Leadership Barometer 97 Blind Spots

June 16, 2021

In my classes and consulting work on leadership, I often discuss the concept of a blind spot where the worst leaders are often blissfully unaware of their problems.

My own observation in numerous organizations is that this is abundantly true. HR Managers and subordinates often are frustrated at not being able to communicate how leaders undermine the very cause they wish to pursue due to this blindness.

Daniel Goleman, who invented Emotional Intelligence, observed that leaders who are most deficient in EI are the ones who have the biggest blind spots.

They simply cannot see themselves as others do, so they are deceived into thinking incorrect thoughts about how they are coming across.

How can you remove the blind spot of a leader who has low Emotional Intelligence?

My own ideas on this topic are contained in this article.

You Need a Mirror

For many years, I have been intrigued that it is nearly impossible to see one’s self as others do. I focus on this conundrum from the standpoint of a leader, since leadership training is the center of my business.

Many leaders are unaware that they are deceiving themselves with ideas about how others are reacting to them. They need a better mirror.

I pondered the validity of Goleman’s observation for several years. Typically, when I asked leaders or students of leadership, whether Goldman’s observation is consistent with what they see in their environment, they enthusiastically agree, once they understand what Goleman was actually saying.

The idea is that leaders cannot know how others see them. Therefore, leaders with low Emotional Intelligence usually are unaware that they have this problem.

They believe people at work are enthusiastically behind them and have complete respect in them as their leader. Of course, when you talk to the people being led, the exact opposite observation is closer to the truth. They typically observe that the leader is simply clueless.

The Role of Humility

Why is it that leaders often are blind to their own incompetence? Is it hubris? Is it ego? Is it overdrive? Is it stupidity? I believe the truth is that all of these things are in play. For many leaders, the lack of humility is one of the most significant impediments to see themselves accurately.

In my work, I teach that the ability to build trust between people in an organization allows a leader to see him or herself more accurately than ever before. The reason is, when trust is high people are not afraid to tell the leader when he or she is acting like a jerk.

In fact, people understand the leader will reward them for pointing out foibles when they occur. That means leaders who are able to accomplish an environment of high trust have a major advantage. Trust is like the surface of the mirror that allows leaders to be able to see themselves accurately.

If you want to understand how you are coming across as a leader, your best bet is to work on building an environment of higher trust.

Reinforce Candor

In my book, I describe reinforcing candor as a key method for building trust. I believe if people feel it is safe to bring up scary stuff, they will be more inclined to share their truth on a daily basis. When leaders reinforce people for speaking out, it allows trust to grow and gives them the opportunity to be able to view themselves as they never have in the past.

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

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



Leadership Barometer 96 Leader Transitions

June 9, 2021

Maybe this leadership tip is in a book somewhere, but I have not run into it yet. There is a mistake that I have seen most leaders make multiple times and not realize the damage they are doing to their credibility.

It has to do with the delicate time when a leader is assigned a new position and moves into a new area interfacing with different people. The first few days are critical and set the stage for how smoothly (or not) the transition goes.

All signals sent during the first days and weeks are important as both the leader and the new constituents learn how to work together.

Example

For illustration, let’s say our leader has just been promoted from the Printing Department into the Assembly Department. The new job is in a new physical area and has a different set of people involved.

The old leader has retired and left the scene, and our new leader has just brought in the first few boxes of possessions to set up his office. He is cordial to everyone and believes he is off to a great start.

This is an important job for the new leader, and he wants to carry on the fine team enthusiasm he was able to accomplish in the Printing Department.

During the first couple days, he attends the normal production meetings. He frequently mentions how delighted he is to now be working in the Assembly Department.

When a manager is discussing a safety issue, the new leader offers something like this, “We had the same problem over in the Printing Department, and what we did was set up a sub-team to come up with some excellent recommendations. That idea saved a lot of time because it could be done off line by a small group rather than have a bunch of meetings with everyone present.”

People in the meeting listened intently and nodded appreciatively that there was a fresh idea.

The next day, the leader was discussing the financial closing information and seemed a little uncomfortable. He said, “In the Printing Department we always just showed the data in chart form so everyone could grasp the information easily.”

Two hours later he was saying “In the Printing area we had special monitors to ensure the place was cleaned up well before we went home.” You get the idea.

All of the ideas and policies our new leader brought up during the first two weeks were logical and helpful. Nobody in the organization would dare question why they should do these things that the leader brought from the Printing Department.

However, by the end of two weeks, this new leader was so far behind the eight ball emotionally with people that it would take nearly a year to get people to really respect and trust him. Why? He was just too forthright with his innocent suggestions for improvements based on his experience in the prior job.

There is an antidote to this common problem. When I would promote or move a manager, I would ask him or her to refer to the prior job only one time in public. Once that chit was played, I suggested the new leader refrain from other references for at least 2 months.

This restraint gave the new leader the opportunity to appreciate the good things that were being done in the new area before giving a lot of suggestions for them to be more like his old area. The people never knew the difference; they just seemed to like the new leader quite a lot.


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


Leadership Barometer 95 Clarify Values

June 2, 2021

A fundamental function of leaders is to clarify the values of the organization.

The starting point is to understand your own bedrock beliefs and have your actions flow from them. Congruity is a central issue to good leadership. People will quickly notice every hypocritical action or statement.

For example, if you claim “people are our most important asset” as a value, be prepared to defend all actions in light of that strong statement. Most leaders cannot pass this test. When sales go soft, they lay off people.

Mahatma Gandhi was a perfect example of congruity. His strength was derived from understanding his values and giving up all the trappings of conventional power. His objective was not to fix everyone else; it was simply to live a life consistent with his beliefs and stubbornly refuse to back away from that commitment, whatever the cost.

Gandhi ended up one of the most powerful leaders in history, having incredible influence on his nation and the world. He taught, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Transform yourself before attempting to influence others.

Start by creating a list of your deeply held values. These must be real beliefs and not just nice things to say, as they will be tested thousands of times. This first step is so critical, it is worth taking the time to do right.

Get away from distractions while attempting to extract your core beliefs. The key is to examine yourself very carefully. You may want to work with a facilitator or group of friends on this, but start the process alone. Bring in others once you have a first draft to share.

Brainstorming is a helpful tool for this. Sit alone in a comfortable chair with eyes closed and some non-intrusive background music playing, and let your mind wander on the subject of your core beliefs. Write down anything that comes to mind, exactly as you think it, without trying to make it politically correct. Just capture the thoughts. This may be difficult to do honestly. This exercise can take from two to eight hours, and more than one try might be necessary. Once you are comfortable with the process, ideas will flow rapidly.

When it feels complete, put the list away and do not analyze it until later. Resist the temptation to charge ahead to the next step. Allow your subconscious mind time to work on the list. Additional items will flow naturally over the next week or so, when you are in a meeting, in the shower, driving, or even sleeping. This extremely valuable information must be captured. Keep a pad handy to jot down thoughts as they arise.

After a couple weeks, you should have captured 40-50 items, and the list will feel more complete. Start the winnowing process by doing an analysis of similar items. Write each item on a card, and arrange them into piles with common themes. Consolidate the piles down to a handful of key values.

Four to six piles would be optimal, although you could have more. One pile might focus on your beliefs about what drives people, like: “I believe all people are basically good and want to do well” or “I believe people do their best work when they feel trusted.” Whatever your cards say will dictate the piles. Next, give each pile a name. In our previous example, the name would be “what motivates people.” Another pile might be “how to make our business prosper” or “what I want out of life.” Let the data speak for itself.

Distill the input in each pile down to its essence and express it in a single phrase or sentence. This may be challenging or frustrating but it is an essential part of the process. Keep working the cards until you get to a handful of key concepts central to your beliefs as a leader. If there are private beliefs not helpful to share in a work setting, you can cull these out before sharing, but understand these are also keys to what drives you.

It is insightful to compare your values to those of the parent organization. They may not be exactly the same, but they must be compatible. If you have been dissatisfied or uncomfortable in your job, this exercise may help you understand why. You may be better off leaving to find a more compatible environment if the organization’s values are not congruent with your own.

Now that you have clarified your values, let others reflect on them and do a similar process. Working with your team, repeat the same steps to construct a set of values for your group. Having done your personal homework ahead of time will make the process faster and easier.

The process of “wordsmithing” these lists can be frustrating. It is possible to have groups spend hours arguing over exact words for a values statement or a vision and get stuck on it every time it comes up. A professional facilitator can help streamline the process and avoid lengthy debate sessions.

If you are unanimous in spirit but hung up on words, get it roughly right and move forward. Use the 80/20 rule for this. (The 80/20 rule is derived from the “Pareto Principle,” which states that in any grouping of items, 80% of the value will be contained in 20% of the items.) Focus energy on the 20% of items that contain 80% of the value and table the others. It is not the words that are important, but the spirit and understanding.

The final result should be a set of values fully supported by your key leaders that grew out of discussions of everyone’s personal values. Putting this information on charts for the wall is helpful, but it is much more important to have it implanted in the minds and hearts of everyone. Only when internalized will it do any good.

If you are not in a formal leadership position, documenting your personal values is still important. Use them to chart your personal course. Sharing them with others in your group or with your boss shows maturity and facilitates communication.

One caution: this should be done with care and only when a proper rapport between people has developed. Sharing your personal values in the wrong way at the wrong time can backfire. It is better to weave the ideas into natural conversation than to force them on people. For example, you might say, “Let’s allow Sally to provide her own wording for the proposal. I believe people become more engaged in the work if they have the personal freedom to choose how it is done. In fact that is one of my core values.”


The preceding information was adapted from the book The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, by Robert Whipple. It is available on http://www.leadergrow.com.

Robert Whipple is also the author of Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.
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Leadership Barometer 94 Two Organizational States

May 26, 2021

With exceptional leadership, it is nearly impossible for an organization to fail. Eventually the unit will rise to stardom.

The rationale is simple: outstanding leadership is rare and, when present, the sheer power unleashed by this person in the organization will allow it to easily out-flank competition by creating a sustainable competitive advantage.

Unfortunately, the converse is also true; an organization reporting to a poor leader is almost certain to fail. Only incredible luck or windfall can prevent it.

The reason is the damage unwittingly done by this person to the soul of the organization. The lack of clear direction and poor morale mean no amount of cheerleading or other management techniques can bring this organization out of the mire.

The stock exchange floor is littered with horror stories of how the actions of poor leaders have brought companies, and even whole industries, to their knees.

Most leaders are somewhere in between these extremes. Imagine if you could improve your own leadership skills, along with the skills of those around you. The result would be incredible forward momentum in your organization.

This change would reinforce the good leadership and allow the recruitment and training of other outstanding leaders. All of a sudden, you would find yourself working in a more successful and rewarding organization.

The highest calling for a leader is to help groups move from one state of affairs to a better one. To illustrate, imagine two extremes.

State A is an awful condition found in many institutions today. There is little trust and even a decent dialog is lacking. Workers are convinced Management is only there for personal gain. Management tries to convince workers they want to help the organization survive in the competitive jungle. They explain that draconian actions such as downsizing or wage freezes are honestly in the best long-term interest of everyone.

The workers do not buy this at all, and Management continues to self-destruct. Most attempts to make things better backfire, as the emotions of people spiral into further decline.

When things get desperate, Management calls in the consultants with an improvement program, and the whole situation becomes fodder for another chapter in the Dilbert series. State A is common in work environments, and those who benefit from it most are the cartoonists.

I witnessed a vivid example of State A when soliciting a United Way pledge at a small manufacturing firm. I was in the office of a VP and overheard a public address announcement by the CEO. “Starting today nobody is allowed to work over the lunch break.” I asked the VP what that was all about. He rolled his eyes and said, “Don’t ask – you really don’t want to know. It has to do with some people working extra and wanting us to pay for it.” Continuing with the solicitation, we heard the CEO back on the bullhorn a couple minutes later. “Anybody who has trouble understanding my last message can come and see me in my office. I’ll explain it to you.”

My blood ran cold. How could such an atmosphere exist in today’s culture? Needless to say, I got no United Way contribution and left as soon as possible. That organization is in the process of going out of business. They have little chance to survive without a change in leadership because they are too far down the slide of morale decline.

The degradation of State A increases over time. As rapport diminishes, attempts to set things right with quick fixes and new improvement programs only speed the downward momentum. It takes a complete catharsis to reverse the damage. That process can take years and usually involves changing the leadership and the entire environment. Often groups do not have the patience for this radical surgery, nor the courage to attempt it.

The real heartbreak of State A is its expense to the organization. Nothing works correctly, and much of the energy is spent on damage control. How can a business hope to be competitive in that state?

It is also expensive in human terms, as people stoop to unimaginable levels. Ordinarily honorable hardworking people intentionally harpoon a process because they cannot bear the hypocrisy they perceive in Management. In other situations, these people may be pillars of the community, church leaders, or loyal volunteers, but at work they undermine initiatives put forth by the current administration due to the atmosphere. The management process is perfectly designed to get the awful results being obtained. What a tragedy!

State B is stimulating to describe because it is more fun for everyone. It is that wonderful state where people are excited about their jobs. They respect their leaders and feel fully engaged in the success of the business as owners. They will sacrifice personal comfort, and even security, for the good of the entity.

In State B, you see people coming to work early and doing activities to help the venture in their time off. Any time there is a nasty assignment, there will be many volunteers to get it done. There is a state of joy and fun at work, as these energized people delight in beating the competition. Their focus is on the customer and competition, not each other or the administration.

Management is different in State B. They are mostly there in an advisory role, to support, reinforce, and mentor. Their most significant function is helping people get more of what they want through the success of the organization. They take on the teaching or coaching role as described by Wellins, Byham, and Wilson in “Empowered Teams”:

“At no time does the leader take on the problem personally. Instead by coaching individuals through the possible steps for handling the problem effectively, the leader offers help without taking responsibility for action. This is the soul of empowerment because it creates a sense of ownership.”

There is little need for the leader to discipline people in State B because most situations are resolved at the lowest level. Occasionally, a problem employee needs to be weeded out, but that has the full support of the others, since they are tired of carrying the troublemaker.

There is a sense of vision in these groups. They know where they are and where they are going. They set aggressive goals and often exceed them. They are also guided by a set of values that are more than a chart on the wall. Values have been instilled into the workforce through the actions (not words) of their leader.

It is a kind of family atmosphere, but the kind of family that really supports and loves each other. Yes, in a State B environment the word “love” is often heard – in fact, that is one of the hallmarks of State B. It is hard to find words to express how deeply these people care about each other and what they are doing together.

It was the same result Lou Holtz achieved several times as a collegiate football coach. He inherited six teams, all with losing records. Each of those teams went on to a bowl game by the second season at the latest. In his famous videotape on leadership, “Do Right,” Holtz says, “The team came back, not because of a coach. They came back because the attitude was there.” What he modestly fails to point out is that the attitude came from his philosophies and leadership. Without intervention of excellent leadership, the teams that experienced dramatic improvements under Lou Holtz would likely have gone on losing.

States A and B are two extremes. Most groups are somewhere in between. Unfortunately the average tends toward State A. If State A gets exponentially worse, State B is more linear, but it requires constant tending to avoid atrophy.

This is the highest calling of the leader – to keep a finger on the pulse of the environment, to make small corrective actions whenever changes occur, and to relentlessly move groups toward State B. If this is the leader’s prime focus, all other parameters of measurable success, profits, quality, morale, etc., will take care of themselves.

Fortunately, there is an automatic correction mechanism. It provides constant insight and a kind of servo control, a mechanism that works like the cruise control of a car, to keep things moving toward the ideal state. This automatic correction means you must have an ideal state: a vision. Any time you are moving off the path, away from the vision, the control takes over, moving things back toward the ideal state.


The preceding information was adapted from the book The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, by Robert Whipple. It is available on http://www.leadergrow.com.

Robert Whipple is also the author of Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.




Leadership Barometer 93 Create a Great Culture

May 19, 2021

You have probably asked yourself, “How do people become motivated to perform at peak levels over a sustained period of time?”

Perhaps you found yourself considering incentive programs that reward people with money, vacations, or perhaps merchandise in an effort to motivate your employees.

The reality is, motivation comes from within each of us and is usually not generated by picnics or T-shirts. As a leader, do not seek to “motivate” your employees; rather, focus on building a culture of trust where individuals make the choice to become motivated.

Leaders also have the responsibility to create an environment that inspires and encourages employees so that they can feel their personal motivational processes are supported and valued.

Leaders can help create positive morale and motivation within their team, and within each individual employee simply by creating a corporate culture of trust and affection. By doing so, it will help employees become more internally motivated because they will:

  • Feel like a part of a winning team that respects and values all members for what they have to offer. This culture helps employees feel    both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards when they are doing their best work.
  • Appreciate their co-workers and seek ways to help them physically and emotionally.
  • Understand the goals of the organization better and commit to help as much as they can in order to achieve the goals individually and as a team.
  • Enjoy the social interactions with people they work with and respect them as co-workers as well as friends.
  • Deeply respect their leaders and want them to be successful.
  • Feel like they are part owners of the company and hold themselves accountable.
  • Feel appreciated and recognized for their many contributions; this helps to increase self-esteem and confidence levels.

These advantages help generate a culture of respect and trust.

Creating this kind of culture

What is “culture” in an organization? Webster defines culture as the social structure and intellectual and artistic manifestations that characterize a society. For an organization, “culture” means how people interact, what they believe, and how they create success. If you could peel off the roof of a company, you would see the manifestations of the culture in the physical world. The actual culture is more esoteric because it resides in the hearts and minds of the corporate society, in addition to observable behaviors.

Achieving a state where all people are fully engaged is a large undertaking. It requires tremendous focus and leadership. It cannot be something you do on Tuesday afternoons or when you have special meetings. You need to see evidence of this in every nook and cranny of the organization.

Leaders Create Winners

At work, many people feel forced to endure an unfair world where they feel like a failure. In organizations of exceptional leadership, the exact opposite occurs. People enjoy their work because their leader has created a culture of “winners.” People become bonded together as a winning team, and joy and celebrations replace the drudgery of work. These are the lucky few that work in organizations where the leader understands how to leverage the small win.

Excellent leaders understand a key mission is to create this type of environment. They know that when they establish a culture of winners, the entire organization will prosper and win.

Personal success is defined, not in terms of wealth or power, but in doing worthwhile things. There are wealthy and powerful people who are utter failures, just as there are many successful people who have little money or fame. It is the journey, not the destination that embodies success.

Earl Nightingale in his program, “Lead the Field,” identified success as “the progressive realization of a worthy ideal” and later modified it to simply “the pursuit of a worthy goal.” Notice it is not achieving the goal or receiving awards for accomplishing amazing feats. Rather, success is in the pursuit.

When you reach a milestone, it is time to celebrate and feel good about what you accomplished, even if it is just a step in the right direction and not a final destination.

Once you have reached a major goal, immediately set out a course for the next increment of your life. If this new goal is worthy, the simple pursuit will mean you are successful.

This process will allow you and others around you to experience the elation of success every day. It is there in the fiber of daily living as long as a worthy goal is being pursued.

Teach this insight to everyone in your organization. It will take the drudgery and pressure away, adding joy in its place and helping with self-motivation and increased morale.

It is important for leaders to avoid trying to “motivate” workers. Motivation is not a magic pill that can be purchased with pizza parties or dress down days. Instead, leaders should focus on creating the environment where workers choose to motivate themselves because they work in an organization with a great culture that inspires them.


The preceding information was adapted from the book The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, by Robert Whipple. It is available on http://www.leadergrow.com.

Robert Whipple is also the author of Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.
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Leadership Barometer 92 Act Like an Adult

May 12, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Selfish

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

Whining


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

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

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

Shouting or Grandstanding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hitting

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

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

Sulking

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

Passive Aggression

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

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

Getting Even

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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



Leadership Barometer 91 Ten Hallmarks of High Trust Organizations

May 5, 2021

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

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

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

Solving Problems


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

Focused Energy


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

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

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

Efficient Communication


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

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

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

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

Retaining Customers


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

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

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

A “Real” Environment


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

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

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

Saving Time and Reducing Costs


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

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

Perfection not Required


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

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

More Development and Growth


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

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

Better Reinforcement


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

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

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

A Positive Atmosphere


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Leadership Barometer 90 Use Your RAS

April 28, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Lobby Discussions

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

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

New Truck

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

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

Practice using your RAS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Leadership Barometer 89 Wag More Bark Less

April 22, 2021

I confess, this title was not made up by me. My wife saw a bumper sticker with this sentiment and shared it with me.

I think the basic wisdom in the phrase is genius and wish there was a way to get some leaders to understand the simple logic here.

Why is it that some leaders feel compelled to bark when wagging is a much more expedient way to bring out the best in people?

Barking

The barking dog is simply doing its job. The dog only knows that to defend his territory, he needs to sound off at anything that might encroach. The frequency of barking is an interesting aspect.

Why does the dog bark at intervals less than about 10 seconds? Is it because he has a short memory and can’t remember that he just barked? Is it because the potential invaders of his territory need to be reminded every few seconds that he is still around? Is it because he simply enjoys keeping the neighbors up all night? Is he showing off his prowess or having some kind of dog-world conversation with the mutt down the street?

I think all of these things could be factors in the frequency of barking, but I suspect the primary reason is a show of persistence. The message we get from the barking dog is “I am here, I am formidable, I am not going anywhere, so keep your distance.”

In the workplace, if a leader sends a signal, “I am here, I am formidable, I am not going anywhere, so keep your distance,” the workforce is going to get the message and comply. Unfortunately, group performance and morale are going to be awful, but the decibel level will at least keep everyone awake.

Wagging

When a dog wags its tail, that is a genuine sign of happiness and affection. You can observe the rate of wagging and determine the extent of the dog’s glee. Sometimes the wag is slow, which indicates everything is okay, and life is good.

When you come home at night and the dog is all excited to see you, most likely the wag is more of a blur, and it seems to come from way up in the spine area. The wag indicates, “I love you, I am glad you are here, you are a good person to me, and will you take me for a walk?”

Dogs are incredibly loyal, even beyond human reason. For example, I am reminded of the picture of a Labrador Retriever lying next to the coffin of his master who was killed in Afghanistan. The dog refused to leave the area.

Even when a dog is not treated well, it does not become critical or judgmental. The wag is not withheld because the dog had a bad day. The dog looks for the good and appreciates it. The dog is ever hopeful, ever optimistic, ever grateful. The wag is still there unless the dog is seriously sick. It is amazing.

A leader who wags more and barks less gets more cooperation. Life is better for people working for this leader, and they simply perform better. Showing appreciation through good reinforcement is the more enlightened way to lead, yet we still see many leaders barking as their main communication with people. Look for the good in people, and appreciate it. Try to modify your bark to wag ratio and see if you get better results over time.


Robert Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with Kodak and with non-profit organizations. To bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763



Leadership Barometer 88 Read Body Language

April 14, 2021

There are hundreds of assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly. You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership.

There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

 Read Body Language

Body language is extremely important when communicating with others and reading their emotions. This skill is critical for leaders to master. There is a ton of data on body language, and I have been studying the topic since 1977.  I still have much to learn.  The purpose of this article is to highlight some key ideas about body language in the hope that it will stimulate you to read more about it. 

Last year I wrote 100 blog articles on this topic.  Here is a list of the articles on Body Language. The list also has links to each individual article in case a particular title catches your interest.

Body Language is Ubiquitous

All people show body language in hundreds of ways all day long.  We reveal our emotions in ways we do not even realize ourselves.  For example, the dilation of your pupils has a wealth of information about your mental state, yet without a mirror, you have no way of knowing how dilated your pupils are.

In fact, most body language we display is subconscious, yet it is in plain sight for other people to see at all times. Reading the various signals accurately is a skill that is extremely helpful in all types of interfaces, especially for leaders. 

Body Language is More Powerful Than Your Words

Albert Mehrabian did a series of measurements over 50 years ago indicating that only 7% of the meaning we get in face-to-face conversation with another individual comes from our words. The remaining 93% of meaning comes from  tone of voice and body language. Mehrabian’s research focused on people who were speaking about their feelings or emotions.

When the words and body language do not agree, we always interpret meaning consistent with the body language rather than the words we use.

Body Language is Culture Specific

It is a mistake to rely heavily on body language cues when dealing with a person from a different culture.  Each culture has its own set of signals, and sometimes they are actually opposite. You need to be very careful when working in a mixed culture atmosphere that you are getting an accurate read of another person’s emotions. For example, if you are Inuit, shaking your head from side-to-side means “yes” and nodding it up and down means “no.” There are some good reference books that are helpful on this topic. One of my favorites is “How to Read a Person Like a Book,” by Gerard Nierenberg.

Look for a Cluster of Signals

One specific bit of body language is not enough to decode the meaning accurately.  It may be an indication, but to get a firm reading on the emotion, you need to see more than two synergistic signals indicating the same emotion. If you pick up a signal, check it out carefully before ascribing specific meaning.  

Avoid sending mixed signals.  When body language is incongruent, it confuses and often annoys people.  Trying to force a particular expression is dangerous because some of your natural signals will be fighting the opposing signals. For example, if you try to look happy when you really are not, it will show in many detectable ways.  Sending mixed signals also works against trust. Try to never put on a specific body language pose.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585-392-7763.