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


Successful Supervisor 83 Trust and the Need for Perfection

July 8, 2018

There is a strange phenomenon I discovered while writing my third book, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, that sounds backward until you think about it carefully. For any leader, having high trust within the team reduces the need to be perfect. The phenomenon holds for all leaders, especially for supervisors.

Let’s dissect the statement in a situation where there is high trust and then contrast it with a low trust situation.

When trust within the group is high

The supervisor does not need to be perfect when trust within her group is high. There are several reasons for this. Here are a few of them.

1. People understand the supervisor’s true intent

Because there is high respect for the supervisor, people will be less critical if she speaks or writes something that isn’t exactly right. People may point out a gaff but then willingly forgive her when the supervisor apologizes.

2. Nobody is playing games

When trust is high, the environment is real. There is no need to try to out smart each other. The focus is on what we are trying to accomplish together.

3. Communication flows better

In the case of high trust, communication is easier and more believable. People are not kept in the dark wondering what is going to happen, so they have the information they need. If something does not feel right, they will simply ask.

4. Lack of fear

When trust is high, fear is usually very low because people feel secure with the information they are being given. I have a favorite saying: “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”

When there is low trust within the group

In a condition where trust is lacking, the supervisor had better be perfect at all times because people will be like coiled snakes, ready to strike at the slightest provocation.

1. People react more to gossip and rumors

When there is low trust, the information channels are somehow blocked and the supervisor has a steady diet of trying to beat down rumors. Because trust is low, her denial of a rumor often tends to make it even stronger.

2. People grandstand and publicly humiliate the supervisor

When trust is low, there is limited respect, so workers will get unruly and seek to undermine the supervisor’s authority at every opportunity. They may gang up on her in order to further humiliate her.

3. People ignore the rules

All control may be lost, because the workers pay no attention to the rules of deportment. The supervisor has limited power to keep people under control. This condition can compromise quality and safety.

4. Workers intentionally misinterpret information

In the extreme case, workers will bend the information so that it is not accurate. If the supervisor does not spin every statement to be totally unambiguous, people will frame the information in the worst possible light.

Life for any leader is infinitely more pleasant when working with a group with high trust. Everything works as it should, and small problems are dealt with quickly before they become out of control. If trust is low, it is easy to see how labor relations problems lurk around every situation, and life for the supervisor is truly miserable.

Make life easy for yourself, and do the things required to build a culture of low fear and high trust.

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 82 Trust Improves Productivity

July 1, 2018

Every supervisor knows that productivity is a bottom-line measure that is the net result of the entire culture within her operation. Productivity takes everything into account and is a brutally honest reflection of the level of engagement of the workforce.

After studying trust for about 40 years, I believe that the level of trust within a group is an accurate predictor of the engagement of workers in the group and thus their productivity. I believe the average organization manages to extract only about 30% of the inherent productivity that is within the resources that are already onboard.

Even if I am wrong by quite a bit, it is still safe to say that any supervisor would be wise to first think about improving trust before requesting more resources to get the jobs done. In many of the organizations where I have worked, the productivity of the groups can be doubled and still have some headroom left before people are maxed out. That is why culture is often the sleeping giant in most organizations.

Let’s examine why the lack of trust is such a drag on organizational productivity by describing just a few example reasons why the correlation is so high.

Trust increases productivity

The enemy of productivity is waste. Here I am not talking about physical waste, although that is also involved. I mean that when someone is not performing at peak capability, his or her spare capacity is waste to the organization. Here are four ways that trust improves productivity directly.

1. People abusing the rules

It is easy to spot time being wasted when you observe how many workers do not follow the prescribed rules of the organization. If the morning break is set for 15 minutes, you will see workers away from their functions for roughly twice that time or even more.

The same phenomenon occurs with lunch breaks and smoke breaks (if allowed at all).

With a culture of high trust, people follow the rules as cast because they understand why they are important.

2. Poorly trained workers

In many cases the training given to new employees is sketchy and incomplete. If workers do not know how to run the operation as designed, then not only are they going to cause waste, they will be in danger of becoming injured in certain circumstances.

In a culture of high trust, supervisors are fully aware and follow the rules of proper training.

3. Distracting conversations and arguments

It is easy to observe people in production jobs spending a lot of time bickering among themselves. Curiously much of the wasteful banter is about not having adequate resources to do the work. I once knew a worker who would spend at least 70% of his day griping about that there is not enough time to get his work done.

Higher trust means that people get along better and do not get distracted by useless bickering. This is because higher trust is the result of respectful behavior.

4. Poor setups and staging of materials

If the area has not been set up for maximum workflow using “lean” principles and proper supply chain methods, then the workers are subject to be “waiting for work” frequently, which is a pure form of waste.

A culture of high trust is based on running the operation as it was designed to operate without glitches and hassles.

Trust improves morale

Everyone feels better in an environment of high trust. Coming to work is not a burden; in fact, many people truly enjoy the camaraderie at work. Great supervisors are able to achieve a light and buoyant environment.

1. Supervisors have gained the respect of the workers

Workers in a culture of high trust recognize they are there to do a job, but they are happy to do it because of the respect they are shown by supervision. When people are properly led, they almost universally enjoy their work and do it with pride.

2. Workers participate and buy into the vision

Workers understand that their labors are for a reason, and that reason is to make a better future for themselves. They do not feel ignored or beaten; rather, they are enlivened by the challenges that are put before them.

3. Rewards are appreciated

As the workers perform well over time, the management effectively reinforces the good work and that helps perpetuate the excellent productivity.

Take the time to invest in a higher trust culture in your organization. You will see remarkable improvements in productivity as a result.

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 79 Trust and Solving Problems

June 10, 2018

In his famous video series, “Do Right,” Lou Holtz, the master motivational speaker and football coach said, “One thing I know that’s universal is you are going to have problems.” For supervisors, many days seem like an endless stream of problems to resolve. This article links the solving of problems to the concept of trust.

Solving Problems if Trust is Low

When trust is lacking, problems are more difficult and time consuming to solve for several reasons:

1. Difficult to identify the real problem

When trust is low, people are working around the interpersonal issues, and often the facts are hidden from view. People will protect or horde information to protect their parochial interests.

You can observe people in lengthy and hot debates where they do not even address the real problem.

2. Solutions are not the most creative

People will not be willing to share their most creative solutions to problems because they are fearful of being ridiculed or ignored. They may only offer what they believe the boss wants to hear.

3. People playing games

Individuals are on guard and actually play head games with each other because they are not convinced the other person’s viewpoints are to be respected. They will put band aids on the symptoms to get out of a tight spot, but not take the opportunity to resolve the root cause.

4. Often problems recur

Since the real problem is often pushed aside, it may return again or even several times because the root cause is still in play. This is particularly discouraging to supervisors because there are not adequate resources to resolve the same problems over and over again.

Solving Problems if Trust is High

When trust is high, solving problems is both quicker and the solutions are more robust for the following reasons:

1. There is full data disclosure

People are not hiding information from each other to protect themselves. They freely share what has been going on so that a real and lasting solution can be invented.

2. People are interested in progress rather than finding a scape goat

With a culture of high trust, people want to get to an excellent resolution as quickly as possible. There is no desire to stretch things out, and there is no need to blame one person or group for the problems.

3. There is pride in solving problems well

High trust groups take real pride in being able to get past problems and enjoy fewer of them in the future. Creative solutions lead to permanent fixes to issues rather than the illusion of progress.

Solving problems if you have a culture of high trust is infinitely better and faster than if you work in a group with low trust. That impacts productivity and morale in a positive way every single day. Make sure to foster a culture of high trust and reap the benefits in 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 78 Trust and the Development of People

June 3, 2018

There are many things supervisors need to do to build a culture of high trust. One important concept is to continually develop their people.

When people see a pathway to higher capability, their work is more interesting and rewarding. They trust their supervisor to improve their lot in life by making them more valuable to the organization.

They recognize the company’s investment in growing them, and they look to return the favor by investing themselves further into their work.

There is a solid correlation between development of people and the level of trust an organization can achieve with the work force. Development of people also creates low employee turnover because employees are happier.
Cross training is one of the easiest ways to develop people.

Here are some of the benefits of a good cross training program.

Improved Bench Strength

Every time an employee is out for an illness or vacation, it is a simple matter of moving people around to cover the lost function. Having several back-ups for each position generates the flexibility to operate efficiently in today’s frenetic environment.

Better Teamwork

When people train others on their function, a kind of personal bond is struck that is intangible but powerful. It is really a large teambuilding effort to install a cross training program in a company.

People actually enjoy it and rightfully feel the additional skills have something to do with job security.

Interestingly, in organizations that do not cross train, many people are protective of their knowledge thinking that being the only one who knows procedures makes them appear to be indispensable.

Reduction in Turn Over

An organization that focuses on cross-training suffers less from employee churn. Why? Because people have more variety of work and higher self esteem. They have more fun at work and tend to stay with the organization.

Also, the opportunities to learn new things add to the equation. Basically, people operate at higher levels on Maslow’s pyramid in organizations that cross train.

Leads to Higher Trust

Trust is directly related to how people feel about their development. In organizations where people have a solid training program for the future, people know their supervisor cares about them as individuals.

The discussions to develop the plan are trust-building events because the topic is how the individual can improve his or her lot in life.

Not Expensive

Of all the ways an organization can improve employee skills, cross-training is the least expensive. Reason: Training can be inserted during the little slack periods within the operating day.

Training keeps people occupied in growth activities when there is little else to do.

The real cost to the organization is much lower than it appears on the surface. When compared to the benefits, the ROI is fantastic.

Keeps the Saw Sharp

The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. This is because in order to explain what you are doing, you have to understand it very well.

Also, in the process of training someone else, the trainee may suggest better ways of approaching a task, so the process is being honed and refined all the time.

If your organization does not have an active and specific cross-training process, get one started. It generates many advantages and no significant disadvantages.

If you have a program, ask yourself if it is fresh and vital. Are you milking this technique well or giving it lip service?

Benchmark Example

Wegmans is a grocery chain in the northeast United States that is based in Rochester, NY. This private organization has been on the list of top 100 companies to work for in America every year since 1998, often scoring in the top 10, and won the top slot in 2005.

I am familiar with this company because I live in Rochester.

They have worked for years on developing a culture of high trust. They do this through numerous methods championed by their late founder, Robert Wegman.

One hallmark of Wegmans is that they are fanatical about the development of people. It is not the only underpinning of their culture, but it is an obvious pillar of why they are so successful.

As a result, they have extremely low employee turnover: significantly lower than 10% percent in an industry that normally suffers high turnover of about 40% per year.

Take stock of how much development you are doing in your organization. The best companies spend more than $1500 per employee and provide more than 50 hours of training each year. If you are doing less, think about increasing that amount.

Trust and development of people go hand in hand. Companies that stress development normally enjoy higher trust, which translates into much better performance. It is one of the hallmarks of an excellent 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 77 Shades of Trust

May 26, 2018

I have always thought of trust as a single concept: I either trust you or I do not trust you at any time. It seemed simple enough, but after studying the phenomenon for over 20 years, I have come to realize there are many different flavors of trust with other people that we experience all the time.

Since supervisors deal with many different situations and personalities on a daily basis, it is important to not view trust as a single commodity.

For example, you might trust an individual because you know he has your back and will do what is in your best interest.

You might trust a person because he is consistent and always does what he says.

You might trust another person because the two of you share common values.

An important type of trust for leaders is to let people know it is safe for them to tell you what they believe is true without fear of being punished.

Trust as it relates to others is a complex set of concepts about your relationships with them. Think of trust as a mosaic or pattern rather than a singular lens.

That pattern changes based on the transactions between you and other people, and since you deal with numerous different people and situations, your experiences with trust will vary all over the map. The types of trust are ever evolving and either gaining or losing strength.

Picture the concept of trust as being like a kaleidoscope with an infinite number of complex designs that change as you move through time. The glass pieces that make up the design are a fixed number, but the mirrors in the kaleidoscope, just like the different categories of trust, make new patterns as you experience changes in your relations with others.

Exercise for you: Today, as you interface with people, try to visualize the different patterns of trust you have with them. Notice how the pattern shifts as the day progresses and transactions occur.

Witness the beauty and variety of trust in your relationships. Each transaction has the potential to increase or reduce the trust based on your perception of what is going on.

Understanding that trust is a complex set of interrelated concepts will allow you to experience the richness of your relationships with others. It may become confusing or frustrating at times, but that is the reality of life.

As you see the wonderful patterns of trust unfold in front of your eyes, you will begin to experience the beauty of life and relationships at a higher level. You will also become a more successful supervisor.

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 76 Building Trust for Life

May 13, 2018

Early in my career I learned a valuable lesson that is important for all supervisors to know. The circumstances will be different but the lesson is unmistakable.

I was sent to Japan to negotiate a deal on a large supply of high capacity floppy disks. I was nervous going over because my boss was busy preparing a law suit against many of the companies I would be negotiating with for dumping low capacity floppy disks on the US market.

On the flight, my buddy and I amused ourselves by making notes in a periodical that described the tension between our organization and the Japanese companies. We probably wrote some things that were too juicy for public consumption.

The trip went very well, and there was no acrimony with our hosts. Coming back from a long lunch on the final day, I noticed that I had left my briefcase open and the periodical was on top of the stack. I realized that someone could have read and copied some of the private information, which would have damaged our case. I was terrified that my actions could possibly turn into a major gaffe with my boss.

As soon as I got back I went to my boss immediately and told him that I did something really stupid in Japan the prior week. He said, “What did you do?” My reply was, “You would never know this unless I told you, but here is what happened…”

He looked up at me and said, “You know you are right, Bob. That’s not the smartest thing you ever did. The smartest thing you ever did was to tell me about it.”

From that day on for the next 25 years until he retired, I was golden boy to him. Reason: I blew myself in (admitted my mistake) when I didn’t have to. Essentially I earned his trust for life by owning up to my indiscretion.

The lesson that I learned was that even though I did something admittedly dumb, I was able to turn it into a major step forward for my entire career. Most of us intellectually know that admitting a mistake is usually a trust-building action. There are two kinds of mistakes where this would not be the case:

1. If the mistake is a repeat of one that was made once or many times in the past

2. If the mistake was so stupid that it revealed the person to be clueless

Most mistakes are things that simply did not go the way we planned, so they are easily forgiven when we openly admit to them. This method is particularly potent for people in supervisory positions. Reason: From past experience most of us view supervisors and managers as people having a hard time admitting mistakes.

Exercise for you: Look for opportunities to admit your own vulnerability. Obviously it is a silly strategy to create mistakes so you can admit them, but we all do have lapses from time to time. When you are smart enough to blow yourself in, it usually impacts your long term prognosis favorably. Try it and see if you agree.

Human beings normally have the capacity to forgive an occasional error if it was done with good intent. By admitting an error, you will give a powerful demonstration of your own personal integrity. That is a tangible sign of being a trustworthy person.

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