Successful Supervisor 76 Building Trust for Life

May 13, 2018

Early in my career I learned a valuable lesson that is important for all supervisors to know. The circumstances will be different but the lesson is unmistakable.

I was sent to Japan to negotiate a deal on a large supply of high capacity floppy disks. I was nervous going over because my boss was busy preparing a law suit against many of the companies I would be negotiating with for dumping low capacity floppy disks on the US market.

On the flight, my buddy and I amused ourselves by making notes in a periodical that described the tension between our organization and the Japanese companies. We probably wrote some things that were too juicy for public consumption.

The trip went very well, and there was no acrimony with our hosts. Coming back from a long lunch on the final day, I noticed that I had left my briefcase open and the periodical was on top of the stack. I realized that someone could have read and copied some of the private information, which would have damaged our case. I was terrified that my actions could possibly turn into a major gaffe with my boss.

As soon as I got back I went to my boss immediately and told him that I did something really stupid in Japan the prior week. He said, “What did you do?” My reply was, “You would never know this unless I told you, but here is what happened…”

He looked up at me and said, “You know you are right, Bob. That’s not the smartest thing you ever did. The smartest thing you ever did was to tell me about it.”

From that day on for the next 25 years until he retired, I was golden boy to him. Reason: I blew myself in (admitted my mistake) when I didn’t have to. Essentially I earned his trust for life by owning up to my indiscretion.

The lesson that I learned was that even though I did something admittedly dumb, I was able to turn it into a major step forward for my entire career. Most of us intellectually know that admitting a mistake is usually a trust-building action. There are two kinds of mistakes where this would not be the case:

1. If the mistake is a repeat of one that was made once or many times in the past

2. If the mistake was so stupid that it revealed the person to be clueless

Most mistakes are things that simply did not go the way we planned, so they are easily forgiven when we openly admit to them. This method is particularly potent for people in supervisory positions. Reason: From past experience most of us view supervisors and managers as people having a hard time admitting mistakes.

Exercise for you: Look for opportunities to admit your own vulnerability. Obviously it is a silly strategy to create mistakes so you can admit them, but we all do have lapses from time to time. When you are smart enough to blow yourself in, it usually impacts your long term prognosis favorably. Try it and see if you agree.

Human beings normally have the capacity to forgive an occasional error if it was done with good intent. By admitting an error, you will give a powerful demonstration of your own personal integrity. That is a tangible sign of being a trustworthy person.

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 70 Reduce Drama

March 24, 2018

I participated in an interesting discussion in an online class on teamwork recently. The students were lamenting that drama in the workplace is common and very disruptive to good teamwork.

Drama on the shop floor can produce dangerous situations for the supervisor. While drama is just part of the human condition, I am sure you have experienced unwanted drama and wished there were ways to reduce it.

First, one precaution: There are various different kinds of drama and many different symptoms and sources. In this article, I am discussing the most common kind of drama in the workplace, where a person acts out his or her daily frustrations in ways that create chaos and loss of focus that hurt the productivity, effectiveness, and teamwork of the group. I am not addressing the serious drama caused by mental illness or tragic events.

Let’s take a look at the seeds of this problem to identify some mitigating strategies. Drama is usually a result of people who feel they are not being heard or appreciated. If an individual believes his or her opinions are valued and considered in the decision process, then there is less need for drama.

If the culture is real, and people are not playing games with each other, then the distractions of drama will be significantly reduced.

It is a function of leaders to establish a culture where people see little need for drama in order to be a vital part of the real action. Here are some tips that leaders can use to reduce drama in their organization:

1. Improve the level of trust. High trust groups respect people, so there is a feeling of inclusiveness that does not require high profile actions to get attention.

2. Anticipate needs. Be proactive at sensing when people need to be heard and provide the opportunity before they become frustrated.

3. Respect outliers. When someone’s view is contrary to the majority, there may be valid points to consider. Do not ignore the valuable insights of all people.

4. Hear people out and consider their input seriously. Positive body language is essential to show respect for all people.

5. Work on your own humility. Climbing down off your pedestal means that you are more willing to be on an equal footing with others.

6. Admit mistakes. You gain respect when you are honest about the blunders that you make. People will feel less like acting out in response to your foibles if they see you willing to be vulnerable.

7. Reinforce people well. Providing sincere praise is one way to show respect. This reduces people’s tendency to say “Hey don’t forget about me over here.”

We must also realize that some people are world class at creating drama. For these people it is a kind of sport. They do it to gain inappropriate attention or just to be disruptive. These people need coaching to let them know their antics are not really helping drive the goals of the organization.

The supervisor needs to provide feedback about the issue and set the expectation of improvement. If the drama continues and is disruptive, then the person may be better off in some other organization doing a different function.

Drama is all around us on a daily basis, but good leadership can mitigate the negative impact and keep bad habits from becoming an organizational albatross.

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


8 Ways to Know if You Are a Great Leader

January 2, 2016

You may be a good leader, or possibly a great leader, or you may be an awful leader. One thing is clear: your own opinion of your worth as a leader is not to be trusted.

In my consulting work, I have met numerous people in leadership positions who believe they are way above average only to find out that they are not at all living up to people’s expectations or certainly to their own potential.

I have studied the traits of leaders for over 30 years and read enough books to put Rip Van Winkle to sleep. I have studied leadership from the inside out and the outside in.

This education has led me to conclude that there are signposts or primary indicators of people who are elite leaders.

It is fine to take the endless stream of leadership surveys, but you can be fooled. I became weary with taking 3-4 different surveys each year in the corporate world, because many of them had major flaws and often missed the true essence of leadership.

I got so fed up that I made up my own leadership survey that has been used by thousands of people. But any survey has the flaw of being either filled out by the person being measured, or some 360 degree sample of people within the leader’s circle.

While the surveys can sort out the worst of the worst or give adequate leaders a false sense of security, I think the eight indicators listed below are more useful and easier to decipher.

Do you want to know if you are a great leader? Answer these eight questions honestly.

1. Are you a magnet for high potential people?

Great leaders are so much fun to be around and to work for that the very best people are clamoring for a chance to work for them. If you are leading an organization where good people are looking to leave, then the signal is clear as a bell.

Do not read this wrong. Good leaders can be found in all kinds of situations, many of which are very stressful or unpleasant, but the smart people stay with them because they are learning and growing despite the ordeals. Great leaders are eternally passionate about developing people (including themselves).

2. Are you having the most fun of your life?

Poor leaders struggle against the demands of the job. They are constantly on guard because everything needs to be optimized to work perfectly. They sense that people are ready to pounce on any misstep, so they worry about exactly how to spin any piece of news.

Great leaders are relaxed and having a ball just being themselves and performing at a high rate without fretting about being perfect. They are more focused on growing other leaders and doing what they believe is right.

When they make a misstep, they learn from it and move on. Great leaders are happy people, while poor leaders are bundles of nerves!

3. Do you live the values at all times?

It is amazing how so many leaders have taken the time to document the values for their organization, but when asked point blank if they follow those values every day, end up stammering something like, “well, we always try to do that.”

If circumstances or short term urgencies cause leaders to waffle and rationalize behaviors that are not consistent with the values, people see the hypocrisy and know the lofty words are good for when conditions are right, but not for everyday pressures. Hogwash!

The cauldron of every crisis and urgency is precisely when it is most important to model the values. Great leaders know and do this.

4. Do you continually invest in higher trust?

Trust is the lubricant that allows organizations to work amid the cacophony of seemingly conflicting friction and priorities. Real trust is influenced by the behaviors of the top leader more than any other single factor in an organization.

You would be surprised at how few leaders are able to step up to this ultimate reality. They would rather blame the workers, supervisors, customers, economy, the government, or hundreds of other factors rather than themselves for the problems they face.

The great leaders know trust depends on them and invest in it every single moment without failure.

5. Do you readily admit mistakes?

This one is a kind of acid test. In all my seminars, I ask if admitting an honest mistake builds or reduces respect for a leader. Nearly 100% of people agree that admitting mistakes increases respect.

The only caveat is that the mistake cannot be something done for a sinister intent or for repeated mistakes.

Since the vast majority of mistakes occur because things did not work out as we had intended, then admitting mistakes should be a no brainer.

Unfortunately, when the chips are down, few leaders actually have the capability to admit the mistake and instead try to find ways to deflect culpability.

In other words, most leaders often do what they intellectually know is the action that lowers respect.

6. Do you listen deeply?

Most leaders consider themselves good listeners. Unfortunately, the majority of leaders do a very poor job of listening. They are leaders, and that means they need to lead conversations and actions.

The true test of this is to monitor your verbal output as a percentage of the amount of listening you do. If your words going out are around 30% of what is coming in, then you are probably in good shape.

If you observe most leaders, their verbal output is around 3-4 times their listening. Great leaders pause!

7. Do you build a truly genuine reinforcing culture?

All leaders know that they can encourage more of a particular behavior if it is reinforced. Unfortunately many leaders fail to achieve a culture at all levels where people praise the efforts and successes of others.

The rules of good reinforcement are well known, but many leaders exude a kind of plastic reinforcement that is manipulative in its intent, and people see through the ploy instantly.

Oh, they will bask in the glow while drinking the Kool-aid, but they sense the insincerity underneath, so the reinforcement often creates a negative tone inside.

8. Do you hold people accountable the right way?

In nearly all organizations, holding people accountable is a kind of “gotcha” activity where the person in charge reiterates the expectation followed by a scolding and how it is necessary to do better in the future.

The dilemma is that most people, on most days, are doing good or excellent work, yet they are held “accountable” only when they mess up.

If we changed the paradigm such that people were held accountable for the positive things as well as the shortcomings, it would change the entire equation. I call this skill “holding people procountable.”

There are literally thousands of leadership behaviors that make up the total performance characteristics for any leader.

I believe if you can honestly answer “YES!” to all eight of the above questions, you are one of the elite leaders of our time. Congratulations!

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, 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. 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


Actions That Enable Higher Trust

October 10, 2015

My Leadergrow Trust Model has a set of what I call “Enabling Actions.” These behaviors are different from the “Table Stakes” I discussed last week.

If a leader does not possess one of the “Enabling Actions” it doesn’t disqualify him or her completely, but it does hinder the process of achieving maximum trust.

With the “Enabling Actions,” the more you can practice them the more trust you can build within your group.

There are an infinite number of enabling actions. Let me mention a few as examples to illustrate:

• do what you say you’re going to do,
• admit mistakes,
• coach people in private rather than berate them in public, and
• act in the interest of others.

The list of possible “Enabling Actions” is really endless, and the more you can practice these behaviors the more consistently you will build trust.

Since organizational trust is created mostly by the behavior of leaders, it is useful to have a list of the kinds of leadership behaviors that are most effective at building trust.

Once again, the specific “Enabling Actions” would be specific to a particular industry and workplace although the majority of them will apply everywhere.

If I’m working in a law office, the enabling actions might be different from a group of executives running a garbage collection company. The distinguishing factor for “Enabling Actions” is that their absence does not prevent any trust; it simply limits the level of trust that is achievable.

Exercise for today: Take out a sheet of paper and work with your team to develop a list of 12 to 20 trust enabling actions in your environment. You will find this brainstorming activity to be easy, and it may lead to some interesting discussions about trust in your organization.

The enabling actions are extremely important, because the more you can identify them and practice them the higher trust you can achieve in your group. Make sure to keep brainstorming ideas for how to add more enabling actions to your list.

The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to http://www.avanoo.com/first3/517