Successful Supervosir 97 The Myth of Needing More People

October 13, 2018

This article will contain a philosophy that some people will reject out of hand, yet I believe it is generally true, with perhaps a handful of exceptions.

The myth starts when workers and their supervisors are convinced they are being overtaxed and need the assistance of more workers in order to get the work done. This complaint is present in the majority of organizations in which I have worked over the past 30 years.

The irony is that when you listen to supervisors and managers describe conditions for the workers, they readily admit there is a lot of lost time that could be available if conditions were changed.

My own personal estimate is that in the average organization today, companies are getting between 30-50% of the potential that is there in the current workforce. If that estimate is true, then in many organizations the output could be roughly doubled with the current workforce.

The problem is that people are working around the cultural problems and conflicts that exist in any group of people. I contrast this condition with some of the benchmark organizations I have seen where leaders have built a culture of respect and trust.

In those organizations, I believe workers freely contribute nearly 80% of what they can possibly do. That is about the maximum amount people can sustain without experiencing health problems due to burn out.

The antidote for supervisors is to not accept when people complain that they need more bodies around. Instead, seek to engage the existing workforce to a higher degree.

If you build the right kind of culture, there will be a lot less internal friction causing loss of productivity. People will enjoy a higher quality of work life as well, which will make your days (or nights) at work so much more pleasant.

Ask yourself if a better culture in your organization would make for a happier and more productive experience for all levels. Don’t be quick to buy into the notion that we need to dump more bodies into a sick system in order to get the work done. It is just not true in the vast majority of cases.

If you dump more bodies in without resolving the underlying cause of malcontent, then the problem gets worse, not better.

Instead, seek to energize the people you already have by reducing the friction or fighting between people. This action will result in better utilization of current resources and obviate the need to hire more people. Try the following techniques:

Create a common goal

Teams who have a lot of acrimony usually act that way because they lack a common goal that everyone wants. Seek to clarify your vision and paint a picture that is clear enough for all employees to grasp.

Show them how each one of them will be much better off when the vision is achieved. Remind them that they are really on the same team and not in opposing silos.

Get rid of the “we versus they” feelings and create a powerful group that think in terms of “us.” If you are not an expert at making this kind of change, then seek a consultant that can help you.

Document expected behaviors

Work with your employees to establish a set of agreed-upon behaviors that remove the vast majority of acrimony between people. Make sure everyone buys into these behaviors.

Then praise people when they follow the right behaviors. Do not tolerate it when people violate the behaviors. This action may result in actually removing some players from the team.

I have written elsewhere (Addition by Subtraction) about how removing some of the combative people who refuse to cooperate actually makes the work easier for everyone else, and you get a double whammy. You get more work accomplished with fewer people!

In this environment everyone celebrates. The group will recognize that you did not need more people; rather you needed fewer people who are mucking up the works.

Celebrate the Successes

Getting to improved engagement and empowerment can be a long road. Be sure to take time to celebrate the small wins along the way. Let the team marvel in their ability to actually be more productive without killing themselves.

Celebrate creative ideas that pan out to improve the process. Consider failures as learning experiences that help the team move forward. Remind people that they learned to walk only by a lot of falling down and then making corrections.

Mark Joyner teaches a technique he calls “High Impact Minimal Effort or HIME” that encourages people to find ways to improve productivity while minimizing the effort it takes. The idea is to create a mindset that always looks at jobs this way; it becomes a habit that leads to individual and corporate success.

Once you create a culture where people get jazzed about making their own improvements, then you can simply fall into a coaching mode where their own power and ideas will supply the fuel to the engine of productivity.

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 91 Mentoring a Successor

September 1, 2018

Some supervisors forget that it is an essential function to develop at least one successor to grow into their position. This article will discuss why having a successor is essential and give some tips on how to do this gracefully and seamlessly.

Why is Having a Successor Important?

When you mentor a person to take your job, what you are really doing is growing other leaders. John Maxwell calls this the leadership legacy. I call it the most important function of any leader. When you groom other people to move up in the organization, you are really paving the way for you to move up as well.

Often, I run into supervisors who are reluctant to train others on their function because of job security. What if the understudy gains more skill than me and comes into favor with the higher ups? Could I become expendable?

This narrow mindset really shows a misunderstanding of how the world works in the vast majority of cases. If you want to move up yourself, become known as a developer of people.

Below, I have listed several ideas on how to select and mentor an understudy. You may have other techniques that work well too.

Select more than one candidate

Supervisors make a mistake when they select the obvious choice to train and put all emphasis on that person. This practice will disenfranchise others who might aspire to grow as well. Instead, have several people you consider as potentially capable of moving up and rotate your energy among these people so a kind of competition develops.

It is important to point out there is good competition and bad competition. Work to develop an atmosphere where each understudy sees a chance to move up, but no guarantee. Don’t have an heir apparent, but rather have several strong people who each have their own strengths and development opportunities. Work with each one individually and give each one extra things to do in order to gain more skills.

Delegate More, Micromanage Less

The reason most supervisors micromanage too much and don’t delegate enough has to do with risk. It is easier and quicker to just do the task herself. If she spends the time to train a protégé, then there is a chance he will do the task wrong, which means rework and a negative feeling of failure for the protégé.

Once something has been delegated, do not hover over the person to make sure it is done your way. This practice also has to do with risk. Take the risk the other person will mess up a bit and will need to learn by failing. That is how we all learned to walk and talk.

Tell the protégé that you are not going to micromanage him, but you will be available to help if he gets stuck. Support rather than hovering is the best paradigm.

Don’t Play Favorites

The practice of playing favorites will almost always result in lower trust among the group. Avoiding this problem is rather simple; operate outside your normal groove for some small percentage of the time. By the way, you get to select a time when choosing another person to step up will involve less risk.

Go on vacation and leave your PDA home

When you go on vacation, make it a real vacation, and do not try to run the place as if you were on the job personally. Let the person selected for this backfill feel the true responsibility of running the place.

I guess it would be OK to take your cell phone in case of a real emergency, like the place is on fire or something, but back way off and tell your protégé that he has the ball for the next two weeks. “Only contact me in the event of a true emergency.”

Ask the understudy to keep good notes about what things worked well and what things backfired, so you can do a solid debrief once you return.

Give lots of feedback along the way

Make sure the person in training has a good sense of how he is doing. Avoid burdensome written reports every couple days, but do keep the person in the loop at all times. If the trainee figures out a better way to do the job, then be sure to reward his creativity and initiative. Your way of doing things is not the only way possible.

Always remember my favorite quote: “The highest calling for any leader is to grow other leaders.” If you have a reputation of doing this well, then your own star must rise as well because you will be viewed by higher management as one of the elite leaders in your operation. You will also be well respected by the people working for you and will be building higher trust daily.

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 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


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