Body Language 57 Time Out

December 6, 2019

The time out signal is a common hand gesture that is rarely misinterpreted, yet there are some subtle differences in meaning to discuss.

Let’s focus in on the different meanings first and then cover a highly useful application of the gesture in an organization setting.

Please stop talking

If another person is babbling on in a private setting or in a group meeting, you can signal it is time to stop talking and start listening by using the time out signal. This is a helpful use when you are having a hard time getting your points out.

The caveat here is that you would use the gesture sparingly. If you made the motion two or three times, it would most certainly annoy the person who is speaking. It would seem like you are cutting off the person.

Also, this use would be ill-advised if you used it to shut up a superior. If the boss wants to talk, it is usually a good idea to allow it.

I need time to think

When a lot of information is being shared in a steady stream, people sometimes need a break for their brains to catch up with the content. The time out gesture would let the presenter know it is time to at least slow down so all people can understand and absorb the content.

This topic is dangerous

You might warn a fellow worker that to pursue a certain line of reasoning is going to backfire. Rather than interrupt the person verbally, the time out signal will call the question and let the speaker know it would be wise to change the subject. You could accompany the hand signal with facial cues that indicate caution, just be sure to verify the right message was received and was not misinterpreted.

Time for a counterpoint

If one person is landing multiple points in support of a one-sided viewpoint and you want to allow some balance, the time out signal will provide that opportunity without saying any words.

Need a break

If, during a long presentation, you or others need to take a bio break, the time out signal can let the facilitator know it is time to take care of the bodily functions. Also, maybe the group just needs to stretch and take in some oxygen.

Call for a vote

If several arguments have been given on a hotly divided topic and you want to call for a vote, the time out signal can get that message out, even while the conversation is continuing.

Need to caucus

During negotiations, it is often necessary to separate teams to discuss strategy. The time out signal is useful for letting the parties know they need to separate for a while.

We are wasting time

Perhaps the most helpful use of the time out sign is in a meeting situation where one person in the room feels the group is spinning wheels going over the same content or dwelling on trivial content when there are more important things to discuss.

This technique is an excellent way to prevent wasting time, but everyone in the group needs to agree ahead of time that nobody will be punished for showing the time out sign. The idea is to establish a group norm that allows the signal to be given by any individual with no negative repercussions.

It is then up to the leader of the group to acknowledge that at least one person has an issue. The first order of business is to thank the individual for expressing a concern, and then find out what the specific concern is.

It may be that the individual wants the group to take a break, or maybe the person feels the current content is not proper or redundant. Get an accurate description of why the person gave the time out signal. This is done by asking open-ended questions.

The leader would then check if others have the same feeling, and if so, make the change. If the person giving the hand signal is the only person interested in changing direction, then he or she needs to be treated with respect for the input but recognize there are other opinions among the group members.

The time out hand signal is a wonderful tool if used correctly, as described above. If used with a heavy hand or followed by ridicule then significant damage to trust is being done. It is up to leaders to set the tone for the correct usage so the method will be a way to enhance trust and transparency over time.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”


Body Language 55 Evasion

November 23, 2019

When we were kids, and our mother asked us if we ate the chocolate chips, we would squirm and look away.

Our mother would say, “Look at me when you answer.” Of course, Mother could tell by the chocolate stains all over our lips that we had done it. We did not want to “get in trouble,” so we tried to evade rather than answer the question with a bold face lie.

Let’s start the discussion with a realization that not all evasive actions are the result of something sinister going on. There are plenty of times when it is improper, illegal, or unkind to answer a question directly.

Being evasive is not always a bad thing. It is highly situational and also highly personal having to do with the trust level between individuals.

For example, the question may come up relative to a rumor of a personal nature that needs to be kept private. It might be the result of a leak about a merger, where a direct answer would result in possible incarceration.

The rest of this article deals with a situation where an individual tries to get out of a tight spot by avoiding a direct answer to a question. Usually this condition is easy to detect, if you know the gestures and are alert to them. We used these moves as children, but in reality, they are practiced all of our lives.

The adult version of evasion goes on daily in organizational life and in many situations regarding public officials. If they are asked a direct question that they do not want to answer, the evasion is completely obvious by looking at their shifty eyes.

A perfect example of this body language was recently provided by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when he was asked on September 22, 2019 on camera by Martha Raddatz about a July 25th phone call between President Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine.

Martha asked the Secretary of State, “What do you know about those conversations?” Pompeo evaded, while lowering his chin, looking down, and shifting his eyes from side to side, “So…you just gave me a report about an I.C., about a Whistle Blower complaint, none of which I have not seen.” He did not reveal during that interview that he was actually on the phone call. That fact came out a couple weeks later.

Secretary Pompeo undoubtedly had a reason for not sharing everything at that particular moment on national TV. The point is that his body language made it obvious to people watching that he was evading or holding back something.

You also can see the evasive look in the eyes of CEOs who do not want to answer an embarrassing complaint brought up by an employee in a Town Hall meeting. You can witness it when a school board president tries to duck a question about some reported missing funds.

It is really a common human reaction when we get caught with our hand in the cookie jar to attempt to deflect attention in the hope that we can avoid having to admit the awful truth. Yet, in being evasive, we clearly lower trust and make it more difficult for people to believe us when we do ‘fess up to something.

In fact, the evasive gesture is so common that many of us just let it slide by and do not recognize we are getting at best a partial truth. You need to be alert to catch it because it goes by so quickly.

Look for this gesture when an individual is asked a direct question and hesitates before answering it. Particularly, watch the eyes to see if they are shifting back and forth or looking sideways. Also, watch the chin to see if it is lowered slightly.

When you see these two gestures along with a long hesitation in answering a direct question, it is likely the person is being evasive. Once you suspect that, you can probe carefully to find out what the person is trying to cover up.

Rather than take an accusatory stance by saying something like, “Okay, what are you trying to hide here?” give the person some leeway, but try to share the rationale and make the probe a positive thing. For example, you might say, “It is vital that we know what was going on with Jake if we are to be successful at helping him, so I would appreciate you being candid about what happened.”

This is a time to use your Emotional Intelligence to manage the specific situation well to obtain a positive outcome. The objective should be to come away from the conversation with an enhanced level of trust between you and the other person.

The specific approach will vary widely based on numerous factors, such as the incoming level of trust between you and the other person, the reason for trying to evade, the number of other people involved and their relationships. It is not the intent of this article to cover every possible scenario and give advice. The idea is to recognize the body language associated with evasion and be alert for it.

If the person does open up with more information, you can then reinforce the behavior with some kind words like, “Thanks for leveling with me on this, Mike. I know it was not easy for you to do it.” If an assurance of confidentiality about this issue in the future is appropriate, then state that as well.

In many cases it is possible to transform an evasive action into a trust-building exchange if you handle it well, depending on the circumstances and the relationship between you and the other person.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”


Leadership Barometer 20 Lower Credibility Gap

October 16, 2019

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. Here is one of my favorite measures.

Lowers Credibility Gap

In any organization there exist credibility gaps between layers. These gaps lower the trust within the organization and make good communication more difficult. Great leaders have a knack for lowering these gaps by filling in believable information in both directions: up and down.

When there is tension between one layer and another, great leaders work to find out the root cause of the disconnect.

It could be a nasty rumor, it could be based on a prior breach of trust, it might be an impending reorganization or merger, it could be due to an outside force like a new government restriction. Whatever the root cause will determine the key to elimination of the gap.

Use your nose

Excellent leaders have a nose for these problems and head them off while the gap is a small crack and before it becomes like the Grand Canyon. They help people breach the divide by getting the two levels to communicate and really negotiate a better position.

Weak leaders are more like victims who wait till the battle is raging and the chasm is too broad to cross without a major investment in a bridge.

Silo thinking vs. Team mates

The insight that usually helps is to remind the differing camps that they are really on the same team.  Silo thinking leads to animosity between groups.  Great leaders remind people that they share common goals at a higher level. There is no need for warfare.

A leader who has this skill is easy to spot because there are few paralyzing situations that have to be resolved. If you are one of those leaders, it will be evident. If you are not, it will also be evident. Seek to knit the organization together at every opportunity.

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.


Leadership Barometer 13 Negotiate Well

August 27, 2019

I’m sure you realize that we all negotiate every day of our lives.  From the moment the Doctor slapped you on the bottom and you started to cry, you started to negotiate.

Some people envision that to negotiate means to sit across a small table at a car dealer.  Of course, that is, but the principles of negotiation are in play in pretty much everything you do.

This is especially true for leaders. The most important test of a leader is how well he or she does at influencing other people to do what needs to be done. In this brief article I will describe my fix on how you can tell the level of your negotiating skill. It is one of my favorite measures for the quality of leadership.

Negotiate Well

Most leaders exist in a kind of sandwich. They report to someone at a higher level and also supervise other people at lower levels in the organization. Great leaders are experts at negotiating the needs of both groups.

They interpret the needs of the organization from above to the people below in a way that makes most of them understand and appreciate the policies of the larger group.

Simultaneously great leaders advocate well for the needs of individuals reporting to them to levels above in the organization. It is this give and take role that requires constant attention and skill at negotiating well.

Effective negotiating is a science. You can take graduate level courses on this topic or there are numerous books and seminars outlining the various stratagems. You can study the tactics and countermeasures for months and still not be very skilled at negotiating well.

A key attitude for successful negotiations is to recognize that the best ones are where the parties seek out solutions that work for both of them.  Too many leaders seek ways to win in negotiations at the expense of the other party.  That implies that the other party loses.

The best negotiators keep working to find solutions that work to the advantage of both sides.  It is always possible to find ways to have both parties better off.

The most important ingredient for effective negotiating within an organization is credibility. Leaders who are believable to their people and to upper management have more success at negotiating needs in both directions effectively.

So, how does a leader become credible? Here are some tips that can help. (I apologize in advance for the clichés in this list. I decided that using the vernacular is the best way to convey this information succinctly.)

1. Be consistent – people need to know what you stand for, and you need to communicate your own values clearly.
2. Show respect for opinions contrary to yours – other opinions are as valid as yours, and you can frequently find a common middle ground for win-win solutions. This avoids unnecessary acrimony.
3. Shoot straight –speak your truth plainly and without a lot of spin. Get a reputation for telling the unvarnished truth, but do it with compassion. Do not try to snow people – people at all levels have the ability to smell BS very quickly.
4. Listen more than you talk – keep that ratio as much as possible because you are not the fountain of all knowledge. You just might learn something important.
5. Be open and transparent – share as much information as you can as early as possible.
6. Get your facts right – don’t get emotional and bring in a lot of half truths to the argument.
7. Don’t be fooled by the vocal minority – make sure you test to find out if what you are hearing is really shared broadly. Often there are one or two individuals who like to speak for the whole group, and yet they do not share the sentiments of everyone.
8. Don’t panic – there are “Chicken Littles” who go around shouting “The sky is falling” every day. It gets tiresome, and people tune you out eventually.
9. Ask a lot of questions – Socratic and hypothetical questions are more effective methods of negotiating points than making absolute statements of your position.
10. Build Trust: Admit when you are wrong – sometimes you will be.
11. Know when to back off –pressing a losing point to the point of exhaustion is not a good strategy.
12. Give other people the most credit – often the smart thing to do is not claim victory, even if you are victorious.
13. Keep your powder dry for future encounters – there is rarely a final battle in organizations, so don’t burn bridges behind you.
14. Smile – be gracious and courteous always. If you act like a friend, it is hard for people to view you as an enemy.

These are some of the rules to build credibility. If you are familiar with these and practice them regularly, you are probably very effective at negotiating within your organization.

Once you are highly credible, the tactics and countermeasures of conventional negotiating are much more effective.

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.


Body Language 31 Silence

June 8, 2019

A very powerful form of body language is actually associated with a verbal behavior. It has to do with the lack of expected verbal output called silence.

Skilled speakers know that when they really need the audience’s attention, they simply have to stop talking for several seconds and all eyes will be on them.

The reason is that when people are subjected to a drone of input, they can mentally check out of the conversation and think about something else, like what to cook for dinner, or what they need to buy at the store.

Most people can think at a rate from 3-6 times faster that people can speak, so there is a lot of excess mental capacity. If they are multitasking and listening to the spoken words while day dreaming about other things, they will be shocked when the background noise simply stops.

Skilled negotiators know that the silent treatment will often gain a concession from the other person. This is because most people can tolerate a break in the point counter-point for only a few seconds before they become extremely uncomfortable.

I learned how powerful silence is in a negotiation I had with a Japanese executive, decades ago. I had just completed The Chester Karrass Negotiating Course, so when the Japanese executive tried to use the silent treatment on me, I knew the technique and was able to reverse the logic.

We were haggling about the price of a large supply of components. I wanted to pay no more than 41 cents per piece, and he was stuck at 44 cents. I told him I had to get 41 cents and he just went silent. Since it was his turn to talk, I just let the silence settle between us and calmly looked into his eyes.

At first, he had a look of confidence because he knew that most Westerners cannot tolerate silence for more than about 30 seconds. I just watched his face and stared back at him.

Over the next minute or two, I saw a remarkable transition in his body language. First, I could see he knew I was aware of his trick, but it was his turn to talk.

Then I watched as his blinking rate go up by 100% and small beads of sweat appear on his forehead. I knew that the Japanese hate conflict in negotiations, so I was blissfully watching his stress level go through the roof. Finally, he lowered his head and muttered, “Okay, 41 it is.” He had been defeated by his own tactic.

When most people get excited or want to make a key point, they raise their volume and talk faster. We have learned to expect that behavior from a person who is somehow agitated. It is a shock if instead of louder and faster, they hear lower and slower or even silence altogether.

This ploy is often effective when buying a car from a dealer. If it is your turn to talk, just try saying nothing and count the seconds until the salesman starts talking again. Keep quiet and see if a concession is coming your way.

One precaution on using silence to gain leverage: if the other person knows the game, you can get caught like my Japanese friend did. Since it was his turn to talk, I could simply out wait him and let the stress he had intended for me boomerang back on him. If you have ever tried to do a staring contest with another individual, you know how hard it can be to keep silent for more than a minute.

If you are speaking to a group, try an occasional few seconds of silence to keep people focused on your content. You will find it to be more powerful that you can imagine. If someone tries to throw you off with a silent treatment, simply wait the person out, and you can often reverse the outcome.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on https://www.leadergrow.com/articles/categories/35-body-language or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.TheTrust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Tips to Avoid Being Micromanaged

March 12, 2019

You have probably been in a situation where you have felt micromanaged. You were given something to do, but then badgered about exactly how to do it.

This happens more in low trust groups, and it often creates a further degradation in trust. We usually fault the manager for this problem because he or she is the one hovering and giving the minute and detailed orders on how to do the job.

While it is usually a overzealous manager who is the root cause of micromanagement, there are several things the employee can do to mitigate the problem. This article is about those things you might try if you have an intrusive manager.

I once worked for a manager who was the king of all micromanagers. I learned about his reputation before ever going to work for him. During my first few weeks, I went way overboard in my preparation.

I would anticipate any potential question he might have and be prepared with data to support my conclusions. When he would suggest something to try, I usually could say, “it has already been done.”

I would communicate my plans to him every day (including weekends) and ask lots of questions about what was wanted. He never had an opportunity to get to me because I always got to him first. After a while, he basically left me alone and did not micromanage me very much for the next 25 years. We got along great, while he continued to micromanage others.

This experience led me to create a list of tips you can use to reduce the tendency for a boss to micromanage you. Granted, this will not be 100% effective in all cases, but these steps can really help reduce the problem to a manageable level. Note: I will use the male pronoun here for simplification, but the same concepts would apply for both genders.

1. Anticipate what the manager will suggest

Work to understand the point of view of the manager, and figure out the suggested methods so when he says, “Do it this way,” often you can say, “That’s exactly how I am doing it. Or you might say, I tried doing it that way, but it created too much scrap, so I am now doing it a better way.

2. Be sure you are clear on the expectations

Often the manager has been somewhat vague on the precise deliverable. Before going off to do a task, take extra time to verify what the boss really wants in the end. If it is a long or complex set of activities, see if you can get some sub-goals that you can deliver along the way. Go the extra mile to identify not only what the objective is but if the manager has any preference for how the solution will appear.

3. Get to the boss before he gets to you

This technique really helps when you have a voice mail or text connection with the boss. Get familiar with the timing of communications and preempt the instructions with a note of your own. For example, if the boss has a habit of catching up on his micromanaging tasks during the lunch hour, simply provide an update to him at about 11 a.m. every day.

4. If the boss is getting intrusive, surprise him

It stops a micromanager dead in his tracks when he tries to tell you how to do step 3 and you tell him you are already on step 8. Step 3 was done yesterday, and the results were supplied to him in his e-mail inbox. The boss is blown away that you made so much progress.

5. Seek to build a trusting relationship with the micromanager

Micromanagement has its roots in inadequate trust. If the boss really trusts you, it means there will be less worry on his part that you will do things incorrectly. That means you are left alone to do things your way.

6. Call him on it

The boss needs to understand that for you to be empowered and give your best effort to the organization, you need to be free to use your own initiative. I knew a technician who brought a set of handcuffs into the office. Whenever his boss would try to micromanage him, he would just pull out the cuffs and slip them on. The message was loud and clear, “if you want me to do this well, don’t tie my hands.”

My rule of thumb on micromanaging is that credibility and communication allow you to manage things as you see fit. Lack of credibility and communication often lead to being micromanaged.

 

Bob 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, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. 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 http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 85 Trust and Customer Retention

July 21, 2018

It is not hard to see the relationship between trust and customer retention.

In this article I will explore the topic on a deeper level to reveal the mechanism why trust is so potent at helping to retain customers.

We are all customers

In our daily life we assume the role of customer on a regular basis. You go into restaurants and retail outlets many times a week. How long does it take you to figure out if the crew that is servicing you is a high trust group? If you are like me, it takes only a few seconds for you to assess the prevailing culture in the group that is servicing you.

1. Body Language says it all

If you are in line at a fast food establishment, you will pick up on the non-verbal cues that go back and forth among the staff. If there is high trust and affection, it will be obvious to you even before anyone speaks. If people hate each other, it is even easier to tell, and you will be uncomfortable as you gulp down your meal, anxious to get out of the place.

2. Trust means that things are working as they should

Service is much better at an establishment that has high trust. Workers instinctively back each other up in order to maximize the experience for you; the customer. If something goes wrong, the entire group is all over the problem until it is resolved. If trust is lacking, you are likely to get an excuse like, “Filling the Catsup is not part of my responsibility,” or “I don’t wipe down the tables; Jeffery does that job.”

3. Good customer experiences bring repeat business

You are much more likely to return to an establishment where people have high trust. You get better service quicker, and the whole experience is comfortable. You will be back for more.

It works for any business

I have been using a fast food restaurant as an example thus far, but the logic holds just as well for any establishment where workers impact the customer experience. It is hard to imagine any place of business where workers have no impact on customers, so the ability to maintain and grow trust is good for both the top and bottom line.

1. You cannot fake it

A false smile and insincere “have a nice day” will not cover for bad blood between people working in a business. Customers are far more perceptive than they let on. They can sense a phony show of friendliness, and it can actually feel a bit creepy as they cannot wait to get out of the place.

2. Make respect and trust first on the agenda

If you focus on creating a culture of high trust and low fear, it will pay off huge dividends in all aspects of your operation. It is really what separates highly successful businesses from those who come and go with the changing of the seasons.

If you have managed to cultivate a culture of high trust, you will find that your whole operation is more robust. Things work like they are supposed to, and you will get the attention of higher management because your unit will outperform your peers and you will be able to attract and retain the best people. These benefits will put you in the class of elite leaders.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 63 Reduce Silo Thinking

February 3, 2018

The term “silo thinking” refers to a situation when members of a team put up barriers of communication and interaction with other teams in order to protect their turf. Information and resources become trapped within the silo walls like grain is trapped inside a farm silo.

The silo problem is frequently a major issue in production departments when different supervisors have control of resources within an operation or shift. Resources are squandered when intergroup friction erupts into conflict or even sabotage.

Smart supervisors take preventive actions to reduce the tendency toward silo thinking, but often they are so close to the problem, they do not recognize when it is happening right in front of them.

Reducing Silo Thinking

The first step toward eliminating the problem is to realize it is a human tendency to feel allegiance to one’s home team. In most aspects of life this bonding is a good thing because it helps teams perform at sustained peak levels.

However, like most good things, too much team spirit can lead to insulation and dysfunctional competition with other groups.

Team spirit should not be wiped out, but rather expanded to include outside individuals or parallel groups. The supervisor needs to recognize this dynamic and take steps to keep team spirit at a healthy level while mitigating any negative side effects.

Here are five suggestions I have found to be effective at controlling silo thinking:

1. Reinforce the Common Goal at the Next Higher Level

Two groups at odds due to silo thinking always share common goals at the next higher level. For example, on a football team, it is common for the offensive unit to become a silo separate from the defense, so the coach has to remind everybody that they are on the same team, and the enemy is external.

Once people are reminded of their common allegiance to the larger effort, the parochial thinking process within the sub units is weakened.

2. Do Teambuilding for the Combined Group

Mixing two feuding groups together for a teambuilding activity allows the members to see and appreciate the resources in the other group.

It is important to have a good facilitator provide excellent teambuilding activities, and the points made during the exercise debriefs are particularly important. There are several excellent teambuilding exercise that stress working across boundaries for a common goal.

One of my favorite team building activities to illustrate working together is to mix people together in random order and have them form into small groups with some members from each team in each group.

Then ask them to brainstorm all the ways that performing as a high performance team is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. If you allow them to brainstorm for 15-20 minutes they will come up with all kinds of helpful concepts.

For example, even though there are different parts of the scene, the whole puzzle must be completed in order to succeed, so each part of the puzzle is equally important.

3. Reinforce Behavior of the Combined Group Rather Than the Silos

The trick here is for the supervisor of Group 1 to “team up” with the supervisor of Group 2 when reinforcing good work by both groups. If the supervisors model a kind of family spirit, then people will quickly get the message and begin to think like a single unit. When trying to accomplish this larger team spirit, it is important to eliminate language that focuses on “we” and “they.”

4. Eliminate We/They Thinking and Language

A Litmus test for the elimination of silo thinking is the absence of the language that uses we and they in conversation. This problem is often evident in email exchanges.

For example, note the flavor in this email, “Your group needs to realize that if you want a neat environment, you need to pick up after yourselves. We cannot be responsible for always picking up your messes. It is a sign of laziness to not pick up your own trash and we should not have to deal with it.” Note the very strong we versus you emphasis in this note.

A softer and more constructive note might be as follows, “The audit inspection turned up some trash left in the break room over the weekend. Let’s all work together to make sure our environment is neat and healthy.”

It is up to the supervisor to 1) model proper team language, and 2) insist that all people in her group refrain from using inflammatory language such as the first note above.

5. Cross Fertilization

This process involves swapping one key resource from Team 1 with another resource from Team 2. For a while the swapped resources remain emotionally linked to their former group, but eventually they become more aligned with their current group.

If the supervisor encourages a few of these swaps over time, soon it will be hard to tell which team is which, and the silo barriers will have been lowered.

This technique is often unpopular with the people being moved, so it is important to select the swapped people carefully. One legitimate way to explain the move is to let the people know they are highly valued, and the additional cross training on different functions will make their background even more valuable to the organization.

The primary action for any supervisor is to be alert to the problem of silo thinking subtly creeping into the thinking process and conversations of her team. Stay close to other supervisors and be vigilant on this issue, and you can reduce a lot of organizational acrimony.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 26 – The Supervisor in a Transition

May 14, 2017

Organizations go through changes periodically. I wrote an entire book on the topic of Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.

In the book I highlighted the role of the supervisor when organizations make large scale changes that impact how people work.

This article will highlight some tips from the book to help managers guide their supervisors to be successful when transitions occur.

When I discuss transitions in organizations, I am referring to any structural change in the way the people interface with their jobs. The spectrum runs the gamut from small department restructurings all the way up to corporate mergers and acquisitions.

In this article, I will refer to mergers and acquisitions, because the challenges of these kinds of transitions are easier to visualize, but the same issues also exist to a lesser degree in other transitions.

Whenever people are forced to deal with a new set of rules and different set of people, there is a transition that has to go smoothly or the organization will suffer or even fail completely.

There are some unique issues that make supervisors particularly vulnerable, but at the same time extremely valuable in a transition. Get this part wrong, and you will severely hamper the reorganization; get it right, and you will be halfway to success.

The common thread with frontline supervisors is that these people operate at the critical and delicate junction between the management layers and workers on the front line. Depending on the type of work being done, supervisors come from a variety of backgrounds.

The typical history is that the supervisor was once an individual contributor who did very well on the job over a long period of time. Through dedication and deep content knowledge, this person sparkled relative to her peers. When an opportunity arose, this individual was tapped to become a supervisor.

Another common situation with supervisors is that they often are put on the job with little training. They already have deep process knowledge and have shown a natural tendency toward informal leadership, so they are given the responsibility.

Often they receive no training at first, and later it is forgotten because the person does just fine from the start. There is, however, a lurking weakness that surfaces during any kind of transition.

The attitudes of supervisors during a transition are critical influences on how the employees react to the change. More than any other relationship in the organization, trust is maintained or lost by the workers’ relationship with their direct supervisor.

If supervisors model a cooperative and adventurous spirit and keep looking for the good, it can help people see that positive outcomes are possible. If the supervisors are rolling their eyes and visibly displaying their own fears, then that attitude is going to be picked up and amplified by the people who work for them.

It is impossible to act out positive behaviors if they are not deeply implanted, because people are reading body language at every interaction, and they will pick up the true attitude of the supervisor quickly.

In reorganizations, the operational processes are subject to combinations or modifications in order to accommodate the changing nature of the business. Often the new entity will be a combination of companies with completely different cultures, perhaps even different languages.

This new dynamic could be threatening to supervisors, since their license to lead is often their familiarity with the work rather than deep leadership skills. Changing their work means their platform to lead has potentially been compromised. Couple that with the inevitable push to reduce supervisory headcount, and you have an opportunity for some terrified people in these roles.

You absolutely cannot afford to have any weakness showing through to the workers during the process, and the supervisor is the critical link to demonstrate the management point of view. This issue can be a huge problem in a transition. Thankfully there are approaches to deal with it.

Training

The antidote here is training, and the cost for the training program should be included in the original financial analysis for the merger. Front-line leaders need more and different skills during a transition. They also will require some cultural training if the combined organization involves groups from other cultures.

The training should begin as early as possible and contain supervisors from both groups so that early team bonding can occur. Getting to know the front-line leaders in the other half of the organization will pay huge dividends as the process unfolds.

For one thing, these supervisors can be more easily interchanged later on. Also, having personal relationships with other supervisors enables more sharing of resources.

This integrated training is a major way to prevent the “us versus them” thinking that hobbles so many reorganizations.

Coaching

Another suggestion is to develop a “coaching corner” for all supervisors. This is a mechanism for management to work face to face with supervisors during the planning and execution phases of a transition.

It is important to have all supervisors emotionally engaged and pulling in the direction you wish to go. If they favor a different path, they will take the spirit of the masses in the wrong direction every time and you will not get them back easily.

Special briefings and team activities for supervisors will keep them actively supporting the effort because they are helping to design it. Remember the old adage, “Change done to me is scary, but change done by me is energizing.”

Convert or Remove Naysayers

Finally, it is vital to cull out any supervisors who would sabotage the effort, even unwittingly. It is not hard to determine who might undermine the effort. Some supervisors will not agree with the change.

Try to convert those who would push against the change. Many times, through careful attention by management, an individual can be turned around. I call this process “adopting a supervisor.”

Basically, the manager gets very close to the supervisor through a series of informal conversations to figure out what makes the person tick. It takes time to do this, but the payoff is very high.

The advantage is that after a while you get to identify which reluctant supervisors are worth trying to save. Focus your efforts on them and develop a plan to move the others out of leadership positions.

This action can, and should, be done routinely, but it becomes an essential ingredient during reorganization. You cannot afford to have a supervisor who is not completely on board with the effort. She will poison the attitudes of people who work for her.

The most wonderful part of this coaching process is that you have the opportunity to turn some powerful negative forces in the organization into powerful allies. Keep in mind that the supervisor was originally selected based on her ability to be an informal leader.

Turning a negative person into a positive force is a huge swing in the right direction. If you can simultaneously remove the sour individual, who will never change, that is also a blessing.

Adopting a supervisor may seem like a very time-consuming effort. The change is not going to occur in a week, but the daily time investment is not great. What it takes is resolve and persistence to work with those you want to convert. Select the people who are worthy of your limited time and invest in them.

Recognize that the supervisor is a key position during any kind of organizational transition. If you work hard to provide the ideas and tools in this article you will go a long way toward having the transition be successful. If you ignore these ideas, then the entire change process will likely be compromised.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Merging Cultures

March 14, 2015

Hand Mixer with Eggs in a Glass Bowl on a Reflective White Background.When there is a merger, acquisition or other major organizational change, the different cultures must be blended into a coherent new culture. Managers often assume this will happen naturally over time, so they do not focus on this aspect when planning the merger.

WRONG! Achieving a stable culture where people are at least supportive if not enthusiastically driving a singular mindset is the most significant challenge for most change efforts. Do not assume things will work out; instead, take a highly proactive approach to defining a new culture.

In every case, even when the action is described as a merger of equals, one group will feel they have been “taken over” by the other. Curiously, in many instances, both groups feel they have been taken over because employees in each former group will need to modify procedures to accomplish the union.

Usually, one of the parties is assumed to be in the driver’s seat, so it is the other party that needs to endure the bulk of changing systems. Lack of trust and genuine animosity lead to resistance when it comes to blending the two groups into one.

It is common to have the conflict occur as passive resistive behavior. People will have the appearance of agreeing, but subversively undermine the other group however possible. This kind of “we – they” thinking can go on for years if allowed. So what actions can management take to mitigate the schism and promote unity? Here are a dozen ideas that can help.

1. Start early – Do not let the inevitable seeds of doubt and suspicion grow in the dark. Work quickly after the merger is announced to have teambuilding activities.

Openly promote good team spirit and put some money into developing a mutually supportive culture. Good teamwork is not rocket science, but it does not occur naturally. There must be investments to accomplish unity.

2. Have zero tolerance for silo thinking – This is hard to accomplish because human beings will polarize if given the opportunity. Set the expectation that people will at least try at all times to get along.

Monitor the wording in notes and conversations carefully and call people out when they put down the other group. This monitoring needs to include body language. Often rolling eyes or other expressions give away underlying mistrust.

3. Blend the populations as much as possible – Transplant key individuals from Group A with counterparts from Group B. If this is done with care, it will not take long for the individual cultures to be hard to tell apart. Sometimes the transplanting process is unpopular, but it is an important part of the integration process.

4. Use the Strategic Process – It is important to have a common set of goals and a common vision. If the former groups have goals that are not perfectly aligned, then behaviors are going to support parochial thinking. When conflicts arise, check to see if the goals are really common or if there is just lip service on this point.

5. Reward good teamwork – Seek out examples of selfless behavior from one group toward the other and promote these as bellwether activities. Verbal and written reinforcement from the top will help a lot. You might consider some kind of  award for outstanding integration behavior.

6. Model integrated behavior at the top – Often we see animosity and lack of trust at the highest levels, so it is only natural for the lower echelon to be bickering. People have the ability to pick up on the tiny clues in wording and body language. The leaders need to walk the talk on mutual respect.

7. Co-locate groups where possible – Remote geography always tends to build polarization in any organization. If merged groups can be at least partially located under one roof, it will help to reduce suspicion by lack of contact. If cohabitation is cost prohibitive, it is helpful to have frequent joint meetings, especially at the start of the integration process.

8. Benchmark other organizations – Select one or two companies who have done a great job of blending cultures and send a fact finding team made up of representatives from each group to identify best practices. This team can be the nucleus of cooperation attitudes that can allow unity to spread through the entire population.

9. Make celebrations include both groups – Avoid letting one group celebrate milestones along the way while the other group is struggling. Make sure the celebrations are for progress toward the ultimate culture instead of sub-unit performance.

10. Align measures with joint behavior – Make sure the measures are not contributing to silo thinking. If the goals are aligned for joint performance, have the measures reinforce behaviors toward those goals. Often, well intentioned measures actually drive activity that is directly opposite to the intended result.

One way to test for this potential is to ask, “what if someone pushes this measure to the extreme – will that still produce the result we want”?

11. Weed out people who cannot adjust – A certain percentage of the population in either group are going to find it difficult to get over the grieving process. Identify these individuals and help them find roles in some other organization. It will help both the merger process and the individual.

On the flip side, identify the champions of integration early and reward them with more exposure and more span of control.

12. Create incentives for the desired behavior – People should be encouraged in every way to act and think in an integrated way. This can be encouraged by having the incentive plans pay out only if the joined entity performs seamlessly.

The road to a fully functioning integrated culture can be long and frustrating. By following the ideas given above, an organization can hasten the day when there are few vestiges of the old cultures, and people feel a sense of belonging to a single new order.