Leadership Barometer 8 Not Playing Games

July 23, 2019

Here is a quick way to assess the quality of a leader.

Build a real environment

Many people describe the actions and decisions of their leader as a kind of game.  There is an agenda going on in the head of the leader, but the true intent is often hidden from view.

This situation is common in all parts of our society from C-Level executives, to politicians, clergy, academics, lawyers, accountants, law enforcement, and really every corner of society.

Another symptom is that the story changes from day to day without any apparent provocation or believable explanation. People try to guess what the leader really wants, only to be embarrassed or disappointed when they make a wrong assumption.  It is a common break room discussion for people to speculate what the leader is trying to accomplish by the latest pronouncement.

The contrast with this pattern when there is an excellent leader at the helm could not be more clear.  Great leaders do not play games. They build a culture of trust, where people know the objectives, and all actions are in alignment with those objectives. Workers know what is going on in the mind of the leader and are expected to point out anything that would seem to deviate from the plan.

This condition leads to maximum engagement of everyone because there is no need for second guessing.

Do not assume people know

It is important for any leader to not assume people know the intent.  Since all actions are totally rational in the mind of the leaders, it is a simple leap to figure that other people can connect the dots as well.  You can tell when people are confused by their body language.

A puzzled look on the face is the easy way to spot the confusion. Great leaders are constantly trying to sniff out any possibility of misinterpretation, so they can take immediate corrective actions.

Poor leaders go ahead blindly, assuming that everyone will figure out why a certain action was taken. Sometimes they are astonished to discover significant confusion and wonder why motivation is so low.

That disconnect becomes the acid test of a good leader on this dimension. If there are rarely or never any need to go back and explain an action or statement, then this leader is communicating well and not playing head games with people. In that environment, trust will grow strong, and it will endure.

Put a high premium on direct information, and always verify that people understand not only what you are advocating but why you think that is the wise path. That verification allows people to challenge anything that seems to be out of the expected so that corrections can be made before damage is done.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations.

 


Leadership Barometer 5 How People Treat Each Other

July 2, 2019

Here is another quick measure of the skill of a leader.

How People Treat Each Other

You can tell the caliber of a leader instantly when you view how people in the organization treat each other.

A good leader insists on constructive and helpful behaviors that model high trust and even affection.

Some people believe the word affection is too strong for the working world. I disagree. Groups that work for a great leader learn to really appreciate each other for their good qualities.

Affection does not mean that everyone always gets along with no quarrels; that would be a phony environment.

Just like a family, people will eventually find some things that cause friction, but there is sincere affection behind any tension that shows trough as people work to resolve differences without doing emotional damage.

At home, people can irritate each other while still embracing a mutual love that transcends the petty annoyances. The same concept should apply at work.

Left to their own devices, people working in close proximity to each other have a remarkable ability to drive each other crazy. Great leaders teach their people the skill of disagreeing without being disagreeable. This vital skill is often overlooked in organizations.

Where leadership is weak, squabbles between people lead to childish behaviors that can cause permanent damage to relationships. It is easy to witness this in most organizations.

As Lou Holtz observed, “you can find a thousand things to not like about somebody but you need to look for the things that you do like, that support the team effort.” In an environment of support and affection is is easy to become a close knit team that is hard to beat.

Great leaders insist that their group generates a set of specific behaviors. It is important to be able to point at these things and call each other when the behaviors are not being modeled.

The leader always works to model the behaviors and actually verbalizes them frequently. It may sound like this, “Thanks for your comment Frank, I appreciate how your words supported Mary’s effort because that is a value and behavior we cherish in our group.”

Here is an example of a list of behaviors from a team I managed several decades ago.

Team Behaviors:

  • When in conflict, we will try to see from the other person’s perspective
  • We will not leave our meetings with “silent no’s”
  • We will act like adults
  • We will build an environment of trust

I am not suggesting that other groups adopt this set of behaviors. Rather, I am encouraging leaders to work with their group to identify some key behaviors they intend to follow and will hold each other accountable for following. The team must own the behaviors, and it is a leadership function to ensure that happens.

Watch for the signs of a group that, while there are differences, handle those disconnects in a mature and loving way. A group like that is being guided by an excellent leader.

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 4 Absence of Fear

June 24, 2019

Here is a quick and easy way to measure the caliber of any leader.

Lack of Fear

Fear is the enemy of trust, and trust is what you must foster in order to be a great leader.  My favorite quote on this connection is “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”

In any group, if the leader creates an environment where there is very low fear, the trust will grow to a high level.  It is as reliable and unstoppable as the mold on last week’s bread.

Good leaders create an environment where there is less fear. That does not mean there is never any fear within the organization.

Sometimes scary stuff is needed in order for the organization to survive. But in those times of uncertainty, great leaders redouble their communication activities to keep people aware of what is going on.

In draconian times, it is the lack of solid reliable information that causes the most fear. When leaders are as transparent as possible, it leads to open communication. This practice means lower fear, and higher trust, even when things are not pleasant.

Nature hates a vacuum. If you have a bare spot in your lawn, nature will quickly fill it in with something, usually weeds. If you take a bucket of water out of a pond, nature will fill in the “hole” immediately. When you open a can of coffee, you hear the rush of air coming in to replace the vacuum.

So it is with people, if there is a void of information, people will find something to fill in the void – usually “weeds.”

That is why rumors attenuate in a culture of high trust. There is no fuel to keep the fires of gossip going. Leaders keep people informed of what is going on all the time. This transparency helps people vent their fears and focus on the tasks at hand, even if they are involved with unpleasant things.

Eliminating fear is much more than just sharing information openly.  Most fear in organizations comes from the feeling that it is not safe to voice a concern, especially if it is about something the leader wants to do.

There is ample evidence in most organizations that people who voice their concerns about what the leader is doing get punished in numerous ways. They learn to hold their observations inside rather than risk getting clobbered.

Trust cannot grow when people are fearful, so in most organizations, it is the lack of ability to be candid with the leader that hampers the growth of trust.

Contrast this pattern with one where the leader is enlightened to welcome and REWARD people for their candor, even if it is contrary to what the leader thinks is right at the moment.  In that kind of culture, trust grows because fear is extinguished.

If you see an organization where people know it is safe to express their opinions (in an appropriate way and time) it is the result of a great leader at work. If you see an organization where people are afraid to speak their truth, the leader of that organization is weak and has a potential to change and grow into a stronger leader.

 

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 3 Growth and Development

June 17, 2019

Here is another one of my quick and easy measures for the quality of leaders.

Growth & Development

Good leaders focus on the growth and development of people. If you want to test the caliber of a leader, just measure how much energy she spends on developing people. The concept is that there is vast reservoir of talent in all people that is ripe for development.

I estimate that all but the very best organizations typically get around 30% of the available energy and talent of their workforce. My estimate may be a bit off, but not too far.

Think of this. It would mean that we can double the productivity of the workforce and still have people working at roughly 60% of their capacity. Wow, what a great way to improve output and lower costs!

Of course you cannot achieve 100% of the energy of all people all of the time. That would require so much Adrenalin it would kill everyone. But we really don’t need the 100%. I contend there is so much pent up potential in most organizations, the upside is huge.

What holds us back? Well, it is a lot of factors I am describing in this series. One of the key ones is whether people have been given the skills to do their best work. Good leaders know this and put a lot of emphasis in the development of people.

Interesting Contrast

You can contrast a development oriented leader with weaker leaders who do not seek to do much development. Weak leaders may be afraid that if they develop outstanding raw talent, they are in danger of being passed over by the newly-developed worker.

They may be too ignorant to realize that 1 hour in a good training program brings more than 3 incremental hours of productivity to the organization.

It may be that the organization is in such a state of panic, there is simply no time to develop people for the future. They simply need all hands on deck. This myopic viewpoint is similar to the orchestra playing their final numbers on the Titanic.

Look for the Following Important Signs

Another aspect of development is the degree to which the leader seeks to grow herself as an individual.

  1. Does she have a personal development plan that has been reviewed with her superior?
  2. Does she have discussion groups around some leadership or inspirational books?
  3. Is she enrolled in several professional organizations outside of work?
  4. Does she spend time going to at least one professional conference per year?
  5. Does she listen to recorded programs while driving?
  6. Does she regularly interface with professionals outside her organization on social networks?
  7. Does she have an active reading list?

All of these behaviors are signs of a person who is really interested in growing as a leader. When you see these signs, you know the person understands the value of continuous learning.

Leaders who want to develop others need to consider if they are modeling the above behaviors themselves.

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 2 Level of Trust

June 11, 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.

These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

Level of Trust

Good leaders create a legacy of trust within their organization. I have written elsewhere on the numerous hallmarks of an organization with trust as opposed to one that has no trust. But is there a quick and dirty kind of litmus test for trust? Think about how you would know if an organization has high trust.

You can do extensive surveys on the climate or call in an expensive consultant to study every nook and cranny of the organization, but that is not necessary.

All you need to do is walk into a meeting that is going on and observe what you see for about 5 minutes. You can get a very accurate view of the level of trust in what Malcolm Gladwell calls a “thin slice” of a few minutes watching a group.

1. Overall Body Language

Look at how the people sit. Are they leaning back with arms crossed and rigid necks, or are they basically leaning either in or toward the other people next to them?

2. Facial Expressions

Observe the look on the faces of people in the meeting. Can you see pain and agony, like they do not want to be there but are forced to endure the agony till the boss adjourns?

3. Tone of Voice

Listen to how people address each other. Is there a biting sarcasm that seeks to gain personal advantage by making other people in the room look small or do the people show genuine respect and even affection for each other?

4. Respect for the Leader

See how individuals interact with the leader. Is it obvious that everyone is trying to help the leader or are they trying to trip her up or catch her in a mistake? Do the participants show a genuine respect for the leader?

5. Lack of Fear

Is there a willingness to speak up if there is something not sitting right – for anyone, or is there a cold atmosphere of fear where people know they will get clobbered if they contradict the leader?

6. High Initiative

If there is work to be done are there eager volunteers or does everyone sit quiet like non-bidders at an auction?

7. Attitude

Is the spirit of the meeting one of doom and gloom or is the group feeling like masters of their own fate, even when times are rough?

These are just seven signs you can observe in only a few minutes that will tell you the level of trust within the group. That trust level is an accurate reflection of the caliber of the leader.

I used to tell people that I could tell the climate of an organization within 30 seconds of watching a meeting. You can actually see it in the body language of the participants. Would you agree with this assessment?

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


Leadership Barometer 1 Your In vs Out Ratio

June 4, 2019

This is the first in a series of brief articles on how you can tell the caliber of leaders in your organization.  These ideas do not replace the need for more thorough assessments, but they are really handy gut checks on how leaders are doing.

There are hundreds of leadership assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly. You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership. There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

Know your “In Vs. Out Ratio”

Are people striving to get into your organization or are they trying to find ways to get out?

It is pretty easy to assess if people want to get in because you will have a long line of individuals contacting you to ask in what way they can join your group. Some people are very persistent, and it is a good sign when highly talented people ask you to keep looking for a spot for them.

The second measure is harder to assess because when people want to get out of your organization, it is not always obvious. The telltale sign is if individuals are “looking for other opportunities.”

Usually a leader does not know what percentage of his or her population is trying to find alternate employment. That is because if lots of people want out, there is likely very little trust in the organization.

With low trust, people will hide the fact they are looking for a different job out of self protection. The best time to find a job is when you already have a job, so people can go years while looking around to find a better position.

Likewise in an environment of low trust you might be afraid for your employment if your boss knew you were looking elsewhere.

It is obvious that when people are looking elsewhere, they are not giving 100% of their best to the current organization. If there are several people in this situation it can really sap productivity and morale.

So the yin and yang for a leader is that if trust is high, people will generally be wanting in and that information will be rather transparent due to the long line. If trust is low, the number of people wanting out is a hidden number.

My bottom line for all leaders is to ask if they know the ratio of people wanting to get in versus out. If they have a good idea, then they are good leaders. If they have no clue, it reflects poorly on the quality of their leadership. It is a simple and remarkably accurate barometer.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com 585-392-7763. Website http://www.leadergrow.com BLOG http://www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind