Reducing Conflict 87 Create a Development Plan

April 2, 2023

How can creating your own development plan help to reduce conflict in your life? It sounds like a weird juxtaposition of concepts.  I will discuss the wisdom of the approach in this article.

The idea is to rise above the rancor. Change your outlook so you reduce the negative mental activity on the part of both people.

Knitting a development plan into the context of reducing conflict

I am not talking about taking courses on how to “win friends and influence people” here. Clearly, by becoming a more charming personality you would find fewer challenges with others. I am thinking about changing your outlook when you have a basic disagreement with another person.

Take a step back

Think about what is going on when you are in conflict. You and the other person see two paths forward that are not the same.  The other person is trying to get you to see the wisdom of their views and you are doing the opposite. You are both doing a lot of shouting and not much deep listening.

Within the acrimony, you each have the desire to reach in and change the mindset of the other person. Your focus might be on how you can “fix” the other person to see the issue your way. You truly believe your solution is the best one.

Change your focus

A stronger focus on the schism between you and the other person will cause the divide to become deeper. The rancor escalates naturally because you become frustrated that the other person is not budging from their stance. For the other person, the frustration is likely just as intense.

You find yourself thinking about how to make the other person change. That pattern is a natural progression.  Suppose you are thinking about the problem and a new way to force the other person to change. That mindset means that you will be consumed with thoughts of how to back your opponent into a corner. The angst will continue to escalate because it is the same old story, only now more intense.

Take an alternate approach

Try changing your self-talk. Consider how you can show up differently for the other person.  Think of various options for how you can change.  Your language and mindset will change to be more inviting for the other person.

First of all, you are no longer projecting yourself as a perfect person who has all the answers. You recognize that the only person you can really change is yourself. Be willing to try a completely different tack. In doing so, you will listen more and talk less so you hear the other person’s points better.

The other person recognizes and appreciates your change in body language. As the tension eases, you consider ways to soften your stance. You start thinking about compromise ideas and get creative with potential solutions. The other person might even engage in some brainstorming ideas about a resolution.

Try reversing roles

Once some reasonable level of discussion is going on, you might suggest reversing roles.  In that concept, you try to verbalize the other person’s points and they try to articulate yours.

Be careful not to suggest reversing roles before establishing some helpful rapport.  You can get caught where the other person does a double reverse, and you will be worse off. I have seen that happen, and it is game over!

Agree to disagree

Another resolution might be that you both agree to disagree. You can still have a healthy relationship even if you do not have a total agreement. Just find peace within the situation on your own.

Share your development plan

You can share your development plan with the other person once you are beyond the shouting stage.  For example, you might say, “This week I have been focusing on being less judgmental. Have you noticed a change?” You are making progress when the other person sees the shift from being “fixed” to helping you fix yourself.


When you are in conflict with another person, recognize that you believe you are right.  The other person is equally convinced that they are right. To make progress, you need to shift your thinking patterns. Become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.


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. 

Talent Development 43 Marketing Strategy

June 21, 2021

Section 3.4 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Talent Strategy & Management. Section E states, “Skill in establishing and executing a marketing strategy to promote talent development.”

You can have the most effective and complete training curriculum, but if most people in the organization are not aware of it or how to obtain the training, it will lead to disappointing results.

It takes energy and skill to pull together a professional marketing strategy for promoting the program. This short article will discuss the process.

Business Case

First of all, there must be a business case. The training will improve the skills of the people attending, but what is the total payoff for the organization?

For example, if training in “Lean Production Concepts” is projected to boost productivity by 15% and reduce waste by 10%, then managers can verify that those numbers more than offset the training cost.

Often, the training program is for the ultimate development of the people involved, and the payback will be in the form of lower turnover and recruiting costs.

Sometimes a training program will be for purposes of pursuing a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion plan. If so, include that fact in the promotional material.

Whatever the impact on the return for the organization, estimate it so that managers can test the validity of the assumptions.

Promotion of the Training

Once we understand the business case, we can promote the training program by including it in daily briefing meetings.

When managers appoint people for the training, the rationale will provide the basis for discussion.

Include the training program in an overall training strategy and present it to the shareholders as well as the general public.

Add the training effort to the Learning Management System for the organization as part of the overall plan.

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, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.

Building Higher Trust 14 Development of People

March 20, 2021

There is a direct link between the development of people and building a culture of higher trust.

When leaders focus high energy on making sure each individual sees a pathway to become more valuable to the organization, it demonstrates how much the leader values people.

Start with a Development Plan

Each individual in the organization should have a solid development plan that was created by dialog between the leaders and the employee.

The discussion will contain an understanding of the skills the employee already is contributing along with a glimpse of how this person could become even more valuable.

Once the leader and employee agree on what additional skills would be helpful, the information can be crafted into a concrete plan for moving ahead.


The process of creating a development plan is a kind of bonding activity that lets the employee know he or she is a valued member of the organization.

The willingness to envision the employee performing at a higher level is what makes the activity valuable in terms of building higher trust.

Solid steps forward

Without a specific plan, even if intentions are good, the employee may feel somewhat taken for granted among the vicissitudes of organizational priorities. It may be a long time before activities are actually put on the calendar.

Worse, the intentions may never be realized at all as the urgent needs of daily life take priority.

With a plan in place, there is a high probability that some specific training will be scheduled and carried out.

Revise the plan often

It is important to continually revise the plan as some training takes place. This step is consistent with a philosophy of life-long learning.

If the development of people is viewed as a journey with no end point, it will have the most impact on building higher trust.

Praise the person

Leaders need to recognize the employees in a meaningful way as they go through various development activities.

People need to know that their efforts to improve are recognized and appreciated by upper management. That practice will make future development discussions richer and more rewarding for both the employee and the organization.

Bonus video

Here is a brief video about trust and the development of people

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, 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 1000 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

Talent Development 19 Overcoming Barriers

December 10, 2020

Section 3.2 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Consulting and Business Partnering. Section D reads, “Skill in identifying, minimizing, and overcoming organizational barriers to implementing talent development solutions and/or strategies.”

I will discuss six of the main reasons for barriers and suggest solutions to each one.

Lack of Commitment

We see many examples of top leaders who talk a good game in terms of developing their workforce, but the level of commitment is mostly lip service. In the daily pressures for short term deliverables, many leaders fail to follow through with resources or emphasis to make their stated intentions into reality.

The cure for this is to have the courage to stick with programs, even if the pathway gets a bit rocky. Once leaders give the slightest hint of backing away from the agreed-upon path it is the kiss of death to enthusiasm for the program.

If this phenomenon occurs, the results of the training effort will be a tiny fraction of what was originally envisioned.

Too Many Surveys

When designing development efforts, surveys are used to determine which areas need the most help. Unfortunately, in many cases organizations have too many surveys and ones that are poorly designed. When this happen, people end up giving false or warped input or simply fail to respond.

If workers do not see a strong positive correlation between their input on surveys and the resulting training, they lose enthusiasm and become jaded. The cure is to have robust and infrequent surveys.

For the “how to” of doing surveys well, I refer you to my prior article on this topic.

Poorly Designed Training

When training programs are inconvenient, boring, or otherwise flawed, they fail to have the impact that was intended. If people are going to give their full effort willingly, the activities must be inspired and of top quality throughout.

Often organizations skimp on the resources needed to provide the very best training. When workers see this happen, they turn their energies to other more vital activities and put the training on the “back burner.”

One decision that needs to be carefully considered is whether the internal training staff is up to world class standards of design and delivery. If there is any doubt, it is a good idea to go with an external expert in the particular area that is being developed.

Many organizations shy away from outside help because it is perceived the result will be too expensive.

When organizations fail to provide top quality resources in order to save some cash, it severely undermines the entire training effort.

Lay-On Programs

If the program is a formality or lay-on type of training, then people are going to be less enthusiastic than is required for success. The cure here is to have good involvement by the people who will ultimately get trained in specifying and designing the program.

People need to see a very strong connection between the development plan and what the organization is trying to achieve. They need to feel that the training will benefit each one of them in their future.

You cannot expect people to participate with their full energy if they do not see a better future in it for them.

Antiquated Training Methods

Some organizations are still in the dark ages when it comes to the methods used to conduct the training. Not only does the material need to be fresh and up to date, but the tools used must be the latest technology.

Experiential learning always translates into real learning far better than just lecture or exercises following reading assignments.

Poor Follow Through

All training events have a finite schedule. Regardless of the topic being trained, people will normally get a lot out of the effort while the training is going on.

Many organizations fail to recognize that the half-life of the benefits is really quite short. For example, I do a lot of leadership training, and I believe the benefits atrophy in a matter of weeks unless I follow up with materials after the training.

For a training effort to produce lasting results, there needs to be a follow-on plan to keep the material fresh and being used until it has time to become habitual behavior.

For this aspect, I like to use follow on video programs that stretch the learning at least 30 days after the formal training is complete.

Supervisors should hold periodic review sessions where they ask people to describe how they are using the new knowledge in their daily activities. They should raise the consciousness of the new skills being used to the benefit of the organization.

Work to avoid these six pitfalls, and you will have overcome the most significant barriers with your talent development program.

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, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.

Talent Development 15 Coaching Supervisors

November 1, 2020

Section 2.7 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Coaching. Section B reads, “Skill in coaching supervisors and managers on methods and approaches for supporting employee development.”

I have always had a keen interest in coaching of supervisors and managers. I believe their role is pivotal, and their situation is often challenging. Throughout my career, I spent roughly 40% of my time actually working with supervisors in groups and individually to develop and sharpen their skills.

Successful Supervisor Series

From 2016 to 2018 I wrote a series of 100 blog articles specifically aimed at creating more successful supervisors. I am sharing an index of the entire program here so you can view the topics covered. The index has a link to each article on my blog in case you may be interested in reading up on certain topics. Note: After you call up the document, you will need to click on “enable editing” at the top of the page in order to open the links below.

Use for Training

You may wish to select articles at random or as a function of your interest, or an alternative would be to view one article a day for 100 days. You could use the series as a training program for supervisors.

In that case, I recommend having periodic review sessions to have open discussion on the points that are made. There will likely be counter points to some of my ideas that apply to your situation.

Some examples relating to Employee Development

Most of this series deals with the development of the supervisors themselves, but many of the articles deal with supervisors supporting employee development. I will share links to 10 specific articles here as examples from the series:

9. Motivation

40. Engaging People

47. Coaching People on Money Problems

57. Building a High Performance Team

70. Reduce Drama

78. Trust and the Development of People

82. Trust Improves Productivity

88. Better Team Building

89. Repairing Damaged Trust

93. Creating Your Own Development Plan

I hope this information has been helpful to you. Best of luck on your journey toward outstanding Supervision and Leadership.

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, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.

Leadership Barometer 63 Growth and Development

August 30, 2020

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.

Growth & Development

Good leaders focus on the growth and development of people. If you want to test the caliber of a leader, just measure how much energy she spends on developing people. The concept is that there is vast reservoir of talent in all people that is ripe for development.

I estimate that most organizations typically get around 20%-30% of the available energy and talent of their workforce. My estimate may be a bit off, but not too far. Think of it this way. It would mean that we can triple the productivity of the workforce and still have people working at roughly 60%-90% of their capacity. Wow, what a great way to improve output and lower costs.

Of course, you cannot obtain 100% of the energy of all people all of the time. That would require so much Adrenalin it would kill everyone. But we really don’t need the 100%. I contend there is so much pent up potential in most organizations the upside is seemingly infinite.

What holds us back? Well, it is a lot of factors I am describing in this series. One of the key ones is whether people have been given the skills to do their best work. Good leaders know this and put a lot of emphasis in the development of people.

You can contrast this with poor leaders who do not seek to do much development. They may be afraid that if they develop outstanding raw talent, they will surpass the leader and leave them in the dust.

They may be too ignorant to realize that 1 hour in a good training program brings more than 3 incremental hours of productivity to the organization. It may be that the organization is in such a state of panic, there is simply no time to develop people for the future. This myopic viewpoint is similar to the orchestra playing their final tunes on the Titanic.

Development of people also enables higher trust, because the organization is investing in the future of their workers. Even the discussions between the supervisor and the worker helps build trust, because it shows that the supervisor cares for the individual.

Another aspect of development is the degree to which the leader seeks to grow as an individual. Does she have discussion groups around some leadership books?

Is she enrolled in several professional organizations? Does she spend time going to at least one professional conference per year? Does she listen to recorded programs while driving? Does she have an active reading list?

All of these actions are signs of a person who is really interested in growing as a leader. When you see these signs, you know the person understands the value of continuous learning. If these actions are absent, even if for good and valid reasons, it shows a lack of interest in personal development, which is a sign of a weak leader.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations.

Talent Development 3 Reduce Conflict

July 10, 2020

One of the skill areas listed in the Detailed Content Outline for the Certified Professional in Talent Development CPTD by ATD is “knowledge of conflict management techniques.”

Several years ago, I created a list of twelve tips to reduce conflict. I present these as a discussion starter. What techniques would you add to my list?

Reverse Roles

When people take opposing sides in an argument, they become blind to the alternate way of thinking. This polarization causes people to become intransigent, and the rancor escalates. A simple fix is to get each party to verbalize the points being made by the other person. To accomplish this, each person must truly understand the other person’s perspective, which is why the technique is effective.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Most of the things that drive you crazy about a co-worker are things that you won’t remember by the end of the day or certainly not later in the week. Recognize that the things annoying you about another person are really insignificant when considering the bigger picture and the numerous things both of you have in common.

Live and Let Live

The other person’s personal habits are just the way he or she is built. Don’t fixate on trying to change the person to conform to what you think should happen. Focus your attention on the things you like to do.

Take a Vacation

When pressure builds up, just take a brief vacation in your mind. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and visualize a happier place and time. You can take a vicarious trip to the beach anytime you wish. One trick with this technique is to get as many senses involved as possible; feel the warm air on your cheek, taste the salt water on your lips, hear the gentle lapping of the waves, smell the seaweed by your feet, touch the warm sand on which you are sitting, see the beautiful sunset over the water.

Be Nice

Kindness begets kindness. Share a treat, say something soothing, compliment the other person, do something helpful. These things make it more difficult for the ill feelings to spread.

Extend Trust

Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” We’ll forgive the flawed grammar, since Ernest is already in the grave, and also since his meaning is powerfully true. Trust is bilateral, and you can usually increase trust by extending more of it to others. I call this “The First Law of Trust.”

Don’t Talk Behind their Back

When you spread gossip about people, a little of it eventually leaks back to them, and it will destroy the relationship. If there is an issue, handle it directly, just as you would have that person do with you.

Don’t Regress to Childish Behavior

It is easy for adults in the work setting to act like children. You can witness it every day. Get off the playground, and remember to act like an adult. Work is not a place to have tantrums, sulk, pout, have a food fight, undermine, or any number of common tactics used by people who are short on coping mechanisms because of their immaturity.

Care About the Person

It is hard to be upset with someone you really care about. Recognize that the load other people carry is equal or heavier than your own. Show empathy and try to help them in every way possible. This mindset is the route to real gratitude.

Listen More Than You Speak

When you are talking or otherwise expounding, it is impossible to be sensitive to the feelings of the other person. Take the time to listen to the other person. Practice reflective listening and keep the ratio of talking to listening well below 50%.

Create Your Development Plan

Most individuals have a long list of what other people need to do to shape up but a rather short list of the things they need to improve upon. Make sure you identify the things in your own behavior that need to change, and you will take the focus off the shortcomings of others.

Follow the Golden Rule

The famous Golden Rule will cure most strife in any organization. We tend to forget to apply it to our everyday battles at work.

If we would all follow these 12 simple rules, there would be a lot less conflict in the work place. It takes some effort, but it is really worth it because we spend so much time working with other people.

Following these rules also means leading by example. If just a few people in an organization model these ideas, other people will see the impact and start to abide by them as well. That initiative can form a trend that will change an entire culture in a short period of time.

The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on

Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.

Talent Development 1 Are You Doing Enough Cross Training?

June 20, 2020

Don’t you love the advertisements that promise to cure all your problems just by taking a pill? They try to convince you that all ailments are related, and for only $19. 95 plus S&H you can have a full month supply of the cure.

“But wait! If you order within the next 20 minutes, we’ll double your order; just pay separate S&H.” It is amazing that there are people who actually believe this drivel.

For organizational ailments, I believe there is a potion that really does attack many issues at the same time, and you can actually get a double dose for a very low price with no S&H (and the offer does not expire in 20 minutes).

The tonic I am referring to is cross training. Let’s look at some of the reasons why this practice is such powerful medicine.

Link Between Training and Satisfaction

Several studies over the past 50 years have established a strong link between training and satisfaction. Organizations that continuously train their people have more motivated employees and less absenteeism.

If you study the organizations in the Top 100 companies to work for in the United States, you will see that every one of them has a strong cross training program in place for employees.

Improved Bench Strength

It is not rocket science to discover the benefits of having people cross trained on each other’s job. Every time an employee is out for an illness or vacation, it is a simple matter of moving people around to cover the lost function.

Having several back-ups for each position generates the flexibility to operate efficiently in today’s frenetic environment. In sports, we know that a team with great bench strength has an easier time winning than one with monolithic superstars.

Better Teamwork

When people train others on their function, a kind of personal bond is struck that is intangible but powerful. It is really a large team-building effort to install a cross training program in a company.

People actually enjoy it and rightfully feel the additional skills have something to do with job security.

Interestingly in organizations that do not cross train, many people are protective of their knowledge thinking that being the only one who knows procedures makes them indispensable.

Actually, the reverse is true because when large numbers of people feel that way, there is high tension, and the organization fails when someone is out. Jobs are not very secure in organizations like that.

Reduction in Turn Over

An organization that focuses on cross training suffers less from employee churn. Why? Because people have more variety of work and higher self-esteem.
They have more fun at work and tend to stay with the organization. Also, the opportunities to learn new things adds to the equation.

Basically, people operate at higher levels on Maslow’s pyramid in organizations that cross train.

Leads to Higher Trust

Trust is directly related to how people feel about their development. In organizations were people have a solid training program for the future, people know management cares about them as individuals.

The discussions to develop the plan are trust-building events because the topic is how the individual can improve his or her lot in life. That is refreshing and bodes well for the future.

Not Expensive

Of all the medications an organization can take for their problems, cross training is one of the least expensive. Reason: Training can be inserted during the little slack periods within an operating day or week.

Training keeps people occupied in growth activities when there is nothing much else to do. So, the real cost to the organization is much lower than it appears on the surface. When compared to the benefits, the ROI is fantastic.

Keeps the Saw Sharp

We all know the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. This is because in order to explain what you are doing you have to understand it very well.

A cross training policy forces incumbent workers to have their job processes well documented and easy to communicate.

Also, in the process of training someone else, there is the opportunity for the trainee to suggest better ways of approaching a task, so the process is being honed and refined all the time. That is healthy because it prevents stagnation.

If your organization does not have an active and specific cross training process, get one started today. It has so many upsides and really no significant downside.

If you have a program, ask yourself if it is fresh and vital. Are you milking this technique well or giving it lip service? If the latter is true, you have a lot to gain by revitalizing your cross training process.

The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on

Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.

Leadership Barometer 43 Toxic Leaders

March 22, 2020

We are all familiar with the word “toxic” and recognize that toxic substances are known to cause human beings serious injury or death. We are also aware that some individuals have mastered the skill of being toxic to other people.

When a toxic person is the leader of an organization, the performance of that unit will typically be less than half what it would be under a leader who builds trust. There is documented evidence (see Trust Across America statistics) that high trust groups outperform low trust groups by a factor of two to five times.

Thankfully, the majority of leaders are not toxic. One estimate given by LTG Walter F. Ulmer in an article entitled “Toxic Leadership” (Army, June 2012) is that 30-50% of leaders are essentially transformational, while only 8-10% are essentially toxic. The unfortunate reality is that one toxic leader in an organization does such incredible damage, he or she can bring down an entire culture without even realizing it.

Why would a leader speak and behave in a toxic way if he or she recognizes the harm being done to the organization?

Is it because leaders are just not aware of the link between their behaviors and performance of the group?

Is it because they are totally unaware of the fact that their actions are toxic to others?

Is it because they are lazy and just prefer to bark out orders rather than work to encourage people?

While there are instances where any of these modes might be in play, I think other mechanisms are responsible for most of the lamentable behaviors of toxic leaders.

Toxic leaders do understand that employees are generally unhappy working under them. What they fail to see is the incredible leverage they are leaving off the table. They just do not believe there is a better way to manage, otherwise they would do that.

If you are in an organization, there is a possibility you are in daily contact with one or more toxic leaders. There are three possibilities here: 1) you have a leader working for you who is toxic, 2) you are a toxic leader yourself, but do not know it or want to admit it, or 3) you are working for a toxic leader or have one higher in the chain of command. I will give some tips you can use for each of these cases.

Toxic Leader Working for you

This person needs to become more aware that he or she is operating at cross purposes to the goals of the organization. Do this through education and coaching. Once awareness is there, then you can begin to shape the behavior through leadership development and reinforcement. It may be that this person is just not a good fit for a leadership role. If the behaviors are not improved, then this leader should be removed.

You are a toxic leader

It is probably not obvious to you how much damage is being done by your treatment of other people. They are afraid to tell you what is actually going on, so you are getting grudging compliance and leaving their maximum discretionary effort unavailable to the organization. Trust will not grow in an environment of fear.

The antidote here is to genuinely assess your own level of toxicity and change it if you are not happy with the answer. This can be accomplished through getting a leadership coach or getting some excellent training. Try to read at least one good leadership book every month.

You are working for a toxic leader

In my experience, this is the most common situation. It is difficult and dangerous to retrofit your boss to be less toxic. My favorite saying for this situation is, “Never wrestle a pig. You get all muddy and the pig loves it.”

So what can you do that will have a positive impact on the situation without risking loss of employment? Here are some ideas that may help, depending on how severe the problem is and how open minded your boss is:

1. Create a leadership growth activity in your area and invite the boss to participate. Use a “lunch and learn” format where various leaders review some great books on leadership. I would start with some of the Warren Bennis books or perhaps Jim Collins’ Good to Great.

2. Suggest that part of the performance gap is a lack of trust in higher management and get some dialog on how this could be improved. By getting the boss to verbalize a dissatisfaction with the status quo, you can gently shape the issue back to the leader’s behaviors. The idea is to build a recognition of the causal relationship between culture and performance.

3. Show some of the statistical data that is available that links higher trust to greater productivity. The Trust Across America Website is a great source of this information.

4. Bring in a speaker who specializes in improving culture for a quarterly meeting. Try to get the speaker to interface with the problem leader personally offline. If the leader can see some glimmer of hope that a different way of operating would provide the improvements he or she is seeking, then some progress can be made.

5. Suggest some leadership development training for all levels in the organization. Here it is not necessary to identify the specific leader as “the problem,” rather, discuss how improved leadership behaviors at all levels would greatly benefit the organization.

6. Reinforce any small directional baby steps in the right direction the leader inadvertently shows. Reinforcement from below can be highly effective if it is sincere. You can actually shape the behavior of your boss by frequent reminders of the things he or she is doing right.

It is a rare leader who will admit, “Our performance is far off the mark, and since I am in charge, it must be that my behaviors are preventing people from giving the organization their maximum discretionary effort.”

Those senior leaders who would seriously consider this statement are the ones who can find ways to change through training and coaching. They are the ones who have the better future.

Most toxic leaders will remain with their habits that sap the vital energy from people and take their organizations in exactly the opposite direction from where they want to go.

Another key reason why toxic leaders fail to see the opportunity staring them in the face is a misconception about Leadership Development. The typical comment is, “We are not into the touchy-feely stuff here. We do not dance around the maypole and sing Kum-ba-yah while toasting marshmallows by the campfire.”

The problem here is that several leadership training methods in the past have used outdoor experiential training to teach the impact of good teamwork and togetherness. Senior leaders often feel too serious and dignified for that kind of frivolity, so they sit in their offices and honestly believe any remedial training needs to be directed toward the junior leaders.

To reduce the impact of a toxic leader, follow the steps outlined above, and you may be able to make a large shift in performance over time while preserving your job. You can even use this article as food for thought and pass it around the office to generate dialog on how to chart a better future for the organization.

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

Leadership Barometer 40 Turnover

March 2, 2020

Is employee turnover killing your company? Turnover is one of the most significant, and avoidable inhibitors of profit. The US national average for turnover usually runs between 2-3% per month, whereas the top 100 companies often have a turnover rate of only 2-3% in an entire year.

In this article, I put a spotlight on the turnover problem and offer some antidotes that are common sense but sometimes not common practice.

For professionals, the cost of replacing an employee is roughly the annual salary of the individual. That means a company with 1000 people, each with an average annual salary of $48K, will lose more than $17 million per year due to turnover. These costs go directly to the bottom line in good times and bad.

Even in periods of high unemployment, turnover is still a problem for most groups. When jobs are scarce, workers may not leave immediately, but they are quietly planning on exiting once the job market improves.

One recent estimate is that 40% of workers are unhappy and plan to move within the next year if jobs become available (National Labor Statistics). That would mean a dramatic rise in turnover costs and a significant shift of the best talent from organizations with poor practices to those with stronger cultures.
How can we fight this needless drain? Here are seven key factors that can help you reduce turnover in your organization:


When people decide to leave an organization, it is most often the result of dissatisfaction with their direct supervisor. The most important thing to improve is the quality of leadership at all levels. Teaching supervisors and managers how to create the right culture makes a huge difference in turnover.

Unfortunately, when money is tight, often the first thing that gets cut is training. Improving leadership at all levels needs to be a continual investment, not a one-time event when someone gets promoted to a supervisory role.

Supervisors who are well trained recognize their primary function is to create a culture where people are engaged in the work and want the organization to succeed. These people rarely leave because they are happy where they are.


Pay is often cited as a reason for people leaving an organization. Pay may be a factor in some cases, but it is often just the excuse. What is really happening is that the work environment is intolerable, so the remuneration for the grief to be endured is not a good tradeoff. We need to teach managers to improve the trust level within the organization.

High trust organizations can pay workers non-inflated wages and still have excellent retention rates. There are numerous examples of this. One of them is Zappos, where they have such a great culture, that when employees are offered $2000 to leave, they do not take it.

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Dan Pink points out that the relationship between pay and motivation is not what most people think. He cites several studies that show a pattern where higher pay can actually lead to poorer performance.

Pink advocates paying people enough so that the issue of money is off the table. Then three other conditions, Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose, will take over as the key drivers to satisfaction and motivation, and therefore, retention.

A better future

Another key factor that causes people to leave is lack of a path forward. Employees who can visualize some pathway to a better future will generally stick around to experience it. Training and development are a key enablers for people to know there is a brighter future. Cross training is a particularly helpful way to have employees feel they are being developed to be more important to their organization. Cross training also helps make the work environment more interesting.

A family atmosphere

If you read about the culture of the top companies worldwide, there are many common themes. One of these is that employees describe their work associates as their extended family. They cherish the relationships with their co-workers. Sure, there will be some squabbles and an occasional lecherous uncle, but the overarching atmosphere is one of a nurturing and caring group of people similar to a family. Who would want to leave that environment?


Enabling people to do their own work without being micromanaged is a characteristic of organizations that are good at retaining people. Nothing is more irritating than being ordered to do things in a certain way by a condescending boss who does not really understand the process as well as you do.

The ability to use one’s own initiative and creativity to get the job done right helps build self esteem, which is a key ingredient in the retention of people.


Knowing that someone cares about you and recognizes your efforts and accomplishments goes a long way toward building employee loyalty. A loyal employee is not out there looking for another position. Instead, he or she is thinking about how the organization’s success can be enhanced through even more effort. The collective muscle of thousands of employees who each feel that way is amazing to behold.


Many organizations live on the edge of impending disaster. The competitive world has forced legions of companies to downsize on a regular basis simply to survive. When employees witness the revolving door that occurs as a result of things they cannot control, you can’t blame them for wanting to find a safer mode of transport through their career.

If the other suggestions above are followed religiously, then the organization will have a lower risk of having to lay off people, so they will enjoy a lower turnover rate.

These seven factors are not an exhaustive list, but I contend that groups who focus on these seven conditions and understand the dynamics will have consistently lower turnover rates, saving millions of dollars each year. That advantage is sustainable and scalable. It just requires leaders at the top who are skillful and relentless at applying these principles.

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