Leadership Baromter 75 Make Good Decisions

December 23, 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.

Make Good Decisions

This measure sounds so trivial and axiomatic that you probably wonder why I list it at all. Unfortunately, many would-be great leaders make rather stupid decisions for one reason or another.

I often puzzle at how it is possible for a leader to do something that takes him or her in exactly the opposite direction he or she is trying to go.

That sounds illogical, I know, so let’s examine some of the forces that could allow this to happen.

1. Stupidity – This is a simple situation of making a bonehead decision. It is like the leader who intellectually knows it is better to admit a mistake than to hide it because that actually increases respect, but chooses to hide it anyway. Sad to say there are many stupid leaders out there who make wrong decisions rather consistently.

2. Too pressed for time – I had a teacher once tell me “You can write a term paper in 3 months or 3 hours, the only difference is the quality.” So it goes with decisions. Quality goes up with more thought, at least up to a point. After a while the old syndrome of “analysis paralysis” takes over, and the decision process becomes entirely too cumbersome.

3. Poor information from underlings – often decisions are based on input from others. If a leader blindly takes bad information and makes big decisions based on it, they will turn out bad. That was the problem when George Bush decided to invade Iraq to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction. After sifting the sand of that entire country for years, we never did find the problem we allegedly went in to eliminate.

4. Going along with bad advice from above – there are times when your boss will toss out a half-baked idea and say “Why don’t you try it.” Be careful to get good reasoned advice before taking the plunge.

5. Not accounting for risk – Every decision has an element of risk. If you make a decision based on optimism and faith but do not consider the potential downsides of it, you will eventually get caught in a nasty situation. Get the facts and consider what could go wrong as part of your planning process.

6. Sub-optimizing on only part of the story – it is really easy to please one constituency while alienating another one. You can please the shareholders by eliminating salary increases for a year, but the employees will suffer. There are numerous situations where there are tradeoffs. Go in with your eyes wide open on the holistic impact of your decisions on everyone.

7. Not thinking of the customer – for every action or decision, there is a customer. Make sure you know who the customer is and that the customer is well served by your decision.

8. Repeat of something that did not work before –Making the same bonehead move you have made in the past hoping for a better result should qualify you for a white jacket with very long sleeves. It is the classic definition of insanity.

9. Distracted by a bigger issue – often there are numerous decision processes going on simultaneously. You need to consider each one carefully and not put so much energy into one decision that you starve another. There is no forgiveness if you make a bad decision on the cart because you were focused on the horse.

10. Hubris – Decisions made to feed the ego can often lead to disastrous consequences. Try to not get married to your ideas too early. Think carefully about the full consequences before becoming an advocate of one approach.

11. Lack of communication – If you make a brilliant decision, but everyone else thinks it is stupid because you failed to explain your rationale, you are in trouble. You need to bring others into the process as early and completely as you can.

So, on first blush, the notion of making good decisions sounded trivial, but after considering some of the ways leaders get tripped up, the above checklist ought to be a good starter kit for a master list in your organization of how to make better decisions. I am sure there are several things I missed on my list that you can think of.

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


24 Articles on People Development

November 30, 2020

Sign up for the “Advent Calendar” by People Development Magazine. Starts December 1st.
https://peopledevelopmentmagazine.com/category/advent-calendar/


“Leadership for Managers” Class Starts Sept 18

August 25, 2020

I wanted to let you know that I will be running a new section of my famous course “Leadership for Managers” through the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce starting on September 18, 2020. The course will run on five consecutive Friday mornings from 8:30 to 12:30 EDT.

The course is now done virtually, to be more convenient for people whether at work or at home. It also eliminates the need to travel to get to class, thus saving time and expenses.

I have added sections on how leaders can ensure a better culture following the COVID-19 pandemic and also the role leaders play in moving toward a more equitable society.

I hope you will pass this note on to people in your network who might benefit from this experiential training. I am attaching a current outline for the class and how people can register for it.

 


Interview with Jaime Saunders – CEO of United Way of Greater Rochester

May 26, 2020

If you want to hear an inspiring and uplifting response to our current crisis, view the short video below.

The United Way of Greater Rochester has stepped up big time in the COVOD-19 crisis. This 12 minute interview with their CEO and President Jaime Saunders describes their process for serving our community and bringing people together to support those less fortunate.

It is an amazing story of community cooperation and of outstanding leadership.

Here is the link  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XsVjDK_pqk&feature=youtu.be


Tips for Zooming

April 22, 2020

I was sharing a horrific incident with one of my friends recently. Last week I was on a Zoom Meeting with a professional group of about 28 people, and about 30 minutes into the meeting we were Zoom Bombed. I cannot describe the depravity of what we all saw without compromising my own professionalism. Suffice to say it made me totally sick, and I went into shock for several hours. The meeting host had taken precautions to avoid it, but they were insufficient.

Since I use Zoom a LOT these days, I studied up on the several layers of protection and will use these in the future. My friend suggested that I document the things I have learned in a blog. These things are all available from Zoom, but if I can spare just one person from going through what I did, it will be worth it.

Here are some of the tips I learned. If I have any of this incorrect, then let me know.

Use Registration

You can specify that only people who have registered can enter the meeting. That will prevent a random hacker from entering your meeting, but you need to be careful that someone intent on being disruptive does not register and come into the meeting by legal means.

Know the people in your meeting

If you are running a meeting with strangers who you do not know, recognize the risk you are taking. There are some very warped people in this world.

Enable the Waiting Room

This feature is located on the security icon on the host’s dashboard. When the waiting room is enabled the host has to allow each person to join the meeting consciously. If someone tries to crash the party, he will not get out of the waiting room. Of course, this protection will not work unless the host verifies that each participant belongs in the meeting.

Don’t allow participants to screen share

You can disable this protection once you know all the people there are safe and you have locked the room.

Lock the meeting once all participants have arrived

This feature will also keep predators from entering the meeting at all.

Remove any disruptive participants and lock them out

Participants can be ejected from the meeting by the host or the co-host.

Co-host cannot assign Breakout Rooms

Since you cannot enable the co-host to assign breakout rooms, if you use breakouts, you may want to reverse roles and let the meeting leader actually have the system consider him the co-host. That way, the second in command can assume the role of host and handle the breakouts.

I am sure there are other protections in the system that I have not yet discovered. If anyone reading this blog has any other tips, please comment on them so I can learn more helpful ideas.


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, 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, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations





Leadership Barometer 34 Skip the Sandwich

January 20, 2020

There are literally thousands of leadership courses for managers. In most of them, one of the techniques advocated is called the “sandwich” method.

The recommended approach when a leader has a difficult message to deliver is to start with some kind of positive statement about the other individual. This “softening up” is followed by the improvement opportunity. Finally, the leader gives an affirming statement of confidence in the individual.

Some people know this method as the C,C,C technique (compliment, criticize, compliment)

The theory behind the sandwich approach is that if you couch your negative implication between two happy thoughts, it will lessen the blow and make the input better tolerated by the person receiving the coaching.

The problem is that this method usually does not work, and it often undermines trust along with the credibility of the leader. Let’s examine why this conventional approach, as most managers use it, is poor advice.

First, recall when the sandwich technique was used on you. Remember how you felt? Chances are you were not fooled by the ruse. You got the message embodied in the central part of the sandwich, the meat, and mentally discounted the two slices of bread.

Why would you do that? After all, there were two positive things being said and only one negative one. The reason is the juxtaposition of the three elements in rapid fire left you feeling the sender was insincere with the first and last element and really only meant the central portion.

A manager might be able to slip the sandwich technique past you at the start of a relationship. At that point, you do not have a pattern to guide your subconscious thought. Later, if the manager has a habit of using the sandwich, you will become so adept that you will actually hear the second and third part of the sandwich coming up before they are even uttered by your manager.

This interesting phenomenon also occurs in e-mail exchanges. Managers often use the sandwich approach in an e-mail. It might sound like this:
“Your review of the financial information this morning was excellent, Mike. The only improvement I can see is to use more charts and fewer tables of figures to keep people from zoning out. Given your strong track record, I am sure you can make this tiny adjustment with ease.”

If you know this boss well, you can anticipate there is going to be a “but” in the middle long before the boss brings it up. The last part is a feeble attempt to prop you up after the real message has been delivered.

If you received this message, chances are you would have internalized the following: “Stop putting everyone to sleep with your boring tables and use colorful charts to show the data.” You would probably miss the compliment at the start because it was incongruent with the second message, and you would certainly discount the drivel at the end of the message because it was insincere.

It is not always wrong to use a balanced set of input, in fact, if done well, it is helpful. If there really is some specific good thing that was done, you can start with that thought.

Make the sincere compliment ring true and try to get some dialog on it rather than immediately shoot a zinger at the individual.

Then you can bring the conversation to the corrective side carefully. By sharing an idea for improvement, you can give a balanced view that will not seem manipulative or insincere.

Try to avoid the final “pep talk” unless there is something specific that you really want to stress. If that is the case, then it belongs upfront anyway.
Examine your own communication with people, especially subordinates, to reduce the tendency to use the sandwich approach mechanically, particularly if you have to stretch to find the nice things to say.

You may find it hard to detect the sandwich in your spoken coaching, but it will be easier to spot in your written work. The habit is particularly common when writing performance reviews or when trying to encourage changes in behavior.

The sad thing for the boss is that he or she was actually taught that the sandwich technique is normally a good thing to do. That makes it easy to fall into a pattern of doing it subconsciously and not realize that it is actually lowering your own credibility, unless it is used very carefully, because you come across as insincere.

How can you reduce the tendency to use the sandwich approach if you already have the habit?

The first antidote is to become aware when you use it. That means you need to be especially alert when giving verbal input. It also means proofreading notes where you are rating people or trying to change behavior.

When you see the sandwich being used, change it. Give the request for modified behavior with no preamble or postscript in the same breath. Just frame up the information in as kind a way as you can, but be sincere in your words.

Do share a balance of positive and negative things as they apply, but do it naturally, not in a forced, 1,2,3 pattern.

A second way to stop using the technique is to teach others to stop using it. The best way to learn anything is to teach it to others. As you help others see their bad habit, it will remind you that it sometimes shows up in your own communication.

If you can reduce your tendency to use the sandwich approach by 50-80%, you will become a more polished and effective leader.

The third way to prevent this problem is to encourage the teachers of “Management 101” to stop suggesting this technique in the first place. It is not an effective method of changing behavior.

Instead teach leaders to give both positive and corrective feedback in a natural way and only include sincere and specific praise, never force something to butter up the other person.

People have a keen ability to sniff out insincere praise, especially if it is just after being corrected for doing something wrong.

Robert Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust


Body Language 59 Okay???

December 21, 2019

Not all gestures are universal. Some of them have vastly different meanings in different cultures. Meanings can change over time and with political agendas.

In a multicultural world, it is increasingly difficult to know when it is wise to use a particular gesture. The gesture here is a good case in point.

The body language signal depicted in the photo is a very common gesture. In Western society, we know the meaning to be Okay. It is a sign of approval or one of general wellness. We see it all the time, and we use it often.

It was a sign that everything is fine and there was no need to worry. However, you need to be very careful when using the gesture in a crowd where you don’t know everybody.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the sign has recently (2017) been used as a symbol of white supremacy. The three fingers pointing out form the letter “W,” which stands for “White,” and the circle formed by the index finger and thumb signifies “Power.” Thus, for some people, the gesture has taken on the connotation of hate. It was originally the result of a hoax, but for some people the meaning continues as one of white supremacy, especially when used with furrowed eyebrows as in the attached photo.

Still, in the majority of cases in the USA, the gesture is intended to be affirming and serves to put people at ease, but it would not do that in several other cultures. Beware, the symbolic “O” actually has a long history, and it can mean very different things.

To arrive at an accurate reading, you also need to take the other body language cues, like facial expression into account and factor in the context in which the gesture is given.

I looked the gesture up on Wikipedia, and after many paragraphs explaining the different meanings, nearly 100 references were identified. You could spend years just reading up on the complex meanings of this one gesture.

This article identifies a few of the different meanings, and I leave it to you to look up the history and some of the more subtle meanings if you are interested.

For example, in Japan, the gesture is intended to mimic a person holding a coin, so the translation is a statement of wealth. For many people in Japan, the sign literally means “money.” Imagine how confused you would be if you asked another person how he was feeling and he responded “money.”

In France, the gesture is taken to mean “nothing.” It comes from the formation of the digit zero with the forefinger and thumb.

In Greece or Turkey, you really need to be careful using this gesture because it takes on a vulgar meaning, as the symbol is used to mimic the human anus. The gesture is often used to indicate homosexuality or sodomy. If you were in a rough bar in Greece, it would be wise to avoid this signal because it could lead to a fist fight.

Likewise, in Brazil, the gesture has a vulgar meaning equivalent to giving the other person the middle finger.

In many Arab countries, the gesture is intended to mean giving a person the “evil eye.” It is intended to be a type of curse. It is the same connotation as a verbal put down, like “damn you.”

In the Hindu and Buddhist religions, the symbol has a completely different meaning, mudra or vitarka mudra, which is recognized as a symbol of inner perfection.

Since the gesture is made by manipulating the hands, there are parallel meanings in sign language. Fer example, if the thumb and finger are tightly closed and moved around quickly, it would mean something very small, like a bee.

If the thumb and forefinger were symbolically placed into a hole formed by the fingers of the other hand, it would mean to vote or elect someone. The connotation is putting a small ballot into the box.

There are many other potential meanings when using the Okay sign. It is a good idea to use the gesture with significant care or completely abstain when interfacing with people you do not know well. Keep an eye out for a confused, shocked, or angry look on the face of the other person. If you see that, then it is time to explain what you wanted to convey verbally.

When speaking in public or dealing with groups of people, it would be wise to refrain from using the Okay sign at all to be on the safe side.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”


Preventing Scope Creep

November 15, 2019

I am relaunching this article I wrote back in 2014 because I have been made aware of a most helpful article from Toptal on the same topic.  Lots of great tips in here. Enjoy

One of the most insidious problems in any kind of project work is scope creep. The impact of scope creep is often a dissatisfied customer or a loss of profit for the vendor or both.

Either way, the situation has caused the result to be less satisfying than what was envisioned.

It is very easy to understand how scope creep happens. No complex project can be fully described in every minute detail before doing the work.

There are always going to be surprises that come up along the way in terms of unexpected delays, schemes that did not work as expected, resources being unavailable, new features requested by the customer, and a host of other changes in the description of the project.

This phenomenon should be understood by both parties ahead of time and not come as a surprise.

There is no 100% guarantee that any project is going to be completed without some change in scope. The trick to manage scope creep effectively is to recognize when a change is being suggested.

It is very easy to accommodate small or subtle changes in the specification for the project, and yet the sum of many small changes can mean a huge difference in the success of the project.

Make sure all changes to the specification are openly discussed. That will protect you at least partially, because it will notify the customer that a change from the original design has been requested.

You can then renegotiate the price or the delivery time in order to accommodate the change in scope.

If you are the customer, recognize that the vendor was not able to envision 100% of the things that needed to be done to deliver your project. In reality, changes in scope will be happening for both the vendor and the customer on every project.

Life happens, and both parties are going to have to roll with the vicissitudes that are being faced on a daily basis.

Here are 12 tips that can help reduce the stress of scope creep:

1. Ensure there is enough communication with the customer when creating the specifications.

2. Do not go into the project with preconceived notions of what the customer really wants.

3. Make sure specifications are detailed and specific, because any vague deliverables are going to be areas of contention down the road.

4. Factor in the potential for scope creep by building contingencies or safety factors into the bidding process.

5. Keep a ledger of requested changes on both sides. It is not necessary to renegotiate the entire deal for each change, but it is important to have all changes documented.

6. Plan the job in phases with sign off gates at specific milestones. If there is a scope change it can be confined to one phase of the project and not infect the entire effort.

7. Look for win-win solutions to problems. Often a creative solution is available that will delight both the vendor and the customer.

8. Avoid rigidity about the job. Make sure the entire project is constantly moving in the direction of a successful conclusion. If things get significantly off the track, call for a meeting to clarify the issues and brainstorm solutions together.

9. Keep the customer well informed about progress of the project.

10. Express gratitude when the other party is willing to make a concession. Good will is important in every project because life is a series of projects, and a poor reputation can severely hamper future income.

11. Have a formal closing to the project where each party expresses gratitude for a job well done. If there were any specific lessons learned during this job, make sure they are documented so both parties can benefit by them in the future.

12. Plan an appropriate celebration at the end of a challenging project to let people feel good about what they have done and reduce the pressure.

The best defense for stress caused by scope creep is to bring all changes out in the open. Changes can occur on either side of the equation, but they need to be made visible and the impact on the total delivery whether it be the specification or the time or cost to make it happen need to be understood along the way.

The key objective is to avoid disappointing surprises that result from lack of communication between various stakeholders throughout the process.


Thanks and “Hats Off” to The Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce

October 16, 2019

Over the past 20 years, my business has been helped constantly by the collective efforts of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.

The entire staff of GRCC is highly professional and has an attitude that makes me feel a part of a winning team.  They have provided so many opportunities to enhance my business that it is hard do describe them succinctly.

The networking opportunities come by on a weekly basis through special events and the linking of people on the LinkedIn Group.  There have been many supportive comments to articles I post here on a regular basis.

The Chamber has supported a course that I have developed over the past couple decades entitled “Leadership for Managers.” That vehicle has reached close to 1000 leaders that work in our community and helped them create better cultures in their own environments. The Chamber helps me promote and conduct these courses three times every year.

The Chamber has afforded me the opportunity to speak in various forums connected with community activities and HR Groups. Those opportunities have led to many consulting activities with over 100 companies in our area.

I consider the family at GRCC as a part of how I connect with the rest of the business community here in Rochester, and my ability to provide some positive influence is greatly enhanced by my membership and participation in the activities of GRCC.

Thank you to Bob Duffy and the entire staff at the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce for being a vital partner and ally in my business pursuits.


Six Tips for Improving Electronic Communications

February 27, 2019

Last week I discussed interpreting electronic body language. Decoding electronic body language well is the mirror image of being sensitive to the messages we write. Let’s look at some important, but often overlooked, principles of clear electronic communication. Here are six key principles to consider:

1. Different from verbal communications

Everyone knows that e-mail and texting are different from conversations, but often people don’t change their communication patterns accordingly.

For example, people cannot modify content of a message based on the real-time visible reaction of the other party as in face-to-face conversations. Instead, all information is presented at once without feedback.

Misunderstandings or hurt feelings are common. No matter how sensitive you try to be, the reader may interpret your comments as being insensitive.

2. Electronic documents are permanent documents

Once the “send” button is pushed, you can’t take it back, and you normally lose all control over who views your words. The permanent nature of notes is often forgotten in everyday interactions, but the implications are serious.

Consider the difference between verbal praise and praise via email. When praise is given vocally, the impact is reduced over time as people tend to forget. When praise is given via email, the recipient is likely to read it many times and even print it out to show others at home. The benefit is amplified.

Unfortunately, the more lasting impact also occurs on the negative side. A verbal reprimand is an unhappy event for anyone, but time often mitigates the pain. A reprimand in a text or email tends to endure and even feel worse with time. It will be read many times, and may be forwarded to others.

3. Understand the objective

Before you write a note, consider what are you trying to accomplish. Make sure when you proofread a note that it will achieve your goal.

Most people who annoy or anger others in notes don’t have that intention. You can eliminate problems if you clarify your objective.

4. Less is more in electronic communication

Short notes are more likely to be read and understood. A note must be opened, read, and internalized by the reader to have any value.

People who write long, detailed, and technically perfect notes are frequently ignored by others due to the volume of information. Have they communicated or just annoyed?

5. Set the tone

Your tone is established in the first sentence, or in the case of an email in the subject line. A poor start means the reader is likely to reject much of the content or become defensive. Notes that start with the right tone are more effective.

6. Write when you are yourself

Avoid sending messages that are written when you are angry or not yourself. At these times, you are not the person you want to portray to the world.

These points seem obvious, but they are often ignored. With the proper mindset and attention to detail, you can easily make major improvements to your electronic communications.

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 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