Reducing Conflict 54 We vs. They

August 15, 2022

“We versus they” thinking is a common rift between management and workers. This article examines why this symptom is so common and suggests eight ways to mitigate the problem. 

Lack of alignment

The fundamental cause of what I call the “two sides mentality” is a lack of true alignment.  Most organizations invest big bucks into developing a “strategy.”  

Strategy includes things like Values, Vision, Mission, Purpose, Key Result Areas, Tactics, and Measures.  Small groups of managers usually develop these essential concepts. They cloister themselves away in a hotel for a few days to bang out the strategy.

Ancient Methods

Then the discussion turns to communicating this brilliant plan to the mass of workers. The objective is to get workers to “buy in” and commit to the strategy.  Eventually, there is a “rollout” of the information where managers communicate TO the workers. Notice the hackneyed expressions I used above are the actual words used, even today in the real world – amazing!

Managers give the presentation to half-asleep people who are sitting in neat rows trying not to yawn. A few polite questions follow the data dump, and then everybody goes to lunch. The managers meet in their own dining space. They congratulate themselves on clarifying the strategy and getting buy-in from the workers.

What really happened is that the managers demonstrated that they are clueless about how to create true alignment. Culture is created by their actions, not their words. Their attempt to get everybody “on the same page” backfired. It only served to drive the wedge between the management team and the people doing the work. Managers miss the reality that they keep doing the same thing hoping for a different result. 

Some organizations actually do achieve true alignment of purpose throughout the enterprise.  These organizations always blow away groups that have fractured perspectives.

A better way to obtain alignment

Bob and Gregg Vanourek have a whole chapter on alignment in their book, Triple Crown Leadership.   It is an excellent model.  One key point they make is that the elements of the strategy must be developed collaboratively. Great leaders know that for people to truly embrace a concept, they must put their fingerprints on it.  The authors write about how the alignment is a kind of cascade of information with full participation. The whole team generates the information organically over time.

The collaborative process allows all people in the organization to feel true ownership of the plan. The ownership becomes the foundation for alignment. How can leaders create this kind of culture? Here are eight ideas for leaders. They reduce the “we versus they” thinking and obtain the full energy of the team.

1, Leaders need to listen more

Agree upon a set of values that the entire team not only adopts but pledges 100% to live by. It is not enough to simply state the values. For true alignment, all of the values must be demonstrated all the time.

Clarifying a compelling vision of the future is equally vital.

2. Test the viability of concepts and be flexible

As ideas are put forth, look for common themes and keep working the information into a model. Make sure each person feels ownership.

3. Don’t say things you cannot do

 Once a stated value reveals managerial hypocrisy, it does more harm than good to put it on the plaque. It fosters a “They say it, but they don’t mean it” mentality that enables “we versus them.”

4. Don’t “Roll Out” the “Program”

I have found that having a big rollout program is often the kiss of death.  Employees smell a canned program coming a mile away. They will go to the meeting with earplugs firmly inserted.

Instead of the big fanfare, share the information in small groups with lots of dialog.

5. Be willing to admit mistakes

In changing a culture, there will be mistakes made along the way.  When managers admit they made a mistake it demonstrates vulnerability.

6. Build and value trust

Trust becomes the glue that holds the whole organization together in good times and in difficult times.  The culture of any organization is a reflection of the behaviors of the senior leaders more than anything else.

7. Don’t get derailed by short-term thinking

The daily and monthly pressures of any business will test the resolve of the team.  The whole team needs to learn from the challenges and focus on the long-term vision. 

8. Celebrate the small wins as well as the big ones

Recognize and appreciate all of the good things that are going on. Teach people that the reinforcement should come from all levels, not just the managers.  Once the workers start practicing reinforcement of others, magical things begin to happen.


There are numerous other ideas and helpful tips that can add to the success of the team. It is possible to create real alignment where everyone in the organization is truly excited about progress. That culture eliminates the “we versus they” mentality between workers and managers. I wish more organizations could experience such an environment. It all rests on the quality of leaders to create that kind of culture.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He can be reached at  585-392-7763. Website   BLOG He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals,  Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.

Building Higher Trust 85 Trust is Not a Singular Concept

August 12, 2022

Trust is not a singular concept in nature. I have studied trust for several decades, teach it in several settings, and written four books on it. Trust is such a common word that we use it numerous times a day without thinking. Just listen to the advertisements on TV and you will hear the word trust in the majority of them.

Trust is much broader than we think

Many people have a misconception about the concept of trust. They think of trust as a singular concept when using the word in daily conversation. They picture it as a kind of bond between them and another person.  It takes on a singular connotation. Either they trust another person or do not trust him or her at some level right now.

Trying to define the word

The way I get groups to think about trust more deeply is by asking what the word means. There is always a pause and awkward silence for a few seconds as people try to define it.  Then, someone will offer that trust is the confidence that another person will perform in a certain way.  Someone else will chime in that trust is taking a risk that they could be disappointed.  A third person will add that trust is about having shared values. Then someone will add that trust is having their back or sticking up for them. Once the ball gets rolling, a group can come up with a couple dozen definitions of trust quickly. 

Trust is ubiquitous

Now the group is ready to entertain the idea that trust is a multi-faceted concept. It exists not only between people, but with organizations, products, services, and all kinds of systems.  People get the idea that trust is ubiquitous and is all around them in every moment of their day.  They recognize that before they get to work in the morning, they have experienced trust several hundred times. 

We trust systems to work

They walk into the bathroom and turn on the lights. They trust the whole system to provide light. They don’t think about where the electricity is coming from unless there is some kind of rare failure. 

They turn on the water and just expect potable water to come out without any problem. If it is the left faucet, they trust that the water will become warm, then hot with time.  By the time they reach the breakfast table, trust is experienced dozens of times; then things get really complicated. 

Medications require trust

At breakfast, they are confident that the vitamin pill they are taking is safe. They have no idea who made the pill and what ingredients went into it.  They just swallow the pill and expect it to help. 

In the car

They get into their car and turn the ignition key.  Now, inside the engine, there are thousands of explosions each minute that allow the car to move. They peacefully enjoy the classical music on their favorite station and crank up the air conditioning. 

They have no worry when they press down on the brakes that the car will stop.  They drive over numerous bridges and overpasses without blinking an eye. They do not think of the consequences if the structure would become unsafe. 

Just a few examples to illustrate

On it goes all day every day that they simply take for granted things will work as designed. They recognize on occasion things might fail for some obscure reason. The failures are so remote that they put them out of their mind unless something unusual is going on. Now let’s focus on how trust between people is built and lost for all of us.

In general, we all focus our conscious energy on trust in the relationships we have with other people. Often we forget about the transactional nature of trust. It is impacted by everything (seen and unseen) that happens between people. 

Trust is always bilateral

Trust is bilateral. I trust you and you trust me at some level, and the levels are not the same.  Something happens, and I may trust you more while you trust me less.  The whole thing is dynamic and constant. Most of the trust interactions are going on in our subconscious minds. We have a kind of score card in our mind that is like the balance in a bank account.

A bank account

Many authors, including me, have likened trust to a bank account. We have a balance, and we make deposits and withdrawals. The size of the deposit or withdrawal will vary depending on what is happening. The transaction may be totally subconscious. We can make a huge withdrawal of trust with another person and be totally oblivious to it. 

A few years ago I built a model that helps people visualize this trust account and how it works. I call it my “Trust Barometer” and show it at all my programs. People really get the message about how trust works very easily. Here is a link to a Trust Barometer Video (6 minutes) about how trust is built and lost. Take a peek at this fun description and see if it helps you picture the nature of trust in your life.


Trust is more complex and ubiquitous in our lives than we realize.  Try to be more aware of this aspect of trust. You can see it working for you more consciously on a daily basis. It is fun, and it certainly is an eye-opener.


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, 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



Building Higher Trust 84 The Transactional Nature of Trust

August 10, 2022

To experience maximum trust with people we know, we need to be aware of the transactional nature of trust. Everything that happens between us will have some impact on the level of trust.

It is important to build trust constantly through our words and deeds. Sometimes we will encounter a loss of trust. We need the equity of past trust-building transactions to withstand an inevitable letdown. Here is a true story from my past that included a trust transaction.

Exchange with a subordinate

George came into my office and closed the door.  He was a manager reporting to me, and we had a relationship of high trust. My division recently combined with another division to form a larger organization. George started to tell me some unflattering things about one of the managers I was inheriting.

Rather than my trust in George going up, it went down that day because he was undermining a peer.  I told him that I would rather not deal in gossip. It was better to give the new manager a chance to start out with a clean slate.

How trust transactions work

As we interface with people in daily activities, our level of trust with them goes up or down constantly. Trust increases or decreases depending on the transactions happening between us. This adjustment includes email, phone calls, and even body language in a meeting. Any interface creates an opportunity to modify the level of trust.

Exercise for you

Seek to pay more attention to the transactions you have with other people today. Notice the small things that happen which have a positive or negative impact on trust. Learn to read the body language of others. It allows you to read when something you have said has made the level of trust go down.


Trust is never static. It is always moving depending on our assessment of the Five C’s of trust. They are:

  1. Character
  2. Consistency
  3. Competence
  4. Congeniality
  5. Care

We can witness these things easily in other people, and it is the basis for the trust level we have. Also, realize the other person is making similar judgments of us. Trust is an ever-moving target. Make sure you are always doing things to build rather than destroy trust with other people.


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, 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 53 Jokes or Not

August 8, 2022

I was having an online conversation about jokes and teams at work. The discussion was relative to having online messages misinterpreted. Clearly, we have all experienced this uncomfortable situation more than once.  I got so fascinated about this topic that I wrote a book on it a few years ago. 

The reader could take it literally

Someone brought up a situation that is common in person as well as online. One person tries to rib another person with a joke, but the receiver takes it literally. Online the damage tends to linger because the message is there to see forever. The writer is astonished when the reader takes umbrage at the barb. Often the writer says, “but I was only joking.” 

When people say or write things in jest, there is usually an element of truth in them. Jokes are often just distortions of reality; that is what makes them humorous.  The problem occurs when a joke puts down another person. This is so common you probably witness it frequently at work. The problem hardly registers because it is ubiquitous. If you are watching for it, you will see it often.

No ability to see the impact

With a verbal jab, it is easy to see the negative reaction through body language. In an email, the sender has no idea the joke caused a negative reaction. Actually, even in person, there is usually a part of the barb that is for real. Online, the danger becomes magnified for two reasons.

  • the person cannot see the facial expression and
  • emails are permanent, so the person can re-read the joke.

The most effective antidote

The antidote for this common problem is to establish five behavioral norms in your workgroup as follows:

  1. We will not make jokes in any forum at another person’s expense.
  2. Praise in public or online but offer constructive criticism face to face in private.
  3. When there is a disconnect in communication, we will always assume the best intent and check it out.
  4. If something in an email seems upsetting, check it out. Meet face to face with the other person as soon as possible.
  5. Call each other out politely if we see violations of these rules.



These five rules are not difficult. It does take some resolve to get all people in a population to comply with them.  Get firm agreement among the entire group and post the rules in the team meeting area. Actually follow the five rules above. It will change the entire complexion of the workgroup. This is not rocket science. It is much more important than rocket science.


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, 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. 

Building Higher Trust 83 Trust and Ethics

August 5, 2022

It is pretty obvious that trust and ethics are related. You may not have thought about the relationship in a conscious way. This article shines a light on that. It offers an example of how a community can change ethical conditions for the better.

Ethical problems reduce trust 

I cannot think of a single ethical scandal that did not result in a loss of trust in some area. When there is an ethical dilemma, there are a variety of solutions to consider. In choosing between them, one major factor is how each solution would impact trust. Ethical issues always reduce trust.

The reverse is not true

There can be situations that result in lower trust that do not involve ethics at all. Trust is defined by minute transactions like the wording of an email or rolling of eyes in a meeting.

We all are aware that when trust is damaged, it takes a lot of effort to repair it. I have described a process to regain lost trust in another article. Building Higher Trust 68 Restoring Lost Trust. The good news is that with care, it is usually possible to repair trust to a higher state. We must understand that not all ethical problems are the same.

Situational ethics 

The challenge with ethics is that the existence of an ethical problem is situational. The severity will vary depending on the people involved. For example, we would all agree that stealing is unethical. I can come up with a scenario where taking the property of another person might be perfectly ethical. 

Example with books 

Suppose you are a trash collector. In a recycle bin there are some books that you might like to read. The books do not belong to you, but they were discarded. You feel it is appropriate to salvage the books for your reading pleasure. I suspect most readers would agree that it is ethical to take the books.

Killing another person 

Killing another person is not an ethical thing to do. We would all agree there are circumstances where killing another person is the correct thing. In a time of war, killing the enemy is often the objective of a mission. If a thief tries to kill you, you have a right to kill the robber to save yourself.

In extreme cases, it is easy to see how some things are unethical. For example, what Bernie Madoff did to his investors was clearly unethical. Like many ethical scandals, the pathway to egregious actions may have started out as legal actions. He then got deeper and deeper into illegal and unethical actions.

Hard to recognize the slippery slope

Sometimes people find a slippery slope because if they can do X today, then doing X+1 tomorrow seems reasonable. It does not take long before they are doing things that are clearly not appropriate. They may not even be aware of the erosion of ethical standards that is going on. If someone has the courage to speak up about it, the problem can be stopped before doing more damage.

Having the ability to point out apparent lapses in ethics requires low fear from a culture of high trust. We call this low fear, psychological safety.

The value of psychological safety

Few organizations have been able to achieve true psychological safety. Those that have achieved it have a significant advantage. It is where leaders do not punish people when they point out an issue. If they say something about a pending action that does not seem right, it will trigger praise, not punishment.

That is why true trust is such an important way to prevent unethical actions. When there is high trust, there is usually low fear about telling the truth to superiors. People know that by raising a potential ethical dilemma, they are really doing the organization and leader a favor. 

What would it look like if a whole community were to espouse greater trust and ethics?

In Rochester, New York, there is an organization called Elevate Rochester. The organization has been in existence for 20 years. I am in my fifth year of serving on the Board of Directors. Our vision is to have Rochester be the “Gold Standard” in terms of promoting ethical business cultures.

Each year we have an award ceremony (modeled after the Academy Awards complete with a red carpet). We create greater community emphasis on ethical corporate behaviors by celebrating those groups that are doing it right.

During the year, we encourage local organizations to submit an application for the award. The judging process is quite rigorous. It includes interviews and site visits, along with a written application. An Elevate Rochester committee names recipients of the award each year.

The ETHIE Award

The year culminates with a ceremony in November when a few companies receive the “ETHIE” Award. Each company has a professionally-made video of its operation and receives a trophy. It is a very big deal here in Rochester. Dozens of organizations have received the award and have become part of our Honor Roll.

In addition, we run several programs each year. We help educate the business and government communities on how to focus more energy on ethical behaviors. I have spoken at several events as part of the group. We have a list of people who speak on ethics. Speakers also come from other parts of the country. It is a community effort that benefits all organizations in our region.


It is possible to enhance the level of ethical behavior in an entire community.  Of course, perfection will never be achieved. By celebrating the organizations that are doing well with ethics, we enhance the overall performance of our region.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, 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 157 Leaders Must Accept Accountability

August 3, 2022

Few leaders are capable of accepting accountability. I work with leaders every week and focus on helping them build higher trust in their organizations.  One observation I have made over the years is that nearly all leaders are passionate about accountability. They make sure people in the organization produce the right things in the right ways.

Accountability at the top is rare

Unfortunately, I see very few leaders who are willing to step up to their own accountability. It is just not something that crosses their minds very often. If something is wrong, they will blame others for the problems that hold the organization back.

The culture of organizations originates at the top and moves through the layers like a stream of water. If there are problems at any level of the organization, the top leader shares culpability because the buck stops at the top.  That is where the source is located.

Case Example 

Let’s take a case example and show the stubborn consistency of this theory.  Suppose an organization has some delivery problems.  They are making large engines to go into military vehicles, and they keep missing deadlines. 

The CEO calls in the production manager. He demands to know why productivity on the line is down by 18% this year.  The manager tells the CEO that people are really upset because of no raises in 3 years.

As the CEO wanders out on the production line, he sees nine engines lined up to be reworked. He chews out the female quality inspector.  She tries to explain that the finish on the cylinder bores is too rough.

By now the CEO is fuming. It is obvious why things are going wrong in every corner of the building. People at all levels are not doing the right things. The whole organization is over budget, late, and producing a low-quality product.

Now suppose this CEO decided to bring in a consultant to help get things back on track. He tells the consultant that all of the managers and supervisors need some basic training. They need more discipline and understanding of how to “motivate the troops.”

The consultant decides to do some checking before making a recommendation. She spends a few days looking at the data and talking with people all over the operation. Then she reports back her assessment. 

Consultant Advice 

The consultant asks the CEO what portion of the problem happened by his decisions and actions in the past.  She suggests he take a good long look in the mirror at the source of his problems. Ask himself some tough questions such as the following:

  • Morale is terrible in this plant, and as the CEO, how have I been contributing to this problem?
  • What is keeping me from fully holding myself accountable for this awful situation?
  • In what ways have I been trying to lay the blame on the supervisors, employees, and other factors?
  • How can I deal with the current situations in a more empowering way?
  • What fundamental changes in the structure, behaviors, values, and vision am I going to make?
  • What behaviors do I need to change, starting right now, to build a culture of higher trust?

  Now the CEO is facing an awful truth; the root cause of the problem is him. He needs to start by holding himself accountable, but that hurts too much. It is so much easier to spot the symptoms and hold everyone else accountable.

Unfortunately, this CEO is not likely to hire that consultant, yet the advice he is hearing is spot on.

We need to get get more top leaders to view their responsibility as creating a great culture. Excellence is possible because everyone in the organization is excited by the vision and trust in leadership is high. It takes a wise and humble leader to view his or her role as creator and maintainer of the culture. Those who can do it will thrive. The ones who simply blame others will struggle and eventually fail.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, 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 52 Operate Ahead of the Power Curve

August 1, 2022

The power curve is a critical skill area that my first mentor taught me. I was blessed with a wonderful mentor for most of my career.  He and I got along famously, and he taught me a number of leadership skills over the years.


 He was not a perfect manager himself, as he had a tendency to micromanage people.  I found that out early and worked hard to over-communicate with him. I also anticipated what he would ask, so I could usually say, “I already did it.” After a while, he stopped micromanaging me and left me alone to do what I thought was right. 

The Power Curve

One critical skill he taught me was what he called “operating ahead of the power curve.”  It took me a while to figure out what that meant. I eventually got the idea, and the concept has been incredibly important to my success in life.

Lowers stress

The idea is to charge at the work very early and not wait until just before something is due to get it done.  That takes some discipline to do, but it is a wonderful way to live. Reason: you do things in rough draft form well before the due date. Then you can relax and hone them in due time. It works well.

For example, as I am writing this blog article, it is the third one I have written this hour. My pattern is to put out three articles each week.  I have a stock of numerous articles ahead of me, so I don’t have to rush them out.  I can think about them.  When the inventory gets low, I bang out 4-6 more articles to get ahead of the power curve.

Help from my wife

My wife helps me by proofreading the text and making suggestions for improved content and search engine optimization.  Then I rewrite the article and have it “on the shelf,” ready for when it’s needed. That way, I am never rushed to get an article out, and I can take my time working on the content of each one.

Works in all areas of life

Try the technique of working “ahead of the power curve” in your life. The process works well for school papers, budgets, painting the house, or any activity that you might want to procrastinate on. Just grit your teeth and do the bulk of the job early. You will find that the quality of your finished work is much higher.  You are also less stressed about getting the work done. That is a wonderful benefit for anyone. 


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, 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. 

Building Higher Trust 82 Leader’s Role in Trust Issues

July 29, 2022

The behaviors of the senior leaders in any organization will have more impact on trust issues than anything else. Over many years, I have observed how trust in any organization is influenced most by this single factor. If there are trust issues in an organization, leaders need to look in the mirror for the cause.

There can be trust issues at all levels

The behaviors of the senior leaders are usually the root cause of trust issues in an organization. Please do not misunderstand; there will be trust issues evident at all levels of the organization. Often severe untrustworthy behaviors exist at the operational level. The reality is that in most organizations nearly all employees will exhibit high trust if they are properly led.

Ducking the issue

Many leaders duck culpability, indicating the workers who are not being trustworthy account for low trust. That may be the case, but it is not the root cause of the problem. The behavior of the senior leaders causes employees at various levels to act in a non-trustworthy manner.

The culture of any organization is established from the top. Certainly, there are many levels in any organization and there can be trust issues at any level. The tone of the environment is created by the behaviors and policies set out by the most senior leader.

Leaders usually blame problems on others

Trying to get leaders to step up to cultural responsibility is always a difficult challenge. They would much rather blame others, circumstances, customers, the economy, or anything other than themselves.

I rarely meet an executive who will say, “There is a lack of trust in the organization. Since I am the leader here, it must be originating with me.” Occasionally I will run into someone who thinks that way, but it is pretty rare. We need to convince leaders of their responsibility in terms of creating the right culture. That is the way to create more trust in the world.  

Exercise for leaders

 Ask yourself what behaviors you would need to change in order to begin a new culture within your organization. Think about your role as a leader in establishing the environment in which all employees work. That environment is the creator of either excellence or trust issues.

Foundational behaviors

Here are four “foundational behaviors” leaders can exhibit that will move the culture to one of higher trust. I will also include my favorite quote for each behavior.

  1. Reinforce Candor – make people unafraid to bring up issues. “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”
  2. Hold people accountable in a balanced way, not just when they have messed up. “Hold people ‘procountable’ rather than accountable.”
  3. Extend more trust to the people within the organization. “The First Law of trust: If you want to see more trust, then extend more trust.”
  4. Have firm values and demonstrate those values every single day. “Stated values that are not demonstrated by leaders act like nuclear missiles to the fragile trust ecosystem.”

Additional actions that accelerate trust

When leaders do these things consistently, there are hundreds of other actions that will accelerate the pace of trust.  I will mention just a few of the behaviors here for the sake of brevity:

  1. Do what you say.
  2. Treat people well.
  3. Tell the truth.
  4. Demonstrate respect.
  5. Be transparent.
  6. Use the Golden Rule.
  7. Stick up for people.
  8. Be ethical.
  9. Admit mistakes.
  10. Care for the other person.
  11. Adhere to values.
  12. Listen well.
  13. Reinforce good behavior.
  14. Practice humility.
  15. Be consistent.
  16. Right wrongs.


If you are a leader, recognize your role as the primary force that creates the culture in your organization.  If there are trust issues, then it is up to you to change the culture to eliminate them.  If you are not the leader, you might suggest a group workshop on this topic.  It may have an impact.


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

Leadership Barometer 156 Dumb Goals

July 27, 2022

You have heard of SMART Goals, but have you ever considered DUMB Goals? SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-bound. The term was invented by G.T. Doran in 1981.

Forty one years later, I thought it was time to add some DUMB Goals.  DUMB stands for Doable, Uncompromising, Manageable, and Beneficial. Here are my thoughts on why DUMB Goals are important in our society today: 

Doable Goals 

In our global economy, we have stretched resources in nearly every organization beyond the elastic limit. Leaders pull on resources in an ever-intensifying quest for more productivity. More and more people reach a burnout stage or just quit trying to stretch.

What is needed is to go for quantum leaps in productivity. The incremental approach or Kaizen has served us well for 40 years. Now we need to find new afterburners to take us to a higher orbit.

Achieve this additional thrust by having a more robust culture based on higher trust. Trust within an organization improves productivity by 2-3 times. Leaders need to seek higher levels of trust as a means to achieve seemingly impossible productivity goals.

Uncompromising Goals

As everything has become ultra-critical, the tendency is to slack off on some of the basics. We have seen several organizations slip backward on the quality principles that provided improvements over several decades.  A classic example of this is Toyota. When they got so wrapped up in being the biggest, they ended up with several recalls for quality problems. They paid a dear price for that mistake. Some organizations are so focused on productivity and profits that they forget to invest in quality and culture. They are sowing the seeds of their own demise. 

Manageable Goals

In most organizations today, the goals set out for people are too many and far too complex to manage. What you get is a watered-down approach to performance. It is not the laser-focused and potent enthusiasm of the entire team. 

The answer here is better focus. I cringe when I see a strategic plan with 18 critical thrusts.  It ain’t going to happen folks! For a manageable array of critical result areas, keep the number of thrusts down to three, or four.

Also, for proper engagement, it is important to have the workers themselves be part of the goal-setting process.  The doers need to own the goals in cooperation with management. 

Beneficial Goals

It is time for a broader view of organizational output. We have become more environmentally conscious over the past decade. We are still far off the mark if we are going to save our spaceship.

We need to dig a lot deeper into our environmental conscience. We must double our efforts to preserve the environment.

Social awareness is lagging environmental activities, although some organizations are starting to gain in this area. We need to encourage more socially-conscious corporate decisions.

This means taking a hard look at where we produce products. Do not support socially irresponsible sourcing.

That equilibrium may come at the expense of some short-term profitability. It is less popular with the insatiable companies who are intent on squeezing out every last penny.  I believe the organizations that are moving in the right direction will ultimately prevail. We need a balance of organizations doing the right things for the right long-term reasons.

It is a totally different world in 2022 than it was in 1981. There is nothing wrong with pursuing SMART Goals.  I think organizations would be well-served by also considering the DUMB Goals as well.


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, 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 51 Better Teamwork

July 25, 2022

We all would like to see better teamwork where we live and work. The culture of a team governs its effectiveness. Most teams have a culture that allows adequate performance despite many unfortunate outbreaks of tension and sometimes childish behavior. The problems are exacerbated in these uncertain times of hybrid work.

Sadly, many teams don’t experience the exhilaration of working in a supportive culture that produces excellent results. The methods of building teams into high-performing units are well documented. Unfortunately, most teams do not go through the rigor required to get to that level. This article blends well-known processes with horse sense born of experience that will allow any team to perform well.

Tuckman Model

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman described four stages that every team goes through. They are Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.

A critical time for any team is when it is forming. This is when the team is trying to figure out its role and goals. Members are not sure of their status or contribution at this point. Personal bonding is a key element to the eventual success of the team.

During the storming phase, there is some kind of power struggle where members vie for position and influence.  It is up to the team leader to help the team move quickly through this awkward time.

It is in the norming phase that the team decides the degree of effectiveness it will ultimately enjoy.  If individual and team behaviors are agreed upon with conviction, the team will immediately begin to perform with excellence.

Three routes to successful teamwork

There are three basic things required for any team to become a high-performing unit:  

1) a common goal,

2) trust, and

3) outstanding leadership. 

If these building blocks are in place, all of the rest of the team dynamics will sort themselves out. When any of these are missing, the team will sputter and struggle to meet expectations.

A key rule fostered by most teams that is most often compromised is to treat each member with respect. There is a kind of disease that sets into most teams where members subtly undermine each other.

Common team problem

People often make jokes in team meetings. Keep your antenna up. Often you will discover that the majority of jokes are sarcastic digs about other people in the room. Everyone knows they are only jokes, and they laugh, but deep down it does some damage.

The antidote

Smart groups have a rule that they will enjoy humor but never make a joke at someone else’s expense. It seems like a small thing, but over time this practice can improve the function of any team. You will see it’s easy to accomplish. The leader just needs to set the expectation and remind people when they slip up.

Social loafing

I have coached hundreds of teams. I find that there are patterns that lead to success and other patterns that lead to extreme frustration. One condition rises above all the others when it comes to dysfunctional teams. It is called social loafing.

When team members believe other members are not pulling their fair share, there will be problems. Unfortunately, this situation is common. Fortunately, there is a simple cure that is about 95% successful at preventing this condition or stopping it. The cure is to have an agreed-upon Charter for the team upfront, before behavior problems surface.

Draw up a Team Charter

During the forming stage of a team, there is an opportunity to document several critical parameters of how the team will operate. These include:

  1. the talents and skills each member of the team can contribute,
  2. a set of solid, measurable performance goals for the team,
  3. behaviors that the members agree to follow,
  4. consequences that will occur if a member fails to live up to the behaviors.

When teams take the time at the start to document these four items, the chances of success improve. The most powerful item is #4. It is the one that is most often omitted from a charter. If people are tempted to goof off, then the penalty they have already agreed to is quickly applied. The bad behavior is extinguished.


Most teams without a good charter end up in frustration. One or more people will believe they are doing more than their fair share of the work. A good charter spells out the expected behaviors and the penalty for non-compliance. With this work in place before the group experiences a problem, it reduces the most common team malady.


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, 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.