Building Higher Trust 21 The Role of Leaders

May 14, 2021

In my business, I work with leaders and organizations of all types. I am called upon to help them improve in a number of ways, but the most common request is they want to build higher trust. Most of my writing and all of my speaking is on the topic of trust, and I have become known internationally as “The Trust Ambassador.”

The most common misunderstanding relative to trust involves the leader’s role in creating a culture that is different from what they really want. Leaders rarely see themselves as the root cause of the problems facing their organization. They find ways to blame other people in the organization or circumstances for the lousy culture they want to improve.

Here are just a few examples of how leaders try to deflect their culpability:

1. Our supervisors don’t know how to hold people accountable properly.
2. Managers here don’t follow up on their commitments.
3. The sales people overcommit on delivery times, and we have backorders.
4. The development engineers don’t talk to the production people.
5. The economy is in the tank, and we need to lay off people.
6. Our production workers are lazy and work at a low efficiency.

In nearly every case, once I can examine the situation closely, I find it is the policies and behaviors of the senior-most leaders that are the root cause of problems relative to trust. They are often surprised to find out their role in creating the problems they face. Of course, they push back on me and go back to old excuses they have used in the past.

Eventually, by taking the high road and pointing out the opportunities that are overlooked, I can get most senior leaders to admit they are at least a part of the problem. That is a good first step.

The top leaders of any organization have the most influence on the culture. Oh sure, there can be problems or issues at any level, but the senior leaders set the tone of how we treat each other and how we react to challenges.

Leaders need to recognize that they may not control all the things that are happening to the organization, but they do influence the collective attitude to those challenges. I am usually able to get senior leaders to agree to put effort into changing the way they think and act. I do this by reframing the mindset to look for the incredible opportunities that lay in front of the organization if a culture of higher trust can be achieved,

Once we have crossed that bridge, progress comes much faster. I help the leaders understand that the key to building higher trust is to reduce the level of fear. By working to create a culture of psychological safety, leaders begin to reverse the landslide of disastrous conditions like the ones listed above and several hundred other excuses for poor performance.

With that as a foundation, if leaders get the idea that the key is to make people glad when they bring up a contrary thought, that encourages the level of trust to grow. Before long it is easy to more than double the productivity of an organization and the problems that were imagined in the beginning start melting away.

By that time the organization is ticking like a Swiss Watch, and exceptional performance is not only easy, it is a blast. It is up to the leaders to see their continual role as the genesis of culture.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video on the Leader’s Role in Establishing a Culture 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 92 Act Like an Adult

May 12, 2021

I am a big fan of documenting expected behaviors for a team. Reasons: 1) expectations are clearly stated, which improves performance, and 2) it is easier to call out members who are not abiding by the rules.

Every team should spend time upfront to construct and document rules of behavior and engagement. Here is an example set of rules one of my teams came up with that helped us perform well over several years.

1. When in conflict we will try to see the situation from the other’s perspective.
2. We will not leave our meetings with “silent nos”.
3. We will listen to each other but not beat dead horses (80/20 rule).
4. We will build an environment of trust.
5. We will work together on a finite number of common goals.
6. We will be more inclined to ask for and offer help.

In many offices and teams, there is an additional rule that would be most helpful. That is:

7. We will try to remember we are all adults and act that way most of the time.

The team that created this set of rules was a high performing group of mature managers.

It seems so simple, yet all of us witness adults acting like children at work. If you have not seen this, check your pulse–you may be dead! The problem is that when we get into petty squabbles, the real issues are deeper than the symptoms that are driving us nuts on the surface. So those childlike behaviors come out all over the office.

Operating in close quarters, human beings have a remarkable talent for driving each other crazy. This problem is ubiquitous; no demographic is exempt from this kind of bad behavior. You can find petty squabbles and childish actions on the part of lawyers, doctors, construction workers, bellhops, auto mechanics, ballet dancers, rock bands, people on assembly lines, farmers, office workers, top managers, etc.

If you observe a typical work environment for just a couple days, you will see ample evidence of all the aberrant behaviors grade school teachers witness every day in the class room and on the playground. Here are a few examples you will quickly recognize.

Being Selfish

Kids like to hog the remote control. Well, so do adults (and don’t deny it). At work, the idea is to cooperate and give as much or more than you get, but since equity is in the eye of the beholder, most people have the perpetual feeling they are doing more than their fair share. They put up with it for a while, but eventually the perceived inequity flares beyond the tolerance limit and fights erupt.

Whining


Oh boy, is that ever common in the working world! You would think some people are living in a prison camp the way they moan and cry about everything that is not up to their personal liking.

We had a sign in one of my work areas that had a big red circle with a line through it and the word “Whining” in the center. The “no whining” symbol was actually useful in many cases. When people are called for whining, they tend to do less of it.

Some offices have Olympic quality whiners. They need to be called on it.

Shouting or Grandstanding

Sometimes the level of yelling in the workplace is amazing. In school, bullies find out that most kids do not have the courage to stand up to them when they bluster. It is a great trick to be able to out shout the competition and often get your way.

Supervisors in many organizations have a habit of using a tone of voice that people interpret as yelling. I often find that word to be hard to define because it really is in the eye of the beholder.

Sometimes a supervisor will be accused of yelling at an employee when he has not raised his voice at all. So, “yelling” does not always mean shouting, but it can mean that. I know one supervisor who really does yell at people loudly. This kind of approach has no place in the working world, in my opinion, but there is still some debate.

There was an article in the Harvard Business Review indicating that for large scale change or innovation initiatives, a healthy dose of dissent is necessary. For example, it is said that Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer were famous for yelling at people.

In my book on Trust, I share a cute story about Jack Welch. “One former GE executive who had been dressed down by Welch for daring to question his boss, admitted to the moderator of an Aspen Institute Seminar that Welch’s furious tirade ‘caused me to soil my pants.’ ”

I think most of us would agree the bully approach is most often working at cross purposes to the organization’s best interest. Short term it may get compliance, but it destroys motivation.

Hitting

I guess this is not so often seen in the working world, but I have actually witnessed it in rare situations. Usually, the hitting is with words rather than fists, but sometimes fights do erupt that involve pushing and shoving or an occasional slap in the face.

Sometimes there is a type of sexual harassment that goes along with the physical contact sports being played by the children at work.

Sulking

This is so common that you will recognize it immediately. Watch for it whenever someone is called out for another one of the childlike behaviors. The person will sulk and mope about for days because his or her ego has been bruised. This childlike behavior occurs because people just do not know what else to do, so they hang their head and sigh deeply that the world is so unfair.

Passive Aggression

We see this all the time when people do not want to do their work. They will go into a “Flight Controller Slowdown” and do only exactly what they are told to do. Then they will sit and wait for more instructions. It is a way to get even for the sins done unto them by the big bad bosses.

Kids do this to try to get out of doing their homework or eating their vegetables. Adults practice it to punish those in control. It is exactly the same driving force, which is being disgruntled or nursing perceived wrongs.

Getting Even

Back stabbing or in some way paying back an individual or group for some perceived wrong doing only serves to escalate the hostility.

The easiest way to witness this is in the e-mail grenades that go back and forth in every office in the world. Each time a note comes from the other person, the situation becomes graver and additional top brass are copied on the note until the final string becomes really laughable.

It is the exact equivalent of a food fight in the Junior High School cafeteria. It gets messy very fast. The antidote is so simple; don’t take the bait!

There are probably dozens of other childlike behaviors you can witness every day in the working world. I think having a rule that indicates we are going to try to avoid this kind of thing is a good defense that can work.

There needs to be a highly visible effort to act like adults and not resort to immature tactics to get our way. When you set that expectation as a leader, it flushes out the individuals who like to practice these techniques, and they are far less disruptive.

Soon the embarrassment of the whole thing forces the perpetrators to grow up and join the adult working world. Try it, and see if it helps improve things in your place of work.




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

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



Talent Development 37 Evaluating Impact

May 10, 2021

Section 2.8 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Evaluating Impact. Section A reads “Knowledge of models and methods to evaluate the impact of learning and talent development solutions.”

There are numerous ways to measure the impact of training. The purpose of this article is to share some effective ways to measure impact and some caveats on their use.

As examples, I will use my leadership development work and give specific ideas that show how they work.

ROI Calculations

Depending on the type of training and the level of people being trained, it may be possible to measure the ROI directly by getting pre’ and post-training data from existing sources. These elements might include direct productivity of the unit, turnover rates, grievances, Quality of Worklife surveys, and other extant data that generally reside with Human Resources.

The obvious caveat here is to make sure the shift in performance was a direct result of the training and not some other influence that was going on at the same time.

Course Evaluations

One universally used tool is the end of course evaluation. Simply carve out time at the last session of the course for people to fill out a brief survey. The following is a list of the few questions asked on most end-of-course evaluations:

1. The impact of this course on your leadership skill
2. The skill of the facilitator
3. The pace of the course and use of time
4. Rate the effectiveness of the experiential learning components
5. Degree to which you would recommend this course to others

There are two caveats I can think of with evaluations. First, people may feel tired or rushed if they are put on the spot at the end of an exhausting course. If you elect to send an electronic version of the evaluation, your net return of the surveys will be a significantly lower percentage of the population, and the data will be skewed.

People who had a good experience will take the time to fill out the survey, but people who did not like the course (those with the most significantly helpful data) will often not bother to submit.

Second, the anonymity of the feedback is always in question. If there is a hard copy form, then people might believe there is a secret mark somewhere so that their input is not really anonymous.

Stories

Sometimes you will hear stories about the impact of training. Keep track of these and get as much input as you can. The following story happened to me as a result of some leadership training I did in a city about 200 miles from my home town.

I was called in to meet with the CEO and HR Manager of a metal working firm in another city. When I drove into the parking lot, I noticed that it was only about one third full.

The CEO and HR Manager told me that their business was faltering due to internal squabbles between the various groups and lack of customer focus. They had furloughed many workers and were working partial shifts to get by. I determined that there was a lot of conflict due to low trust, and they lacked focus and alignment with a solid strategic plan.

I worked with the leadership team for a couple days giving them information on how to build a better culture of Trust and developing a strong strategic plan.

Six months later, the CEO called me back down there because they had “a different problem.” When I rounded the corner to the parking lot, I immediately saw that there were no slots available in the entire lot. The CEO wanted to know how they could ramp up faster with staff because they were buried in too many orders for the current team.

Testimonials

Many times, people will volunteer to write a short paragraph on their reaction to the training. These reviews are like gold, because they capture the enthusiasm in the actual words selected by the writer.

I have been collecting testimonials for years, and they are useful. If you use too many of them in your promotions it can have a negative impact.

I will share two testimonials that reflect actual student reactions to my teaching.

“Bob Whipple has been a force of nature in our community when it comes to trust-building and leadership development. He volunteers locally on business ethics boards and committees, writes books and articles, produces videos, and tirelessly trains our local up-and-coming leaders through the local Chamber of Commerce. His thinking is original and powerful. His lifetime of achievements have shown his deep competence in the leadership and strategy domains coupled with his authentic caring for his community and the people he trains.”

“You have an incredible way of teaching others and motivating them to excel. I have learned more from your insight and examples than any book, course, or seminar I have taken thus far. It is so refreshing to meet a leader who not only has the didactic knowledge and requisite experience but also is an expert at its practical application! Thank you for helping me see my potential and for an experience I will never forget.”

Keep in mind that testimonials also can include suggestions for how you can improve your product, so read them carefully and let the writers be your coaches.

Repeat Business

One way to measure the worth of a talent development effort is whether there is a continuum of repeat business. If individuals and groups are seeing real value and progress from your training, they will encourage others to take the course. If a course dies out after one or two cohorts, you need to think about what you are doing wrong.

These examples are just a few ways to measure the impact of a talent development solution. Get creative and see what other methods you find helpful.

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 20 The Ratchet Effect

May 7, 2021

Understanding the Ratchet Effect starts with an analogy. Trust between people is like a bank account. At any point in time there is a “balance of trust” in the account similar to the balance of cash in a bank account.

Every time we interface with that person, whether live in person, on the phone, in emails, or even with body language, we make either deposits to the account or take withdrawals. The size of the transaction varies depending on the nature of the interaction.

At a bank, if we take too many withdrawals, or even one very large withdrawal, the account becomes “overdrawn,” and we need to put more money in before we get back to zero.

When a leader has transactions with people, the trust account with each of them is being affected with each transaction. It is easy for a leader to make small deposits in the trust account with people to increase the balance. Here are just a few examples of things that can create small deposits:

1. Showing empathy for the other person’s situation
2. Just saying good morning in a cheerful tone of voice
3. Recognizing an individual for a job well done
4. Treating people with respect
5. Giving people the freedom to do their job without interference
6. Thanking people sincerely
7. Treating people like adults
8. Allowing people to have air time

While making small deposits is relatively easy and common, making a large deposit is more difficult. As a leader, nothing I say can make a huge increase in trust. It has to be something I do, and for a deposit to be large, it requires some unusual circumstance.

For example, suppose you are a sales manager reporting to me, the CEO. You write me an e-mail while I am on vacation at the lake letting me know that an important prospective customer will be there at 8 a.m. to review our manufacturing site. You are prepared to show the customer around, but state in your note, “I am really sorry you are not here this week, Frank. We will do a good job on this in your absence, but it would have been nice to have the whole management team in attendance to secure this new account.”

At 7:30 the next morning I show up at work unexpectedly, and you realize I must have driven half of the night to get there in time from 200 miles away. In this case, I am going beyond what might reasonably be expected. My extra effort represents a significant trust deposit in your eyes.

It usually takes a special circumstance for a leader to have the opportunity to make large trust deposits. Instead, the current trust balance with people is the result of numerous small deposits (clicks of the ratchet) made over an extended period.

Unfortunately, on the withdrawal side, the pattern is different. With one slip of the tongue or even a wrong expression on his face in a meeting, a leader can make a huge withdrawal. Because of the ratchet effect, a small withdrawal can become big because the pawl is no longer engaged in the ratchet.

Here is an example of the ratchet effect in conversation: “You know, I have always trusted George. I have worked for him for 15 years, and he has always been straight with me. I have always felt he was on my side when the chips were down, but after he said that in the meeting yesterday, I’ll never trust him again.”

Not only has all trust been lost in a single action, but it will take a very long time before any new deposits can be made. So, in essence, the trust account went from a healthy positive balance to being overdrawn in a single sentence.

What if there was a way to reinsert the pawl back into the ratchet during a serious withdrawal so that the mechanism only slipped back one or two teeth. That would mean the basic level of trust would be retained and could be immediately enhanced by further deposits.

The ability to reinsert the pawl during a withdrawal is pivotal in terms of the ability to maintain trust. That is where the concept of “rewarding candor” provides organizational magic that has unparalleled power to build trust. Rewarding candor is, in fact, the way leaders reinsert the pawl during trust withdrawals.

All leaders make trust withdrawals because no one is perfect. Leaders, simply by being human, do tend to make withdrawals from time to time. In most organizations, people do not feel safe enough to let the leader know they have just been sapped. Hence, there is no ability to reinsert the pawl, and trust plummets. It may even go to zero or a negative level of trust before it can be corrected over much time and incredible effort.

Contrast this with another scenario where the individual knows it is safe to let the leader know she has made a blunder on trust. The individual says something like this, “I don’t think you realize how people interpreted your remarks at the meeting. They are upset with you right now.”

If this leader reinforces the person’s candor, she might say. “Looks like I messed up this time, Bill. Thanks for having the guts to level with me. I would have never realized the issue if you hadn’t brought it up. Now, thanks to your honesty, I have the opportunity to get people back together, apologize, and tell them what I really meant.”

An exchange like that not only can stop the withdrawal in the mind of the forthright employee, it also gives the leader the opportunity to stop the withdrawal for the entire population.

Recognize the presence of the ratchet effect when trying to maximize the trust account with other individuals and make sure to reinforce candor to prevent small withdrawals from becoming huge ones.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video about the Ratchet Effect.

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 91 Ten Hallmarks of High Trust Organizations

May 5, 2021

The advantages of working in a high trust environment are evident to everyone from the CEO to the shop floor, from suppliers to customers, and even the competition.

Building and maintaining trust within any organization pays off with many benefits. Unfortunately, not many organizations have been able to create an environment of high trust. The few that do have high trust enjoy an incredible sustainable advantage.

To understand why, we can contrast high trust environments with lower trust areas along many dimensions.

Solving Problems


In organizations of high trust, problems are dealt with easily and efficiently. In low trust organizations, problems become huge obstacles as leaders work to unscramble the mess to find out who said what or who caused the problem to spiral out of control. Often feelings are hurt or long-term damage in relationships occurs. While problems exist in any environment, they take many times longer to resolve if there is low trust. That is wasted time.

Focused Energy


People in organizations with high trust do not need to be defensive. They focus energy on accomplishing the Vision and Mission of the organization. Their energy is directed toward the customer and against the competition.

In low trust organizations, people waste energy due to infighting and politics. Their focus is on internal squabbles and destructive turf battles.

Bad blood between people creates a litany of issues that distract supervision from the pursuit of excellence. Instead, they play referee all day.

Efficient Communication


When trust is high, the communication process is efficient as leaders freely share valuable insights about business conditions and strategy.

In low trust organizations, rumors and gossip zap around the organization like laser beams in a hall of mirrors. Before long, leaders are blinded with problems coming from every direction.

Trying to control the zapping information takes energy away from the mission and strategy.

High trust organizations rely on solid, believable communication, while the atmosphere in low trust groups is usually one of damage control and minimizing employee unrest. Since people’s reality is what they believe rather than what is objectively happening, the need for damage control in low trust groups is often a huge burden.

Retaining Customers


Workers in high trust organizations have a passion for their work that is obvious to customers.

When trust is lacking, workers often display apathy toward the company that is transparent to customers. This condition undermines top line growth as customers turn to more upbeat groups for their services.

All it takes is the roll of eyes or some shoddy body language to send valuable customers looking for alternative places to do their business.

A “Real” Environment


People who work in high trust environments describe the atmosphere as being “real.” They are not playing games with one another in a futile attempt to outdo or embarrass the other person. Rather, they are aligned under a common goal that permeates all activities.

When something is real, people know it and respond positively. When trust is high, people might not always like each other, but they have great respect for each other. That means, they work to support and reinforce the good deeds done by fellow workers rather than try to find sarcastic or belittling remarks to make about them.

The reduction of infighting creates hours of extra time spent achieving business goals.

Saving Time and Reducing Costs


High trust organizations get things done more quickly because there are fewer distractions. There is no need to double check everything because people generally do things right.

In areas of low trust, there is a constant need to spin things to be acceptable and then to explain what the spin means. This takes time, which drives costs up.

Perfection not Required


A culture of high trust relieves leaders from the need to be perfect. Where trust is high, people will understand the intent of a communication even if the words were phrased poorly.

In low trust groups, the leader must be perfect because people are poised to spring on every misstep to prove the leader is not trustworthy. Without trust, speaking to groups of people is like walking on egg shells.

More Development and Growth


In low trust organizations, people stagnate because there is little emphasis placed on growth. All of the energy is spent jousting between individuals and groups.

High trust groups emphasize development, so there is a constant focus on personal and organizational growth.

Better Reinforcement


When trust is high, positive reinforcement works because it is sincere and well executed.

In low trust organizations, reinforcement is often considered phony, manipulative, or duplicitous which lowers morale.

Without trust, attempts to improve motivation through reinforcement programs often backfire.

A Positive Atmosphere


The atmosphere in high trust organizations is refreshing and light. People enjoy coming to work because they have fun and enjoy their coworkers. They are also more than twice as productive as their counterparts in lower trust areas.

In groups with low trust, the atmosphere is oppressive. People describe their work as a hopeless string of sapping activities foisted upon them by the clueless morons who run the place.

These are just ten contrasts describing the difference between high trust and low trust organizations. There are many more distinctions, some of them very subtle. No list of contrasts could be complete.

If you have an organization where trust is low, you are operating under such a huge disadvantage to your counterpart with high trust you cannot hope to survive.

Most top leaders understand all of the above. The conundrum is, they sincerely want to build an environment of high trust, but they consistently do things that take them in the wrong direction.

Many leaders end up hiring expensive consultants to help create a better environment within their organization. This rarely works because the leader does not realize the problem cannot be fixed by an outsider.

To fix the problem of low trust the leader needs to say, “The atmosphere around here stinks, and it must be my fault because I am the one in charge. How can I change my own behavior in order to turn the tide toward an environment of higher trust”?

With that attitude, there is a real possibility an outside coach or consultant can help the organization. Unfortunately, most leaders have a blind spot on their own contribution to low trust, so in those groups there is little hope of a lasting change.

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

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




Talent Development 36 Technology Application

May 3, 2021

Section 2.4 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Technology Application. Section A reads “Skill in identifying, selecting, and/or implementing learning technologies, for example, using evaluative criteria and identifying appropriate applications in an instructional environment.”

We saw the most extreme need for this skill in 2020, when the entire world of training and development was forced to shift focus from predominately live training to becoming effective in a virtual environment.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely felt the pain of having to shift gears on the fly last year. For decades, I have been doing training in person with an occasional need to work with remote technology. In the past, I used Webex, Go to Meeting, and Skype to do my remote work.

Within a couple weeks, I was required to retool to a primarily Zoom platform with some live Facebook and StreamYard technology. I have also done some of my work in Microsoft Teams. Each technology has advantages and disadvantages, and there is a learning curve associated with each technology.

The good news is that when you have no choice, you can get an amazing amount accomplished in a short period of time.

I found some helpful resources who were willing to help me along among the various networking groups to which I belong. Most people were gracious with their help, and I returned the favor by mentoring others once I had mastered the technology.

Also, each platform has numerous instructional self-teach videos on YouTube for free. It just takes time to watch the videos and practice the techniques.

It turned out that practice was the only way for me to master these technologies fully. I found myself going through an impending class six or seven times in order to make sure things would work out.

What I found most challenging was shifting from one type of technology to another seamlessly during a presentation. For example, if I am giving a program using PowerPoint as the basis for content, then need to switch to a video in the middle, a lot can go wrong.

On the surface, it seems like a simple matter to just “screen share” a video that has already been cued up. In practice, there are many ways to get it wrong and only one set of actions that will get the desired results.

In many cases, the host’s view is different from what the participants see. I found it helpful to use multiple screens, where I could be the host on my main screen and a “blind participant”on another screen. That way I could see exactly what the participants were seeing at all times.

Another challenge was to modify delivery of the content so that people operating in a remote setting can get equivalent transfer of knowledge to the live presentations. Some areas are a bit tricky.

For example, I use magic illusions when doing live training to add variety to the presentation and give participants a mental break. These illusions always relate to the content I am teaching, and they are very popular with participants. Unfortunately, many of the illusions require another person from the audience to physically interface with me. That is impossible, so many of my standard illusions will not work.

Fortunately, I have enough illusions that I can use those that work virtually to break up the sessions. In addition, I use a number of other techniques to liven up the presentation and engage the participants fully. Some examples of the methods I use in my leadership courses are given below:

1. Role play situations, where I put the leaders in tricky situations
2. Small group brainstorms on questions of how to handle certain problems
3. Polls to test which approaches would be most productive
4. Scavenger hunts to identify ways to connect with people
5. Identification of optical illusions
6. Music based interludes
7. Stretch breaks and body movement to loosen up
8. Exercises where I ask participants to annotate an existing slide
9. Feedback emojis to provide emotional reactions to certain content

The transition to a different way to do training and development is challenging, but with some creative thinking it is possible to have remote training be just as effective as in-person training events.


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 19 Reinforce Candor

April 30, 2021

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the first part of my Building Higher Trust Model, which was Table Stakes. These elements are prerequisites to building trust. If they are missing, there is no way for a leader to build real trust.

Last week’s article was about “Enabling Actions.” These elements are not required to build trust, but the more you can practice them the more trust you will build.

This week I want to discuss the grand daddy of all the behaviors that will help leaders build higher trust. It is called “Reinforce Candor.”

Let’s examine why I believe these two strange-sounding words are the magic key to great leadership.

Reinforce Candor

According to Webster, candor simply means frankness. It is the ability to tell an individual exactly what you believe to be true without mincing words. To reinforce individuals is to praise them when they do something.

Leaders go about their day making decisions or advocating actions that they honestly believe are the right things to do. If someone in the organization speaks up with a contrary opinion of what to do, it is only natural for leaders to become defensive and make the person who is being candid feel bad about doing it.

If leaders can take the opportunity to hear the person out without being judgmental, then they reinforce the person’s candor. The person will end up glad that he brought it up rather than sorry.

The concept is called “psychological safety” by Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School. She maintains that organizations where people feel it is safe to bring up things that may seem to be contrary to the current path they are on creates more successful organizations. Here is a link to her Ted Talk, “Building a Psychologically Safe Workplace” on the subject.

What Leaders Need to Do

How would leaders go about making workers who are candid feel glad they bring up scary things? They do it by not punishing but by reinforcing their candor.

For most leaders, that behavior is nearly impossible simply because they believe deep down that the action they were advocating is the right thing to do. Hence, if an employee advocates a different view, that person must be wrong. That belief leads the leaders to either ignore the employee or push back in a defensive way. This reaction is only human nature, but it definitely does not reinforce the employee’s candor.

Leaders need to realize that they wear an “I AM RIGHT” button all day every day. Sometimes leaders have a hard time believing me when I tell them this trait, but after thinking about their mental processes with some guidance, almost all of them can agree they do wear the button. The reason is that the button is consistent with human nature.

The revelation comes when I pass out buttons to everyone in the room and suggest to the leaders when someone brings up a contrary thought, that the first order of business is to see the invisible “I AM RIGHT” button that the other person is wearing. That action will change the leader’s body language from one of hostility to one of curiosity; now we are half way home.

Couple the curiosity with respect for the individual and you will have the magic solution to low trust in any organization. If the leader reinforces rather than punishes the employee for his or her candor and treats the individual with due respect, then trust will grow in that transaction.

In 50 years of studying leadership, the technique I just described is the most powerful tonic to change the culture of any organization. That is why I end up teaching the technique to every leader who will listen to me.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video about reinforcing candor.


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 90 Use Your RAS

April 28, 2021

The human brain is a remarkable organ. It has many fascinating properties that can give us insights on how to live a better and more effective life.

One of these phenomena occurs at the base of the brain: the Reticular Activating System (RAS).

RAS is an incredible filtering system that allows human beings to sort out and pay attention to things that are important to us while disregarding the bombardment of other things that are not critical.

It is the mechanism that allows us to focus attention on the vital few and ignore the trivial many.

I will leave how the RAS works to the brain experts, but the impact of it is a wonder to behold. In this article, I want to explore RAS along with how you can use it to improve your life. The best way to appreciate the power of RAS is through examples.

Lobby Discussions

Imagine you are in a theater during intermission. The crowded lobby is abuzz with the cacophony of voices, and it is impossible to hear any conversation except the one closest to you. In the crowd, within earshot, someone mentions your name.

All of a sudden you are able to laser focus on that conversation, ignoring all the rest, and actually hear what that person is saying about you. If the person had not uttered your name, there would be no way you would hear what she was saying. That is RAS in action.

New Truck

Let’s look at another typical example. You just came out of a car dealership after having ordered a red Ford truck. On the way home, you start to notice red Ford trucks everywhere.

Driving into the dealership, you paid no attention and did not notice any trucks at all. Once the RAS is activated, it allows all kinds of miraculous things to happen.

Practice using your RAS

RAS is a very powerful tool, but we need to be continuously aware of that power if we are to harness it for use in our lives.

Try this little exercise. Try to identify 5-10 times in each day where you are applying the understanding of RAS to improve how you manage your life.

For example, you might be sitting in a cafeteria with hundreds of people. In the distance, you spot an old friend you had been thinking about recently and realize you have not spoken to him in over a year.

You resolve to call him that afternoon. Immediately you recognize that RAS helped you find that person and renew the acquaintance. That counts as one of the 10 opportunities to use RAS.

That evening, while scanning a magazine, out of the corner of your eye you catch a glimpse of an ad for a boat and immediately remember that you had intended to buy a new fishing reel this week.

The association was made possible by RAS. That would be number two example. Try to find 5-10 examples a day.

By focusing your energy on understanding how you can use RAS to filter your thinking as opposed to following random thoughts, you will actually be doing a kind of “meta RAS” where the technique is helping you identify opportunities to use its power for you daily. It sounds complex, but it is really pretty basic.

Do not overlook the power of RAS to improve your life. The more you practice identifying the phenomenon within you and using it, the more creative ways you will find of having it guide you to a better life.

Robert Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.


Talent Development 35 Collaboration

April 26, 2021

Section 1.3 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Collaboration and Leadership. Section A reads “A knowledge of theories, methods, and techniques to build and manage professional relationships, for example group dynamics, teamwork, shared experience, and negotiation.”

This article will highlight some techniques that can enhance collaboration. Recognize that collaboration is significantly different in the post COVID-19 world, so new challenges and opportunities will unfold for some time.

The Foundation of Collaboration

Good teamwork and collaboration require a culture of mutual respect. This does not mean that everyone on the team will always agree on everything going on. The acid test of a team is how people react when there is an inevitable disagreement.

The way to generate this kind of excellent culture is to start the team off correctly by creating a charter that identifies how individuals intend to act when there are problems. Individuals on teams without a firm charter often regress to child-like behaviors when facing disagreements.

If everyone on the team agrees to a set of expected behaviors and also the consequences that will befall anyone who violates the charter and does so while the team is still in the forming stage, then there is a much lower potential for acting out later on.

Watch the Pronouns

This element is key, especially when several people on the team are working remotely. If you see a lot of language that contains the words “we” and “they” check to see if some silos are emerging within the team. For example, you might read, “We wanted to go with the original wording, but they thought it was too harsh.” That kind of wording is indicative of problems in teamwork ahead, particularly if people are interfacing virtually.

Watch how People Address Each Other

The words selected as well as the body language and tone of voice will let you know if the mutual respect is deep and strong or shallow and fragile. Look for how the team members support each other and are inclusive with all team members.

Do not Allow Jokes at the Expense of a Team Member

Often teams make the mistake of allowing little snide jokes about the appearance or mannerisms of some team members. Even though everybody knows these side comments are made in jest, some damage to relationships occurs. If the habit persists, then long term damage to self esteem is going to follow.

An old pastor I once knew told me, “Never say anything hurtful about your mate, even if it is said in jest.” I have always tried to follow that advice, but I confess that I have been less than perfect in this. When working with teams of professionals, I insist on a strict adherence to the no jokes at the expense of others rule.

Help the Team Celebrate

Great teams enjoy celebrating milestones with the group. That is more difficult in a virtual world, but it is possible. You might have a kind of virtual cocktail party where each person serves a favorite beverage. You could play some simple games for small prizes to be mailed out, if the team agrees. Let your creativity figure out how to keep the atmosphere from becoming too somber.

These are just a few tips from my experience. In a virtual or hybrid world, the challenge is greater, but it is really worth investing in these kinds of activities for the benefit of better teamwork.





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 18 Enabling Actions

April 24, 2021

Last week, I wrote about the first part of my Building Higher Trust Model, which was Table Stakes. These elements are prerequisites to building trust. If they are missing, there is no way for a leader to build real trust.

This article is about “Enabling Actions.” These elements are not required to build trust at all, but the more you can practice them the more trust you will build.


Let’s take a look at some examples of enabling actions.

Advocate well

If leaders advocate well for the benefit of their people, then trust will generally be enhanced. There is a caveat, so this factor is not a “blank check.” While advocating for their people, leaders must realize that their lobbying must be consistent with the values, vision, and culture of the organization. If leaders advocate with a sinister motive, then trust can be destroyed.

Reinforce Right Behavior

Leaders who praise people sincerely when they do good work tend to build higher trust. The key word here is “sincerely” and not in a manipulative way.

Act in the Interest of Others

This element simply means do not be self-centered. The “Golden Rule” applies here. If you do unto others the way you would like to have done to you, then chances are trust is growing.

Follow Up

This concept is simply about doing what you said you would do. It is surprising how many leaders fail to do something they promised because conditions have changed, but they fail to explain to people why they are not following up. You must be 100% with doing what you said you would do to enhance trust. When you cannot do that, whatever the reason, you owe people an explanation for the change. Many leaders neglect this aspect to their detriment.

Admit Mistakes

We all make mistakes in life. If a leader humbly admits a mistake, it is usually a trust- building event, provided it was not a repeated mistake or one that is sinister. Many leaders try to hide their mistakes or make them sound trivial. It is better to ‘fess up, because it will reveal strength of character and humility.

Care About Your People

This behavior takes a number of forms. It is all about how you show you care. It is there in the words you use and especially in your body language. Do not embarrass people in front of their co-workers. Coach them in private, but praise them in public.

Explain Paradoxes

If something does not make sense, people deserve to know why. Be honest and open with your communication. Also be timely so that rumors do not spring up throughout the organization.

This brief article has been just a few of the myriad of things leaders can do to enhance the level of trust in an organization. It is a never-ending joy to do the right things by people because it creates the kind of culture you want to have and that fosters higher productivity.



Bonus video

Here is a brief video about Trust and Enabling Actions.


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.