Leadership Barometer 122 Losing Control

December 1, 2021

Supervisors may have the feeling that they are losing control as more people are partially working from home. In reality, a more flexible work pattern offers a chance at high engagement without the constant need to try to enforce rules.

In earlier times, supervisors and managers had a fighting chance of enforcing the local rules.  Things like quitting time, length of breaks, and other mechanical rules were a little easier to enforce because you could see most people on most days.

Even then, people would test the supervisor by stretching the rules to see what the real limits were.  Those days are history, at least for many employees in the short term.  With people working hybrid schedules, it is difficult and intrusive to check up on workers. 

Supervisors should rely on different means to engage people rather than try to control them. Let’s start by examining the meaning of control to look for clues on how to accomplish it in today’s environment.

Webster defines “control” as a means of restraint. The implication here is that if there were no control then workers would goof off and not give their fair share of effort while still expecting full pay. I think the notion of control is antiquated.

If the supervisors and managers have set up the right kind of culture, then they should not need to play policemen in order to maintain productivity.  If people are treated like adults and are trusted to do the right thing, most of them will give not only the minimum effort required, but many of them will go beyond what is expected.

Workers may not adhere to a rigid schedule of start and stop because they have other constraints based on their current situation. The vast majority will give at least the minimum effort required, although the exact timing may be broken up by family needs.

The notion of holding people in control by checking up on them is now yielding to having people police themselves and their peers out of a sense of rightness and respect for their employer.  It is a very different dynamic. 

Leaders who try to check up on hybrid employees end up on the losing end because they send a signal of low trust, which usually begets bad behavior in return. In most cases attempts to maintain conventional control lead to lower rather than higher productivity.

The notion of control needs to shift the onus onto workers and their sense of rightness. Many remote workers indicate they are more productive because there are fewer interruptions or distractions, although family distractions can be formidable in certain situations.

Several other mechanisms allow for maximum productivity in a hybrid world.  The concepts of trust, innovation, inspiration, teamwork, engagement, and empowerment are more powerful ways to obtain maximum performance.

The whole notion of control needs to be recast in today’s environment.  It is time to focus on culture and trust to be the main control mechanism rather than a supervisor looking at his watch. 

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.

 


Reducing Conflict 17 Get a Word In Edgewise

November 29, 2021

Do you have trouble getting a word in edgewise when dealing with a compulsive talker? Some people have a habit of constantly talking.  It may not seem like a big deal, but if you have a compulsive talker in your group, he or she can cause all kinds of problems. 

The first problem is that they tie up people from doing their work.  It really saps productivity when you are constantly distracted by someone rambling on.  It can also affect group productivity in certain circumstances.

The second problem is that often the tone of the excessive talker can be negative. This not only ties people up, it lowers morale because of all the negative points.  Often the person will pit one group of people against another, sowing division. This problem leads to silo thinking, which is another form of productivity loss. 

What Can be Done

Trying to retrain a compulsive talker is usually a vexing task.  The talker does not even realize there is a problem.  If you try to explain the negative influence, you will usually encounter denial.  If you suggest the talker just keep quiet for at least 70% of the time, there may be an agreement to try, but the habit will likely not change very much.

One technique is to appeal to the person’s more noble instincts and suggest that if others took up that much air time nothing would get done. Other people have a right to be heard as well.   

Isolating the talker in a remote area is one possible solution, but it really is ineffective because the person always finds a way to communicate anyway.

The best defense is to screen out people who have this problem during the interview process. They are really quite easy to spot, so you can save yourself a lot of grief by not having the person on the team at all.

If you have a rather mature team and members are complaining about the talker, you might try a candid discussion during a group meeting. Invent some kind of signal that people can use when the talker is rambling on. That can work, or it can backfire depending on the particular culture within the group.

Examples

I once had a customer service person who had this problem. I tried to get her to see that she was not doing her fair share of the work because she was always chatting with her mates. I finally isolated her and gave her more work to do in order to keep her relatively quiet. These ideas were only partially successful, and she did not appreciate the increased workload.

I know a man in our local grocery store who has the problem.  He is constantly chatting with the various customers as a way to express friendliness. For me, he is a huge distraction, and I try to avoid him at all costs. I’m not sure if some people enjoy his constant blithering, but I sure don’t.

Some Training Programs

There are some training programs to help people speak more succinctly.  These might be effective in some percentage of cases, but most compulsive talkers would not really want to change, so the training would not be very effective.

Conclusion

Having a constant talker on your team can be a challenging problem to solve. Some of the techniques suggested may be helpful, but none of them would work equally well for all people. You need to try different approaches and stick with the one that works best for that person.

Free Video

Here is a 3-minute video that contains more information on how to deal with a Compulsive Talker.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X–gb3lDAa0

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.


Mastering Mentoring 20 Shortage

November 27, 2021

I make the observation that there are not enough great leaders in the world, not due to a shortage of good candidates, but because of a shortage of great mentors. Leading organizations is a daunting task for most leaders primarily because they fail to build a culture of trust.

The Relationship Between Trust and the Shortage of Mentors

Most leaders I know are consumed trying to optimize the organization’s performance in a very complex time. Challenges come in a steady stream, and leaders are faced with solving problems continuously.  They have no discretionary time to devote to mentoring the next class of leaders.  The situation seems to get worse with time.

Since the leaders have a difficult time letting go of their main responsibilities, they do not delegate as much as they might, so the problems and issues all fall into their lap. By trusting the workforce more, they have the opportunity to delegate more tasks to others and thus free up some time to help mentor great leaders for the next generation.

The Solution is Obvious

If leaders would carve out about 15% of their time to work with people in their organization to build a culture of higher trust, the whole dynamic would shift from one of extreme pressure to a more reasonable work atmosphere where mentoring is actually possible. In an environment like that, leadership becomes a blast rather than a chore. The environment for everyone becomes more enjoyable, and many people grow in their ability to lead.

It is extremely difficult to convince most CEOs to carve out 15% of the time to work on culture; they are just too busy solving problems. The organization becomes like a whirlpool sinking deeper and deeper into a situation where some workers just resign or check out mentally. Of course, that makes the whole problem more acute.

Summary

As I observe leaders, I see the brilliant ones have figured out that, despite the frantic pace of business problems, they have a mandate to grow the next generation of leaders. They invest calendar time to that function, and over time, things start getting better.

The number one time-burner for any CEO is the inability of people in the organization to get along and work well together. By building a culture of higher trust, people do get along much better. There are fewer problems to be resolved, so that also frees up time for the CEO to do more mentoring.  

These leaders feel free to delegate more to their employees, which is also a way to develop their skills for the future. The culture improves for everyone. The pathway is there for the taking. It is too bad few CEOs recognize the way out of their current pain.

 

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 47 The Meaning of Trust

November 26, 2021

In your opinion, what is the meaning of trust? Most of us use the word trust several times a day. It is actually one of the more common words in our lexicon, yet when I ask people in my seminars to define what it means, I often get an awkward silence, then a few definitions come out, like “confidence,” or “integrity,” or “walk the talk.”

Eventually, most groups come up with a dozen or more definitions, and they begin to realize that what they pictured as one single phenomenon is actually a myriad of concepts that mean vastly different things in different circumstances.  

I have been working in the area of trust for nearly 30 years. The topic is infinitely fascinating to me, and I am always gaining new understanding thanks to the many other authors and people who network with me. I have found several concepts to be central to the idea of building and maintaining trust, and as I thought about some of these words, they started to form an acronym for the word TRUST.

Acronyms are strange mutations of the language that I find curious. Sometimes an acronym will seem rather strained or far-fetched as an attempt to be cute or simply a trick to help people remember concepts.

The acronym below is neither of these; instead, it is a way for me to highlight five central issues about trust that I continue to emphasize.

Trusting others. I have coined what I call “The First Law of Building Trust.” It is that when leaders are not satisfied with the level of trust they see within their organization, the first question to ask is how they can show more trust in others.

Trust is a reciprocal relationship, and numerous authors have identified the best way to have people trust you more is to increase your visible trust in them.

I once observed a male Vice President who really struggled with trust. I asked him if he could find ways to demonstrate more trust in his people. His reaction was, “You are asking the impossible; these people show me by their actions every day that they cannot be trusted to do what is right.” 

As I dug into the situation, I found that his workers had been so abused by this leader, they had no reason to even try to do things right. It was a toxic environment, where the VP would literally yell at the people and say things like, “You are so stupid I cannot rely on you for anything. I have to watch you like a hawk or you will just goof off and not even try to do your job right.” 

This is a classic case of a Theory X management style described by Douglas McGregor in the 1960s, and the VP was truly unaware that he was the real cause of his problem.  

I grant that in any workforce, there are some bad apples who can never be trusted, but if you have any of these people on your team and tolerate them, shame on you. Get rid of them.

The vast majority of workers, I believe over 95%, will respond positively and do good work if they are well led. When trust is low, The First Law of Building Trust puts the onus on the leader to do three things:

  1. Recognize his/her own contribution to the problem,
  2. Modify his/her behavior to be more trustworthy, and
  3. Start showing more trust in his/her workers.

Unfortunately, the first step is the most difficult. I have observed numerous leaders who are simply blind to the fact that they are causing their own problems. It is so much easier to blame the workers than to take a hard look in the mirror and ask some tough questions.

There are numerous other actions required to build and maintain trust, but the three steps above are the precursors that must be in place, or nothing will change.

Also, recognize that the process to rebuild lost trust is arduous. Wounded workers will observe improved behaviors for a long time before believing they are genuine.

Reinforcing candor. After a couple decades studying trust, I believe the most central enabler of it is reinforcing candor. This is the leader’s ability to refrain from punishing people when they speak their truth. Most leaders cannot do this.

When workers state that a leader is doing things inconsistent with the vision, they take a risk because most leaders punish that kind of candor. Brilliant leaders recognize that if they can establish a pattern of making people glad when they bring up difficult issues, it enables trust more than any other single factor. The concept is called enabling psychological safety.

I put reinforcing candor in the center of my Leadergrow Trust Model because it is the one skill that most leaders find difficult to do, yet once they understand its power, they have a much easier time creating and maintaining trust.

Universal goals. I have found when trust is absent in an organization, usually, individuals and groups have conflicting goals. They often do not realize they are pulling in different directions.

When you have an organization that is truly focused on one consistent set of goals, then you have alignment. Many organizations struggle with poor alignment such that only a small fraction of the workforce is actually pulling in the direction of the stated vision. Organizations with high trust achieve the reverse of that condition and have almost all people in the organization pulling in the direction of the vision.

It is easy to see if goals are not universal when you observe silo thinking, conflict, low trust, lack of respect, fear, management abuse, and any number of other organizational ills.

The starting points for establishing an environment of high trust are 1) complete agreement on where the organization is trying to go, and 2) enrolling all members of the organization to engage their full effort toward that vision.

Sincerity. This is the human dimension that shows leaders care about everyone in the organization. It is never the case that all people in an organization are exactly equal, yet the role played by each individual is of critical importance to the organization’s success. When managers and leaders are duplicitous, people quickly get the idea, because they see a lack of sincerity and care for individuals.

The antidote for low sincerity is very simple. The Golden Rule is the most important concept to show others that we care about them. If you treat other people the way you would like to be treated, you will find they respond in a positive way because they know you care.

It is quite simple, but unfortunately, many leaders have their priorities mixed and put short-term financial performance above the notion of caring for the people in the organization.

The best approach is to treat people the right way, which means being alert to the needs of each person as a unique individual and treating him or her as a person who will happily perform well if treated properly.

Transparency. The final T in my trust acronym is transparency. Organizations that share information widely about what is happening, what the goals are, where we are going, what the strategies are, what behaviors are needed, and how we have been performing recently, get the best that people have to offer.

Transparency is an interesting concept because it is not always good, or even legal, to be totally transparent. You must combine common sense, kindness, ethical behavior, and care into the equation when deciding how much information to reveal. Unfortunately, most organizations err on the side of too little transparency rather than too much.

The irony is that transparency is becoming less of a choice for senior executives due to social networking and the ability for people to get information more quickly and easily than ever before.

Leaders who try to hide information from workers are becoming increasingly frustrated because the information leaks out anyway, often in the form of rumors. A better approach is to aim for maximum transparency and a very fast response time when incorrect information gets out in the social networks.

These five concepts: Trusting others, Reinforcing candor, Universal goals, Sincerity, and Transparency form the acronym TRUST. While there are many other concepts and issues around trust and being trustworthy, I believe these five concepts are really at the core of creating an environment of higher trust.

Researchers have established through numerous studies that organizations with higher trust out-perform those that have low trust. A high trust group enjoys two to five times the productivity of a low trust group. No organization can survive for very long if they have an environment of low trust. Focus efforts on these five concepts, and you will improve your ability to achieve and maintain high trust in any organization.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. Website www.leadergrow.com   BLOG www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals,  Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind


Leadership Barometer 121 Follow Up on Commitments

November 24, 2021

In today’s environment, most leaders are over-committed, which can lead to mistakes and omissions. Following up on commitments is essential, but sometimes neglected by busy leaders.  It is so easy to say to someone, “I’ll get back to you on this,” and then forget it in the crunch of critical work or other distractions.

You may rationalize and say, “Well, it wasn’t really a promise and they know how busy I am. This is only a minor issue anyway.” That kind of thinking will harpoon your trust-building efforts. If building trust is all about consistency, nothing is more basic than doing what you say.

Whenever you make a commitment, no matter how small, make sure you do it. 

Tips on following up effectively:

When you promise something, put a time frame on it. Rather than “I’ll get back to you,” say “I’ll get back to you on this by the end of tomorrow. If I get derailed and you don’t hear from me by then, please give me a call.” The person knows you really do intend to answer their question.

Keep an action item list. Whatever form, whether a 3″x5″ card in your pocket or a text message to yourself, get the item written down along with a time frame to answer.

It helps to write it in front of the person with the concern. You can say, “Just a second – let me jot that down so I don’t forget to get back to you.” The person feels honored that you are considering the issue strongly enough to document it and will tell others about the exchange during the next break.

It is dangerous to have someone else follow up for you, but it can be done if you are careful. If you delegate the issue to another person for follow-up, make sure they preface their response with, “Bob asked me to get back to you on this question.”

Also, make sure your agent confirms with you when it is done. Cross it off your list when your agent tells you it is closed, not when you delegate it to him.

In some cases, you should circle back to the person with a note or call saying, “I asked Mike to get back to you on your concern about the slippery floors. Did you hear from him, and was his response satisfactory?” Doing that gives you the opportunity to jack up any agents that shirk their duty. 

In a staff meeting, you can say something like, “I have been following up when I ask some of you to get back to employees on their concerns. Some of them have complained that their concern is downplayed. When I ask you to act as my agent, I expect you will keep working on it until the situation is resolved satisfactorily to the employee. If you can’t resolve their concern, get back to me. Do not let it drop.”

Use handwritten notes to people.  A brief note, along with a “thank you for bringing this up,” will be prized by the individual and shared with others.

Be careful to use a tangible note only when the response is positive and difficult to misinterpret. Otherwise, you may find your note tacked to the break room bulletin board next to a Dilbert cartoon. For difficult issues, it is always better to deal face-to-face.

Closure on action items is not confined to personal discussions. The same logic holds when you promise something to a group. If you say, “I will make a decision on overtime by noon,” make sure they hear from you on that schedule. It is important to state a deadline or things tend to stretch out.

If, for any reason, you will be late with a promised action, make sure you get back to the person and explain the delay. You may think a week to unveil a new organization is reasonable, but for some people, it feels like, “he promised to do something about that but never got back to us.”

The best approach is to set a personal expectation that you will always be prompt and helpful with getting back to people. Think of it as a personal trademark that will set you apart from most other leaders.

This is not to say that you need to resolve every issue in the originally expected time frame. That would be impossible. Just do not leave people hanging wondering why you are not addressing their concern. It is a common courtesy that many leaders neglect.

 

 

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.


Reducing Conflict 16 The Passive Aggressive

November 22, 2021

The passive aggressive is an interesting and frustrating type of personality. The person may seem moody or detached from reality. He or she may avoid other people at times. Sulking, backhanded compliments, procrastination, withdrawal, and refusal to communicate are all signs of passive aggression.

When passive aggressive people are called out for being negative or angry, they often will express denial. What they are really doing is trying to shut down communication so they do not have to face the issue.

What Causes People to be Passive Aggressive at Work

There are several things that can give rise to Passive Aggressive behavior.  If the person feels under-appreciated or oppressed at work, it can cause the symptoms. Workload is also an issue. If leaders create unreasonable expectations for what can be accomplished or fail to give the proper support, then people are going to push back in various ways.

Sometimes the problem stems back to some parental or scholastic abuse where the child did not feel welcome expressing ideas or concerns.

The person may be naturally lazy and inclined to procrastinate whenever given a difficult task. It may be a way to punish the person asking for the work or just a ploy to put off unrewarding tasks as long as possible.

The person may feel he or she is being unfairly singled out to do more than his or her fair share of the work.

How to Help a Passive Aggressive Person at Work

There are a number of ways to cope with a passive aggressive person, and some will work for one individual and not another.  You have to experiment with different techniques. 

Sometimes just paying a little more attention to the person or giving some positive feedback will cause movement in the right direction.  Also, peer pressure or coaching can be useful ways to shift the thinking pattern. Sometimes it just takes working with a partner.

I think the best way to cope with a passive aggressive person is to find the triggers that light up the person’s enthusiasm.  Get to know the person better.  Find out when he or she is really excited to tackle a difficult task.  I believe there are situations where we all will light up and dive into the work with pleasure.  Find out the key to this person’s motivation and see if you can supply more of that ingredient.

Some people will light up when given a significant challenge.  Others may be motivated by some form of reward.  Still, others may just be seeking recognition for their good work.  If you can find the motivational key and provide more of that factor, you can often change the annoying behaviors.

It is one of the most satisfying aspects of leadership to take a person who has passive aggressive behavior patterns and help the person out of the funk. It is possible if you stick with it and refrain from badgering the individual.

Free Video

Here is a 3-minute video that contains more information on how to deal with a Passive Aggressive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FPOFxVaxTc  

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.

 


Mastering Mentoring 19 Share Libraries

November 20, 2021

Sharing libraries in both directions is a really helpful way to gain from a mentoring relationship. Somewhere early in the relationship, each party should share which books, tapes, videos, podcasts, etc. have been most helpful and why.

If the mentor or protégé has certain materials that have been highly influential in his or her past, it would be great information for the other person to experience as well.

In my case, I have a list of the most influential books I have read in my career, and I have color-coded the list so that the most useful ones are easily seen. I also have my own video material available on Youtube for free, so people can browse my library of content with ease.

My website, www.leadergrow.com  has an index of most of the articles I have ever written, and my blog www.thetrustambassador.com has most of them as well.  The idea is to be willing to share content openly rather than trying to horde the most valuable information.

The only limitation to the philosophy is the amount of time the other person has to browse through your content.  That is why it is important to make things as easy to find as possible.  Let me share an example:

One area where I have done a lot of research is body language. I ended up writing a series of 100 articles on various aspects of body language.  Few people would have the time or patience to read through all 100 articles, so in the final article, I provided an index that contains the titles of all 100 articles. This way, an individual can scan the titles and quickly pick out items of highest interest. 

I did the same thing with two video series.  I did one on Building Higher Trust and another on Reducing Conflict. Each video series has 30 videos of just three minutes each, so people can look at the most important concepts.  I have followed up with a blog series that describes the key learning from each video along with a link to it.

Each original series was intended to be watched one day at a time for 30 days.  In that way, the material is metered out over a long enough period for the material to sink in deeply.

Summary

The point is to make your body of knowledge (both your own and influential writings from others) available to the other half of your mentoring relationship.  In doing that you will be contributing volumes of useful information to the other person.

 

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 46 Trust and Favoritism

November 19, 2021

I am sure we all agree that when a leader shows favoritism, it works against a culture of trust. The conclusion is so obvious, it seems there is nothing more to say about it. Unfortunately, the topic of favoritism is much more complex than meets the eye.

Common Problem

I ask the question in every leadership class I conduct. “When a leader plays favorites, does it lower trust?”  I always get unanimous affirmative votes.  Then I turn around and nail them with the following question, “Do you ever play favorites?”  I normally get a pregnant pause, then some uncomfortable responses like “Well I try to not do it.”

The reason for the problem is that if you are a human being, there are some people you would rather work with on a certain function than other people. So, you end up appearing to play favorites. 

Wisdom from John Wooden

The famous basketball coach, John Wooden, had a unique perspective on favoritism that seems to defy conventional wisdom until you think about it. He said, “The surest way I can show favoritism among my players is to treat each of them the same way.”  That sounds backward, but it actually makes good sense. 

John recognized that each player is unique and has a different set of needs from the other players. If he treats everyone the same all the time, then he is actually favoring some players over the others. There is an important distinction here when it comes to following rules.

I think if John had just considered enforcing the rules, then when he treats everyone the same way he is avoiding favoritism. There is a subtle difference between enforcement of rules and general accommodation of people’s needs. The main objective is to treat each person the right way.

How to Avoid Playing Favorites

There are a few methods that allow leaders to operate in the way they want most of the time without appearing to play favorites. I will share examples of two methods and include some sample dialog that can be useful.

Operate Outside Your Normal Groove

If you do things differently for a small portion of the time, you can avoid the appearance of having favorites. For example, if your “go-to” person on making presentations is Bill, you can say, “Normally I ask Bill to do the presentation, but I am also open to having someone else do it if you are interested.” 

You can have one person do a task most of the time, but if you allow other people to do it occasionally, you avoid the stigma of playing favorites.

The good news is that you can pick a low-risk situation to have another person fill in as if your normal “go-to” person is out sick. By cross-training other people, you also have the advantage of greater bench strength for times your usual choice is not available.

If the Person Has the Necessary Background

You might say, “I am asking Sally to prepare the marketing proposal again because she has a graduate degree in that function.”  If you can justify selecting a specific person to do some work based on a real credential, people will not accuse you of playing favorites.

Conclusion

In many situations, it is possible to rotate people into different roles so they grow. By doing so, you can improve bench strength and avoid being known as a leader who plays favorites.

 

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. Website www.leadergrow.com   BLOG www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals,  Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind


Leadership Barometer 120 Blind CEOs

November 16, 2021

This article shines a light on the problem of top leaders being blind to their personal contribution to a toxic environment.  I will offer some ideas on the cause and several antidotes that can be tried to achieve a more balanced, and hence more effective approach to reducing organizational problems.

In my consulting work, I am often called in by senior executives (CEO, COO, or VPHR) to help them improve trust within the organization. The conversation usually starts out with some form of description of a dysfunctional organization at the shop floor level.

Often the lower-level managers and supervisors are singled out as the culprits, and the top officers are asking me to come in and “fix them.”  Sometimes it is that the different silos are not getting along at all.

This is a dilemma for me because if I say something like “have you considered what your contribution is to the problem,” I find myself out in the street on my butt. If I do take the challenge to go in and work to improve the lower ranks, it is inevitable that these lower managers will tell me that the main source of the problem is the senior level. 

The CEO is ultimately responsible for everything that happens in an organization, but there is often great frustration because, while the CEO has set out a vision and tries to communicate it often, the rank and file keep accusing him of not communicating well. Note: I will use the male pronoun here for simplicity, but the problem is gender-neutral.

Several studies have revealed that employees most often state “lack of communication” as either the number one or number two reason for employee dissatisfaction. This is extremely frustrating to many CEOs because they are sincerely working hard to communicate every day.

Given a choice between their own defective “mouth,” and the employees’ defective “ears,” most CEOs would rather focus blame on the employees. In many cases, the root cause of the frustration is neither defective outgoing communication nor listening prowess. It is a lack of trust.

There is a cultural schism between organizational levels that is based more on fear than on lack of communication. Workers do not often verbalize the fear because, well, they are afraid. The issues get reported as communication problems.

CEOs are blind because they understand their own objectives clearly and are fully justified internally for every action they take. Reason: it is next to impossible for a sane person to take an action different from what he believes is the best one at the moment. If there was a better choice, that would be the one selected.

The CEO is doing the “right” thing in nearly all cases in his own opinion. If workers interpret the CEOs’ actions as inconsistent with the values, then they must be wrong.

Another cause of CEO blindness is lack of Emotional Intelligence. Daniel Goleman described a phenomenon where individuals with low EI struggle because they have a blind spot and cannot see themselves as others do. One way to begin to see is to get some formal training in Emotional Intelligence.

What are some of the other ways a CEO, or other top officer, can begin to see his contribution to organizational problems more clearly?

Double Communication with People Working Remotely 

In a hybrid situation, it is important to increase the flow of information in order to avoid isolation. Leaders need to take more time and intentionally ramp up communications in a hybrid or remote situation.

Become a Level Five Leader

In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins described what he called a Level Five Leader. Get some coaching on humility and try to begin using the “window/mirror” analogy.  This is where a leader looks out the window at others in the organization when things are going well, but looks in the mirror at himself when there are problems. 

Become a Mentor

Seek out several informal leaders in the organization and begin to mentor them. The process of building trust with strong underlings will allow more flow of critical information about when the leader is sending mixed or incorrect signals.

It is important to listen to these individuals when they give input. When the person giving input is candid, it is important that he is made to feel glad he brought up the issue. Many leaders punish people who bring up inconsistencies, which becomes a huge trust buster. 

Do more “Management by Walking Around”

This may seem awkward at first because the CEO may prefer the security and isolation of the ivory tower. That is one hallmark of the problem. Too many meetings and too much time spent in the office give rise to insulation that renders the top executive insensitive to organizational heat. 

Conduct a 360 Degree Leadership Evaluation

A periodic measure of key leadership skills is one way to prevent a top leader from kidding himself.  There are numerous instruments to accomplish this. Personally, I found the surveys to be similar and missed some of the more important aspects of true leadership. In frustration, I wrote my own assessment for top leaders. It is available at www.leadergrow.com.

Doing an assessment is important, but taking the data seriously and creating a plan from the information is crucial. 

Get a Good Coach

Every leader needs a coach to help prevent myopic thinking. Seek out a trusted advisor for a long-term relationship that is candid and challenging. Coaching sessions can be efficient by doing them after hours on the phone, or by using remote technology. 

Develop a Leadership Study Group

A leader can grow personally in parallel with underlings by investing some time studying the inspirational writings and video work of top leadership authors or benchmarking leaders from other organizations.  There are literally thousands of resources already available that can both inspire and challenge any group.

These investments are very low cost, and all that is required is to read the books and carve out some discussion time with direct reports in a group setting. Many leaders prefer the “lunch and learn” sessions.

Some leaders work with a skilled facilitator to keep things on track; other leaders prefer to proceed on their own without outside assistance. If face time is impractical due to travel, that does not prevent a virtual online discussion on leadership concepts from literature.

Subscribe to Some Leadership LinkedIn Groups

There are dozens of excellent leadership groups on LinkedIn. These groups can have thousands or tens of thousands of leaders who can benchmark each other and help resolve typical problems.

There are also numerous local and national organizations on leadership development that can provide provocative ideas for growth. For example, the Association for Talent Development or the National Human Resources Association have many programs on leadership development.

These are just a few ideas that can broaden the view of a top executive. Becoming less blind has the wonderful effect of helping a leader become more effective over time. I believe it is incumbent on all leaders to have a personal development plan and to give it a high priority in terms of effort and budget.  Seeking to constantly grow as a leader is truly important, and growing other leaders should be the highest calling for any leader. 

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.


Reducing Conflict 15 Circling the Narcissist

November 15, 2021

The narcissist is a type of personality that is particularly challenging in organizations. The word Narcissist comes from Greek Mythology. A young boy named Narcissus fell in love with his own image while viewing his reflection in a pool of water. 

In modern times, we see Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is characterized by an individual who has greatly exaggerated feelings of self-importance and a need for admiration. The narcissistic person has fallen in love with him or herself and has a diminished ability to empathize with the feelings of others. For the remainder of this article I will use the male pronoun for simplicity, but understand that the tendency to be a narcissist is gender-neutral.

Experts estimate that roughly 5% of the population is susceptible to narcissism. It is usually caused by a combination of factors during a child’s formative years.  For example, childhood trauma, early poor relationships, genetics, and temperament can all enhance one’s tendency toward narcissism

Impact on an Organization

In any kind of organizational structure, the narcissist poses a huge blockage to a culture of respect and trust.  This is especially true since narcissists tend to seek out positions of power where they can wield their superiority over others daily.

If you are in the unfortunate position to work for a narcissist, you are in for a very difficult ride. It is nearly impossible to cure a narcissist of the tendency to brag about how wonderful he is. Anyone who challenges his superiority will be squashed like a bug.

Keep in mind that a true narcissist does not recognize he has a problem at all. He just likes to see himself in the mirror a lot.  His feelings of superiority drive other people to distraction.

Dealing with a Narcissist

To cure an individual of narcissistic tendencies is a long and difficult path.  Usually, some professional help is the best approach if you work with (or for) a narcissist. Getting help for the person is a bit tricky. You cannot arrange for it yourself, as that would backfire. Sometimes you can get the assistance of Human Resources. Another possibility is to enlist another manager at the same or higher level.

The difficult part is to get the person to truly want to change. If the desire is not there, then no amount of professional help is going to make a difference.  To be helpful, try to indicate that there is a happier existence available long term if the person is willing to get some help.

Medication such as antidepressants or mood stabilizers can be used to treat a person who has narcissistic tendencies, but these must be prescribed by a physician as part of a treatment plan.

Another approach that can have at least some impact is to have a series of lunch and learn sessions where the entire team studies various challenging personality types. Having a public discussion of his “problem” with peers or subordinates can have a little impact in a few cases, but it is dangerous territory. A better approach will have the group study various personality disorders. Sometimes the narcissistic person will see himself in the descriptions and seek help on his own.

By no means is it a good strategy for a single individual to try to influence a narcissist to change. The ability to make a difference in this way is very remote.

Best advice

Recognize that the person has a legitimate mental disorder that he does not appreciate but does not know how to manage. Be sensitive and do not push any treatment if the person resists. The road to recovery can be long and arduous, but it is worth it for the brave people who will accept treatment.

 

Free Video

Here is a 3-minute video that contains more information on how to deal with a narcissist.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzHNG-N1CGM

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.

Reference:   Helpguide.org. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder.htm)