Building Higher Trust 26 Trust and Respect

June 18, 2021

In my work with leadership teams, I like to ask if trust and respect are independent variables or if they are always linked in some way. Typically I will ask the group two questions:

  1. Can you respect someone you don’t trust? And.
  2. Can you trust someone you don’t respect?

 

Wrestling with these two questions really helps because in order to answer them you have to dive deep into your understanding of what the words respect and trust mean to you.

Respect

My favorite definition of respect is this. If I respect you, I hold you in high esteem and value your opinions greatly. Your stature in my estimation is very high due to some set of circumstances such as credibility, office, longevity, credentials, finances, or other factors that allow me to hold you in high esteem.

Trust

If I trust you, I believe that you will do what you think is in my best interest at all times, even if I don’t like it. Trust also means that I see you as being consistent (doing what you say), credible (that you are capable of doing your job well), and of high character (that you operate in a way that is consistent with your values).

There are numerous other definitions we could generate for these two words, but if the above two are close to your thinking, it could lead to a better understanding of whether trust and respect are always present together or if there is a pecking order.

Most of us would agree that trust and respect are typically strongly linked. If we respect someone it easy to trust him or her, and if we really trust someone it means that we respect him or her as well.

Deeper Analysis

Thinking more acutely, we may be able to pick up a subtle difference that will allow some deeper analysis. I think there is a hierarchy and that trust is a higher level than respect. As evidence of this, I can respect individuals due to their office or their financial situation or some other factor and still not fully trust them to do what is in my best interest. Therefore, I can respect someone that I don’t yet fully trust.

 

However, I cannot come up with an example where I can trust someone who I do not respect. Respect is a precursor to trust; therefore, I believe there is a hierarchy where trust is a higher level than respect.

In most situations at work and in other areas of our life, trust and respect are linked together. But in reality, I believe respect comes first, and trust is earned with deeds, not words, that occur after there is already some level of respect present.

This discussion is a very interesting one to hold with leadership groups because it enables people to delve deeply into their understanding of these words and come up with scenarios that allow greater insight than was previously present.

Both trust and respect are also a function of how we treat other people. To maintain both, we need to be consistent, and kind.  When we treat people the right way, it is easier to build and maintain trust and respect.

 Bonus video

Here is a brief video of the relationship between Trust and Respect.

 

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 25 Trust and Fear

June 11, 2021

I have been studying Trust for over 30 years. The topic is so engaging to me because trust turns out to be THE MOST IMPORTANT ingredient for good leadership. I have written four books and hundreds of articles on the topic of trust.

One thing occurred to me decades ago is that trust and fear are incompatible. When there is fear between people or in an organization, you generally find low trust. If you can find a way to reduce the fear, then trust almost grows spontaneously. I like to say that the trust will bloom naturally, just like the lilacs in the spring.


Another favorite quotation of mine is, “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”

When teaching leaders how to improve their performance, I focus a lot of energy on ways to reduce the fear. There are many ways to accomplish this critical factor. For example, being honest and trustworthy will reduce fear and grow trust.

Another way to reduce fear is to be transparent and share things openly rather than hide them. If people know they are getting the full story, then they don’t have to worry about things as much.

Always walking your talk will reduce fear, because people can count on you to keep your word. Your word is your bond.

By far the most impactful way to lower fear in any organization is to create psychological safety. If people believe they are free to express their concerns without fear of retribution, then trust will blossom

The leadership behavior that creates psychological safety is to “reinforce candor.” If a leader praises people when they voice an opinion that is contrary to what the leader espouses, then fear will subside and trust will grow in its place.

Difficult to do

Most leaders find it difficult or even impossible to praise people when they express a contrary opinion because the leader simply believes he or she has the correct perspective. So, the employee who voices a differing view must be wrong in the leader’s opinion.

Learning how to make an employee feel glad he or she brought up a contrary view is a critical leadership skill that I teach in all my courses. This habit has more power to increase trust than anything else.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video on the relationship between trust and fear.

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 24 Trust and Micromanagement

June 4, 2021

One of the more debilitating practices of leaders and managers is to micromanage their people. Nobody enjoys being micromanaged regardless of the level, so it is an interesting conundrum why so many leaders fall into the habit.

In this article, I will explore the justifications most leaders use to micromanage people and describe some ways to prevent the practice in your organization.

Leaders who overdo the interventions believe they are doing the smart thing for the organization and even the employee being micromanaged. The rationale is that the leader’s intention is to ensure the job is being done “right” and that the employee has a successful outcome. This is thought to be a “good outcome” for the organization and the employee.

The blind spot here is that the leader is showing a lack of trust and faith in the employee, and so that leader feels a need to hover and make sure every step is being handled the “right” way.

I recall one brave technician who had a supervisor who was over the top in terms of micromanagement. The technician was doing some complex testing on a piece of critical equipment. The supervisor kept poking his head in the lab to be sure all steps were being followed correctly.

In reality, the supervisor was interrupting the technician while he was performing the tasks, which actually created problems. At one point the technician had enough of the abuse and brought in a pair of handcuffs. When the supervisor came into the lab next time, the technician held up his chained wrists and said, “You know, I could do this job a whole lot better and easier if you would stop interrupting me about every hour.”

A far better approach is to give the person a task and ask if there are any questions on how to do it. The supervisor needs to give the employee specifications upfront for the outcome. The employee must be aware of what is important to the supervisor.

Then back off and tell the person that you are always available to answer questions or even help with the job, if necessary. That approach shows trust, and the employee will feel empowered to do his best work.

It is very easy to fall into the habit of micromanaging. Most leaders are not even aware they are doing it. If a culture of high trust has been established, then employees will be forthright about the situation before it gets out of hand.

Watch the body language of employees when you are giving them instructions. If there is a look of fatigue or pain, check out what the employee is thinking.

One way to detect if you are guilty of too much coaching is to simply ask the employee if you are being too prescriptive. That phrase opens up a dialog that can allow the employee to tip you off so you can correct the problem.

Micromanagement is a disease that can be cured, but only if the leader is smart enough to detect that the practice is happening. The trust needs to go both ways. The supervisor needs to trust the employee to do the job correctly and the employee needs to trust the supervisor to lead appropriately.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video on the topic of Trust and Micromanagement. It includes an example of how I was able to prevent a known micromanager from getting to me.

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 23 Trust and Delegation

May 28, 2021

I work with leaders every day, and many of them wish they were better at delegating. The problem is not confined to leaders; I have yet to meet a person who believes delegating is a bad thing to do.

Granted, it is possible overdo the technique and get into trouble, just as one can overdo any good thing, but for most of us, we would be far more effective if we did more delegation rather than less.

The reason for not delegating stems from each person’s desire to have things done well. We want things to be done the way we would do them, and are afraid that some other person will not live up to the standards we have for ourselves.

The excuse often given is “it is much easier to just do it myself than to try to get the other person to understand how I want it done and make sure he does it that way.” That thinking sounds like just being honest, but it is not a helpful way to think.

The fear is not just about getting the work done the “right” way. It is also a sociological fear that if we need to have the work redone, then we have made an enemy or at least have to do some coaching to calm the other person down.

The dread of having to deal with the consequences of a failed attempt and the rework involved is very real and makes us feel like the time is better spent just doing the job ourselves. That approach will also prevent the time pressure if there is an urgency to the task.

You cannot use the “Law of Leverage” to multiply your good influence in the world until you let go of the idea of perfection and grab onto the concept of “excellence by influence.”

By trusting other people to figure out the best way to do something and leaving them alone to do it “their way,” you unleash the power of creative thinking and initiative in other people. They will often surprise you by delivering work and solutions that are far better and arrive sooner than you would have expected.

To have subordinates perform as you wish, it is first important to ensure you have defined the desired outcome. Make sure they can recite the objective back to you before they go off to accomplish the task.

This step is also a great time to verify they have the resources needed to accomplish the work. Many managers fail to provide the time, money, or other resources that will be needed to do the job and then become frustrated when an employee tries to improvise a suboptimal solution.

A typical problem is that we have a preconceived idea of what the ideal solution will resemble. When we see the result of the work done by a creative and turned-on individual, it just does not look like the solution we envisioned, so the “not invented here” syndrome takes over, and we send signals that the work is not good enough.

It is hard to admit that the solution we are presented with is, in many cases, a superior one. Here are some useful questions that can help you lower this rejection reaction and be more accepting of the solutions others present.

1. Does it do the job? – In every task there are countless ways to achieve a result that actually does the job intended. When you see the work of another person, try to imagine that the solution you see is one of hundreds of alternatives, including the one you had in mind.

2. Did it help the other person grow? – Our job as managers and leaders is not only to get everything done according to some standard. Our primary purpose is to help people grow into their powerful best, which means putting higher value on what the person learned rather than on the particular solution to a specific task.

Even if the solution turns out to be flawed, it still is a success in terms of helping the person learn and grow.

3. Are you making a mountain out of a molehill? – We often get so intense about how things are being perceived by our own superiors that we lose sight of the bigger picture. By showing high trust and enabling more people to leverage their skills, you are going to be perceived very well, even if there is an occasional slip.

4. Who is the judge for which is the best solution? – Clearly if you have a preconceived idea of what the solution looks like, you are not in a position to be objective. You are already biased in the direction of your vision.

5. What kind of culture do you want? – To have an engaged group, you need to empower people by giving them tasks and trusting them to use their initiative and creativity to find their own solutions. If you want everything done “your way,” you will end up getting what most organizations typically do, which is roughly 30% of the discretionary effort that is available in the workforce.

6. What are you really risking? – When you stop and think about it, the risks involved are really quite small. Even if something does not work out, it will be of little consequence in a week or two. The risk is even lower if people become more engaged in the work and more skilled over time through trial and error.

7. What is the best for you? – Realizing that you have a choice to micromanage or not and choosing to be an empowering rather than stifling manager lets you sleep a lot better at night. That is a huge advantage and well worth having to endure a serviceable solution that is not exactly what you had in mind.

Of course, it is wise to have checkpoints or sub-goals while doing a large. That practice will allow some corrective force to be applied before too much damage is done.  These actions should be offered in the spirit of coaching rather than micromanaging.

The benefits of good delegation are well documented. Few people would vote for less delegation by any manager, so why not learn to set good objectives and trust people to come up with good solutions? You will find it is not as hard as you imagine, and your overall performance will go up dramatically as you leverage resources better.


Bonus video

Here is a brief video on Trust and Delegation.

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 Trust 22 Accountability

May 21, 2021

“Accountability” is a very popular word these days. In my consulting practice, the word comes up on a daily basis. I have written articles on various aspects of accountability, from the attitudes that make it less punitive (not always negative) to how leaders should feel more accountable for their own actions before blaming others.

This article outlines five principles of accountability that all begin with the letter “C.” These principles can help any leader do a better job in this critical area of performance management.

The five principles are:

1) Comprehensive and Balanced
2) Contribution
3) Care
4) Clarify Expectations
5) Collective Responsibility

Putting these five practices in play on a daily basis will improve the performance of any organization. Let’s see why it works:

Comprehensive and Balanced

This principle means that the leader must take the big picture of what is going on into account when deciding if an individual meets expectations. There may be a specific reason for not living up to the agreed performance that is totally out of the control of the employee.

If you lock a dog in the house all day, it is entirely possible that you will find a mess on the floor, even if the dog would have loved to have been let out.

Make sure that your feedback is balanced. Account for the good things they do as well as for times they fall short. Since most people do things right far more than they fail, your holding people accountable should normally be a positive discussion.

You destroy trust and rapport when you hold people accountable only when they fall short. Don’t allow your accountability discussions feel punitive to the employee.

Contribution

Sometimes the supervisor will attempt to hold an employee or group accountable when the reason for the shortfall was a blockage caused by the supervisor rather than the workers. Most people will do a good job if the culture and environment set up by management are conducive to working well.

When supervisors micromanage or otherwise destroy positive attitudes of the workers, they are contributing substantially to the shortfall they see within the workforce. They are quite often the root cause of the problem, yet they find it convenient to blame the workers for not toeing the line.

I recall one VP who lamented that “all my people are lazy.” As I dug into the situation, it was evident that the bully attitudes of the VP had caused people to become apathetic and perform only when beaten. The VP blamed the workers, but he was clearly the source of the problem.

He could not understand this connection of cause and effect. If this VP was replaced by an empowering leader, those “lazy” workers would quickly become productive and show high initiative.

Care

When giving feedback on performance, especially if performance is not at the level expected, be sure to treat the employee the way you would want to be treated if the situation was reversed. The Golden Rule provides excellent guidance in most cases.

There are some exceptions where the Golden Rule breaks down (suppose I enjoy being yelled at and confronted), but they are rare.

If the manager demonstrates real care for the individual, even when the feedback is not positive, the employee will usually respond well to the input.

You might say something like this: “The reason we are having this discussion is not to put you down or beat on you. I sincerely want you to do well and enjoy success. I care about you and want to enhance your reputation as much as possible.”

Clarify Expectations

People must understand expectations to have any shot at meeting them. In some complex situations, you should write down what is to be done. Most of the time it is a matter of spelling out what the requirements are and gaining a verification that the employee has truly internalized them.

Often a failure to perform at the prescribed level can be traced to a misunderstanding between the supervisor and employee.
Supervisors sometimes make the mistake of assuming the employee understands what is required because he or she has heard the instructions.

To verify understanding it is critical to have the employee state in his or her own words the specific requirement. It needs to be framed up in terms of the specific action to be done by a specific time and with certain level of quality. The employee can decide how to accomplish the task, but the deliverable must be crystal clear to avoid ambiguity.

Having the employee parrot back the expectation has the additional benefit in the event the deliverable is fuzzy. The supervisor can take the time to reiterate the specific deliverable before the employee attempts to do it. This saves time, money and reduces frustration.

Collective Responsibility

If the accountability discussion has the flavor of everyone, including the manager, being responsible, then that feeling of a family working together will permeate the discussions, and they will be more fruitful. When the manager points the finger at a specific worker and fails to involve the other people who also make up the system, the employee feels picked on. This results in hard feelings and creates more problems than it solves.

These five C’s will help you create an environment where holding people accountable is more productive and effective. Try to remember these principles when you are dealing with the people in your life.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video on how to hold people accountable in a principle-centered way.

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 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.



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.



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.



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.



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