Talent Development 20 Measuring Engagement

December 19, 2020

Section 3.3 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Organization Development & Culture. Section E reads, “Skill in assessing and evaluating employee engagement.”

I have seen dozens of instruments that purport to measure employee engagement. Some of these are simple 10 question surveys, and others are complex blockage surveys that try to identify what is getting in the way of full engagement.

Defining Engagement

We need to start with the definition of engagement. There are entire books that attempt to describe engagement and how to increase it.

I like the simple approach with the following definition: “To what extent do all people in the group understand the vision for an ideal future state, and how focused is their energy on achieving that vision”?

You can make it more complex than that, but I don’t think that is necessary.

If you buy into my theory, there is a very simple test that will allow you to find out how engaged any group is. It takes only a few minutes, and you do not need to have a complex survey instrument to do it.

Measure Engagement Directly

Take a three by five card and walk around listening to what people are talking about. If you hear someone griping about working conditions or what an idiot the person at the next work station is, put a hash mark on the left side of the card and walk on.

When you hear someone talking about something that relates to what the group is trying to accomplish, then put a hash mark on the right side of the card and continue walking.

In only half an hour or less you will begin to see a pattern emerge on the card.

If the left side of the card is littered with hash marks and only a few or none on the right side, then the group is not engaged.

On the other hand, if most of the hash marks are on the right side of the card, it is an indication of a highly engaged group.

This System Also Tests for Trust

This method also works to measure the level of trust within a group. If most people are focused on the vision and the important work to be done, then it is an indication of a high trust group.

If most people are myopic and focused in on each other and protecting their turf, then it is an indication of a low trust group.

I hope you can appreciate the correlation between trust and engagement. When you find a group that has high trust in all directions, I promise that you will find a highly engaged group of workers.

The relationship is as predictable as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.



Building Higher Trust 3 Trust is More Complex Than We Realize

December 16, 2020

I start out every speaking engagement by asking my audience how they would define trust. It is an amazing exercise, because we all know what it is and experience it all the time, yet to define it precisely is a bit of a challenge.

Normally, the group is pretty quiet, then someone will say something like, “Trust is confidence.” Another person might offer, “Trust is integrity,” or “Trust is good follow up.” On and on it goes with adjectives that have a bearing on trust, but none of them come close to a robust definition.

More than just with people


I then share that nearly every one of the definitions offered had to do with trust between one person and another. In my previous article on Trust, I pointed out that trust is ubiquitous. It exists when we interface with any product or service. It is not just a phenomenon between people, it is a phenomenon between ourselves and every other thing we interface with.


Categories of Trust with People


Since the most familiar way we experience trust is in interpersonal relations, this article will amplify on that part of the general topic. Trust exists between people, but there are numerous different categories of trust in that realm. Trust is more like a mosaic; it has lots of parts and flavors.

For example, it I have confidence that you will do what you say, then that is one type of interpersonal trust. Trust is also a feeling that you will not hurt me in any way. It can also mean that you are looking out for my best interest. It might be that we share a common value of high trust in each other.

Basically, I believe interpersonal trust is a montage of concepts that weave together into a pattern that changes from moment to moment depending on what is going on at that time. Here is a link to a 3-minute video that expands on the concept of categories of interpersonal trust.

Bonus Video

Here is a link to a short video on this topic.



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 1000 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



Leadership Barometer 74 Emulate Level 5 Leaders

December 13, 2020

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.

Emulate Level 5 Leaders

Jim Collins and his staff of MBA researchers did the business world a huge favor in 2001 when they wrote the book Good to Great. I consider that book one of the best business books of the past twenty years.

In looking at why some organizations consistently outperform others; the team came up with a model containing many new concepts.

None of the concepts were totally unheard of before, but the model packaged the concepts in a coherent process-oriented thesis that was, and still is, most helpful.

In case you have not read this book, I recommend it to be purchased, read, dog-eared, and put into active practice – not on the shelf.

The concept of level 5 leadership is one of the core elements in the book. Collins found that all of the organizations that met his rigorous standard for excellence at that time were headed up by exceptional leaders.

It is interesting that after studying hundreds of variables about what make these leaders so effective, they were able to boil them down to two common denominators. These were 1) a passion for the work, and 2) humility.

Level 5 Leaders are fanatically driven to produce results, and they produce consistently superior results. Self-effacing and modest, these leaders are workers rather than showoffs. They are more “plow horse” than “show horse.”

Window/ Mirror Analogy

An example of Level 5 Leaders in action is the window/mirror analogy. Level 5 Leaders look out the window and attribute success to factors other than themselves. When things go poorly, however, they see the window as a mirror and blame themselves, taking full responsibility.

In comparison, many CEOs, not Level 5 Leaders, often do just the opposite – they look in the mirror taking credit for success, but look out the window assigning blame for disappointing results to others.

These actions help to increase the level of trust within the organization. They provide a culture of safety and security in which trust will grow spontaneously.

I believe there are very few level 5 leaders in the world today. If you happen to work for someone you can describe to that standard you are truly lucky. Study that person and see if you can recruit him or her as your mentor.

It will improve your rate of progress as a leader by 2-3 times your current rate. If you do not know of anyone who rises to that standard, the best you can do is read some of the biographies of leaders outlined in Good to Great. It will give you some specific habits of these outstanding leaders.



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.



Building Higher Trust 2 Trust is Everywhere

December 5, 2020

The word Ubiquitous means “everywhere at the same time.” It comes from the Latin root ubiq, which means everywhere. It was originally a theological expression used to describe the omnipresence of Christ.

I maintain that trust is ubiquitous, because it is all around us every day, like the air we breathe.

Trust is manifest in all aspects of life, not just in our relations with other people. We normally think of trust as between our self and other people, but consider any product that you use and recognize that you have a relationship of trust to some degree, or you would not use it.

In the pills you take

For example, you cannot take an aspirin if you do not trust the company that made it and the store that sold it to you.

In the car you drive

When you get in your car in the morning and turn on the ignition, there are thousands of explosions going on within the engine, but you are not thinking about that unless the “check engine” light comes on. When you come to a red light you step on the brake and the car stops. The only time you think about it is when the brakes squeak or otherwise let you know they need attention.

In your personal routines

You walk into the bathroom in the morning and flip the switch. The lights go on. You turn on the spigot and both hot and cold water come out. You turn on the TV and the news comes on. You just expect these things to work, so there is no recognition of anything going on unless for some reason the lights do not go on.

You pour yourself some cereal and get out the milk. You are not conscious of any trust validation going on. You just expect things to be OK unless you neglected to check the dating on the carton of milk.

On your way to your destination

You drive along and follow the traffic rules. You have no worry that other people will fail to follow the rules (at least most of the time).

You drive over a bridge without worrying about it falling into the river (except there are probably some bridges where you should worry, at least a little bit.)

Trust is ubiquitous

I contend that by the time you have yourself up and going in the morning, you have experienced trust several hundred times, but you don’t think about it unless there is some kind of failure. Trust is all around us every single day, but in our conscious thoughts it is the trust we have between individuals that draws nearly all of our attention.

Bonus Video

Here is a link to a three-minute video on this topic.



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 1000 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


Leadership Barometer 73 Negotiate Well

December 1, 2020

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.

Negotiate Well

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

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

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

Learning to Negotiate

Effective negotiating is a science. You can take graduate level courses on this topic, or there are numerous books and seminars outlining the various stratagems.

You can study the tactics and countermeasures for months and still not be very skilled at negotiating well.

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

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

1. Be consistent – people need to know what you stand for, and you need to communicate your own values clearly.


2. Show respect for opinions contrary to yours – other opinions may be as valid as yours, and you can frequently find a common middle ground for win-win solutions. This avoids unnecessary acrimony.


3. Shoot straight –speak your truth plainly and without a lot of spin. Get a reputation for telling the unvarnished truth, but do it with compassion. Do not try to snow people – people at all levels have the ability to smell BS very quickly.


4. Listen more than you talk – keep that ratio as much as possible because you are not the fountain of all knowledge. You just might learn something important.


5. Be open and transparent – share as much information as you can. However, be careful to not divulge too much information too soon.


6. Get your facts right – don’t get emotional and bring in a lot of half truths to the argument.


7. Don’t be fooled by the vocal minority – make sure you test to find out if what you are hearing is really shared broadly. Often there are one or two individuals who like to speak for the whole group, and yet they may not share the sentiments of everyone.


8. Don’t panic – there are “Chicken Littles” who go around shouting “The sky is falling” every day. It gets tiresome, and people tune you out eventually.


9. Ask a lot of questions – Socratic and hypothetical questions are more effective methods of negotiating points than making absolute statements of your position.


10. Admit when you are wrong – sometimes you will be.


11. Know when to back off –pressing a losing point to the point of exhaustion is not a good strategy.


12. Give other people the most credit – often the smart thing to do is not claim victory, even if you are victorious.


13. Keep your powder dry for future encounters – there is rarely a final battle in organizations, so don’t burn bridges behind you.


14. Smile – be gracious and courteous always. If you act like a friend, it is hard for people to view you as an enemy.



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





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


Talent Development 18 Consulting and Business Partnering

November 27, 2020

Section 3.2 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Consulting and Business Partnering. Section A reads, “Skill in synthesizing information to formulate recommendations or a course of action to gain agreement, support, and/or buy-in from stakeholders.”

To be successful at consulting, you must operate as a strong business partner with the client. The people involved in the training must be truly excited about the venture and anxious to have it work out well for them.

If you follow these eight tips, you should have agreement, support, and full buy-in.

1. Start with solid research

The way to gain commitment is to listen well to what the participants say they need. This sounds easy, but it is more difficult than it seems. I start with interviews of the key players in the organization. That sets the stage, but it is not enough because they may not be able to articulate the real needs.

2. Needs analysis

I do a survey of the people involved in which they select what topics would create the most significant payoff for them. The key here is to involve as many people in the group that will ultimately be trained so that each person recognizes he or she had real input into the topic selection.

3. Create a rough draft of the program

Based on the research, I put together a draft of the main topics to be covered as well as the delivery style to be used. Be sure to state the objective clearly and outline the deliverables in detail.

4. Review and gain commitment

This is a critical step that is often overlooked or short changed. Let me share an example of how this looks, if it is done well. I was doing a design for a CEO of a major training effort. I did the research, needs analysis, and a draft of the proposed program. I came back a few days later and shared a list of seven things the proposed program would accomplish. The CEO looked at the seven things and wrote BINGO in large letters next to my list.

5. Design the program in detail

In this phase it is necessary to customize the material so that you will be speaking “their language.” Do not offer the same program for a hospital as you would for a manufacturing plant. Make the entire program feel like it was made for that specific client. I normally use their logo and pictures that reflect their actual business.

6. Make sure the program delivery is user friendly

For people to be excited about the training, they need to have it done on a schedule that is most convenient for them, not you. They may want it delivered very early in the morning or even on weekends. Always bend to their needs.

7. Avoid “Death by PowerPoint.”

Only a few points per slide, and do not read the points. Instead, talk about the topic area letting them absorb the actual words on the slide. Always have a photograph (and obtain the license to use it) on each slide. Do not use clip art or cartoons. Make sure the photo is illustrative of the points you are making and has some element of creativity or twist to keep people interested.

8. Make the training experiential

Do not have just hours of lecture. Have an activity, like a role play or body sculpture every 20 minutes or so to break up the training. This keeps people from getting bored.

Following these eight tips will ensure your program has the full support of people in your client’s organization.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.


Building Higher Trust 1 A New Series

November 24, 2020

Having just completed a series of 100 articles on Body Language, it is time for me to start a new series of fresh content on my favorite subject: TRUST. I will write on all aspects of trust as I have come to know it.

About 30 years ago, I came to the conclusion that trust is the “golden key” to great leadership. We know it when we experience trust, but it is a bit elusive when we try to define it with precision. I intend to take the mystery out of the topic and discuss numerous aspects of trust and how they relate to leadership.

I will be covering:

1. The nature of trust in many dimensions
2. How leaders can obtain more trust consistently
3. How they can maintain and build higher trust over time
4. How they can leverage trust to improve performance in all dimensions of business
5. How they can repair damaged trust
6. How they can teach other leaders how to create a culture of higher trust

While the bulk of content in this series will be slanted toward business settings, the points and techniques will be equally valid for social groups, families, church congregations, university settings, hospital staffs, legal offices, and any other setting where human beings interact.

Layout of articles

I will do more than simply describe the content; I will give specific examples from my personal experience and suggest exercises you can do to increase your skills at building higher trust. As always, I invite dialog through comments to this blog or on my website.  For each article, I will include a Bonus Video that goes along with the content of that particular article. These videos are all very brief (less than 3 minutes).

An exercise for you

As a first exercise in this series, try to recall a time when you experienced a feeling of high trust. Recall the details of what was going on and how you experienced great security in that moment. Now go back and recall a time when there was a serious trust violation in your life. Recall the empty feeling of being let down. Were you able to rebuild the trust, or was it the end of that relationship? Later in this series I will deal with ways to repair damaged trust.

How trust works

In an organization, I think of trust as the lubricant that allows everything to work as it was intended. Without trust, we get friction and heat between people. In this series, we will focus on these aspects of trust and what specific thought patterns and behaviors that result in building higher trust over time.

Benefits for you

It does not matter what your position is; you can benefit from reading this series because it will help your life run much better. If you are a leader (and I contend that we are all leaders at some point: think about leading yourself) this series will be extremely valuable in that it will reveal many aspects of trust that you may not have been aware of that will enrich the quality of your life.

Bonus Video

Link to video of “Leadership and Trust”





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 1000 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


Leadership Barometer 72 Listens Deeply

November 21, 2020

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.

Listens Deeply

It is said that managers have the worst hearing in the world. Many employees lament that trying to talk to the boss is like trying to reason with a rock. Yet most managers would put “listening skills” as one of their stronger traits. How come there is often such a wide gap between perception and reality? I believe leaders do not recognize that listening is a very complicated and multi-step process that starts in the mind of the speaker. Here are the steps.

1. Speaker’s mind has a thought
2. Speaker translates the thought into words
3. Speaker says the words
4. Words are conveyed to the ear of the listener
5. Words are heard or not heard as sent
6. Tone of voice and body language of the speaker are factored in
7. The message that was heard is translated into thought
8. The thought is translated into the listener’s mind

If any one of those eight elements is corrupted in any way, then the message has not been received accurately. Of those eight steps, which ones cause the most trouble in communication? It is steps 5 and 6. Reason: While most people are “listening” they are actually occupying their mind preparing to speak. So what actually enters the ear is not what the listener actually believes has been said.

The interpretation of the tone of voice and body language is a huge area of miscommunication. With a slight movement of the eyebrows, mouth or a tilt of the head, the meaning of the entire message can be misinterpreted.

Why the problem happens

The culprit here is that we have a disconnect between how fast a person can talk versus how fast we can think. We can think many times faster then we can talk, so the brain has excess time to process other things while waiting for the words to arrive.

We actually multi-task, and our thoughts zoom in and out of the stream of words heading toward our ears. We believe that we have caught all of the content, but in reality we only grasp part of it because we are occupied thinking up our response or trying to interpret why the speakers pupils were dilated.

The best defense for poor listening habits is what is called “reflective listening” or sometimes called “active listening.” This is where we force our brain to slow down and focus on the incoming words in order to give the speaker visual and verbal cues that we really understood the message.

The art of reflective listening is an acquired skill, and it takes a lot of practice and effort to be good at it. If you doubt that, just try listening to someone for 5 minutes straight and concentrate on absorbing every word such that you can reflect small parts of the conversation throughout the 5 minutes. It is exhausting.

For leaders, the need for listening is even more of a challenge. We have to not only hear and interpret the words, we have to understand the full meaning. This means not only must we take in the verbal input but also properly interpret the vast amount of body language that comes along with it. Since there is more meaning in body language than in words, it makes listening an even more daunting task.

Most leaders do not take the time and energy to internalize what is being conveyed to them because they are so preoccupied with getting their message out to others. This leaves them totally vulnerable to misunderstandings that cripple the ability to build trust.

When you add the ego response which most leaders have an ample supply of, it is no wonder employees feel they are not being heard. James O’Toole had a great line for this in the book Transparency. He said, “…it is often the presence of excessive amounts of testosterone that leads to a loss of hearing.”



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


Talent Development 17 Knowledge Management

November 18, 2020

Section 2.5 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Knowledge Management. Section B reads, “Skill in designing and implementing knowledge management strategy.”

For any organization to be successful in the long run, there needs to be an effective strategy to retain the knowledge that makes up the intangible assets of the company. The ebb and flow of people into and out of the organization make it imperative that the process knowledge of how things get done be organized and accessible.

 

Standard Operating Procedures

Gone are the days when a set of SOPs for the organization were maintained in current shape by an administrative group. Those books became extinct several decades ago. In most organizations, the content knowledge of procedures exists in some cloud-based system where people can access the knowledge and keep it current.

Security has always been a major concern when archiving organizational knowledge. The best approach is to have layers of information, from readily available to the public to highly classified trade secrets. Each layer needs to have a special control relative to who can access and suitable passwords (normally two levels) to keep private information from getting out and hackers from getting in.

Management and Leadership Knowledge

I spend my time working with the leaders of companies in all different industries helping them sharpen their leadership skills. I have a listing of about 100 topic areas where I train supervisors, managers, and leaders. I let them select the areas of most benefit to them and then design custom training specifically tailored for their situation.

Three Areas of Greatest Need

Over the years, I have found three areas where there is the most frequent need for training:

1. Building, maintaining, and repairing Trust
2. Holding people accountable in a principle-centered way
3. Reducing conflict between people in the organization.

Training Patterns

Normally, I split up the training into half day events. A typical application will have me work with a group of managers from 3-6 sessions to cover the materials of highest interest to them.

I have found that the half-life of information shared in a training session is about one week. That means that after one week, roughly half of the training benefits will be forgotten in the hubbub of daily activity.

Method to S-T-R-E-T-C-H out the Content

What I do to improve the knowledge retention by my clients is to follow up the half day (in person or virtual) training sessions with 30 days of very short (3 minutes each) and very professional videos of the content served up in a unique format.

Bonus Video

To give you the idea of what these videos look like, here is a link to one on the relationship between trust and the need for leaders to be perfect.

By having the content metered out in these short bursts over a period of a month following the initial training, I get significantly higher retention of the tools I am teaching. In each video, I provide the main point of the learning, then I describe why it is important to remember, finally I give an exercise for the person to do that day in order to use the content immediately.

By refreshing the content over a longer period of time, and by having the leaders actually do something with the content each day, they get significantly more out of the training and the knowledge is retained.


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.


Leadership Barometer 71 Demonstrate Integrity

November 11, 2020

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.

Demonstrate Integrity

Lou Holtz, the famous football coach had a remarkably simple philosophy of doing business. It consisted of three simple little rules: 1) Do Right, 2) Do the best you can, and 3) Treat other people like you would like to be treated.

The basic Do Right Rule means acting with integrity. If doing what is right is such a basic and easy thing, why am I even bothering to write about it?

It’s simple; most leaders have a hard time figuring out what the right thing is. That is a stunning indictment to make, but I really believe it is true on occasion. Reason: in the melee of everyday challenges, it is so easy to make a judgment that seems right under the circumstances, but when extrapolated to its logical conclusion it is really not ethical, or moral, or it is just plain dumb.

Rationalization

For a leader, it is easy to rationalize the particular situation and convince yourself that something marginal is really OK to do “all things considered.” There must be a safeguard for this common problem. There is, and I will reveal it later in this article.

The Problem Escalation

I believe that most of the huge organizational scandals of the past started out as subtle value judgments by leaders in their organizations. There was a decision point where they could have taken path A or path B. While path B was “squeaky clean” in terms of the ethics involved, path A was also perfectly logical and acceptable based on the rules in place at the time and was also somewhat more profitable than Path B.

The problem is that if path A was acceptable today, then A+ would be fine the next day, and A++ the next. Other people would get involved, and the practice would get more embedded into the culture.

Eventually, after a few years, it was clear that rules were being bent all over the place in order for the organization to look good to investors. There was no convenient way to roll back the ethical clock, nor was there any impetus. They seemed to be “getting away with it.”

Ultimately the practice, whether it was Enron’s disappearing assets or Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme, became too big to hide and things blew up.

My contention is that these people were not intending to do bad things originally, they just got caught up in what Alan Greenspan called irrational exuberance and had no way to quit the abuse. Of course, by that time they really were evil people doing evil things, but I believe it did not start out with those intentions.

At the start I believe these leaders were truly blind to the origin of corruption that brought down their empires and bankrupt thousands of individuals in the process.

The Antidote

How can leaders protect themselves from getting caught up in a web of deception if they were originally blind to the problem? It’s simple; they needed to create a culture of transparency and trust whereby being whistle blower was considered good because it protected the organization from going down the wrong path.

Imagine if the culture in an organization was such that when someone (anyone) in the company was concerned about the ethics of current practice and he or she brought that concern to light, there would have been a reward rather than punishment.

To accomplish this, leaders need to reinforce candor, in every phase of operations. It has to be a recognized policy that seeing something amiss brings with it an obligation to speak up, but that is OK because speaking up will bring rewards.

When leaders at all levels reward the whistle blower, it sets up a culture of high trust because it drives out fear. One of my favorite quotes is, “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”

The concept or rewarding candor creates opportunities for leaders to see things that would otherwise be hidden and take corrective action before the tsunami gets started.

It also allows leaders to be fallible human beings and make mistakes without having them become a reason for them to spend the rest of their life in jail.

So here is a good test of your leadership ability. How transparent is your organization? Do you truly reward employees when they bring up things that do not seem right to them, or are they put down and punished?


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