demonstrate the phenomenon. Here is a link to a three-minute video of me giving the demonstration. The physical model along with the panic scream really helps people visualize my key point about trust.


When describing how the brain functions and how Emotional Intelligence can be enhanced, I use a full-size rubber model of the human brain that can be separated into the two cerebral cortices. Doing this allows me to describe the function of the Corpus Callosum, which is a band of fibers that connects the right side of the brain (where we deal with emotions) to the left side (where we deal with the consequences of possible actions).

The different parts of the brain are colored in bright colors to make them stand out. By engaging in training on Emotional Intelligence, we train the brain to be very efficient at transmitting signals from the right side to the left side.  This prevents us from lashing out at people when dealing with an emotional hit.


One of my most powerful demonstrations is a 3-inch button with the words I AM RIGHT on it.  I start by explaining that all leaders wear the button at all times.  This means, they are convinced that the thing they just said or did is the right thing to do at that moment.  If not, they would do or say something else. 

In other words, leaders feel totally justified in their actions.  When someone challenges the rightness of something the leader is advocating, the leader instinctively becomes defensive because he or she was convinced of the rightness of the action. 

The leader punishes the individual for sharing an alternate view, and this action destroys trust, because people feel a lack of psychological safety. I then reveal the “cure” for the problem. 

I hand everyone in the class one of the buttons.  Now I explain to the leaders that when someone is candid with them and shares an alternate point of view, they are not automatically wrong because the leader now knows they are wearing the (invisible) button too.

The buttons become a prop that each participant in my class can take home and have fun with. They love the fun part, but the message about not punishing people who share their candor sinks in deeply. I believe that reinforcing candor (which means creating psychological safety) is the most important tool leaders can use to create higher trust.


These are just three examples of physical props I use to liven up my classes and make them more enjoyable and memorable. I have many more props and also intersperse magic illusions that relate to the topics being discussed. These activities keep the class time active and fun for the participants.


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. 

Mastering Mentoring 2 Getting to Know You

July 17, 2021

At the start of every mentoring relationship, I take the time to do a deep dive into the other person’s background, preferences, hobbies, personal family life, and any other thing I can think of as a baseline for the other person.

Many leadership mentors feel it is inappropriate to probe into matters outside the professional life of a protégé. I believe that mindset is flawed, because in order to be of maximum assistance to this person, you need to really know what makes him or her tick.

Note: for the remainder of this article, I will use the male pronoun in order to avoid the cumbersome “he or she” structure as much as possible. The concepts should apply to each gender equally.

You are not embarking on a casual relationship here. You are entering into a relationship that will impact every aspect of the other person’s life. I am not advocating that you pry into areas where he wants privacy.


The caveat here is to gently test the comfort level for any topic before getting involved in a discussion in that area. For some topics, it may take a long time to build up enough trust to share details about the individual’s past. Other times a person may be perfectly comfortable sharing any detail from the past right from the start.

 I believe it is important for you to know as much as you can in the following areas:

What does he find motivating?

We each have a key to what gets us excited.  We may not even be able to articulate it accurately, but it is there. If a person draws a blank on this issue, try using a “Strength Finder” instrument that may help uncover some hidden keys to the person’s motivation.

When is he most happy?  When does he feel most fulfilled? What does he dislike? What are his opinions on different management styles?

Identify his background

In as much detail as he will offer, find out about his upbringing and what events shaped his life up to this point. Pay particular attention to how he describes his feelings as he talks about his background.

Find out his current family situation, if he will share that

What forces are acting on him at the moment, and what is he proud of? What does he worry about? Who were some of his heroes when he was growing up?  How did he get along with the other kids in the neighborhood?


What does he like to do with his free time?  What things does he avoid at all cost? Who does he like to hang out with and to what groups does he belong? What was it about these groups that was of interest to him?


What types of situations get him angry, and why does this occur? How does he act when angry? How does he go about resolving his anger?


Where does he want to be in 5 or 10 years?  What steps is he taking to get there? What does he think are the biggest obstacles?

How can you be most helpful to him?

The person may not have a good grasp of this variable at the start, but there may be some directional ideas he can share that will be useful.


Learning these things about the other person will enhance the relationship in many ways. First, you will not be making false assumptions about the individual. Second, you can relate to his personal traits as you brainstorm what actions might be helpful next. Third, it will be easier to show empathy for the person when times or topics get tough.

You can often find out about these and many other personal traits in just a couple hours of chatting. You may also want to let him know these things about you, since a good mentoring relationship is bilateral.


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 30 The Power of Trust

July 16, 2021

Children look at life as seemingly never-ending. As we get older, the realities of mortality become more evident to us. Eventually we all leave the physical world to become part of the spiritual world. In our final few moments of life, the thing that will matter most is the relationships of love and trust we have experienced in our lifetime.

Material goods will not mean much at that time, but the way we have impacted other people will be great comfort in our final moments.

Our personal lives are all about relationships, but what about our professional lives?

In organizations, if there is low trust, you will find apathy and poor performance. Conversely, if leaders have managed to foster a culture of high trust, you will find engagement and enthusiasm. Trust becomes the lubricant that allows everything to work as we hope. Relationships matter just as much in our professional life as they do in our personal life.

Since we have the power to foster higher trust by being authentic and making it safe for others, we have our destiny in our own hands as long as we pay attention to this critical element in our lives. It is happening in our brains every second of every day. 

One of my favorite quotes is “The amount of success and happiness you will achieve in life is a direct function of what is going on between your ears.”  Since we ultimately have the power to control our thoughts, we have the power to achieve a happy and productive life.

It is up to each of us to conduct our lives to optimize the level of trust we can generate with other people. That is the most powerful way of  creating a life well lived.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video on The Power of Trust


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 101 Leaders Create Meaning

July 14, 2021

Too many people go to work each day in a zombie-like state where they go through the motions all day and try to stay out of trouble with the boss.

Work life is a meaningless array of busywork foisted upon them by the clueless morons who run the place.

They hate the environment and intensely dislike their co-workers. Their suffering is tolerated only because there is no viable option for them to survive.  What a pity that anyone would spend even a single day on this earth in such a hopeless atmosphere. 

We can fault the individuals who allow themselves to be trapped in this way, but I believe the environment created by leaders has a great deal to do with this malaise. Reason: if you put these same individuals in an environment of trust and challenge, nearly all of them would quickly rise up to become happy and productive workers.

Find Real Meaning

It is essential that each individual in the workforce find real meaning in the work being done, and the responsibility is on leaders to make that happen.

Some good research into this conundrum was presented by Viktor Frankl 75 years ago in his famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl posits that it “is a peculiarity of man that he must have something significant yet to do in his life, for that is what gives meaning to life.” 

Frankl discovered this universally human trait while surviving the most horrible of life conditions in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. One cannot imagine a more oppressive environment, but believe it or not, many people at work feel like they are in a kind of concentration camp. The antidote is for leaders to create something significant yet to do.


Dave and Wendy Ulrich, co-authors of The Why of Work put it this way. “In organizations, meaning and abundance are more about what we do with what we have than about what we have to begin with.”  They point out that workers are in some ways like volunteers who can choose where they allocate their time and energy.  For their own peace and health, it is imperative that workers feel connected to the meaning of their work.

What can leaders do to ensure the maximum number of people have a sense of purpose and meaning in their work?  Here are a dozen ideas that can help.

  1. Create a positive vision of the future. Vision is critical because without it people see no sense of direction for their work. If we have a common goal, then it is possible to actually get excited about the future.
  2. Generate 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. The most significant way leaders help create trust is by rewarding candor, which is accomplished by not punishing people for speaking their truth.
  3. Build morale the right way. This means not trying to motivate people by adding hygiene factors like picnics, bonuses, or hat days. Motivate people by treating them with respect and giving them autonomy. Leaders do not motivate people, rather they create the environment where people decide whether to become motivated.  This sounds like doubletalk, but it is a powerful message most leaders do not understand.
  4. Recognize and celebrate excellence. Reinforcement is the most powerful tool leaders have for changing behavior. Leaders need to learn how to reinforce well and avoid the mine-field of reinforcement mistakes that are easy to make.
  5. Treat people right. In most cases focusing on the Golden Rule works well. In some extreme cases, the Golden Rule will not be wise because not all individuals want to be treated the same way. Use of the Platinum Rule (Treat others the way they would like to be treated.) is helpful as long as it is not taken to a literal extreme.
  6. Communicate more and better. People have an unquenchable thirst for information. Lack of communication is the most often mentioned grievance in any organization. Get some good training on how to communicate in all modes and practice all the time.
  7. Unleash maximum discretionary effort in people. People give effort to the organization out of choice, not out of duty. Understand what drives individuals to make a contribution and be sure to provide that element daily. Do not try to apply the same techniques to all individuals or all situations.
  8. Have high ethical and moral standards. Operate from a set of values and make sure people know why those values are important. Leaders need to always live their values.
  9. Lead change well. Change processes are in play in every organization daily, yet most leaders are poor at managing change.  Study the techniques of successful change so people do not become confused and disoriented.
  10. Challenge people and set high expectations. People will rise to a challenge if it is properly presented and managed. Challenged individuals are people who have found meaning in their work.
  11. Operate with high Emotional Intelligence. The ability to work well with people, upward, sideways, and downward allows things to work smoothly. Without Emotional Intelligence, leaders do not have the ability to transform intentions into meaning within people.
  12. Build High Performing Teams. A sense of purpose is enhanced if there is a kind of peer pressure brought on by good teamwork. Foster great togetherness of teams so people will relate to their tasks instinctively.

This is a substantial list of items, but most of them are common sense. Unfortunately, they are not common practice in most organizations. If you want to have people rise to their level of potential, they must all have a sense of meaning. To accomplish that, focus on the above items, and see a remarkable transformation in your organization.

The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on www.leadergrow.com.  

Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.

Talent Development 46 Outcome Statements

July 12, 2021

Section 2.2 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Instructional Design. Section B states, “Skill in developing learning and behavioral outcome statements.”

An outcome statement is intended to identify how the participants will be changed as a result of the training. They will have a different perspective from before the event and have a new life skill they can use in the future.

This section is rather straight forward.  You must be able to articulate what participants in the training will be able to do following the training.  The challenge here seems simple enough, but there are a few precautions and opportunities we need to address here. 

For this article, I will use a live example of a training program I once did on how to improve the creativity level for a professional group. A similar analysis could be done for any proposed training program. In this specific case, I was doing a training event for a team of 12 technically-oriented trainers.

Starting From Different Backgrounds

Each person was starting from a different perspective relative to creativity. A couple of individuals had specific training on creativity in their post-college courses.  There was one person who was a professional artist on the side. Another individual worked in a “think tank” environment for over 12 years.  Two people had patents to their name. Three of the individuals had no formal background in creativity at all.

For this class, I advertised that an outcome statement was to make participants familiar with how to use brainstorming techniques to improve the creativity of their solutions.  There was also a second outcome statement that I did not reveal until later in the day.

Creative Methods

As a group, this team liked to use what I call “busy hand” toys as a way to enhance their learning and have some creative fun.  We used about 10 different toys from small puzzles to pipe cleaners and “Lego® Bricks.”  The idea was to augment the intellectual learning with physical manipulative activities as a way to increase enjoyment and allow the creativity to blossom.

At one point, I split the group up into two teams. I gave each team an identical set of Tinker Toys®.  The challenge I set out for the teams was to “build the highest freestanding structure they could with the materials given.” As the teams began to brainstorm how they would approach the challenge they gained significant enthusiasm. They became excited as they discussed different ways to construct a tower. They started building their towers; one group worked from the floor and the other from a table top. 

Once they had reached the maximum height, I measured each tower with a tape measure.  One group beat out the other by over six inches. I then asked the group if they had accomplished the objective of the exercise.

They looked puzzled, so I pointed to the chart where I had written the instructions for all to read during the exercise: “build the highest freestanding structure you can with the materials given.”

They thought that they had accomplished the task well until I revealed the second outcome. Nowhere in the instructions was it stated that the teams could not pool their materials together and work as a larger team.  They just assumed that they were confined to the teams as originally selected.

Outcome Statement

Before the exercise, I had created two outcome statements. The second one was that I wanted everyone in the room to learn to attack a particular challenge with fresh eyes, and not be constrained by conventional thinking.  Once they were able to let go of their self-imposed constraint and pool the materials, the entire group was able to assemble a structure nearly two feet higher than either of the teams originally did.

This exercise served to illustrate how creativity is often stifled by self-imposed limitations, and if those limitations can be exposed it leads to much better outcomes. The entire class learned some valuable lessons that day. First, they learned how to get creative with Tinker Toys and build some towers. Second, and much more important, they learned that sometimes silo thinking makes groups work in competition when there is an alternative to get a better result by working together.

Sometimes you can generate more enthusiasm if the entire Outcome Statement is not  revealed in advance.  As was the case in this example, when the group discovered and stumbled on the most important message, it led to some significant learning that will be long remembered by 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. 

Mastering Mentoring 1 A New Series

July 10, 2021

I have been writing a series called “Leadership Barometer” for the past couple years. Thus far there are 100 articles in the series.  At this point I am not tapped out, so  that series will continue, but there is a subset topic that deserves a new series of its own. The topic is mentoring: specifically mentoring for leaders.

My observation has been that there are many candidates to become great leaders, but the world still suffers from a shortage of great leaders. The problem is not having enough candidates but having adequate teachers. When teaching skills such as leadership, we usually refer to the activity as “mentoring.”

The reason so few high caliber leaders take the time to mentor other leaders is that they are so consumed with being successful themselves; there is very little time to mentor others.  I consider that mindset as a big mistake. Unfortunately, the problem is very common.

For this series, I will use my experience to recall many techniques that I have found helpful when mentoring would-be leaders.  I will also share some caveats or things that do not seem to work very well.  Each article will focus on just one facet of mentoring.

One negative practice has sunk many a well-intended mentoring effort. If we start to think of a mentoring effort as a “program,” we start off on the wrong foot.  Often groups will do a kind of “matching” effort in order to pair people who should work well together.

The more senior person (called the mentor) is introduced to a protege, with whom he or she will work in the future. This mechanical pairing of people has a low batting average in terms of a solid long term mentoring relationship. The reason is simple; to achieve a sustainable effort both parties must benefit by the relationship.

The way to avoid this common trap is to not think of mentoring as a program. Instead, encourage individuals to seek out a person who would resonate with them personally and who is willing to provide access. Don’t over administer the relationship with fixed meeting schedules or forms to fill out.  Let the relationship progress at a rate and with such tools as the two people invent themselves.

This “ownership” by both parties is a critical first step.  Each party will be interested in making the relationship work and be willing to invest time and effort into a process that they mutually own.

In my own case, I was blessed with a very strong mentoring relationship with a senior leader.  We did not call it “mentoring,” we just had a very close relationship where we both got large advantages out of spending time together. There was no paperwork or fixed schedules to adhere to, rather the interfaces occurred naturally as the opportunities for coaching became evident.

Communication was almost daily, and it was mostly done through the mode that was most comfortable for the mentor. In this case voice mail was used extensively to coach each other. I, the protege, gained insights and techniques in the form of ideas or suggestions. My mentor gained by my sharing my observations of how my mentor was engaging the entire population. So, we were kind of coaching each other along on a daily basis for more than 25 years.

The first piece of advice in this series is to encourage the organic formation of mentoring relationships and do not over-administer the effort as a “program.”  You will be much more successful in the end.


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.