Leadership Barometer 182 Evaluate Alternatives

January 31, 2023

Are you happy with your process to evaluate alternatives? Leaders make decisions every day, and they rarely stop and think of the alternatives that are left behind. That practice can be devastating to the business.  This article shines a light on the practice of evaluating alternatives and suggests some improvements.

Always consider and evaluate alternatives

You owe it to yourself and your organization to consider the alternate path. Don’t jump to the one that seems most appealing at first. When you fixate on the most logical path forward, you exclude all possible alternatives.

When you elect to take an action, let’s say “buy a new packaging line,” you have a choice.  Clearly, one alternative is to do nothing. The null hypothesis is always available, and it may be the best choice.

In our example, let’s suppose we have been contracting with another firm to package some of our products because we are out of capacity. The cost of hiring another firm to package our product has severely cut into the profit margin.

Why we tend to jump to the “obvious” course of action 

We are so close to the issue that a logical solution practically tackles us. The easy answer is always the case to beat. Few leaders ask for specific alternatives that were considered but rejected.

We concern ourselves with the short-term solution that eases the pain. In doing this, we tend to overlook an option that has far greater appeal in the long run. We also fail to evaluate a more creative solution that might have many side benefits.

For example, in the case we described above, the obvious solution was to buy a packaging line. It would handle the razor line we have been selling. It is a specific machine for that purpose.  We don’t realize there is an alternative. For very little extra cost we could purchase a line that could handle razors, batteries, and light bulbs. That would provide the factory with a significant advantage in flexibility.

Evaluate alternatives as a conscious process 

Before making a major decision, always ask if we have considered at least three different solutions. That way we can confidently say that we did not make a snap judgment. Be sure to look at the options from all angles, not just the obvious ones.

When evaluating alternatives, avoid analysis paralysis 

You can study alternative ways to do anything until you are old and grey. That is clearly a waste of resources in a different way. Grab onto three or four different courses of action and evaluate the long and short impacts of each one. Make a reasonable decision and sleep soundly knowing you made a fair comparison.

Conclusion

The flow of ideas will steer you toward solutions that may not be the right ones for your business.  Be sure to take the time and energy to evaluate alternative approaches.

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


Leadership Barometer 181 Avoid Playing Favorites

January 24, 2023

As a leader, how do you avoid playing favorites at work? I ask this question in my consulting and teaching work frequently. Most times leaders think about this for several seconds. Then say with a shrug, “Well, I guess I do play favorites, but I try not to.”

Occasionally I will have some managers or supervisors who are adamant, “No, I do not play favorites.” As we discuss this a bit more, the managers realize that they do favor some people.  They feel more compatible with them than others. In every group, there are people you would rather work with, if possible.

Avoiding playing favorites is more challenging when people are working remotely or hybrid

As the logistics of who is working where, and when become much more complicated, the problem is more difficult. Since the frequency of face-to-face discussions is now lower, leaders need to be more sensitive about signals they send.  People who do not know the details will make certain assumptions about a leader’s relationship with a coworker.

Playing favorites is human nature

When making decisions about who does what in an organization, leaders habitually “play favorites.” They do it even though they know it is a real trustbuster. Let’s examine why this is and suggest a few antidotes that allow you to operate freely.

See the truth about playing favorites

First, recognize that you do have people that you prefer to work with on specific jobs. You click with them and work well together. They may have a special skill and track record that gives you confidence the job will be done well. These are your “go to” people for specific jobs.

When you use certain people in a special assignment, you appear to be paying favorites. That can create unfortunate conversations about you behind your back.

Techniques to reduce the problem of playing favorites

Can you usually operate with your “go-to” people and still beat the stigma of playing favorites? There are several ideas to consider:

  1. Have a kind of standard for special assignments. You select George to do the budget work because he has accounting training. That is something you can explain to others.
  2. Discuss the situation openly with employees and offer flexibility. Give other people the opportunity to learn the skill. This method has three advantages. First, by openly addressing the issue of favorites, it becomes impossible for people to accuse you of being clueless. Second, you have shown a willingness to develop others in this special role, if they want to step up. Finally, no one is the heir apparent just because she has done you a few favors in the past.
  3. The easiest way to beat the favorites stigma is to operate outside your “normal groove” on a few occasions. You only need to do this a time or two to beat the rap. The vast majority of times you can go with your gut or normal pattern. You get to choose which circumstance has some latitude. Also, be sure to include the remote workers in your analysis. Do not always favor the most accessible employee.
  4. Cross-training everyone on a few jobs is another easy way to reduce the favorites issue. This is a simple matter of developing bench strength, which is a sign of an astute organization anyway.

How to be more objective

There is an interesting backlash to the issue of having or playing favorites. If you are in a leadership position, you want all of your feedback and appraisal information to be objective. How do you know when you are being objective? The best way out is to have a solid correlation process among managers to review all performance appraisals. Be on the lookout for any local bias.

It is amazing how people cannot see their own biases toward certain individuals. In order to have an environment of trust, people need to know they will be treated fairly.

Conclusion

Be constantly aware of the issue of playing favorites. It is a significant trust buster in every organization. By using the techniques outlined above, any leader can avoid the trap. At the same time, you can use your “go-to” people most of the time for critical assignments.

 

 

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


Leadership Barometer 180 Political Success

January 18, 2023

Political success is sometimes a bit elusive. There is an old saying “Too soon old, too late smart.” During my long career in a large organization, I somehow managed to do some pretty bonehead things politically. I will never be someone who is politically brilliant because I am far too outspoken. There have been many times I wish I had kept my mouth shut.

Mistakes I have made

I realized in retrospect that there were plenty of times when I shared my opinion and nobody wanted to hear it. If I had learned to button my lip and observe what was happening, I would have made fewer blunders. This article will share some of the valuable lessons I have learned so far. I also share some rules I have made for myself.

My learning style

In some training sessions, we learn about how people have their own unique learning style. Some of us learn only by doing, some by hearing, some by visualizing, etc. I remember one class where we all had to reveal our most useful learning style. When it got to my turn, I said, “My style of learning is the rake.”

Everyone in the class looked a little puzzled, so I explained. If I step on a rake and the handle comes up and thwapps me in the face, I have learned something. I will never forget it.

That is a pretty accurate description of how I learned my horse sense on political mistakes to avoid. It is not to say I have found all the potential rakes out there. I still get konked from time to time. Hopefully, each new learning is from a rake I have not experienced before.

Ideas I have learned

I will share my own list below only as an example. It is more helpful if you make up your own list based on your personality and situation or the mistakes you have already made. Start with just one or two key things and build your list over time. It is a simple matter of keeping a computer file. Remember to add to it every time a rake handle hits you in the face.

Bob’s 14 Rules for Political Survival

  1. Know who butters your bread and act that way.
  2. Act consistent with your values and spiritual rightness.
  3. Make 20 positive remarks for every negative one.
  4. Don’t grandstand. Practice humility. No cheap shots.
  5. Understand the intentions and motivations of others.
  6. Follow up on everything. Be alert & reliable.
  7. Do the dirty work cheerfully, not too good for it.
  8. Agree to disagree. Walk away with respect.
  9. Don’t beat dead horses. Repetition is a rat hole.
  10. Be aggressive, but not a pest. It’s a fine line.
  11. Constantly read people’s intentions and desires.
  12. Administrative people have real power. Cultivate them.
  13. Keep an appropriate social life with work associates.
  14. Always, always be considerate and gracious.

I often wonder how long my list will be when I take my last breath in the nursing home. We tend to learn political lessons in all areas of our life, not just at work.

Conclusion

Keep track of how you want to show up for the world. We all step on a few rakes in life, so learn your lessons from your mistakes.

 

 

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


Leadership Barometer 179 Rules For Success

January 10, 2023

Many years ago, I generated a list of rules for success. It is important to write down a set of rules for yourself, just as it is to document your values. It gives you something to hang on to when there is a lot of confusion. The document represents a kind of credo you use to manage your life.

Another benefit of a list like this is that it helps other people know how you operate much more quickly. I used to review this list and my passion for each item whenever inheriting a new group. My new associates appreciated knowing in advance how I operated and what I valued.

I generated my list during more conventional times, before COVID. In today’s environment, you might need to modify some of the items to reflect current conditions. I actually think most of the rules still apply, and maybe even more so. See what you think.

Key rules for success

  1. The most important word that determines your success is “attitude.” It is how you react to what happens in your life. The magic learning here is that you can control your attitude, therefore, you can control your success.
  2. Engagement of people is the only way to business success. How you engage depends on your situation.
  3. Credibility allows freedom to manage in an “appropriate” way. If you are not credible, you will be micro-managed.
  4. Build a “real” environment – maximize trust. It requires honesty and transparency.
  5. Create winners. Help people realize their dreams of success. Always seek to grow other leaders.
  6. Recognize and reward results at all levels. Reinforcement governs performance.
  7. Operate ahead of the power curve. Be organized and get things done ahead of the deadline.
  8. Avoid bureaucratic mumbo jumbo, negotiate the best position possible, out-flank the Sahara. However, feed the animal when necessary. Pick your political battles carefully.
  9. Enjoy the ride and when it is no longer fun, leave.
  10. Admit when you are wrong, and do it with great delight. Beg people to let you know when you sap them and thank them for it. Reinforce people who are candid with you.
  11. Provide “real” reinforcement that the receiver perceives as reinforcing. Build a culture of reinforcement.
  12. Keep trying and never give up. You will succeed.

Similar concepts

There are many other things that I could include. If you can master the things above, most other things become subcategories of them. For example, another bullet might be, “Treat people as adults and always demonstrate respect.” That is really a sub-item of the second bullet.

Or another bullet might be “Always walk your talk.” That is one thing, among many, you need to do for bullet four to happen.

Conclusion

I believe every leader should have a documented set of beliefs such as the one above. I am not advocating that you adopt my list. Think about it and develop your own list that is most suitable for your situation.

Don’t worry about being complete, just start an electronic file and add to it over the years as you grow and encounter new ideas. You will be amazed how this simple task enables you to operate with congruence and grow in your leadership skill.

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


Leadership Barometer 178 You Don’t Need More People

January 3, 2023

I hear the complaint all the time, “We need more people.” It is easy to convince yourself that you do not have enough people.  The Great Resignation tended to thin out the population. Quiet Quitting has made the existing workforce much less efficient.  Both of these issues are caused when leaders try to apply a “command and control” leadership style.  In our current situation, that mentality leads many leaders to conclude that if we only had more people we would be better off.

You don’t need to more people; you need to change your leadership style

The irony is that you do not need more people; you need better leaders.  If that sounds harsh, let me explain why I make that conclusion. I have witnessed productivity increases greater than 100% when leaders shift from command control to a trust and inspire philosophy.  That is why I am so fond of Stephen M.R. Covey’s new book, Trust and Inspire.

Stephen makes the case that when leaders double down on command and control methods, people get turned off.  Many of them either quit and leave or quit and stay.  Either way, the engagement of the workforce is going to be inadequate. Leaders instinctively jump to the mindset that they need to hire more people.

By shifting the culture to one of greater psychological safety and extending more trust, people will rally to your cause.  The empowerment will return, and you will find your current workforce can carry the load without difficulty.

It does not take years to accomplish more

The good news is that it does not take years to accomplish this shift. I have seen a doubling of productivity in roughly six months. Leaders must understand that it is them, not the workers, who need to change. Many companies are discovering the stubborn consistency of the theory. There is brilliant engagement and energy sitting right in front of you. As a leader, your job is to unleash that untapped potential. 

Leaders are stuck in a rut 

Unfortunately, most leaders believe that with workers in a hybrid situation at best they need to keep closer track of activities. That attitude sows the seeds of their own demise. The mindset does not produce what leaders want, so they double down on the pressure and make things even worse. I see this happening in numerous organizations.

Change your style

I see some groups that are smart enough to change their style and unleash the workers thriving. Not only are the resources adequate, but when they do have an opening, the best workers line up to apply.  Hiring that is so problematical for command and control groups is a breeze for trust and inspire groups.

Conclusion 

You do not need to continue in the downward spiral with resources.  Get a good coach and change the way you lead.  You will find that life is kinder to you. It is possible to thrive in these times, but not if you refuse to change.

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


Leadership Barometer 177 Your Personal Plan

December 28, 2022

For the past 30 years, I have advocated that every professional, and especially every leader, have a personal plan. Run your life based on a personal plan, and you will make twice the progress than if you didn’t.

The format for the plan can take many different forms based on your personal preference. I will share the format I like to use here. It works well for me, but you may prefer different elements based on your circumstances.

The process to create my Personal Plan

The process I use to generate the detailed material for my plan is documented in an article entitled Renewal. The article was written in 2010. I do the process every year on New Year’s Eve. It takes me most of the day to do it, and the product is a 60+ page PowerPoint file. The various sections are too personal to share with others. They are also way too complex, so I create a one-page summary that I call my “Framework.”

The Framework contains the major elements of my personal plan for the year.  The sections include my purpose, vision, mission, values, and behaviors on one side. On the other side, I show my key strategies, tactics, and measures. I make several copies on heavy-weight paper and laminate them.

Advantages of a personal plan 

Having a documented personal plan gives me several advantages.  One key benefit is that the vicissitudes of life will be more like ripples than tidal waves. I am able to accomplish more in a year or two than I would otherwise do in eight years. That is well worth one day a year to focus on my goals and strategy. Besides, it is kind of fun to invest in myself this way.

Another benefit is that I can turn down some potential distractions with confidence. I still have the ability to modify the plan if something major comes along. Most of the time, I follow the route I have chosen. The framework gives me a solid platform from which to work. I am calm and confident that I am doing the right things and making maximum progress.

A third benefit is that I can share my framework with clients and others.  It gives an accurate view of what I am trying to accomplish.  I have used my process with many clients, and it always produces excellent results for them. The process works equally well for companies as it does for individuals.

Sharing access to my format

You can use any format you wish for your plan. In case you want to view the format I use, I will include a link to my template

Feel free to use my format if you wish, or modify it to suit your own situation.

Conclusion

Investing time in creating your personal plan pays off big returns. You will find lower stress and greater success in all your activities.

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


Leadership Barometer 176 When You Are Wrong

December 22, 2022

When most leaders are in the wrong, they try to rationalize it.  The common myth is that admitting a mistake weakens your reputation.  In reality, the exact opposite is normally the case.

The logic here is compelling, and we all learned it as children. Bad things are sometimes going to happen. Trying to cover them up leads to more severe punishment.

Ways to wiggle

There are dozens of ways leaders try to duck their responsibility. Here are a few examples of common ploys:

  1. Say someone else did it
  2. Pretend it did not happen
  3. Downplay the impact
  4. Indicate you were distracted and did not know
  5. Change the facts so it looks like a win
  6. Shift the discussion to another subject

The sad truth is that the more you try to get out of an embarrassing mistake the lower your credibility will be.

Turn being wrong into an opportunity

The greatest asset a leader has is his or her credibility.  By freely admitting to something you did wrong, you demonstrate integrity and humility.  Those two characteristics go a long way in terms of building trust with people.

Most people are willing to forgive an occasional mistake and give you another chance.

Handled well, a sincere admission and apology makes a huge difference in your reputation. That is true for many, but not all mistakes.  There are two categories of mistakes where admitting it will lower trust in you. 

When admitting you were wrong will lower trust

The first category is repeated mistakes.  Let’s suppose you got the numbers wrong when reporting your group’s performance upward.  Now suppose this is the fourth time you have done that.  See their reaction when you tell your people “Well folks, I did it again.”  Not good!

The second category would be if the mistake had a sinister motive or revealed that you are clueless. For example, suppose you forgot to grant a raise that you promised. If you reveal that you are basically incompetent, you cannot expect a positive reaction in return.

Formula for increasing credibility 

There is a six-part formula for explaining a mistake that will endear yourself to your people.

Part one – Explain what happened as objectively as possible.  Indicate that the outcome is not what you intended or expected.

Part two – Apologize. Indicate your remorse and acknowledge the negative impacts of your gaff.

Part three – Say what you learned from this incident.

Part four – Indicate how you are going to make it right. Give specific steps you intend to perform to reduce the damage.

Part five – Show how you will prevent a recurrence of that kind of thing in the future.

Part six (very important part) – Ask if there are any other ideas on how you can prevent this from happening in the future.

Conclusion

In any enterprise, mistakes are going to happen.  Nobody is perfect.  If you follow the simple advice in this article, it will go a long way toward enhancing trust.  You can turn a negative incident into something powerfully positive for your reputation.

 

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


Leadership Barometer 175 Employee Value Proposition

December 14, 2022

The Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is a key measure of engagement that leaders need to understand. I wrote about it briefly last year in an article on The Great Resignation. This article will provide a lot more information on EVP and how to optimize it.

EVP is a measure of the appeal of working for your organization. The measure exists in the minds of the employees, and each employee has a unique perspective of the EVP.

Impact of EVP

The impact of EVP is huge.  Companies with high EVP are like magnets for people. They can attract the best people, and people tend to stay with the organization.

Employee Value Proposition is a measure of the total experience

The EVP that an employee will feel is the sum of all experiences with the organization. The value starts long before the employee is even hired. It includes the reputation the company has in the community.  It takes into account what friends and family think about the organization. It is impacted by how the future employee is approached by the company.  The measure continues to accrue until long after the employee leaves the organization.

Most impact is during orientation

The EVP becomes evident during the interview process.  The questions that are asked and how the employee responds impact the measure. Once the employee is hired, then the most significant impact on EVP is the orientation process.  This is where most organizations fall short. They shunt the new employee off with a low-level trainer and a stack of procedures.  The hiring manager should personally conduct the onboarding process. This is where the new employee first learns about the culture of the organization.

Describe how your organization’s culture is superior to the competition 

If you cannot clearly articulate how the culture in your company is better than the alternatives, then you will likely lose out on that employee.  A prospective employee will usually go with the organization that is most impressive in terms of culture.

Bigger problem

A bigger problem with EVP is that the employee heard all kinds of impressive things about the culture during the interview. Unfortunately, when the employee arrives at the job, things do not look that way. Any difference between what was communicated in the interview and actual experiences will be a killer. This situation is why so many newly hired people quit during the first week.

How employees feel about their treatment 

EVP is a direct result of the totality of how employees feel about their treatment by peers, supervisors, and especially leaders. It is a reflection of the culture of the organization.

Conclusion

It is critical to attend to new employees when they are first involved with the company. Your culture must reflect what was advertised or you are in trouble. Once an employee is dissatisfied with the EVP it is very difficult to bounce back.

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


Leadership Barometer 174 Leadership Foundation

December 7, 2022

Just as every building needs a firm foundation, every organization needs a Leadership Foundation. No construction company would think of building any size building without first providing a suitable foundation.  If they eliminated that step, the building would not stand for long. 

Organizations need a Leadership Foundation

For an organization, it is imperative that the key leaders construct a leadership foundation so they can be successful. I will describe my interpretation of the elements of the foundation and tell why each one is critical. I will also provide some examples from personal experience.

The foundation for a building has many interrelated parts.  Likewise, a leadership foundation has different parts that must work together.

Start with values

The values provide the floor of the foundation. All activities and decisions must be consistent with the values, or they will damage the organization. The values must be owned by the entire organization. Make sure to have wide participation in creating the values.

I believe it is best to have a “handful” of values.  A long shopping list of nice things to have may look impressive, but it is hard for people to remember. For values to provide the proper centering, they must be in play at all times.

Aim for four to six strong values.  If they spell out an acronym, that is helpful for people.  For example, in my own organization, the values spell out the word “LIGHT.”  The words are Loyalty, Integrity, Generosity, Honesty, and Trust. Having an acronym that has meaning really helps with memory recall.

Leaders need to emphasize that “we always follow our values, especially when it is difficult or expensive.” That attitude is what gives the values their power. 

Add your purpose

The purpose tells everyone in the organization why they are doing the work. Purpose is often confused with mission.  These two concepts are different.  Here is a classic example to illustrate the difference.  For a quarry, the mission might be to cut rock into slabs.  The purpose could be to build a cathedral.

I used to work at Kodak. Our mission was to make photographic film, but our purpose was to help people preserve memories.

Solidify the mission

The mission statement tells everyone in the organization what we are trying to accomplish.  Keep the mission short and memorable for maximum effect. For example, the GE Mission statement of “We bring good things to life” is an excellent one.

Don’t include a lot of management jargon in the mission statement.  For example, here is an actual mission statement for a company. Can you guess what the company is?

To establish beneficial business relationships with diverse suppliers who share our commitment to customer service, quality and competitive pricing.

Finally, create a vision 

The vision tells everyone where we are going. This statement is the most powerful part of the foundation because it points people in the right direction. The vision is a positive statement of what we are trying to become. Many leaders think a vision statement should be achievable or people will become discouraged.  Personally, I believe an aspirational vision statement is stronger because it provides reach.

For example, the FedEx vision, “Absolutely positively overnight” is a strong vision statement. It is not possible to achieve 100% of the time due to natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, or pandemics. That does not make it a weak vision statement.

Conclusion

Once you have those four elements, you have a solid platform and can start building walls with confidence. You can build your strategic plan based on this strong leadership foundation.

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


Leadership Barometer 173 Entropy

November 30, 2022

There is a spooky property in thermodynamics called Entropy. In this article, I will reveal my struggle to understand the concept of Entropy. Then, I will relate the mystery to some ideas about trust between people.

My Bachelor’s degree was in Mechanical Engineering, and my Master’s degree was in Chemical Engineering. I took my share of thermodynamics and physics courses in college. The concept of Entropy always puzzled me.  I could deal with the concept mathematically in equations, but I never understood the essence well.

The classic definition

For starters, let’s look at the classic definition. We define Entropy as the degree of disorder, uncertainty, or randomness in a system. I can relate to this concept as my office frequently has a problem with too much “Entropy.”

The scientific definition

Scientifically, Entropy is a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work. The more disorder or uncertainty, the less work can be done.

This seems like spooky stuff to me. Why would scientists define something as the lack of something else? In trying to measure the Entropy of trust between people, we can see a glimmer of useful meaning.

Defining trust 

Just trying to pin down a single definition of trust is difficult. It is situational, and I have read hundreds of definitions of trust in my life.  Charles Feltman gave a helpful definition as, “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” In other words, to experience real trust, we give up control.

Mutual trust is also like a lubricant that lowers the amount of stress or effort required to get work done.

People only want to give up control if they trust the people they are giving it to. As we give up control and choose to make something valuable to us vulnerable to other people, trust emerges. That is where I begin to see a parallel between the concepts of Trust and Entropy.

I cannot send you a box full of Entropy, because it is defined by the lack of order.  But I can send you a box of trust by relinquishing my control over you. That conundrum is exactly the problem that many organizations faced during COVID-19.

Trust during COVID 19

Since so many people were working remotely, many managers felt the need to regain control of how employees worked. By clinging desperately to the need for control, they were destroying trust big time. They put in tracking systems or other means to check up on the workers. I believe that is a root cause of the Great Resignation and the concept of quiet quitting today. People don’t like to be treated as if they are untrustworthy.

To increase Entropy, you need to increase the unavailability for energy to be converted to real work.  To increase the level of trust, you need to demonstrate more trust in others. You must be willing to give up more control to increase trust.

Conclusion

I hope these ideas are helpful in some way. I have always found the concept of Entropy to be confusing. You have to think in reverse, and my brain has trouble with that. The concept of trust is easier for me to understand. To increase the amount of trust you experience, learn to give more of it away.

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