Reducing Conflict 38 Prevent Social Loafing

April 24, 2022

“Social loafing” is a name given to the phenomenon where one or more people fail to pull their fair share of the load.

We see evidence of it in every aspect of our lives from family slackers who leave messes for others to clean up, to sports teams where some players like to skip practice, to hospitals where some staff work at their own pace even when most people are maxed out.

Reason for Team Stress

In a work setting, social loafing is one of the biggest reasons for team stress. I contend it is a rare team that does not experience some form of social loafing, and it creates ill will among the group every time.

 Some people will have issues that prevent them from contributing as much as others.  The issues may be legitimate, like a death in the family, or a chronic health condition, or it may be that the person is just lazy.  Since the load is never completely equal, those who pull more than their fair share become resentful of those who get equal credit but fail to do equal work.

Example from Education Setting

I do a lot of teaching in the online environment. Students have individual assignments and team assignments (usually papers to write) where several remote individuals must do a lot of work on a project.

Students come into the team environment with good intentions assuming all students will do their fair share of the work, but inevitably one or two people will fall behind the pace and hold the team back. 

This condition results in the other members having to scramble to get the paper finished at the last minute because one student did not do his assigned part.  That infuriates the other students, because their grades on the team paper may be lower than expected. 

In every single team, there is this same problem to some degree. Occasionally it is hard to detect due to a particular set of individuals, but even there I see signs of stress when one student procrastinates a bit and leaves the others waiting and wondering.

The cure is so simple. If we spell out a strategy and agreement for working together including a penalty for goofing off specifically at the start, then the stress goes away and performance improves.

Suppose the team agrees that all team members will submit their draft of the paper three days before it is due, to allow time for editing and clean up.  Now comes the critical element. 

The team agrees that if one member does not comply with the agreed timing, his name will not be on the team paper, and he will receive no points for the assignment. That is a very stiff penalty because it will immediately lower the final grade for a course for that student by one letter grade. 

By agreeing on a specific consequence at the start of the course (when everyone has good intentions) then the social loafing rarely occurs. Reason: The would-be slacker has already agreed to accept the dreaded consequence, so there is no doubt about what will happen to him if he fails to meet expectations. 

If he tests the system and finds he got no points for the assignment, he cannot cry foul. He already signed off on the consequence.  The result is that he never does it again.

Teams in Different Settings

The most common place to observe social loafing is in a team setting at work. If some members of the team are not pulling their fair share of the load, there is going to be conflict. In this instance, having an agreed-upon penalty can drastically cut down on the frequency of the problem occurring.

This theory is more difficult to employ if the team is all volunteers.  In these groups, people are stepping up to volunteer their time and talent for a cause. Coming up with a penalty for social loafing in these groups is tricky because if there is conflict, the volunteer can just drop out. In this situation, perhaps the upfront agreement might include having the volunteer find a back-up for when other life priorities make it impossible to carry the load.   

There is a cure

The trick is to create an agreement at the start that everyone will pull his or her share of the load. People usually buy into the concept at the start of a team: after all, fair is fair.  It is only after the team gets going that life happens and the slackers surface.  Good intentions at the start of an activity are necessary but not sufficient to prevent social loafing.

Conclusion

Having a specific penalty associated with failure to perform up to good intentions is an effective way to prevent social loafing or deal with it when it happens.  Try it in your group and see how this simple step is like a miracle for better teamwork.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind


Building Higher Trust 68 Restoring Lost Trust

April 22, 2022

Trust between individuals is bilateral. At any point in time, we have a balance of trust with every person whom we know. Trust is also directional; I trust you at some level and you trust me as well, but not at the exact same level.

In all our daily transactions with others, the trust fluctuates based on what happens: what we say, our tone of voice, body language, texts, and even what other people are saying.  It is a very complex and dynamic system. 

I believe that if the trust in one direction is very different from the reciprocal trust for a long period of time, that relationship will not endure unless forced to endure, or unless something happens to resolve the disparity. 

At work, we have a trust level with each person based on everything that has happened thus far in the relationship. Rebuilding trust is a situational thing, and not every situation calls for the formality offered below.

Nine tips to rebuild lost trust

  1. Act Swiftly

Major trust withdrawals can be devastating, and you need to address the situation immediately. Just as a severe bodily injury requires immediate emergency care, so does the bleeding of emotional capital need repair after a major letdown.

  1. Verify care

Both people should spend some time remembering what the relationship felt like before the problem. In most cases, there is a true caring for the other person, even if the hurt and anger of the moment seem unbearable. 

  1. Establish a desire to do something about it

If reparations are going to happen, both people must cooperate. If there was high value in the relationship before the breach, then it should be possible to visualize a return to the same level or higher level of trust. 

  1. Admit fault and accept blame

The person who made the breach needs to admit what happened to the other person. If there is total denial of what occurred, then no progress will occur.  Try to do this without trying to justify the action.  Focus on what happened, even if it was an innocent gaffe.

  1. Ask for forgiveness

It sounds so simple, but many people find it impossible to verbalize the request for forgiveness, yet a pardon is exactly what has to happen to enable the healing process. The problem is that saying “I forgive you” is easy to say but might be hard to do when emotions are raw.

  1. Determine the cause

This is a kind of investigative phase where it is important to know what happened in order to make progress. It is a challenge to remain calm and be as objective with the facts as possible. Normally the main emotion is one of pain, but anger or stress can accompany the pain. 

Both people need to describe what happened because the view from one side will be significantly different from the opposite view. Go beyond describing what happened, and discuss how you felt about what happened.

  1. Develop a positive path forward

The thing to ask in this phase is “what needs to happen to restore your trust in me to at least the level where it was before?”. Here, some creativity can really help.

  1. Agree to take action

There needs to be a formal agreement to take corrective action. Usually, this agreement requires modified behaviors on the part of both people. Be as specific as possible about what you and the other person are going to do differently. The only way to verify progress is to have a clear understanding of what will be different. 

  1. Check back on progress

Keep verifying that the new behaviors are working and modify them, if needed, to make positive steps every day. As the progress continues, it will start getting easier, and the momentum will increase. 

Conclusion

Modify the process to fit your particular application and do not follow a plan blindly. If a step seems like overkill or is just not practical, then you can skip it, but for serious breaches, the majority of steps will help.

In many cases, it is possible to restore trust to a higher level than existed before the breach. This method is highly dependent on the sincerity with which each person really does want the benefits of a high trust relationship with the other person.

 

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 142 Antidote for Executive Stress

April 19, 2022

If you are in an executive position, chances are you live in a very high stress world. Conditions and events in the world over the past few years have led to a much higher level of complexity and risk in everything we do.

Just trying to manage a business in a hybrid world creates a steady stream of conundrums. It seems there is no way of avoiding the incredible pressure executives face daily.

What if there was a way you could get out from under the immense pressure and have the ability to relax, even though the challenges at work often seem insurmountable?  Would that be helpful? I truly believe there is a pathway to this kind of existence. It is right under your nose.

Unfortunately, most executives do not see the wisdom or power in the method I am about to explain, so they go on with the same struggle, day after day, rarely gaining on the very problems that are making them sick.

The Antidote

The antidote is to carve out time to work with your organization to create an improved culture. This suggestion sounds impossible to most CEOs I interview, because they are  fully consumed just trying to survive.

How could they possibly create enough slack time in the schedule to actually work on the culture? This attitude means these executives are literally stuck in the rut they hate with no viable way out.

I call this phenomenon the “Executive Whack-a-mole Syndrome.”  When top executives spend 100% of their time dealing with crises and problems, there is no time left to develop a culture of higher trust where there are fewer problems to solve.

Investing in the culture means spending time with people learning how to work better as a team. It means documenting your behaviors or how you intend to treat each other so it becomes possible to hold each other accountable. It means learning to listen more often and more effectively, so the communication problems are reduced.

Learning to Trust

Also, it means learning to trust each other, so more delegation is possible and the micromanagement is not necessary. The perceived need to micromanage creates a significant percentage of executive stress.

Improving the culture means having the executive be more willing to be transparent and admit mistakes.  This practice makes him or her more of a human being: subject to being fallible, but willing to be vulnerable and human.

This behavior enables stronger rather than weaker leadership. It also leads to an environment that is more relaxed and healthy.  In this culture, the problems are reduced and replaced with sanity and the joy of achieving great goals together. If you know an executive who is playing the Executive Whack-a-mole Game, print this article out and leave it someplace where it will be read.

If you are an executive who has nearly reached the limit of endurance, you might want to try investing in the culture. You will find it to have a much higher ROI than any other activity you can envision. It could even save your life!

 

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.  .

 


Reducing Conflict 37 Micromanagement or Harassment

April 17, 2022

Two words that get used a lot these days are micromanagement and harassment. The two concepts come from different sources, but they converge in the extreme case.  This article dissects the two concepts and provides some guidance for managers who, despite their good intentions, often end up causing problems.

What is Harassment

Harassment is the abusive behavior toward another person that has its roots in a desire to annoy or hurt the other individual in some way. The practice is normally intentional, although it is possible for a person to harass other people without being aware it is happening.

Except in the rare extreme cases, the manifestation of harassment exists first in the opinion of the person who is being harassed.  If I will not let you get to me no matter what you do, then you are not going to be successful at harassing me.

In fact, I may get a perverse pleasure out of thwarting your attempts to bother me: a kind of reverse harassment.  On the other hand, you may be such a sensitive individual that the mere thought of any person walking into the room sends you into a flight of panic: a kind of self-harassment called paranoia.

The Impact of Harassment

We are all aware of the destructive nature of harassment that evokes anything from mild discomfort all the way to suicide.  The distress is amplified if the person being harassed believes he or she cannot escape and has to endure continual suffering. 

The Origins of Micromanagement

Micromanagement doesn’t stem from sinister motives. To the contrary, it is normally the desire of a manager, or person in charge of getting things done, who wants things to go well but is misguided in the best way to accomplish the task. It reminds me of my favorite Star Trek Quote when Mr. Spock says, “It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want.” 

The micromanager is not trying to annoy the victim (usually) but only trying to get things done according to his or her definition of how to accomplish the objective. In the process, of course, the victim has to endure the constant meddling that feels very much like harassment.

The Antidote to Micromanagement

We are all aware of the antidote for micromanagement, which is for the manager to set the objective and some broad guidelines and then back off to let the individual figure out the details on how to get the job done.  Unfortunately, a little concept called “trust” is missing, so the manager does not believe the individual is capable of getting the job done without constant supervision. It is the lack of trust that is the root cause of most micromanagement. 

We deal with the manifestations of micromanagement to some degree in most work settings. It is only the most extreme high trust environments where managers are willing to actually stand by and let subordinates do things wrong in order to learn what does not work.

Where Micromanagement is Beneficial

Managers would rather intervene and at least suggest that holding the soldering iron by the pointed end might not be the best method.  I use that extreme case because the motive of the manager in this case is to prevent the employee from doing bodily harm. What could be more noble than that?  Often what feels like micromanagement to the employee is for the benefit of the employee.

The grey area between good intentions and oppressive hovering is playing out in the workplace every hour of every day.  Managers find their own equilibrium, and employees either complain (or not) behind the break room doors. 

When Micromanagement becomes Harassment

The extreme case, where managers tell people how to do their work for the sport of always getting it done their way, crosses the line into harassment.  Even if the conscious objective is to get the job done right, the spirit with which the manager directs every movement is debilitating.

To break the cycle of micromanagement and/or harassment, the manager needs to recognize that there is a better way to get results. If he or she continues to believe the muscle approach is the best way to get compliance, then grudging compliance is what will happen.

The problem is that in today’s competitive environment, mere compliance is a formula for extinction. Any organization needs full engagement of the people in it to survive long term.

The first step is some education on how numerous organizations are reaping the benefits of full engagement. Once that point is made it is necessary to have the obstinate manager take a good long look in the mirror. 

The Benefits of an Improved Culture

Numerous studies have shown that the benefit of an improved culture is higher engagement and productivity. As a consultant, I would ask the micromanager if he or she would enjoy seeing something like a 100% improvement in productivity.  It is quite possible, but only once the manager recognizes the real enemy of better performance is the one staring back in the mirror. If a leader does not desire a vast improvement in performance, then there is not likely to be a cure for the micromanagement.

Aim for higher Trust

The antidote for micromanagement is to create a culture of higher trust.  In this environment, the manager would be less likely to be overly directive. Also, in a culture of high trust, if the manager is pushing too much the employee would feel encouraged to politely ask that person to back off and give a little breathing room. 

There is no harassing behavior on either side, and the job gets done efficiently and correctly. Everybody wins, and nobody gets hurt. It all depends on the level of trust the leader is capable of creating in the organization. The word create is the key concept here, because trust does not happen unless leaders enable it with their behaviors (and even words).  

 

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind


Building Higher Trust 67 Trust and Inspire

April 14, 2022

On April 5, Stephen M.R. Covey released his third book entitled “Trust and Inspire.” I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of the book, and I really enjoyed it. The book is rich with examples to illustrate Stephen’s main point.

Main Premise

The conventional working world has been operating under a “Command and Control” mentality for many decades. This method of leading worked well to obtain compliance in simpler times. Unfortunately, mere compliance is not enough to survive in the current world. Today it is necessary to unleash the greatness in people at all levels that remain dormant under Command and Control.

Enlightened Command and Control

Many leaders have shifted to what Stephen calls “Enlightened Command and Control.” This style of leadership (informed acquiescence) attempts to gain greater engagement by doing more cheerleading.  It is only partially successful in today’s environment because it does not liberate the greatness in people.

Much more Effective Style

Stephen makes a strong case that a better way to lead in the current climate is to “Trust and Inspire.” This style of leadership allows the seeds of greatness that are already in the vast majority of workers to blossom.  The seeds were there all along. Unfortunately, the Command and Control mentality just did not provide the nurturing force to allow full bloom.

Comparisons

Throughout the book, Stephen illustrates the difference between Command and Control and Trust and Inspire by providing paired comparisons.

The Impact of This Book

I believe this book will be one of the top leadership books of this decade. It logically lays out a pathway to better performance.

Stephen shares scores of examples to illustrate the power of this new leadership style. Pick up a copy of this book and read it – twice.

Put the wisdom of “Trust and Inspire” in your leadership practice. I promise you it will be many times more effective.  Order “Trust and Inspire” now.

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 141 Continuous Improvement

April 13, 2022

To understand the value of continuous improvement, you simply need to verify that you are always going in the right direction. I like the following quote by Lao Tzu, “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” 

Many groups get stuck trying to anticipate all of the twists and turns that are possible. They end up spending inordinate amounts of time ruling out things that are not going to happen in reality.

Pay Attention to Where You Are Going

As I reflect on the issue of change and continuous improvement, I have an additional insight that may be helpful. We do not need to worry about the myriad of decisions required to get where we are going.  Rather, all we need to do is verify we are heading in the right direction. That will free us from over-planning and allow our creativity to determine the exact pathway to our future. 

The wonderful thing about a vision is that it pulls us along from one revelation to the next one. We simply need to remain true to the vision and verify that each decision points in the right direction. The rest of the journey will take care of itself. 

What’s Important Now

Lou Holtz uses the word WIN, which stands for “What’s Important Now.” It allows him to focus on the vision and do the right thing at every step to take him in that direction.  He does not worry or hope or fret about all the details, he simply asks if what we are doing right now is consistent with the vision. If it is, then the step is correct.

Continuous improvement is the same way. We do not need to psychoanalyze all possible avenues ahead of time. We can take actions immediately as long as we are pointed in the direction we wish to go, and we will eventually achieve our goals. 

Avoid Analysis Paralysis

Some people will say, “Yes, but what if there is a better choice, then you might miss the opportunity to do that.” People who continually say “Yes, but…” can find themselves searching for the ultimate perfect path and die from analysis paralysis or starvation. It is far better to step out on the right path and keep moving toward the goal than spend years searching for the perfect route.

Example from Brian Tracy

In his video, “Success is a Journey,” the great Brian Tracy recalls how, as a young man, he traveled from Vancouver all the way to South Africa with some friends. It took them over a year to do it.  The most harrowing part of the journey was when he crossed the Sahara Desert in Africa.  For one 500 mile stretch called the Tanezrouft, the path was marked by oil barrels every 5 kilometers. It turns out that that is exactly the curvature of the Earth, so at any time he could see exactly two oil barrels: the one he just passed and the one directly in front of him. 

As soon as he would pass one oil barrel, the one behind him would disappear and a new one would pop up on the horizon in front of him.  The way he crossed the most dangerous desert on the planet was by taking it one oil barrel at a time. 

Conclusion

It is the same with reaching any difficult goal. You can do it by simply making sure you are heading in the right direction and taking it one oil barrel at a time. I believe that is a good way to visualize continuous improvement and a great model for achieving your goals in life.

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.  .

 


Reducing Conflict 36 Changing Attitudes

April 11, 2022

We have all heard the sayings about attitude. I am sure that every parent of every child has uttered the phrase “you need to change your attitude” numerous times.  

From the pulpit or the schoolroom to the boardroom, and even to the barroom, you can hear things like:

  • What governs your happiness in life is not what happens to you, but how you react to what happens to you.
  • You must approach people with an attitude of gratitude.
  • The most important word that governs your success in life is attitude.
  • To change your life for the better, change your attitude about life.
  • A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.
  • Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.
  • If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.

Beyond the Catchy Phrases

After a while, these platitudes lose their meaning due to oversaturation. For this article, I wanted to dig beyond the catchy phrases and get back to what attitude really is and how we all can do a better job of controlling our own and coaching others to improve theirs.

When circumstances or other forces prevent us from experiencing life in a way that makes the most sense to us, we often turn sour and develop what is known as a bad attitude.  This becomes manifest in numerous familiar ways from pouting, to doubting, to shouting, and even to clouting.

The Secret to a Better Attitude

Is there a universal secret that can help people keep a more positive attitude most of the time?  Let me share two extremes. I know a woman who wears a pin with ruby slippers on it. She is like a ray of sunshine who is on a constant crusade to spread as much cheer as she can with everyone. 

Does she ever have a bad day? I’ll bet she does, but I have never seen her really down.  She lives in a very nice world, even when some people are not very nice to her. 

I ran into another woman in a hair salon this past week. I went into a strange place because I had some time to kill. The woman spoke in a constant stream of babble. She literally could not stop talking at all. Every phrase she uttered was negative. For her, the world is the pits, and she endures a steady stream of evil. I marvel over these two extremes. Ask yourself seriously, where on the scale between these two extremes do you reside most of the time?

Not Talking About Severe Psychological Problems

I need to make a distinction here between the majority of people who have some control over their thoughts and the few people who have deep psychological problems based on disease or prior traumas. There are people who feel they must lash back at the world because of what they have endured. 

Perhaps it was some kind of physical or mental abuse when they were a child. Perhaps there was a total betrayal by a trusted loved one.  For these people, trying to alter their mental state by thinking positive thoughts might further repress some gremlins that need to come out with professional help.

For the majority of folks, even though we have some issues to resolve, learning to have a more positive attitude could be a major step forward in terms of leading a happier life. 

We Have the Power to Choose

The greatest power God gave us is the power to choose.  I learned that from Lou Holtz 25 years ago in a video entitled Do Right.  What Lou meant is that the choice is ours where we exist on the scale of attitude. 

Why do so many people choose to dwell on the negative side of life? Is it because they enjoy being miserable?  I think not. I believe if a person realizes there is a more enjoyable place to dwell, he or she will do the inner work necessary to gravitate toward it.

The reason many people live in misery is because they simply do not know (or fail to remember) that they have the power to change their condition. It is there all the time if they will only recognize and use the power.  In the song “Already Gone” by The Eagles, is a profound lyric: “So often times it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key.”

If you push the concept to the extreme, it can be comical.  I am reminded of the final scene in the movie The Life of Brian where a couple dozen men are tied to crosses as they are being crucified.  They started whistling and singing a cheerful song, “Always look on the bright side of life.”

What trick of the mind can we use to remember the power we have over our thoughts?  It is simple. We need to deal with root issues and then train our brains to think in a different pattern.

Habitual thought patterns can be changed simply by replacing bad thoughts with good ones consistently for about a month. That is long enough to reprogram our brain to overcome a lifetime of negative attitudes and thoughts. There is a simple process that is guaranteed to work if we will remember to use it consistently.

Process to Change Your Attitude

Step 1 – Catch yourself having a negative thought. This is the part where most people fail. They simply do not recognize they are having negative thoughts, so no correction is possible.  Through the power of this article, you now have the gift (if you chose to use it) of catching the negative thought next time you have one. Use that power!

Step 2 – Replace the negative thought with a positive one.  Mechanically reject the negative thought and figure out a way to turn it to an advantage. Napoleon Hill had a great technique for doing this. He posited that every bad situation contained the seed of an equivalent benefit.  When something negative happened, rather than lamenting, he would fix his energy on finding the seed of the equivalent benefit. With practice, it is possible to do this nearly all of the time, as long as you are not being crucified.

Step 3 – You must praise yourself for rejecting the bad thought and replacing it with a good one.  Why?  Because the road to changing a lifetime of negativity is long and hard. You need encouragement along the way to recognize that you are literally reinventing your entire self through the power of your mind.

One might think this is impossible objectively, but you are accomplishing it. I read a joke that it is great to be a youth because you do not have the experience to know that it is physically impossible to do what you are doing.

Every time you praise yourself for taking the initiative to change your attitude, you make the next life-changing attitude adjustment easier to make.  Thus, you can begin to form a habit of changing the way you think. Presto, a month later the world will see a new and much more positive you.

The good news is that this three-step process takes no time out of your busy day. It costs absolutely nothing to do it. Nobody even needs to know you are doing it, and yet it can literally transform the only thing in life that really counts: the quality of your life.

Conclusion

The amazing thing about this technique is that you can teach it to others rather easily. The idea is so simple it can be understood in a five-minute discussion, yet the benefits are so powerful it can make a huge difference in the life of the other person.  I recommend you try this method of self-improvement for a month and experience the benefits.  Once you do, then help some people who are miserable to improve their lot in life by applying this process.

 

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind


Building Higher Trust 66 Top Down or Bottom Up

April 8, 2022

In an organization, trust is normally generated from the top down rather than the bottom up. Sure, it is important for employees as well as leaders to be trustworthy, but the culture that allows trust to kindle and flourish is usually created by the leaders of the organization rather than the workers.

Blind Spots

It is astonishing for me to see the blind spots that many leaders have about how pivotal their behaviors are to how trust is manifest in their entire organization. If the top leader or leaders do not act with integrity and consistency, it creates loops of “workaround” activity in all of the other layers.  There gets to be a kind of pseudo-trust where people look the part and act the part on the surface, but it is only skin deep. Under the surface, the ability to hold onto trust is as leaky as a bucket used for target practice.

Psychological Safety

Of all the behaviors leaders display, I think one shines out as being by far the most powerful for sustaining trust, yet simultaneously the most difficult for leaders to master. That is the ability to create an environment free of fear for disclosing one’s opinions about the leader’s actions. In most cultures, people are punished if they express reservations about what the leader is saying or doing. Those cultures continually dampen the ability to sustain real trust, and you get the plastic variety that is evident in many environments.

Reinforcing Candor

In brilliant organizations, leaders encourage and reward sharing of scary stuff. I call this skill “reinforcing candor,” because it means the leader is not only open to criticism but actively seeks it. The few leaders who are able to understand the power of reinforcing candor have an easy time building trust and rebuilding compromised trust.  This trust is genuine and sustainable; it is not the faux-trust that is so common in most organizations.

If the generation and maintenance of trust is mostly a top down affair, the ability to destroy trust is more balanced. It is just as easy for employees to destroy what trust is there as it is for leaders to do it.  Acting in ways that show low integrity is the most common method of harpooning sincere efforts to build more trust. Leaders destroy trust when they are duplicitous and fail to follow through on promises. Employees trash trust when they act without integrity in numerous ways, like stealing from the company or spreading rumors.

Conclusion

The nature of trust is that it is always a relative thing. Trust fluctuates based on the situational context of current actions. One should not always expect to find high trust in any area, even the best ones. There are going to be peaks and valleys, and the smart organizations seek a good average and try to dampen out the spikes, both high and low.  It is possible for most groups to make great strides in the trust level if they simply work to understand it and improve it daily. Leaders should not become discouraged if there is a lapse in trust; rather, they should redouble their efforts to maintain it. 

 

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 140 Challenge Samers

April 6, 2022

I often hear a phrase coming from the lips of hiring managers that makes me cringe. “We want to hire someone who will fit into our group.”  They expend a lot of effort in screening candidates with personality tests, multiple interviews, even role-plays in order to determine that the new hire will be similar in thinking to the existing team. I think this practice is a huge mistake.

Diversity is Better

It is often the maverick or even outcast among a group of people who comes up with ingenious solutions to problems or creates entirely new streams of income. When we seek to have everyone “fit in” we lose the potential for diversity of thought that is a major part of the creative process.

In my leadership team, we had a mixture of line managers from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicity, and gender.  These were in a constant state of flux because all were growing and moving in their careers, creating slots for others.

Often, it was the minority representation that brought the group up short when we were off base.  They would help us realize that we should not trust our gut perspectives.  They would point out when we slipped into a dangerous “group think” or “monoculture” mentality.

Example From Nature

In “The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership,” Steven Sample described it this way:

“A highly homogeneous organization is as susceptible to disease and infestations as a large biological monoculture.  Every farmer knows that when he and his neighbors plant tens of thousands of contiguous acres in a particular variety of wheat year after year, that variety will soon become vulnerable to new diseases or new strains of insects.  Ecosystems that are biologically diverse are much tougher and more resilient in the long run than monocultures, and so it is with organizations that contain a wide variety of people working toward a common goal.”

It was important to have a variety of people on the team and critical to listen when they pointed out our naiveté. It kept us growing and searching for a greater appreciation of diversity.  Although no group ever fully understands the issue, at least if we embrace diversity, we can be a little less blind.

Obviously, it is a good idea to avoid putting a person on the team who is a total misfit, is disruptive, or always brings up a contrary point of view creating dissent.  Instead, try to foster a mixture of ideas and points of view by following the actions:

Ways to Avoid the Problem

  1. If you use personality tests to screen candidates, seek to place people with different style patterns.
  2. During interviews, try to determine the level of independent thinking while also determining the candidate’s propensity for working well in teams.
  3. When asking about prior experiences and background, put a high value on skills that will add new dimensions to the existing team rather than map closely with existing team skills.
  4. Do not look for clones in terms of demographic and ethnic characteristics. Always seek to increase the variety of the team where possible.
  5. Seek to make strategic moves of people from one team to another that will add diversity of thought to both groups.
  6. Continually reinforce the idea that we can gain our greatest strength from diversity.

Conclusion

Building a strong team means not going the comfortable route where we hire and place people just like us.  That is a formula for mediocrity. Having diversity of thought is a major advantage for any organization.

 

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..

 


Reducing Conflict 35 Group Punishment

April 3, 2022

If you have siblings, you remember the drill very well. Your mother comes in and says, “Who knocked over the lamp in the living room?”  Of course, nobody knows.  She looks around at the children, and each of them is playing dumb.  Since she cannot determine whom to blame, she announces the punishment, “then none of you will get dessert for the rest of the week.” 

Group Punishment is Common

Group punishments for the sins of a single individual are more common than we think. It happens in the military on a daily basis.  If nobody owns up to a misdeed, the entire platoon is penalized with the same punishment as the single guilty soldier would have received.

The logic is that one person really is guilty, and the remaining people are guilty of covering up for him, so everyone suffers equally. The leverage is that it puts peer pressure on the guilty person to ‘fess up. In some cases, the ploy works, but in others the group solidarity is strong. In the end, the group will find other ways to punish the guilty individual that are not always obvious.

Governmental Group Punishment

In our society, government has a similar tendency to punish the masses for the sins of the few.  It has led to numerous infringements on privacy, like red-light cameras, the TSA ordeal we all undergo when trying to get on a plane, gun control, and countless other well-meaning laws and policies that are meant to save the many from the excesses of the few.

Here is another example of the government punishing everyone for the sins of a few.  Every publicly-owned company must spend large sums of time and money for financial record keeping, audit software, and personnel in order to comply with the Sarbanes Oxley Act. This extra cost is a direct result of some high-profile unethical corporate abuses by a few corporations a couple decades ago. All publicly-owned companies suffer for the prior sins of a few defective organizations and their leaders.  This suffering is a lot more than meets the eye, because organizations outside the USA are not saddled with a Sarbanes Oxley Act, and have a competitive cost advantage.

Organizations Use the Same Logic

You can see the same pattern in organizations. The boss notices that an individual is leaving work early a couple times a week, so he issues a reminder of hours of work for the whole organization. This leads one cynical employee to blow a bugle at quitting time to let people know when it is time to go home. 

When trust is broken, it is natural to want to fix the problem, but we need to ask what price we pay when so many aspects of daily life are regimented and good people are forced to pay for the actions of others. Does it make people want to be less accountable for their own actions? Does it demotivate them by stifling creative instincts? Does it discourage them from taking risks? Is it fair?

Conclusion

I think of what the world would be like if we did not have a tendency to punish the many for the actions of a few. What would happen if we encouraged personal responsibility and building trust and transparency by reinforcing candor? It would be a different world for sure.

When you ask your children who broke the lamp in the other room, one of them would say, “I did, Mommy, and I am sorry.”  It would be a kinder, gentler world with far fewer dumb rules we have to follow because a few unscrupulous people cannot be trusted to do the right things.

 

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.