Successful Supervisor 95 Communicating Effectively With Your Employees

September 29, 2018

A major role for all supervisors is to be a conduit of information for their groups. The task of keeping all workers on the same page during constantly evolving conditions is a daunting task. In this article I will share some tips that should prove helpful to keep communications flowing efficiently.

Beware of relying too much on email

I know many supervisors who believe they have communicated information well to their groups once they have sent out an email. They forget that communication has not happened unless everyone in the group has opened, read, and internalized the message correctly. A complex technically-correct email may be opened by most people, but the meaning may go over their heads as they only have time to scan the message for key points or read only the first sentence.

It is important to have a track record of very brief emails that people will not dread opening. Summarizing key points in bullet form at the end of the note may help. I think another helper is to make the text reader friendly. Try to have the signature block appear at the bottom of the first page, so when workers open the note they can see they are looking at the whole message in one glance.

Use multiple exposures to critical data

The 2011 Edelman Trust barometer noted that for people to believe information about the group, they need to have it communicated to them 3-5 times using different modes of communication. If you have a monthly “Town Hall” meeting, that counts as one form of communication, but you will need to present the same information at least two more times before most people are likely to absorb and remember it.

You may have a bulletin Board where you can put up a poster. You might supplement other forms of communications with a voice mail or email summary of the key points. The idea is to not rely on a single point of communication to be sufficient for important information.

Recognize that some people will hear only what they think you were going to say

I found it fascinating when I would circle back after a public meeting to find out what people heard. A significant percentage heard the opposite of what I said because that was their preconceived notion of what I was going to say.

Take the time to verify what people have internalized

To communicate well, make sure you go through a verification step after a major speech or meeting. If only a small percentage of the information was internalized, then you have not communicated well.

Learn to listen better

I have discussed this aspect of communication before in this series. Learn the technique of “reflective listening” and use it whenever you are approached by a person in a highly emotional state. I use the image of putting on my listening hat in these circumstances to remind me to listen with more intensity.

Use stories to embellish your points

People can relate better to information if it is presented along with analogies, stories, or humorous anecdotes. If you just ramble on with dry content and no spice to break up the ideas, people will tune out and look like they are listening when in reality they are checked out thinking about tonight’s dinner menu.

Don’t hypnotize people with too many PowerPoint Slides

Learn to keep PowerPoint presentations short and interesting. The rule is to have no more than seven short points on a slide and to have a pictorial image that relates to the content on each slide. Each bullet should be 7 words or less. Having too much information and no image on a slide will allow people to check out mentally.

Share the stage

Let other people do part of the speaking by artfully designing your content so you can invite other people to present some of it. Also, make your presentations conversational in nature so people will feel free to inject thoughts of their own. In this way you keep the audience engaged in the conversation.

Watch your body language

Recognize that people are constantly reading meaning by looking at how you hold yourself when communicating. They will pick up (at least subconsciously) any hint of duplicity where your words are indicating one point while your body language is sending a different meaning. Have someone in the room who is an expert on body language and have that person debrief every important presentation so you become more of an expert yourself. Body language is critical in communication, and many professionals do not have enough experience to recognize how they are coming across.

One of the most important communication aids is to create a culture of high trust, so people will not be afraid to share a counterpoint. In a high trust culture, people know it is safe to raise an issue and that they will not be punished for it.

Being a supervisor is an extremely challenging role. It requires a mastery of all communication techniques. Use the above points while communicating with your group, and you will be among the elite leaders.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 94 Knowing When to Leave

September 23, 2018

One of the most vexing issues facing any supervisor is knowing when she is better off leaving a job rather than trying to soldier on in a miserable situation. Of course, the answer is that it depends a lot on the situation and the specific person involved. In this brief article I will share a few observations I have made over the years that may be helpful to some people.

I am not trying to make the decision for supervisors, but rather offering some food for thought that may help guide the analysis. Here are six things to consider while making your decision.

How miserable are you really, and how consistent is it?

If you literally dread going to work each day because of the situations that routinely face you, that is a sign of needed change. If you have tried to make things better using all of your rational powers and patience but nothing has any impact on the problem, you may find a better existence elsewhere. Be careful, because you could be even worse off.

Is the outlook in another organization any better, or might you be even more miserable if you leave and start with a new organization?

Finding a better fit for you is rarely as easy as it seems ahead of time. That is because it is next to impossible to understand the true situation in an organization from the outside. One thing I would do before quitting to go to another entity is to discuss the culture at length with some people living in that culture and performing the supervisor role there.

Don’t be satisfied if you just hear positive things; probe deeply to understand how the supervisor role is supported by upper management. Keep in mind that finding the right “fit” is a matching process where both the person and the organization need to feel well served. Test to be sure you have an excellent fit and an actual job offer in hand before quitting your current position. Do not quit and then go looking for a new position. Remember, the best time to get a job is when you have a job.

Is the source of the problem above you or below you? Or is it you?

If you are getting no support from above and experiencing daily pressure to gain more control, then you could be working for an ogre, but you need to test carefully if the source of the problem is you rather than the boss. One good way to gain some insight is whether most of the people in the organization feel the same as you do. That is often the case, and it signals you are in a no-win situation if you cannot get the boss to change. However, getting the boss to change is a risky path for sure. My favorite quote on this is: “I learned long ago to never wrestle with a pig. You get all dirty, and besides the pig loves it.” (George Bernard Shaw)

If the problem is below you, and you have good support from above, then you can work with the individuals who are being disruptive and also with HR to address the issues. If the effort to change things is unsuccessful, then progressive counseling and perhaps separation can be a solution.

You also need to do some soul searching to find out what percentage of your problem is your own behaviors. In this aspect, it is very difficult to perceive an objective view of the situation without help. I recommend you get a trusted coach or mentor who can help you see yourself from a different angle. This person may be from inside the organization or from outside. It is important to find someone you trust and who will level with you. In some cases, pairing up with a particularly successful peer might be the way to go.

How well honed are your listening skills?

Listening well is a skill that is hard to master when you are in a pressure cooker every day. It is the one communication skill that most supervisors need to improve. If you are not adept at reflective listening, then get some training on that technique and learn to “put on your listening hat” whenever you are dealing with an emotional subordinate, superior, or peer.

Are you highly skilled at Emotional Intelligence?

Most professionals have heard about Emotional Intelligence and think they know what it is and how to use it. I have found that there are very few people who really understand this skill deeply and are getting the mileage out of applying it daily. My favorite book on building this skill is “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Bradberry and Greaves. This book focuses on a brief review of the theory along with many skill building techniques and a road map on how to gain the skills efficiently.

Take time to be human and learn to not be hard on yourself

Being a supervisor is difficult work. The pressure for performance is always in your lap. People will routinely test your resolve and try to push the envelope of what you will tolerate. Make sure to give yourself some outlets for the tension. Get a couple hobbies that you love and surround yourself with people who love you outside of work. Know your hot buttons and also be aware of the internal stress. Have some way to know when you are reaching your limit for stress so you can get some help.

For example, I monitor my blood pressure in the morning every day and have a plot that goes back about 15 years. I know when the pressure of the world is creeping up on me and I can modify things to build in a break when I need it. Some people have a friend or family member who becomes the signal when it appears stress is getting the better of them. You need something or someone to tip you off when things are untenable.

Don’t quit your job just because you are unhappy. Seek to understand the source of your frustration, and work with a coach to make changes in your own behavior to lower the pressure. Quitting is a last resort, and it may be the solution, but there is a finite chance it could lead to even more stress in your life.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 93 Create Your Own Development Plan

September 15, 2018

If you are an active supervisor, most likely you have discussed a development plan with your manager. A key responsibility of all managers is to document a specific plan to improve the capability of their employees. Included in the plan would be training on things like compliance, ethics, safety, and health, as well as operational concepts like Lean Thinking or Six Sigma.

You need a Personal Development Plan

I recommend that each supervisor also have a plan for personal development that is separate from the corporate plan and contains a different set of concepts. Some possible things to consider might be improving your patience, becoming less judgmental, handling stressful situations, and creating greater team cohesion.

How to develop your Plan

First, identify areas in your own performance where more seasoning would improve your effectiveness. Have a chat with your supervisor to get some additional ideas. There are numerous free resources you can use to develop your plan. There are many YouTube instructional videos on specific skill areas, such as becoming less judgmental. The internet has an infinite supply of articles, and there are many educational periodicals such as “The Harvard Business Review.”

How will having a personal development plan help you?

It is human nature to identify the things that other people need to do to shape up, but it is less easy to see what you must do to improve yourself. Focusing some energy on your own developmental opportunities makes your approach to others more balanced. Having improvement goals helps you focus and be more aware of the direction in which you are moving.

Many supervisors get into a pattern of constantly showing body language that signals the individual workers need to make improvements. That mindset conveniently overlooks the fact that the supervisor needs to improve as well. If you would brainstorm things you need to do in order to be a better manager, it would soften your stance on what other people need to do to be more perfect. Let’s take a specific and classic example to contrast the two modes of operating.

Suppose the supervisor notices that some employees are less respectful of their peers than she would like. One obvious course of action would be to have some team building activities and maybe some reading or videos on treating others respectfully. If that thought pattern dominates her conscious thinking, she may be perceived as being impatient.

If that same supervisor had a personal goal to become less judgmental, then her approach to the workers might be better received. The slight shift to acknowledge that she is not perfect either makes her appear to be more reasonable and helpful. The workers would likely respond positively to the change in body language.

Another approach might be for the supervisor to do some reading or watch some videos on respect to see if she is adequately modeling respect herself. Change starts at the top.

How this process helps your employees and organization

By showing the humility to invest in your own growth, your employees can see a person who has no illusion of being perfect. This attitude will make you more of a human being, and your increasing skills will make both your employees and your organization more effective in the long run. A more cohesive team means less drama, higher trust, and greater productivity for the group. You are also modeling good behaviors for your employees, which increases your credibility as their mentor.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 92 Avoid Playing Favorites

September 8, 2018

In my blog last week, I shared a bit of information on how to avoid playing favorites. This week I want to go deeper into that aspect of supervision, because it forms one of the most significant pitfalls that leads to loss of trust in any group.

First, we need to recognize that we do have “go to people” for certain jobs. It is literally impossible for any human being to not have people they favor over others based on their skills, track record, or any number of other reasons.

It is the appearance of always playing favorites that really causes the damage to trust, but that fact also contains the seeds of how you can avoid the problem. Simply do things that are not in your normal pattern on rare occasions, and people will stop thinking of you as playing favorites. In fact, I like to use the word when deciding to do something unusual.

How do I know?

How can you tell if you are coming across as playing favorites? Keep in mind, there will be a difference between what you think and what other people might observe. In your own mind you are simply selecting the best person to do the job in each case, but if you always make the same call, then it will eventually come across as playing favorites.

It is not just that the person is doing a good job but also the fact that you are noticing and praising the person more than others that exacerbates the issue.

One good way to detect if people are thinking you are playing favorites is to watch their body language when you make an assignment. Another method is to have a trusted employee who is part of the larger group and simply ask that person if there is a problem. If it looks like there may be an issue, here are some ways you can mitigate the angst.

Ways to reduce the problem

Let’s say I wanted to assign a work chore to someone, but I realize that I have gone to this person the last several times this chore has come up. The best approach is to ask myself if I really need to keep going to this person, or if this situation is a lower risk than usual, so it would be a good opportunity to let someone else have a shot at it.

Suppose in this case I have picked up some grumbling about playing favorites. In explaining why I am suggesting a different person than my usual choice, I could explain that I don’t want to appear to be playing favorites and that I believe it is good to have deeper bench strength in the organization. I could also explain it as part of a greater emphasis on cross training in general.

By actually using the word “favorite” I send a signal that at least I am clueless about how people may be feeling. I project the flexibility to allow others to grow if they are interested. If the job is technically challenging, I might offer to have the person who normally takes this assignment train another employee this time around.

This action reduces the image of an heir apparent and simultaneously adds to bench strength. In this case, I m showing a willingness to let others try provided they are properly trained. Allowing people to volunteer also breaks the stigma of playing favorites.

Another typical way of showing favoritism is when a supervisor does not apply the rules with the same rigor for some individuals. If you let a person show up late with no penalty but do write up another individual for the same problem, you are playing favorites in a very visible way.

I do not advocate that you should treat everybody the same way in all circumstances. That is because people have different needs in certain circumstances. However, when it comes to enforcing rules or other policies, you must treat all employees the same way or you will become known as a supervisor who plays favorites.

In summary, playing favorites is a real trust buster, but you can use the techniques in this article to mitigate any damage and still have the ability to use your “go to person” in cases where it is critical to do so.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 91 Mentoring a Successor

September 1, 2018

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

Why is Having a Successor Important?

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

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

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

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

Select more than one candidate

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

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

Delegate More, Micromanage Less

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

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

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

Don’t Play Favorites

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

Go on vacation and leave your PDA home

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

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

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

Give lots of feedback along the way

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

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

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 90 Managing a Low Trust Group

August 25, 2018

Sometime in your career, you may inherit a low trust group. It won’t take you long to figure out that you have your hands full. In low trust groups, the acrimony is obvious, and employees take every opportunity to turn honest attempts to improve the culture into further difficulties.

This article highlights why this phenomenon occurs and suggests some antidotes to try if you are in that circumstance.

Why do Low Trust Groups Exist?

Almost without exception, when you run into a group of people who are totally negative, it is because they have been poorly led in the past. Often there have been a string of ill-equipped leaders at several levels that have destroyed the culture and created the monster you now face.

The good news is that if you are an excellent leader, the prognosis to regain a great culture is pretty good. It is certainly not a cinch to turn the situation around, but it usually is possible depending on your own leadership skill. Below are some ideas that I have found work well, if they are skillfully applied.

Do not assume they are just “bad people”

Often leaders blame the workers for their poor attitudes or work habits. It is really the circumstances they have been in that are causing the hostility they are showing toward you. Recognize it will take time, but you can get most of the people to be great workers once again.

One caution here, you probably will not be able to save them all. Once people have been abused past a certain point, some of them will never be able to regain positive mindsets. One of your tasks is to figure out which few will never come around and find a different home for them inside or outside the organization. If you do have a few truly bad apples, it is essential to remove them from the rest of the group or you will never be successful at changing the culture.

Have open discussions about a “new deal.”

Tell the employees that you are not like the leaders they have had in the past. Realize they may scoff at this idea, but keep pointing out that you value a culture of high trust and will be working to earn their trust as you proceed.

Recognize that they are acting out in ways that annoy you, but the underlying cause is fear. When people are afraid of bad things happening to them, they become jaded and push back on every positive suggestion.

One of your main jobs during the first few months is to drive out the fear.

Ask your new employees to tell you any time what you are proposing does not square with their sense of rightness. They will be reluctant to do this at first because there has been a pattern of punishment for this in the past.

You must convince them by your actions that you will make them glad when they point out what they feel are inconsistencies as long as they do it respectfully.

Understand that you do not have to reverse every decision when there is pushback from the employees. Instead you should make the decision that is best for the organization but just make them not feel punished when they pushback. Treat them as adults who have legitimate points of view.

Be consistent and also flexible

It is not necessary to treat all employees the same way on all decisions. Employees have different needs, so you may have to make some decisions that reflect that. However, on enforcement of rules and policies or on modeling the values, you must be consistent and unwavering.

You need to know when you can flex and when you must be rigid. Knowing when to be “steel” and when to be “velvet” is a concept taught to me by my dear friend Bob Vanourek in his book “Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations.” I recommend this book for all leaders.

Admit mistakes publicly and quickly

It is normally a trust-building event when a leader admits a mistake. The two exceptions to this rule are if the mistake has been repeated several other times or if the mistake is due to a sinister motive. For example, if the mistake was to avoid owning up to a lie you told in the past, then admitting it would seal your fate.

Most mistakes are honest attempts to do something worthwhile that just did not work out as planned. For those mistakes, admitting them builds higher trust with most people.

Praise in public but coach in private

Become known as a person who acknowledges the good deeds of others. Make sure your praise is sincere rather than manipulative.

When it is necessary to enforce discipline or coach an errant employee, do it face to face (not in e-mail) and do it privately. Make sure the employee knows you are having this discussion because you genuinely care about him and want him to have a successful future.

Learn their names

Make sure you call people by their name when passing in the hall or at their work station. Keep track of what they are going through in their personal lives, so you can relate to them emotionally. Say things like “Did your daughter ever find her lost cat?” or “How are those new tires working out?”

Practice good body language

Making good eye contact is essential if you hope to develop trust with people. Study the different forms of body language and use that knowledge to connect with people on a deeper level. For example, you might say “You are looking much brighter today; yesterday I thought you looked a little sad…anything going on?”

There are literally hundreds of other tips that can allow you to turn a hostile group into one of high trust, but these seven ideas make a good starter kit. Practice them daily, and you can transform almost any hostile group in just a few months. Once you have a reputation for being able to accomplish this feat, you will become known as “one of the best supervisors we have in the organization.”

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 89 Repairing Damaged Trust

August 18, 2018

From time to time, even in the best of situations, trust becomes damaged. This article suggests some ideas about repairing damaged trust and how you can take a bad situation and make it into an opportunity.

Trust is fragile

Since all human beings are fallible creatures who make mistakes, even in the best of circumstances and with the best of intent, you will occasionally suffer a setback in trust either because of something you have done or said or something someone else has done to you. In these times, how you react will have a major influence on whether you can recover to trust as strong or stronger than before the violation.

You need to decide one thing at the outset. Is the relationship completely over due to the severity of the violation? There are some trust lapses that are so severe there is no chance for full redemption. They are rare, but they do occur. Assuming there is at least the potential to regain trust, the following seven steps will give you the best chance at making that happen.

First step: Don’t Procrastinate

Regardless of the violation or the direction of the trust loss, the situation is normally very uncomfortable for both people. Discussions to get to the bottom of what happened and generate a positive path forward are awkward at best, and it is tempting to just let things slide, hoping time will heal the wound. That approach is a big mistake.

What you have is a dead fish, and it is going to stink worse tomorrow than it does today. As soon as you are aware of damaged trust, take the initiative to meet with the other party and handle the conversation tenderly. You can often repair the damage rather easily, but if you try to let time heal the problem, it will likely hurt forever.

Second step: Have an Adult Conversation

Rather than take a judgmental stance, admit you are not exactly sure what happened, but you truly value the relationship you had with the other person before the breach. State that you are feeling down because of what transpired and want to work with the other person to regain the benefits of a trusting relationship like you had before. Ask the other person if he or she is willing to work with you to clarify what happened and rebuild the relationship.
If the answer is “yes,” you have established the intent to work together and verified that both parties truly value the relationship. That is something satisfying that you can build on as you proceed.

Third step: Seek Understanding

Both parties should share their own interpretation of what happened around the violation. This must be non-judgmental but accurate in terms of what happened. Often this step will reveal a simple misunderstanding of what happened, and the violation can be repaired rather easily.

When the reason is a misunderstanding, it helps to discuss how the disconnect can be prevented in the future so both people do not have to suffer a temporary letdown of trust. If there was a violation by one or both parties, make that clear without fixing blame or ill intent.

Fourth step: Demonstrate Care

Exercise care for the other person. Keep pointing out that while there is a real issue, the reason you are having the discussion is to get back to a solid feeling between you both. Continue to point out you care about the other person as a trusted friend.

Fifth step: Seek Redemption

If it is clear that one party did something wrong or overstepped a boundary, this is the time for a sincere apology. Point out that the intent was not to create ill will and that you wish to make things right as best you can in the future. If an apology is offered, it is critical for the other party to accept the apology.

Sixth step: Create a Positive Path Forward

Here the question to ask is, “What would have to happen in the future for you to regain full trust in me?” Make special note of what the other party says and test for reality. If the other person is asking you to become a perfect person for the rest of your life, you can point out that while you will try, every human being is subject to being fallible on occasion.

In this step it is a good idea to establish a future discussion to check on progress. Say something like, “Let’s get back together in a month to see how we are doing and if I am living up to my part of the bargain.”

Seventh step: Follow Up

Keep checking with the other person periodically to see if the relationship is heading back toward full trust. If both parties are satisfied that good progress is being made, then there is a good prognosis for full redemption.

Healing a breach of trust takes work, but the good news is that if you follow the steps outlined above, you have the opportunity to end up with a relationship that is stronger than before the breach. That is well worth the effort it takes.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763