Successful Supervisor 94 Knowing When to Leave

September 23, 2018

One of the most vexing issues facing any supervisor is knowing when she is better off leaving a job rather than trying to soldier on in a miserable situation. Of course, the answer is that it depends a lot on the situation and the specific person involved. In this brief article I will share a few observations I have made over the years that may be helpful to some people.

I am not trying to make the decision for supervisors, but rather offering some food for thought that may help guide the analysis. Here are six things to consider while making your decision.

How miserable are you really, and how consistent is it?

If you literally dread going to work each day because of the situations that routinely face you, that is a sign of needed change. If you have tried to make things better using all of your rational powers and patience but nothing has any impact on the problem, you may find a better existence elsewhere. Be careful, because you could be even worse off.

Is the outlook in another organization any better, or might you be even more miserable if you leave and start with a new organization?

Finding a better fit for you is rarely as easy as it seems ahead of time. That is because it is next to impossible to understand the true situation in an organization from the outside. One thing I would do before quitting to go to another entity is to discuss the culture at length with some people living in that culture and performing the supervisor role there.

Don’t be satisfied if you just hear positive things; probe deeply to understand how the supervisor role is supported by upper management. Keep in mind that finding the right “fit” is a matching process where both the person and the organization need to feel well served. Test to be sure you have an excellent fit and an actual job offer in hand before quitting your current position. Do not quit and then go looking for a new position. Remember, the best time to get a job is when you have a job.

Is the source of the problem above you or below you? Or is it you?

If you are getting no support from above and experiencing daily pressure to gain more control, then you could be working for an ogre, but you need to test carefully if the source of the problem is you rather than the boss. One good way to gain some insight is whether most of the people in the organization feel the same as you do. That is often the case, and it signals you are in a no-win situation if you cannot get the boss to change. However, getting the boss to change is a risky path for sure. My favorite quote on this is: “I learned long ago to never wrestle with a pig. You get all dirty, and besides the pig loves it.” (George Bernard Shaw)

If the problem is below you, and you have good support from above, then you can work with the individuals who are being disruptive and also with HR to address the issues. If the effort to change things is unsuccessful, then progressive counseling and perhaps separation can be a solution.

You also need to do some soul searching to find out what percentage of your problem is your own behaviors. In this aspect, it is very difficult to perceive an objective view of the situation without help. I recommend you get a trusted coach or mentor who can help you see yourself from a different angle. This person may be from inside the organization or from outside. It is important to find someone you trust and who will level with you. In some cases, pairing up with a particularly successful peer might be the way to go.

How well honed are your listening skills?

Listening well is a skill that is hard to master when you are in a pressure cooker every day. It is the one communication skill that most supervisors need to improve. If you are not adept at reflective listening, then get some training on that technique and learn to “put on your listening hat” whenever you are dealing with an emotional subordinate, superior, or peer.

Are you highly skilled at Emotional Intelligence?

Most professionals have heard about Emotional Intelligence and think they know what it is and how to use it. I have found that there are very few people who really understand this skill deeply and are getting the mileage out of applying it daily. My favorite book on building this skill is “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Bradberry and Greaves. This book focuses on a brief review of the theory along with many skill building techniques and a road map on how to gain the skills efficiently.

Take time to be human and learn to not be hard on yourself

Being a supervisor is difficult work. The pressure for performance is always in your lap. People will routinely test your resolve and try to push the envelope of what you will tolerate. Make sure to give yourself some outlets for the tension. Get a couple hobbies that you love and surround yourself with people who love you outside of work. Know your hot buttons and also be aware of the internal stress. Have some way to know when you are reaching your limit for stress so you can get some help.

For example, I monitor my blood pressure in the morning every day and have a plot that goes back about 15 years. I know when the pressure of the world is creeping up on me and I can modify things to build in a break when I need it. Some people have a friend or family member who becomes the signal when it appears stress is getting the better of them. You need something or someone to tip you off when things are untenable.

Don’t quit your job just because you are unhappy. Seek to understand the source of your frustration, and work with a coach to make changes in your own behavior to lower the pressure. Quitting is a last resort, and it may be the solution, but there is a finite chance it could lead to even more stress in your life.

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 92 Avoid Playing Favorites

September 8, 2018

In my blog last week, I shared a bit of information on how to avoid playing favorites. This week I want to go deeper into that aspect of supervision, because it forms one of the most significant pitfalls that leads to loss of trust in any group.

First, we need to recognize that we do have “go to people” for certain jobs. It is literally impossible for any human being to not have people they favor over others based on their skills, track record, or any number of other reasons.

It is the appearance of always playing favorites that really causes the damage to trust, but that fact also contains the seeds of how you can avoid the problem. Simply do things that are not in your normal pattern on rare occasions, and people will stop thinking of you as playing favorites. In fact, I like to use the word when deciding to do something unusual.

How do I know?

How can you tell if you are coming across as playing favorites? Keep in mind, there will be a difference between what you think and what other people might observe. In your own mind you are simply selecting the best person to do the job in each case, but if you always make the same call, then it will eventually come across as playing favorites.

It is not just that the person is doing a good job but also the fact that you are noticing and praising the person more than others that exacerbates the issue.

One good way to detect if people are thinking you are playing favorites is to watch their body language when you make an assignment. Another method is to have a trusted employee who is part of the larger group and simply ask that person if there is a problem. If it looks like there may be an issue, here are some ways you can mitigate the angst.

Ways to reduce the problem

Let’s say I wanted to assign a work chore to someone, but I realize that I have gone to this person the last several times this chore has come up. The best approach is to ask myself if I really need to keep going to this person, or if this situation is a lower risk than usual, so it would be a good opportunity to let someone else have a shot at it.

Suppose in this case I have picked up some grumbling about playing favorites. In explaining why I am suggesting a different person than my usual choice, I could explain that I don’t want to appear to be playing favorites and that I believe it is good to have deeper bench strength in the organization. I could also explain it as part of a greater emphasis on cross training in general.

By actually using the word “favorite” I send a signal that at least I am clueless about how people may be feeling. I project the flexibility to allow others to grow if they are interested. If the job is technically challenging, I might offer to have the person who normally takes this assignment train another employee this time around.

This action reduces the image of an heir apparent and simultaneously adds to bench strength. In this case, I m showing a willingness to let others try provided they are properly trained. Allowing people to volunteer also breaks the stigma of playing favorites.

Another typical way of showing favoritism is when a supervisor does not apply the rules with the same rigor for some individuals. If you let a person show up late with no penalty but do write up another individual for the same problem, you are playing favorites in a very visible way.

I do not advocate that you should treat everybody the same way in all circumstances. That is because people have different needs in certain circumstances. However, when it comes to enforcing rules or other policies, you must treat all employees the same way or you will become known as a supervisor who plays favorites.

In summary, playing favorites is a real trust buster, but you can use the techniques in this article to mitigate any damage and still have the ability to use your “go to person” in cases where it is critical to do so.

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 88 Better Team Building

August 11, 2018

Much has been written about the various Team Building methods. Different consultants have their favorite exercises for helping groups of people work better together.

A common technique is to take a group off their normal site to do some outdoor experiential activities, like rock climbing or zip lining. These event-based team building exercises do get the attention of people, but I believe there is a better experiential activity that does a better job of knitting a team together.

Carve out some time to work on a strategic framework as a team. I had a whole section in my first book, “The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals,” where I described the process of taking a group of people through a strategy process so everyone on the team had a hand in designing the future.

For this short blog article, I will not describe the entire process, but I will outline and define the major parts of a strategy process and give some tips I have learned from facilitating numerous groups through the process of developing a strategy. Note, the order of the parts is important. The exercise has a kind of flow to it that helps the team bond.

Values – Start the process by documenting a set of values for the group. Everyone can suggest a few key values, so use an affinity process to distill down a list of 4-6 key values for the entire group.

Vision – Identify where the group intends to end up. As Stephen Covey stated, you need to begin with the end in mind to have a workable plan.

Mission – This is a short and very specific statement of what the group is trying to achieve right now. Avoid long lists of items, or management speak; keep it to the central idea of the group.

Behaviors – This step is frequently left out, and that is a big mistake. Identify specific behaviors that the team agrees to abide by. This helps when holding people accountable if they fail to live by the behaviors. Two examples of team behaviors might be 1) We will act like adults at all times, and 2) When we disagree, we will do it without being disagreeable.

SWOT – Brainstorm a list of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for the group. The first two items are like looking at the group through a microscope, and the last two are like looking at the environment the group is operating in through a telescope.

Identify Needed Changes – What must change in order for the group to actually achieve the vision?

Identify the Strategies – How is the group going to achieve the needed changes in a timely manner? Here it is important to avoid having too many strategies. I believe five strategies at any one time is optimal. What you are doing is trying to focus the effort of the group on a few key drivers.

Specify the Tactics – Identify the specific actions that are required to accomplish the strategies. Who is going to do what and by when? Make sure the tactics are reasonable so people are not overloaded.

Identify measures – How is the group going to identify progress toward the vision? The measures must be expressed as SMART Goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

It is critical to get this work done quickly or the team will become frustrated by a long, drawn-out process over a number of months. I like to facilitate groups to develop their strategic plan in less than 8 hours duration. That may seem unrealistic, but I have developed a process that is actually quite doable with the proper preparation done ahead of time.

Creating a solid Strategic Framework is the best team building activity a team can do, because it engages everyone in creating an exciting future for the group.

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 87 Trust and the Quality of Your Life

August 4, 2018

While doing research for my third book, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, I studied the personalities of numerous supervisors and other leaders to determine their characteristics. I found an interesting trend that has an important lesson about trust.

The most highly successful supervisors seemed to be having more fun, while the supervisors who were not doing well were really miserable.

I noticed that the top-rated supervisors had created high trust organizations, and they were allowed to be human beings. They could make occasional mistakes and the people who work for them would still respect them.

The supervisors who were doing poorly were bundles of nerves trying to figure out how to be perfect, because there was low trust in their organizations. If they did not spin every statement the right way, people would jump all over them.

These supervisors of low trust groups were staying up all night trying to outsmart the workers, while their effective counterparts were sleeping soundly, knowing the employees were truly on their side.

Supervisors who know how to build high trust consistently enjoy a better life for themselves. That also translates into a more relaxed work environment for everyone, which further enhances the level of trust, and the cycle continues.

These supervisors are allowed the luxury of being fallible human beings because their employees know they are sincere. Even if something occasionally comes out with the wrong slant, the employees will cut these leaders some slack.

In environments of low trust, employees are poised and waiting to pounce on any misstep or misstatement the leader might make.

Exercise for you: If you are a supervisor in an environment of low trust, observe today how stressed you are most of the time.

Notice the amount of energy you have to put into every communication simply because employees are skeptical. Think about what it would look and feel like if the environment could be transformed into one of higher trust.

When a work environment has high trust, it is a better life for everyone. In that culture, the organization will thrive, even if there are some tough challenges.

It is absolutely worth the effort to build a culture of low fear and high trust. Not only will your area shine in comparison to others, but you will be having a great time leading your highly effective group.

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 86 Trust and Employee Loyalty

July 28, 2018

It seems pretty obvious that supervisors who are able to build a culture of trust within their group end up benefiting in numerous ways. I have written nearly a hundred ways that trust helps the organization work better. This brief article focuses on employee acquisition and retention and how these measures are impacted by trust.

Trust impacts employee loyalty

If you work in a culture of low fear and high trust, it stands to reason that you would prefer to keep working in that group. In these times where finding qualified workers is getting more difficult with time, having a stable workforce is a significant competitive advantage. Let me cite a couple examples from my hometown of Rochester, NY.

1. Wegmans

The home of Wegmans is Rochester, and I have been studying the unique culture of this world class grocery chain for years. Their culture is one where they make continual investments in the training of their people. Someone once asked Colleen Wegman, the current CEO, how she could possibly afford to invest so much money in training their personnel in a low margin business like groceries.

Her reply was classic. She said (not a direct quote, since I was not in the room), “Don’t you realize that because of our culture we have an average turnover rate well below 10% in an industry that typically averages around 40%. How much do you think that advantage translates to the bottom line?”

2. Dixon Schwabl

Like Wegmans, Dixon Schwabl Advertising has been on the Great Place To Work list for many years…13 to be exact. They’ve been recognized as the #1 Best Place To Work two different times. Their Trust Index scores on surveys hover in the 98% range.

They invest in their culture every day with a program they call “Companies Are People, Too.” It’s an organizational assessment based on the psychology of Myers Briggs. Their turnover rate is extremely low. Reason: their employees simply love working there.

These are just two examples of companies that have figured out that if they build a culture of low fear and high trust, it translates into a more profitable company without the headaches of continually trying to find qualified workers to staff their positions.

Ask yourself how much it would be worth to increase the level of trust within your organization.

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 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 84 How Trust Impacts Reinforcement

July 15, 2018

One of the most powerful ways to impact performance is through positive reinforcement. Supervisors who know how to reinforce right behavior and extinguish wrong behavior not only foster a better working environment for everyone, they improve all aspects of organizational life.

This article shines a light on how reinforcement works well in an environment of high trust but often backfires if trust is low.

Reinforcement when trust is high

In a culture of high trust, positive reinforcement works for many reasons. Here are four of them.

1. People appreciate the recognition

A supervisor who takes the time and energy to sincerely thank people who are doing a great job will find they respond positively to the praise. The recognition does not need to be tangible things, like theater tickets or a gift card. Often sincere praise and a simple “thank you” provide the means to sustain and enhance motivation.

2. The supervisor appears to be paying attention

Sometimes a supervisor will get so busy or preoccupied with tasks and problems that she appears to be out of touch with the effort her people are expending. When she takes a moment to see and appreciate the good things workers are doing, it gives them more incentive to do more of those activities.

3. It brightens the atmosphere

In many organizations, the pressure for performance is so great that workers feel they are working in some kind of sweat shop. Reinforcement works like a breath of fresh air to bolster morale, and that leads to higher motivation.

4. A sense of camaraderie

Teamwork is stronger in a culture of high trust, and therefore the reinforcement usually leads to better performance. There is one caveat on this point, however. The reinforcement must be perceived as fairly and evenly distributed to those who deserve it. If one individual or group is highly reinforced while an adjacent group who are also doing well is ignored, it feels like favoritism to the workers. Nothing destroys trust faster than if people believe there is favoritism going on.

Reinforcement when trust is low

If the culture is one of low trust, then reinforcement appears to be suspect. The workers may believe that the supervisor is trying to trick or bribe them into performing better.

1. People wonder what the other shoe is going to be

When a supervisor tries to reinforce workers in a culture of low trust, they often will roll their eyes in anticipation of some negative announcement to follow. The workers might shrug and say “Pizza party? I wonder what that’s all about.”

2. People feel they are being manipulated

You might hear a conversation within the team like this, “I heard she is bringing in donuts in the morning. I wonder what she wants from us. I would rather just be left alone to do my work.”

3. A surrogate for something people want more

In many organizations of low trust, people are there for the money only. They do not expect to have a good time. After all, “isn’t that why they call it work? Rather than having all these parties, I wish they would just put the thanks in my paycheck.”

4. People look for inconsistencies

Workers are extremely alert to inconsistencies in reinforcement. This issue has caused many supervisors to back away from reinforcement because they believe it can be dangerous. People can get riled up or even hostile if they perceive someone else is getting more than their fair share of the credit.

If you have managed to cultivate a culture of high trust, you will find that reinforcing people usually takes you in the right direction. If trust is low, beware that your best intentions might lead to problems you did not anticipate.

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