Leadership Barometer 2 Level of Trust

June 11, 2019

There are hundreds of assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly.

You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership. There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership.

These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

Level of Trust

Good leaders create a legacy of trust within their organization. I have written elsewhere on the numerous hallmarks of an organization with trust as opposed to one that has no trust. But is there a quick and dirty kind of litmus test for trust? Think about how you would know if an organization has high trust.

You can do extensive surveys on the climate or call in an expensive consultant to study every nook and cranny of the organization, but that is not necessary.

All you need to do is walk into a meeting that is going on and observe what you see for about 5 minutes. You can get a very accurate view of the level of trust in what Malcolm Gladwell calls a “thin slice” of a few minutes watching a group.

1. Overall Body Language

Look at how the people sit. Are they leaning back with arms crossed and rigid necks, or are they basically leaning either in or toward the other people next to them?

2. Facial Expressions

Observe the look on the faces of people in the meeting. Can you see pain and agony, like they do not want to be there but are forced to endure the agony till the boss adjourns?

3. Tone of Voice

Listen to how people address each other. Is there a biting sarcasm that seeks to gain personal advantage by making other people in the room look small or do the people show genuine respect and even affection for each other?

4. Respect for the Leader

See how individuals interact with the leader. Is it obvious that everyone is trying to help the leader or are they trying to trip her up or catch her in a mistake? Do the participants show a genuine respect for the leader?

5. Lack of Fear

Is there a willingness to speak up if there is something not sitting right – for anyone, or is there a cold atmosphere of fear where people know they will get clobbered if they contradict the leader?

6. High Initiative

If there is work to be done are there eager volunteers or does everyone sit quiet like non-bidders at an auction?

7. Attitude

Is the spirit of the meeting one of doom and gloom or is the group feeling like masters of their own fate, even when times are rough?

These are just seven signs you can observe in only a few minutes that will tell you the level of trust within the group. That trust level is an accurate reflection of the caliber of the leader.

I used to tell people that I could tell the climate of an organization within 30 seconds of watching a meeting. You can actually see it in the body language of the participants. Would you agree with this assessment?

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585-392-7763.


Leadership Barometer 1 Your In vs Out Ratio

June 4, 2019

This is the first in a series of brief articles on how you can tell the caliber of leaders in your organization.  These ideas do not replace the need for more thorough assessments, but they are really handy gut checks on how leaders are doing.

There are hundreds of leadership assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly. You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership. There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

Know your “In Vs. Out Ratio”

Are people striving to get into your organization or are they trying to find ways to get out?

It is pretty easy to assess if people want to get in because you will have a long line of individuals contacting you to ask in what way they can join your group. Some people are very persistent, and it is a good sign when highly talented people ask you to keep looking for a spot for them.

The second measure is harder to assess because when people want to get out of your organization, it is not always obvious. The telltale sign is if individuals are “looking for other opportunities.”

Usually a leader does not know what percentage of his or her population is trying to find alternate employment. That is because if lots of people want out, there is likely very little trust in the organization.

With low trust, people will hide the fact they are looking for a different job out of self protection. The best time to find a job is when you already have a job, so people can go years while looking around to find a better position.

Likewise in an environment of low trust you might be afraid for your employment if your boss knew you were looking elsewhere.

It is obvious that when people are looking elsewhere, they are not giving 100% of their best to the current organization. If there are several people in this situation it can really sap productivity and morale.

So the yin and yang for a leader is that if trust is high, people will generally be wanting in and that information will be rather transparent due to the long line. If trust is low, the number of people wanting out is a hidden number.

My bottom line for all leaders is to ask if they know the ratio of people wanting to get in versus out. If they have a good idea, then they are good leaders. If they have no clue, it reflects poorly on the quality of their leadership. It is a simple and remarkably accurate barometer.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com 585-392-7763. Website http://www.leadergrow.com BLOG http://www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind


The 360 Degree Trap

December 11, 2011

I am a big believer in 360 Degree assessments for leaders. Reason: the tool is one of the best ways to reveal to a leader what other people think of him or her. If administered correctly, the evaluation can be insightful and form the basis of a well-focused development plan.

Unfortunately, there are some traps that can cause the 360 Degree Assessment to be harmful rather than helpful. In this article, I focus on one major flaw with 360 Degree Assessments and offer some antidotes to this problem.

Most organizations use 360 as a measure of the effectiveness of leaders, and that information is directly related to compensation and advancement. This is logical because a 360 Degree Assessment represents how skilled the leader is at working with people at all levels. Isn’t that what a performance measurement system is supposed to do? Actually, no. Performance measurement should focus on results and behaviors to get the results, not on how well liked a leader is with people at all levels.

The 360 Degree Assessment can result in leadership mediocrity. Once managers realize their performance will be measured with a 360 process, they quickly learn it is vital to have all subordinates like them. That means leaders will focus on being popular with the troops, which is not always the best strategy for excellent leadership.

For example, I witnessed a Business Unit Manager who took his entire team off site for a day-long celebration of their progress. A lot of money was spent, and a good time was had by all, complete with a “hand jive” group dance that pumped a lot of energy. Six months later the entire team was unemployed, including the manager. He ignored the business realities and focused on keeping employees happy until there was no business left.

Great leaders recognize that sometimes they are not going to be well liked. They always seek to be respected, but that means sometimes enduring a period where they are unpopular. As Colin Powell once said, “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.” If the 360 Degree Assessment is directly linked to compensation and advancement, the exercise encourages leaders to make popular decisions over doing the right thing.

I recall one instance where I was combining several manufacturing departments into a divisional structure. Most of the departments had a mandatory safety shoe rule because the employees were moving heavy materials. One department decided they would not require safety shoes because most of their operation was “light” manufacturing. I was troubled by the inconsistent policy and was trying to drive a safety shoe mandate for all departments. I met with considerable resistance from this one department.

One day an operator in that department had an incident with a cart that ran over his foot. The injury was not serious, but it could have easily been a broken foot. I called a meeting and said it was now a requirement to wear safety shoes in the department. For months after that, I was a very unpopular leader with that population. The decision was respected, and it was clearly followed, but these people were extremely unhappy. My 360 rating coming from that area was impacted that year, and it had a negative influence on my overall performance appraisal.

The remedy is to make the leadership evaluation be a holistic process that takes into account many things, one of which is a 360 Degree Assessment. There needs to be an understanding that a temporarily low score from subordinates is not necessarily a black mark. The interpretation of data needs to take into account conditions on the ground that are causing the low marks. You might think that if employees had true respect for their leader, they would rate her highly even if they were unhappy with her at the moment. If you believe that, you and I disagree on human nature.

If handled well, the 360 Degree process works extremely well. Unfortunately, many organizations do not apply the necessary caveats because they don’t take the time and energy to understand the situations driving the data. Measuring human performance of managers is a very complex process, if your objectives are to encourage the right behaviors in the future and grow leadership capabilities. Do not mechanically couple the results of 360 Degree Assessments to compensation and advancement programs. It can lead to mediocre leaders.