Building Higher Trust 29 Trust Recovery

July 9, 2021

When trust has been broken the path to repair it can be scary. In this article, I will outline the steps that should happen to have the best chance for a full recovery.  Recognize that not all trust betrayals can lead to a full recovery, but many of them can with the proper attitude and effort.

Step 1. Communicate a Potential Problem

As soon as you recognize that something happened between you and the other person that could compromise trust, you need to communicate that to the person.  Usually, it takes some courage to do this because a trust violation is often an ugly thing to behold. If you believe the relationship can be salvaged, then it is worth an uncomfortable conversation.

Step 2. Confirm that Both Parties are Interested in a Resolution

If the relationship was valuable to both parties, then it is worth some effort to at least attempt to repair the damage. If you go in with the attitude that you really enjoyed the trusting relationship you had before the lapse, then the other person will likely respond in kind.

Step 3. Each Person Shares his or her Perception of What Happened

This step is just a factual recount of the events. Who did what?  Sometimes this step will reveal a misunderstanding about what happened. If that is the case, then the repair is much easier to accomplish.

Step 4. Determine What Would Need to Change to Repair the Damage

This step could start with an apology, but it needs to go further. Trust has been damaged, and it will not get fixed by a simple “I’m sorry.” You need to think hard about what conditions need to be met in order to fully restore trust.  It may take some time, but this is a critical step in the process.

Step 5. Make a Concrete Plan

This plan should not be just good intentions.  It should include what each party is going to do differently in the future based on the prior steps. A good format for the plan would include who is going to do what by when. It is best to put the plan in writing.

Step 6. Execute the Plan

This sounds obvious, but it is where many people fail. They have good intentions when discussing things, but they do not have the fortitude, courage, or ability to actually do it. 

Step 7 Follow Up to Verify the Repair

This verification phase is critical to do because you can put the matter to rest once both parties agree that the plan was followed successfully. Both parties must express certainty that the repair to trust was actually made.

Conclusion

In most cases, it is possible to repair damaged trust, but it takes effort and an organized approach. If the relationship you had with the other person was valuable to both parties, then it is worth the effort to repair the damage and move forward. Again.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video on a Trust Recovery Process

 

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 28 The Will to Rebuild Trust

July 2, 2021

When faced with a trust betrayal, you need to do some serious soul searching. In many cases, it is possible to repair the damaged trust so that it comes back even stronger than it was before the betrayal. In other situations, it may be impossible to repair trust, and you have to cut your losses.

In this brief article I will highlight a few things to do and also some things to avoid.

Don’t Procrastinate

You may feel reluctant to sit down for a serious conversation with someone who has violated a trust.  You may be tempted to let time heal the wound.  That is a bad strategy, because the situation usually gets worse with time unless you have a significant intervention.

I liken it to a dead fish. The stink is only going to get worse with time. Seek first to understand what really happened. Approach the other person in a mature way and calmly state that you are feeling uncomfortable about something that has happened between the two of you.  State that you value the relationship and wish to understand what really happened. 

Misunderstanding

The conversation focusing on what actually occurred is the best first step.  The reason is that often what you think happened is not what really occurred, or there may be extenuating circumstances that you missed. 

If it turns out that your interpretation of what happened was correct, then calmly try to uncover why the other person let you down. The purpose at this point is not to find blame, but to build enough knowledge that you can brainstorm what kinds or remedial actions would help heal the wound. Make sure your body language sends that message.

Avoid Anger

Getting into a shouting match over what occurred is not going to serve the relationship well. Remain calm and put your energy into fully hearing the other person’s description. You may be anxious to talk about the end result of the betrayal while the other person is still trying to describe what caused the action to occur.

Listen

Put on your “listening hat” and focus on the message that is in the words, inflection, and body language.  If you are getting inconsistent signals from the words and the body language, dig into why the other person is being ambiguous.  Do this in a kind way with the intent to understand the person fully rather than an accusatory way trying to trip up the other person.

Managing the conversation when there has been a trust betrayal is extremely important because in most cases you can repair the damage and regain the trust that was lost by the betrayal.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video on The Will to Rebuild 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 27 Trust Betrayals

June 25, 2021

A total breach of trust can take your breath away because it violates a sacred bond between two people.

There was a connection that was solid and true, but all of a sudden something happened that appeared to violate everything the relationship was built on. Here is an example of a trust violation from my experience.

I was Mike’s boss, and we had a relationship built on trust. Mike was a manager in my Division. We had been together a long time, and I knew him well. 

Mike knew that I always put a high premium on honest communication, so when I heard a rumor that he was having an inappropriate relationship with a female employee reporting to him, I could not believe it. After all, Mike was an upstanding pillar of the community with a wife and four kids. He was also the leader of a large bible study group at his church.

Several weeks later, I was provided indisputable evidence that he actually was having an affair with the female employee reporting to him.  Since this was totally out of character for Mike, I stopped into his office one day to confront the situation. 

I shared that I had heard a rumor that turned out to be true, and that I was extremely disappointed.  Mike looked me straight in the eye and said it was not true: there was no affair and no relationship. 

He lied to my face in order to get out of a tough spot. Obviously, the lie cut me much more deeply than his sexual indiscretions did.

In this case the damage was irreparable because all trust was lost.  Mike had to find another job, because I could no longer have him reporting to me.  When trust is totally violated, it is sometimes impossible to rebuild. 

First Question

The first question after a trust betrayal is whether the relationship can be salvaged or not. If it can be, then take steps in that direction immediately, if not, then you must take your lumps and end the relationship.

When a trust betrayal happens, both parties usually feel awful about it. It is important to move quickly to confront the situation.  Sitting on the problem will not resolve it, and it will make you feel worse. Do not just float along pretending the problem had not occurred. That does a total disservice to the valuable relationship you had. Often there are steps that can repair broken trust.

The first question to ask is whether the relationship is salvageable. It is an important decision because sometimes the violation is so serious, there is no going back, as was the case with Mike. When a trust violation occurs, the question to ask is “do I feel strongly enough about our relationship to find some way to patch it up or is it over.”

A Better Outcome

Here is a case where a misunderstanding nearly ended a strong relationship.

I trusted Martha completely, but then I found out she tried to steal a resource out from under me. I felt totally violated, but decided our relationship was worth saving. I arranged to meet with her so we could get to the bottom of the problem. It took a lot of courage to confront her, but I am glad I did. 

The first point I established was that we both felt rotten, and wanted to recover our former relationship of trust. Once we agreed to invest in the relationship, we were able to share the facts, apologize, and generate a plan for renewal. 

Actually, in this case, as often happens, there was a misunderstanding, so the repair process worked out for us. By sharing facts and discussing future intent as adults, the violation was repaired.

This case was a great example of when trust is repaired quickly after a violation. In such circumstances, the relationship can end up stronger than it was before the problem occurred.  The process is to:

  • open the lines of communication,
  • confirm that the relationship can be saved,
  • share with each other your perception of what happened,
  • determine what things would need to happen for full redemption,
  • make a plan,
  • and follow through with the plan.

It is very much like marriage counseling.

Exercise for you: Today think about a relationship in your life that has gone sour, but that you wish could be brought back to life.  Relive the experience and pay special attention to how you felt at the time.

Would you play the scene differently if you had the opportunity to do it over? Meet with the person and find out if the feeling is mutual. If it is, then make the investment in time and energy to salvage trust.  You may find it to be stronger than ever after you do.

Recognize that not every relationship can be saved. It is a matter of deep introspection, and it really depends on the nature of the violation as well as the character of the people involved.  Making a conscious effort to repair lost trust is a blessing in your life because in many cases it can restore a precious bond. That is an enriching experience.

 Bonus video

Here is a brief video relative to trust and betrayal.

 

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 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.