Leadership Barometer 157 Leaders Must Accept Accountability

August 3, 2022

Few leaders are capable of accepting accountability. I work with leaders every week and focus on helping them build higher trust in their organizations.  One observation I have made over the years is that nearly all leaders are passionate about accountability. They make sure people in the organization produce the right things in the right ways.

Accountability at the top is rare

Unfortunately, I see very few leaders who are willing to step up to their own accountability. It is just not something that crosses their minds very often. If something is wrong, they will blame others for the problems that hold the organization back.

The culture of organizations originates at the top and moves through the layers like a stream of water. If there are problems at any level of the organization, the top leader shares culpability because the buck stops at the top.  That is where the source is located.

Case Example 

Let’s take a case example and show the stubborn consistency of this theory.  Suppose an organization has some delivery problems.  They are making large engines to go into military vehicles, and they keep missing deadlines. 

The CEO calls in the production manager. He demands to know why productivity on the line is down by 18% this year.  The manager tells the CEO that people are really upset because of no raises in 3 years.

As the CEO wanders out on the production line, he sees nine engines lined up to be reworked. He chews out the female quality inspector.  She tries to explain that the finish on the cylinder bores is too rough.

By now the CEO is fuming. It is obvious why things are going wrong in every corner of the building. People at all levels are not doing the right things. The whole organization is over budget, late, and producing a low-quality product.

Now suppose this CEO decided to bring in a consultant to help get things back on track. He tells the consultant that all of the managers and supervisors need some basic training. They need more discipline and understanding of how to “motivate the troops.”

The consultant decides to do some checking before making a recommendation. She spends a few days looking at the data and talking with people all over the operation. Then she reports back her assessment. 

Consultant Advice 

The consultant asks the CEO what portion of the problem happened by his decisions and actions in the past.  She suggests he take a good long look in the mirror at the source of his problems. Ask himself some tough questions such as the following:

  • Morale is terrible in this plant, and as the CEO, how have I been contributing to this problem?
  • What is keeping me from fully holding myself accountable for this awful situation?
  • In what ways have I been trying to lay the blame on the supervisors, employees, and other factors?
  • How can I deal with the current situations in a more empowering way?
  • What fundamental changes in the structure, behaviors, values, and vision am I going to make?
  • What behaviors do I need to change, starting right now, to build a culture of higher trust?

  Now the CEO is facing an awful truth; the root cause of the problem is him. He needs to start by holding himself accountable, but that hurts too much. It is so much easier to spot the symptoms and hold everyone else accountable.

Unfortunately, this CEO is not likely to hire that consultant, yet the advice he is hearing is spot on.

We need to get get more top leaders to view their responsibility as creating a great culture. Excellence is possible because everyone in the organization is excited by the vision and trust in leadership is high. It takes a wise and humble leader to view his or her role as creator and maintainer of the culture. Those who can do it will thrive. The ones who simply blame others will struggle and eventually fail.

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 156 Dumb Goals

July 27, 2022

You have heard of SMART Goals, but have you ever considered DUMB Goals? SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-bound. The term was invented by G.T. Doran in 1981.

Forty one years later, I thought it was time to add some DUMB Goals.  DUMB stands for Doable, Uncompromising, Manageable, and Beneficial. Here are my thoughts on why DUMB Goals are important in our society today: 

Doable Goals 

In our global economy, we have stretched resources in nearly every organization beyond the elastic limit. Leaders pull on resources in an ever-intensifying quest for more productivity. More and more people reach a burnout stage or just quit trying to stretch.

What is needed is to go for quantum leaps in productivity. The incremental approach or Kaizen has served us well for 40 years. Now we need to find new afterburners to take us to a higher orbit.

Achieve this additional thrust by having a more robust culture based on higher trust. Trust within an organization improves productivity by 2-3 times. Leaders need to seek higher levels of trust as a means to achieve seemingly impossible productivity goals.

Uncompromising Goals

As everything has become ultra-critical, the tendency is to slack off on some of the basics. We have seen several organizations slip backward on the quality principles that provided improvements over several decades.  A classic example of this is Toyota. When they got so wrapped up in being the biggest, they ended up with several recalls for quality problems. They paid a dear price for that mistake. Some organizations are so focused on productivity and profits that they forget to invest in quality and culture. They are sowing the seeds of their own demise. 

Manageable Goals

In most organizations today, the goals set out for people are too many and far too complex to manage. What you get is a watered-down approach to performance. It is not the laser-focused and potent enthusiasm of the entire team. 

The answer here is better focus. I cringe when I see a strategic plan with 18 critical thrusts.  It ain’t going to happen folks! For a manageable array of critical result areas, keep the number of thrusts down to three, or four.

Also, for proper engagement, it is important to have the workers themselves be part of the goal-setting process.  The doers need to own the goals in cooperation with management. 

Beneficial Goals

It is time for a broader view of organizational output. We have become more environmentally conscious over the past decade. We are still far off the mark if we are going to save our spaceship.

We need to dig a lot deeper into our environmental conscience. We must double our efforts to preserve the environment.

Social awareness is lagging environmental activities, although some organizations are starting to gain in this area. We need to encourage more socially-conscious corporate decisions.

This means taking a hard look at where we produce products. Do not support socially irresponsible sourcing.

That equilibrium may come at the expense of some short-term profitability. It is less popular with the insatiable companies who are intent on squeezing out every last penny.  I believe the organizations that are moving in the right direction will ultimately prevail. We need a balance of organizations doing the right things for the right long-term reasons.

It is a totally different world in 2022 than it was in 1981. There is nothing wrong with pursuing SMART Goals.  I think organizations would be well-served by also considering the DUMB Goals as well.


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 155 Are You a Great Leader?

July 20, 2022

You may be a good leader, or possibly a great leader, or you may be an awful leader. One thing is clear: your own opinion of your worth as a leader is not to be trusted. 

I have studied the traits of leaders for over 40 years. I have studied leadership from the inside out and the outside in.  This education has led me to conclude that there are signposts or primary indicators of people who are elite leaders. 

Test Your Leadership

Answer these eight questions honestly.

  1. Are you a magnet for high-potential people?

Great leaders are so much fun to be around and to work for that the very best people are clamoring for a chance to work for them. Great leaders are eternally passionate about developing people (including themselves).

  1. Are you having the most fun of your life?

Poor leaders struggle against the demands of the job.    Great leaders are relaxed and having a ball. They enjoy being themselves and performing at a high rate without fretting about being perfect. They are more focused on growing other leaders and doing what they believe is right.

  1. Do you live the values at all times?

The cauldron of every crisis and urgency is precisely when it is most important to model the values. Great leaders know and do this.

  1. Do you continually invest in higher trust?

Trust is the lubricant that allows organizations to work amid the cacophony of seemingly conflicting friction and priorities. Great leaders know trust depends on them and invest in it every single moment without failure.

  1. Do you readily admit mistakes?

When the chips are down, few leaders actually have the capability to admit a mistake. Instead, try to find ways to deflect culpability.

  1. Do you listen deeply?

Most leaders consider themselves good listeners. Unfortunately, the majority of leaders do a very poor job of listening.  They are leaders, and that means they feel a need to lead conversations and actions. Great leaders listen more than they speak.

  1. Do you build a truly genuine reinforcing culture?

The rules of good reinforcement are well known. Many leaders exude a kind of plastic reinforcement that is manipulative in its intent.

  1. Do you hold people accountable the right way?

Most people do good or excellent work, yet they are held “accountable” only when they mess up. If we changed the paradigm such that people are accountable for the positive things as well as the shortcomings, it would change the entire equation.  I call this skill “holding people procountable.”


There are literally thousands of leadership behaviors that make up the total performance characteristics for any leader. I believe if you can honestly answer “YES!” to all eight of the above questions, you are one of the elite leaders of our time.  Congratulations! 


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 154 Teams and Kindergarten

July 13, 2022

We have all heard the phrase, “All I need to know I learned in Kindergarten.” It came from a book written by Robert Fulgham in 1993 that later became a series of books and tapes.  His five key points bear repeating when we think about teamwork. They are: 

Five Rules for Teams

  1. Share everything,
  2. Play fair,
  3. Don’t hit people,
  4. Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone, and
  5. Take a break in the afternoon for cookies. 

 Doing what is simple and right is a prerequisite for getting along in this world.  Let’s examine this primitive, but profound wisdom as it relates to teams.

Share Everything

Teams exist to accomplish some kind of a goal. There is always an objective, whether it is winning a football game or gaining a new client. If you are on a team that has no reason to exist, resign. You are wasting your precious time.

Once everyone on the team understands the vision, the path is clear to figure out how to do it. For that, you need the participation of everyone, not just the leader or a few aggressive members.  The magic of a team is the diverse ideas in the heads of all members. People who keep their ideas to themselves rob the team of the creative juices necessary for outstanding results.

Play Fair

This rule seems so obvious as to be trivial. It actually is often a huge roadblock in effective team dynamics. How can this be? It is because what seems fair to me, may not seem fair to you.  I had a student tell me once, “I am the kind of person who does what he thinks is right.”  Can you imagine someone going around doing what he/she thinks is wrong? I can’t.

Most of the time people “play fair” according to their own set of beliefs, values, and circumstances.  There are times when an avalanche of unexpected disasters happen, whether at work, at home, or a combination of both. In these days of chaos in our lives, it is easy to get buried in competing commitments. It is important that the person affected be upfront with the team and arrange for cover.

For most people, an occasional let down can be forgiven, especially in these difficult times.  Some people have a steady stream of “emergency” situations. They may have serious acute or chronic health issues. They may be dealing with a dying family member. It may take time for the situation to be resolved.

In these situations it is up to the team to be supportive. Work out solutions to keep the flow going. On good teams, the members support each other. Follow the Golden Rule.

Don’t Hit People

When we get frustrated enough, we tend to lose perspective. It is part of the human condition. When a team member is far enough out of line, other members “attack” the problem person. Naturally, since this person was “playing fair” according to his/her perspective, he/she becomes angry and defensive. A battle emerges because each party honestly believes the other person is acting irrationally.

We need to show empathy for other team members and not be so quick to judge their situation. A hallmark of good teamwork is that the members show that they care for each other.

Say You’re Sorry when you Hurt Someone

Sincere humility is the balm that heals up team wounds. Recognize that, in the heat of battle, things may become overheated. You will know this when it happens to you. An echo will bounce back from a note you sent that has a bad taste. You immediately know that you have angered a team member or, at least confused him/her.  This is the time to send a humble apology. You can restate the goal and reiterate your commitment to the team as well. This must be followed by a change in action, or it will not work.

Take a break in the afternoon for cookies

Working in teams is actually hard work. Not only must you do the assigned task, you need to keep people from getting on each other’s nerves. That means the stress level is sometimes high. It is important to take a break and have some “cookies” from time to time. Realize most of the “problems” that are driving you crazy today will be unimportant to you in a week or so. When you take the time to celebrate the small wins along the way, it rejuvenates the team for the next round. Be lavish (but sincere) with your praise and thanks to other team members and they will appreciate it.  Every “thank you” is a chocolate chip in the cookie of life.


These five team rules form a good core of actions that can take away a lot of typical team struggles.  Make sure that your team adopts the rules and practices them regularly.

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 153 Two Views of Change

July 5, 2022

At the start of a new year, many people make resolutions to change for the future. Most of the resolutions have been set aside a couple of months later. How is change working in your professional and personal life?

When we were babies, change was always a welcome event that made us more comfortable.  As we grew older, change became more of a threat that often made us feel more uncomfortable, at least for a while.

We are all aware that change is all around us, and it takes many forms. In this article, I want to put two kinds of change under the microscope and discuss why both are important for our lives. 

Incremental Change

You have heard the saying, “In every day in every way I am getting better and better.”  That statement is describing incremental change because it bases our improvement on what we already know how to do.  Moving from our present state of knowledge and making creative tweaks to the formula propels us forward.

There is comfort with incremental change because the new technique is close to what we already know. There is risk in these steps, but the risk is small, and we can always revert to the prior method if we fail. That is why so many New Year’s Resolutions do not produce permanent change.

The power of incremental change relies on the relentless application to it. We should seek to improve our current process just a little bit every day. Before long we have made fantastic strides toward efficiency and productivity. 

One downside of incremental change is that we can always make modifications that turn out to be in the wrong direction.  Sometimes we cannot tell until weeks down the road. The change we make today may be a tiny bit worse than what we were doing yesterday.  It is often difficult to tell at the moment if the small changes we are making are in the right or the wrong direction. 

Revolutionary Change 

This kind of change happens when we keep the same objective but throw out the old process entirely and begin a whole new paradigm. The downside with revolutionary change is a high risk of failure, but the payoff is high if it succeeds.

A good example of revolutionary change occurred in 1965 in the sport of high jumping.  Throughout history, jumpers used a kind of “belly down” approach to getting maximum height over the bar. The technique was called “The Western Roll.” Jumpers would flatten out with stomach down and kick at just the right time to get over the bar.

Along came Dick Fosbury, who decided to go over the bar backward with his back to the ground. They named the technique “The Fosbury Flop.” Dick won the gold medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City using his technique. To this day, The Fosbury Flop is the most popular method for high jumping. 

We often see examples of revolutionary change in common products.  In olden days, people used to fumble with buttons or zippers in winter to keep out the wind. That was before George De Mestral patented Velcro in 1955. It seems like a simple invention 65 years later, but then it was revolutionary.

The challenge with revolutionary change is that it is so radical we often reject it as being absurd. Even when a proposed revolutionary change fails, there are often parts of it that have merit. They can be useful when applied in a slightly different way.


It is this combination of revolutionary ideas in conjunction with incremental changes that have the most power for organizations. Seek to improve the products you make and the processes you use. To maximize forward progress, use both incremental and revolutionary change methods.  

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 152 Leaders Create Culture

June 29, 2022

In any organization, leaders create the culture. Apathetic people exist in every organization.  One can fault workers who trap themselves in a state of despair.  Managers typically describe these people as having “bad attitudes.” The culture created by leaders is often the root cause of the problem.

Place these individuals in a culture of trust, respect, and challenge. You will see many of them quickly rise up to become happy and productive workers. It is essential that each individual in the workforce find real meaning in the organizational culture. Culture is determined by numerous actions and concepts, but it starts with the values and vision of the leader.

The culture of an organization is not easy to define.  Most of the leadership textbooks I have read describe the culture in terms of physical attributes that characterize an organization. For example, here is a typical list of the things purported to make up a company culture.

  • Physical structure
  • Language and symbols
  • Rituals, ceremonies, gossip, and jokes
  • Stories, legends, and heroes
  • Beliefs
  • Values and norms
  • Assumptions

The above list is a montage of the lists in many textbooks. When you think about it, these items do go a long way toward defining the culture of an organization. Unfortunately, I believe these items fall short because they fail to include the emotions of the people. After all, organizations are made up of people, at all levels, interacting in a social structure for a purpose.  Let us extend the list of things that make up the culture of an organization.

  • Is there a high level of trust within the organization?
  • To what extent do people have the opportunity to grow in this organization?
  • Do people feel safe and secure, or are they basically fearful?
  • Is the company financially stable?
  • How do people treat each other on their own level and on higher or lower levels?
  • Is there mutual respect between management and workers?
  • Is the culture inclusive or exclusive?
  • Do people generally feel like winners or losers at work?
  • Is the culture one of reinforcement or punishment?
  • Are managers viewed as enablers or barriers?
  • Are people trying to get into the organization or trying to get out?
  • What is the level of satisfaction for people in this organization?
  • Can people “speak their truth” without fear of reprisal?
  • Do people follow the rules or find ways to avoid following them?
  • Do people receive a living wage?

How can leaders build the right culture where people have a sense of purpose and meaning in their work?  Here are eight approaches that are used by successful leaders.

  1. Have high ethical and moral standards. Operate from a set of values, and make sure people know why those values are important.
  2. Operate with high Emotional Intelligence. The ability to work well with people is critical.
  3. Build trust. Trust is the glue that holds people together in a framework of positive purpose. Without trust, we are just playing games with each other, hoping to get through the day unscathed.
  4. Create a positive vision of the future. Vision is critical because without it people see no sense of direction for their work. Create a common goal that is exciting.
  5. Lead change well. Change processes are in play in every organization daily, yet most leaders struggle with change processes.
  6. Build High Performing Teams. Enhance a sense of purpose where there is a kind of peer cohesion brought on by good teamwork.
  7. Build morale the right way. Motivation is derived by treating people with respect and giving them a clear vision and autonomy. Avoid trying to motivate people by adding hygiene factors, like picnics, bonuses, or hat days.
  8. Reinforce good behaviors.

Most of the above concepts sound like common sense; unfortunately, they are not common practice in many groups. This void contributes to much of the apathy in organizations. To have people rise to their level of potential, you need a strong culture. To accomplish that, focus on the above concepts, and see a remarkable transformation in your organization. Become a student of these skills, and teach them to other leaders. Learn how to personify the concepts listed above to rise to the level of great leadership.

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 151 Self Assessments

June 21, 2022

When I get involved with the topic of Emotional Intelligence it usually begins with a self-assessment. I have done this many times, and I always have a strange feeling while doing it for several reasons.

Reasons for feeling strange

  1. What I am really doing is reacting to a bunch of questions created by researchers. They ask me to respond to a set of standard scenarios with some kind of “typical reaction for me.”  The problem is that these scenarios are never set up the exact way I have been exposed to them.  I am simply guessing what I would do. I have no idea, and my reactions would be highly situation dependent.
  2. Daniel Goleman pointed out that people who have low Emotional Intelligence often have the most significant blind spots. The phenomenon we are attempting to assess has a significant component that varies with the level we are trying to measure. I may believe my Emotional Intelligence is generally high, but others may not see it. There is a kind of Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle involved here. The simple act of trying to measure the situation actually impacts the phenomenon we are trying to measure.
  3. Emotional Intelligence has to do with how I react to stimuli. Do I have the skill of considering my response from the left side of my brain before I react? I am not a good judge of how efficient my neural responses really are. My responses are automatic and often I do not consciously control them.
  4. There is a fair amount of gaming involved in the assessment. I believe I know how a person should react under a certain set of conditions. I may be tempted to answer based on what I think the “right” answer is.

Problems with other assessments

I have the same problem with taking personality tests like the DiSC Assessment or the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. What these evaluations measure is how I perceive my own preferences as opposed to objectively how I show up in the world. There may be a gap between these two sets of information. The gap may be wide, particularly if my own behaviors are inconsistent.  

Paired comparisons 

The personality indicators do have an advantage because they simply ask me to choose which I prefer given a paired comparison.  That is easier to do than to try to predict how I will react emotionally to a stimulus.

On the flip side, I know what is going on within myself better than other people do. They can only infer by my behaviors how I am reacting to various things. 

I shouldn’t try to pinpoint my EI skills without a full understanding of how I translate the external stimuli into behaviors. There are obvious clues, but there is a big missing piece: whether I believe my actions are justified

An example 

There was a critical moment near the end of a basketball game between Syracuse and Duke. The referee made a call that the Syracuse coach, Jim Boeheim, called “the worst call of the season.”  The score was 58-60 in favor of Duke with only 10 seconds left in the ballgame. A basket by Syracuse player C.J. Fair was waived-off for what the referee called a charging violation.

Boeheim obviously did not agree with the call. He totally lost his wits and charged the ref yelling over and over that the call was “Bullsh*#”. He stuck his finger right between the eyes of the ref.  video clip of the call and Boeheim’s reaction to it.

As a seasoned coach, Jim was well aware of the consequences of his actions before he did them. SU got a technical foul, and Boeheim was ejected from the game. Duke went on to win the game easily.

Even though Boeheim knew the consequences, he was unable to control his rage and reacted in a way that was not at all helpful to his objectives. That shows low EI, right? Not so fast.

Hijack behavior

This is a prime example of “hijack behavior,” where the emotional reaction simply overpowers the ability to perform logic.  Does this mean Boeheim has low Emotional Intelligence?  I think not, and if you had him do a self-evaluation of his EI, he would probably score pretty high. In that instance, in front of thousands of witnesses, he displayed amazingly low EI. Reason: In his mind the reaction was justified. That was based on the importance of the game, the nature of the call, and all of the other emotions within him.

If his reaction was not justified to him, he would not have done it. If there was a better course of action, he would have done that. Instead, he threw away any chance to win and looked like a raving idiot to thousands of fans.

Problematic practice 

My point is that doing self-evaluations on psychological topics is problematic. It may be helpful for some kinds of insight, but the accuracy of the result may be suspect for the reasons given above.

If you would say “I am an ENFP,” you would be stretching the point.  Rather you should say, “according to my opinion of myself at the moment, my best MBTI match is ENFP.” That is a far more accurate statement than the first one.  


I say, “I measure high in Emotional Intelligence.” If that assessment was done by me, we should discount the statement.  A far more accurate phrase might be, “I did the survey and it showed me to be high in Emotional Intelligence. I need to beware that I am not blind to the reality of the situation.”

Do not misunderstand; I believe there is good value and insight in doing a self Emotional Intelligence Survey. I just caution that the accuracy of the information may be questionable. Take the test and learn what you can, then observe your own behaviors based on what you have learned.

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.  For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763.



Leadership Barometer 150 Scope Creep

June 15, 2022

One of the most insidious problems in any kind of project work is scope creep. Scope creep occurs when the deliverables of a project change while it is underway. The impact of scope creep is often a dissatisfied customer or a loss of profit for the vendor. Either way, the situation has caused the result to be less satisfying than expected.

How scope creep happens 

It is very easy to understand how scope creep happens. Nobody can anticipate every minute detail of a project before doing the work. There are always going to be surprises that come up along the way. Here are some examples of surprises:

  • unexpected delays,
  • schemes that did not work as expected,
  • resources being unavailable,
  • new features requested by the customer,
  • material shortages requiring workarounds.

These kinds of problems are common on most projects.

Recognize the changes 

There is no 100% guarantee that any project is going to completion without some change in scope. The trick to managing scope creep effectively is to recognize when a change occurs. It is very easy to accommodate small or subtle changes in the specification for the project. The sum of many small changes can mean a huge difference in the success of the project.

Make sure to discuss all changes to the specification openly. That transparency will protect you at least partially. It will notify the customer of a change from the original design. You can then renegotiate the price or the delivery time in order to accommodate the change in scope. 

How the customer reacts

If you are the customer, recognize that the vendor was not able to envision all of the things that might happen. In reality, changes in scope will be happening for both the vendor and the customer on every project.  Life happens, and both parties are going to have to roll with the vicissitudes they are facing daily.

12 tips that can help reduce the stress of scope creep: 

  1. Ensure there is enough communication with the customer when creating the specifications.
  2. Do not start a project with preconceived notions of what the customer really wants.
  3. Have detailed and specific specifications. Any vague deliverables are going to be areas of contention down the road.
  4. Factor in the potential for scope creep by building contingencies or safety factors into the bidding process.
  5. Keep a ledger of requested changes on both sides. It is not necessary to renegotiate the entire deal for each change. It is important to have all changes documented.
  6. Plan the job in phases with sign-off gates at specific milestones. A scope change can be confined to one phase of the project and not infect the entire effort.
  7. Look for win-win solutions to problems. Often a creative solution is available that will delight both the vendor and the customer.
  8. Avoid rigidity about the job. Make sure the entire project is constantly moving in the direction of a successful conclusion. If things get significantly off the track, call for a meeting to clarify the issues and brainstorm solutions together.
  9. Keep the customer well informed about the progress of the project.
  10. Express gratitude when the other party is willing to make a concession. Goodwill is important in every project because life is a series of projects. A poor reputation can severely hamper future income.
  11. Have a formal closing to the project where each party expresses gratitude for a job well done. If there were any specific lessons learned during this job, document them. Both parties can benefit from these lessons in the future.
  12. Plan an appropriate celebration at the end of a challenging project to let people feel good about what they have done and reduce the pressure.


The best defense for stress caused by scope creep is to bring all changes out in the open. Changes can occur on either side of the equation. Make the impact on the total delivery visible. The key objective is to avoid disappointing surprises that result from a lack of communication between various stakeholders throughout the process.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, 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 149 Smart Pills

June 8, 2022

One of my leadership students shared an observation that led to the concept of “smart” pills for leaders. She said that some of the decisions the leaders in her organization make are not smart. These decisions reflect a misunderstanding of their impact. The leaders end up doing things that are at cross purposes to what they want to accomplish.

I told the student to buy some “smart” pills for the leaders to take. The pills will let them know when they do things that take them in the wrong direction.  Then I realized that I already had discovered the “smart” pill several years ago.  I have taught leaders how to administer this magic potion for quite a while. 

Determine the impact ahead of time 

Allow leaders to determine the impact of their decisions on the organization at the time they make those decisions. This knowledge will reduce the number of wrong-headed actions.

Picture a leader of 90 individuals. There are 90 people who can tell her the truth about the impact of poor decisions while they are under discussion. They would gladly do this if the leader had created the right environment. People need to know it is safe to challenge an idea generated in the leader’s mind. How would a leader go about creating such an environment?

Create a safe environment

A smart leader makes people glad when they tell her things she was really not eager to hear. Then those people will eventually learn it is safe to do it. They have the freedom to level with the leader when she is contemplating something they feel is really dumb.

It does not mean that all dumb things the leader wants to do need to get squashed. It simply means that if the leader establishes a safe culture, she will be told. She will know in advance that a specific decision might not be smart. 

It depends on perspective

Sometimes, due to a leader’s perspective, what may seem dumb to underlings may be the smart thing to do. In this case, the leader needs to educate the doubting underling on why the decision does make sense.

Here is an eight-step formula that constitutes a “smart” pill.

  1. Let people know in advance the decisions you are contemplating, and state your likely action.
  2. Invite dialog, either public or private. People should feel free to express their opinions about the outcomes.
  3. Treat people like adults, and listen to them carefully when they express concerns.
  4. Factor their thoughts into your final decision process. This does not mean you always reverse your decision but do consciously consider the input.
  5. Make your final decision about the issue and announce it.
  6. State that there were several opinions considered when making your decision.
  7. Thank people for sharing their thoughts in a mature way.
  8. Ask for everyone’s help to implement your decision whether or not they fully agree with it.

Of course, it is important for people to share their concerns with the leader in a proper way at the proper time.  Calling her a jerk in a staff meeting would not qualify as helpful information and would be a problem. 

Encourage people to speak up, but coach them on how and when to do it effectively. Often this means encouraging people to give their concerns in private. Have a helpful intent for the organization rather than an effort to embarrass the boss.

The leader will still make some dumb decisions, but they will be fewer, and be made recognizing the risks. Also, realize that history may reveal some decisions thought to be dumb at the time to be actually brilliant.

Understanding the risks allows some mitigating actions to remove much of the sting of making risky decisions.  The action here is incumbent on the leader.  Praise people when they speak truth, even if it flies in the face of what the leader wants to do. People become open and more willing to confront the leader when her judgment seems wrong.

Look for consistency but not perfection

A leader needs to be consistent with this philosophy, although no one can be 100%. That would be impossible. Once in a while, any leader will push back on some unwanted “reality” statements.

Most leaders are capable of making people who challenge them happy about it only a tiny fraction of the time. Figure about 5%. If we increase the odds to something like 80%, people will be more comfortable pointing out a potential blooper.  That is enough momentum to change the culture.

Recognize that making people glad they brought up a concern does not always mean a leader must acquiesce. All that is required is for the leader to treat the individual as someone with important information. Listen to the person carefully, and consider the veracity of the input. Honestly take the concern into account in deciding what to do.

Sometimes the leader will go ahead with the original action, but she will now understand the potential ramifications better. By sincerely thanking the person, the leader makes that individual happy she brought it up.  Other people will take the risk in the future. That action changes everything, and the leader now has an effective “smart” pill.

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

Robert Whipple MBA CPTD 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 148 New Leader

May 31, 2022

When you are transferred or assume command of a new unit it is a special time. What happens in the first few hours, or first few minutes will determine your success in your first year.

Reason: People form an opinion of you very quickly (first impression). That vision stays with them until supplanted by ideas from events that play out over time.

In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell demonstrated how human beings have an uncanny ability to size up another person instantly. The level of trust that will prevail during the entire first year is usually set before the first week of an assignment.

It is crucial to get off on the right foot with people. Unfortunately, many leaders come into a new assignment with the wrong attitude, and the impressions they make mean a rocky start.

Here are seven things that can help you get off on the right foot in any new position.

  1. Assume things are more right than wrong

It is a mistake to come into a new job with the attitude that everything is messed up. It is wise to remain calm initially. Seek to understand the strengths and good performance that already exists. 

The best advice is to keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut in terms of pronouncements. Seek to learn, appreciate, and reinforce.

  1. Establish rapport one on one

Meet with each employee in the new unit privately to chat about his or her role. Get to know the individual as a person. Be sure to put the person at ease with your demeanor. Indicate you have no hidden agenda other than just getting to know the individual. This discussion will begin to form some rapport between you and the person.

Asking questions about the employee’s family and hobbies demonstrates that you care enough to get to know that person. Sharing some of your own stories also tends to form a basis for trust.

Many new supervisors like to ask what the employee would like to see them do and not do.  This simple question often brings out issues that have been lurking in the culture before the new leader arrived. You also demonstrate an attitude of being willing to listen to new ideas.

  1. Build trust as early as possible

When meeting a new person, the basis for trust to start forming lies in the answer to five basic questions. I call these things “the five C’s for building trust.” As a leader:

  1. Are you Competent?
  2. Do you have good Character?
  3. Are you Consistent?
  4. Are you Cordial?
  5. Do you Care about the other person?

When you chat with new employees, keep these five things in mind. Work to answer all of them as positively and quickly as you can.

  1. Avoid pushing ideas from your former job

It is a good idea to refrain from bringing up the excellent policies in your prior position. Many new leaders make the mistake of saying, “In my last job we used to do this or that.”  It undermines the will of the people in the new unit. Individuals do not want to hear what went on in the boss’ prior position a dozen times a day. It wears thin very quickly.

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 they played that chit, I suggested the new leader refrain from other references for at least 2 months.

This constraint gave the new leader the opportunity to appreciate the good things that were happening.  The people never knew the difference; they just seemed to like the new manager quite a lot. 

  1. Observe the informal organization and cliques

The chemistry between people governs the culture of the organization. Be alert to the “informal power structure” because that is operating in tandem with the formal organization.

It is imperative to know who the informal leaders are, and begin a process to gain their trust. Often the sub-culture is extremely powerful, and it is often negative.  Work slowly and carefully before taking any action with a clique of individuals. You can make great strides working with the informal leaders, but only after you have developed some credibility and trust.

Get to know how the various members of the group like to interface and get things done. Bond with people by seeking their advice where possible.

  1. Practice management by wandering around extensively until you are a known quantity

Many new leaders make the mistake of sequestering themselves in strategic meetings early on. This labels them as suspect and less transparent.  Be open and out there for people to interface with daily.  Extra time devoted to this activity pays huge dividends, even if it means extra working hours for a while.

  1. Check your body language

Let people know you are truly happy to be there. Smile! Make sure all of your body language reflects that of an appreciative and interested leader. Be sincere about getting to know the ropes before making important decisions.

Do these seven things during your first weeks of a new assignment, and you will be on your way to a great tenure as a leader of the group. If you remember one thing from this article, remember this; it is the first blink of an impression that makes the most difference to your future.

The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on 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.