Building Higher Trust 17 Table stakes

April 16, 2021

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

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

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

Be Open

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

Be Honest

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

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

Be Ethical

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

Honor Commitments

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

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

Be Consistent

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

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

Bonus video

Here is a brief video about Trust and Table Stakes


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



Building Higher Trust 16 Engagement

April 9, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lower Fear and Raise Trust

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

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

So how do you lower fear?

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

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

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

Leaders Need to Reinforce Candor

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

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

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

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

Bonus video

Here is a brief video about Trust and Engagement

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



Building Higher Trust 15 Reinforcement

April 3, 2021

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

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

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

When Trust is High

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

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

When Trust is Low

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

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

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

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

The Overview about Reinforcement  

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

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

Bonus video

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

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


Building Higher Trust 13 Motivation

March 26, 2021

There are many myths about the topic of motivation and how to achieve it. In this article, I will shine a light on the most common misunderstanding and describe a better way to create motivation.

Root of the Problem

Most managers and leaders use the word “motivate” as a verb.  They believe you can “motivate” people if you find enough perks to throw at them. You might hear this come from the mouth of a manager, “We need to motivate the team to higher productivity. Maybe we should give everyone a five percent raise in pay.”

Why this Logic is Flawed

Over 50 years ago, Frederick Herzberg did some research on motivation and satisfaction. He found that a certain set of factors have the ability to make employees more satisfied. He called these actions “Hygiene Factors.”  These things would include such concepts as physical cleanliness, pay, status, security, and office layout.

Herzberg’s research showed that while improving the Hygiene Factors has an impact on satisfaction, another set of factors leads to higher motivation.  He called these “Motivating Factors.” These things would include autonomy, authority, trust, growth, and reinforcement.

The typical mistake made by many managers and leaders is to increase the hygiene factors when they are trying to achieve higher motivation.  That is a poor strategy because the hygiene factors govern satisfaction rather than motivation.

What to do Instead

If you are truly interested in obtaining more motivation in the workforce, seek to increase the level of motivating factors.  Do not rely on an improvement in Hygiene Factors to have an impact on motivation. You will be much more successful if you follow this advice.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video about motivation and 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


Building Higher Trust 14 Development of People

March 20, 2021

There is a direct link between the development of people and building a culture of higher trust.

When leaders focus high energy on making sure each individual sees a pathway to become more valuable to the organization, it demonstrates how much the leader values people.

Start with a Development Plan

Each individual in the organization should have a solid development plan that was created by dialog between the leaders and the employee.

The discussion will contain an understanding of the skills the employee already is contributing along with a glimpse of how this person could become even more valuable.

Once the leader and employee agree on what additional skills would be helpful, the information can be crafted into a concrete plan for moving ahead.

Bonding

The process of creating a development plan is a kind of bonding activity that lets the employee know he or she is a valued member of the organization.

The willingness to envision the employee performing at a higher level is what makes the activity valuable in terms of building higher trust.

Solid steps forward

Without a specific plan, even if intentions are good, the employee may feel somewhat taken for granted among the vicissitudes of organizational priorities. It may be a long time before activities are actually put on the calendar.

Worse, the intentions may never be realized at all as the urgent needs of daily life take priority.

With a plan in place, there is a high probability that some specific training will be scheduled and carried out.

Revise the plan often

It is important to continually revise the plan as some training takes place. This step is consistent with a philosophy of life-long learning.

If the development of people is viewed as a journey with no end point, it will have the most impact on building higher trust.

Praise the person

Leaders need to recognize the employees in a meaningful way as they go through various development activities.

People need to know that their efforts to improve are recognized and appreciated by upper management. That practice will make future development discussions richer and more rewarding for both the employee and the organization.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video about trust and the development of people


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



Building Higher Trust 12 Admit Mistakes

March 13, 2021

When you admit an honest mistake, it usually increases rather than reduces trust. This law does not hold for all types of mistakes. For example, if you have repeated the same mistake several times, admitting you did it again will not enhance the trust others have in you.

Likewise, if you made a mistake that shows you were careless or just stupid, you should not expect that admitting it to others will enhance trust.

Most of the mistakes we make in life are situations where we were caught off guard or there was a special circumstance blocking our view. In those instances, freely admitting the blunder will normally enhance trust rather than reduce it.

Of course, if you are prone to making a lot of mistakes, you will be viewed as careless or clueless, and that will diminish trust.

I made a significant blunder early in my career. After I realized what had happened, I immediately went to my boss, hat in hand, and told him what had happened. I prefaced the admission by stating “You would never know this happened unless I told you.” My boss agreed with me that what I had done was not the smartest thing I ever did. Then he said something remarkable. He said, “The smartest thing you ever did is tell me about it.”

From that moment on, my career took care of itself. My boss knew he could count on me to be honest, even if I had done something embarrassing.

When you willingly put yourself in a vulnerable position, it makes a positive statement about your character and integrity.

Intentionally hiding mistakes is a poor strategy. Sure, you might get away with it in certain circumstances, but information often leaks out in ways we cannot anticipate. Once you have been detected trying to duck the accountability for a mistake you caused, the damage is major, and it lasts a long time.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video about the concept of admitting mistakes.



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



Building Higher Trust 11 Trust and the Need for Perfection

March 5, 2021

For leaders, there is a direct correlation between the level of trust and the need for them to be perfect. I discovered this phenomenon while doing the research for my third book, “Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.”

If Trust is low

If you are a leader of a low trust group, you need to be practically perfect, like Mary Poppins. The reason is that in an environment of low trust, people are poised like coiled snakes ready to pounce on any opportunity to misinterpret the intent of their leader.

Leaders need to spend continuous effort to spin every statement exactly right or suffer the consequences of the skeptical people who work them. These leaders find it difficult to relax and enjoy the ride because they are always on guard.

When Trust is high

When leaders can build up culture of high trust, things are a lot easier. People will cut these leaders some slack if something is not exactly right. The leaders might say something in a way that could be misinterpreted. They might make a wrong calculated risk. They might forget to deliver an implied reward.

In high trust groups, people are willing to give the leader the benefit of the doubt. They know that the right intent was there, even if something came out less than perfect. These leaders can relax and enjoy the wonderful ride of leading in a high trust environment.

Of course, leaders of high trust groups have that advantage because they have not done a lot of messing up in the past. There is low danger of making a lot of mistakes, and the art of leading is fun.

Bonus Video

Here is a brief video that explains the concept further.

Conclusion

Leading a low trust group is awfully hard work. It can be exhausting as you struggle to be perfect at all times. Leading a high trust group is a blast, because you can relax knowing the people who report to you are truly on your side.

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



Building Higher Trust 10 Trust and Customer Retention

February 25, 2021

It is especially important for employees who interface with customers to work in a culture of high trust. If the esprit de corps within your group is high, it will attract customers to return to your business.

If your employees are bickering among themselves and with their managers, it will have a chilling impact on your revenue because customers will turn elsewhere.

Spotting the Level of trust

It takes only a few seconds for most people to identify the level of friendship and bonding between employees. It is in the body language between people. They do not even need to say anything for the level of trust to be evident.

For example, when the supervisor walks by, two employees might roll their eyes ever so quickly to signal their displeasure. The gesture would not be noticed by the supervisor but might be evident to customers who are observing.

A snarl of the lips when one person is talking at another person is a sign of displeasure and low esteem. It casts a negative shadow on the business.

Avoid Phony Graciousness

People can also spot a phony display of cordiality, because there will be a tinge of sarcasm that shows through. The affection that people feel for each other needs to be genuine or the effect will be negative.

Generate a true Culture of Trust

Work to create a real environment where people support each other and display a fondness for working together. If people are playing games with each other to try to impress customers, it will be evident, and your company will suffer for it.

Bonus Video

Here is a brief video about Trust and Customer Retention

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



Building Higher Trust 9 Trust and Communication

February 13, 2021

Communication is one of the most foundational skills in any organization. Leaders spend a lot of time communicating with people in their organization, yet when workers are asked what the most significant blockage is to motivation, most groups report that communication is the biggest problem.

In this brief article I will explore the relationship between how well communication works in a high trust environment versus a low trust environment.

When Trust is Low

Even in a world where everyone is physically in one place, communication becomes chancy if there is low trust. People tend to hear what they believe the leader is trying to say rather than what was actually said. It is so easy to get the wrong flavor of a message, and the real damage is done because the leader often does not know that his or her message was misinterpreted.

When Trust is High

When Trust is high, people have an easy time hearing the real message and interpreting it accurately. In these cases, the leader can tell by the body language whether the workers have absorbed the true meaning. This is true both in person and virtually.
With high trust, people will not feel intimidated if they are unclear about the real message. They will feel free to ask a question for clarification because there is psychological safety, and they know a legitimate question will not lead to them feeling punished.

Working Remotely

The issue of accurate and believable communication is amplified significantly when we have a hybrid workforce where some people are working in the office but others are working remotely, sometimes even in another country, where time zone and cultural issues can exacerbate the problem. It is so easy to have the remote workers feel at least inconvenienced or at worst left completely out of the tight communication loop.

That is why it is imperative that all leaders redouble their efforts to communicate as much or more with the remote people as they do with the people close at hand. Try to beat down the “us versus them” issues that result in silo thinking.

Conclusion

When trust is low, communication is going to be chancy and difficult to control. This is true for all types of communication, including electronic communication. When trust is high, there is a much better chance for robust and acceptable communication. Trust becomes a significant enabler of effective and timely communication.


Bonus Video

Here is a brief video on Trust and Communication.

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


Building Higher Trust 8 Trust and Focus

February 3, 2021

It is quite easy to determine the level of trust within a group simply by observing what the people in the group focus on most of the time.

High Trust Groups

I have observed that very high trust groups spend the majority of their time and energy on what they are trying to accomplish. Maybe it is because high trust groups have an exciting vision they are pursuing.

Let’s say the group is coming out with a new product. If you listen to the conversations members of the group are having, they are going to be centered on the new product. That is what they are trying to accomplish.

If they are trying to accomplish better customer service, then that dynamic will dominate the conversations.

Whatever the vision is will be the main topic of discussion, and people will do very little griping because they have good feelings about the other people in their group. Those good feelings and affection tend to raise the level of trust even higher.

Low Trust Groups

By contrast, people who work in low trust groups seem to focus their energy on each other. They are myopic and talk about the problems they are having getting along.

You might hear one person complain that another person spends too much time on the phone or is frequently late to Zoom meetings. You may hear people that are stationed in different countries complain that the time zone differences make life very difficult for their families.

The focus becomes “how can I protect my own interests from these other people who have their own agendas.” The conversations become mostly negative and often are hurtful.

That dynamic tends to perpetuate the lower trust atmosphere, so it becomes a vicious cycle of negativity.

Conclusion

Listen to the conversations that are happening in your organization and see whether they demonstrate low or high trust. It will be an accurate indication of the current level of trust inside your organization.

Bonus Video

Here is a brief video on Trust and Focus.


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 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