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.
How People Treat Each Other
You can tell the caliber of a leader instantly when you view how people in the organization treat each other. A good leader insists on constructive and helpful behaviors that model high trust and even affection.
Some people believe the word affection is too strong for the working world. I disagree. Groups that work for a great leader learn to really appreciate each other for their good qualities. That does not mean that everyone always gets along with no quarrels; that would be a phony environment.
Just like a family, people will eventually find some things to cause friction, but there is sincere affection behind any tension that shows trough as people work to resolve differences without doing emotional damage.
Good leaders teach their people to, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested, “Disagree Without Being Disagreeable.”
Where leadership is weak, squabbles between people lead to childish behaviors that can cause permanent damage to relationships. It is easy to witness this in most organizations.
As Lou Holtz observed, “you can find a thousand things to not like about somebody but you need to look for the things that you do like, that support the team effort.” In an environment of support and affection it is easy to become a close knit team that is hard to beat.
Good leaders insist that their group generates a set of specific behaviors. It is important to be able to point at these things and call each other when the behaviors are not being modeled. The leader always works to model the behaviors and actually verbalizes them frequently.
It may sound like this, “Thanks for your comment Frank, I appreciate how your words supported Mary’s effort because that is a value and behavior we cherish in our group.
Watch for the signs of a group that, while there are differences, handle those disconnects in a mature and loving way. A group like that is being guided by an excellent leader.
Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations.
Several authors (including Stephen M.R. Covey) have suggested that trust between people is like a bank account. The balance is what determines the level of trust at any point in time, and it is directional.
I might trust you today more than you trust me. We make deposits and withdrawals in the trust account nearly every day with the things we say and do. Usually the deposits are made in small steps that add up to a large balance over time.
Unfortunately, withdrawals can be massive due to what I call “The Ratchet Effect.” All prior trust may be wiped out quickly. Nobody is happy when trust is lost.
I believe trust withdrawals can lead to a long term higher level of trust if they are handled well. Just as in a marriage when there is a major falling out, if the situation is handled well by both parties in a cooperative spirit, the problem can lead to an even stronger relationship in the long term.
Let’s investigate ten steps that can allow the speedy rebuilding of trust.
1. Act Swiftly
Major trust withdrawals can be devastating, and the trauma needs to be treated as quickly as possible. Just as a severe bodily injury requires immediate emergency care, so does the bleeding of emotional capital need to be stopped after a major letdown. The situation is not going to heal by itself, so both parties need to set aside normal routines in order to focus significant energy on regaining equilibrium.
2. Verify care
Both people should spend some time remembering what the relationship felt like before the problem. In most cases there is a true caring for the other person, even if it is eclipsed by the current hurt and anger. It may be a stretch for some people to mentally set aside the issue, but it would be helpful to do that, if just as an exercise.
If the problem had never happened, would these people care about each other? If one person cannot recognize at least the potential for future care, then the remedial process is blocked until that happens.
3. Establish a desire to do something about it
If reparations are to be made, both people must cooperate. If there was high value in the relationship before the breach, then it should be possible to visualize a return to the same level or higher level of trust.
It may seem out of reach if the problem was a major let down, but it is critical that both parties really want the hurt to be resolved.
4. Admit fault and accept blame
The person who made the breach needs to admit what happened to the other person. If there is total denial of what occurred, then no progress can be made. Try to do this without trying to justify the action.
Focus on what happened, even if it was an innocent gaffe. Often there is an element of fault on the part of both parties, but even if one person is the only one who did anything wrong, an understanding of fault is needed in this step.
Sometimes neither party did anything particularly wrong, but the circumstances led to trust being lost.
5. Disagree without being disagreeable
If both parties cannot agree on exactly what happened, it is not the end of trust forever. The first rule is to disagree with a constructive spirit while assuming the best intent on the part of the other person.
Suspend judgment on culpability, if necessary, to keep the investigation on the positive side. This is a part of caring for the other person and the relationship.
6. Ask for forgiveness
It sounds so simple, but many people find it impossible to verbalize the request for forgiveness, yet a pardon is exactly what has to happen to enable the healing process.
The problem is that saying “I forgive you” is easy to say but might be hard to do when emotions are raw. True and full forgiveness is not likely to happen until the final healing process has occurred. At this point it is important to affirm that forgiveness is at least possible.
7. Determine the cause
This is a kind of investigative phase where it is important to know what happened in order to make progress. It is a challenge to remain calm and be as objective with the facts as possible.
Normally, the main emotion is one of pain, but anger will often accompany the pain. Both people need to describe what happened, because the view from one side will be significantly different from the opposite view.
Go beyond describing what happened, and discuss how you felt about what happened. Do not cut this discussion off until both parties have exhausted their descriptions of what occurred and how they felt about it.
Sometimes it helps in this stage to do some reverse role playing where each person tries to verbalize the situation from the perspective of the other.
8. Develop a positive path forward
The next step is the mutual problem solving process. Often two individuals try to do this without the preparatory work done above, which is more difficult.
The thing to ask in this phase is “what would have to happen to restore your trust in me to at least the level where it was before.” Here, some creativity can really help.
You are looking for a win-win solution where each party feels some real improvement has been made. Do not stop looking for solutions just because it is difficult to find them.
If you have gotten this far, there is going to be some set of things that can begin the healing process. Develop a path forward together. What new behaviors are you both going to exhibit with each other to start fresh.
9. Agree to take action
There needs to be a formal agreement to take corrective action. Usually this agreement requires modified behaviors on the part of both people.
Be as specific as possible about what you and the other person are going to do differently. The only way to hold each other accountable for progress is to have a clear understanding of what will be different.
10. Check back on progress
Keep verifying that the new behaviors are working and modify them, if needed, to make positive steps every day.
As the progress continues, it will start getting easier, and the momentum will increase. Make sure to smell the roses along the way. It is important to celebrate progress as it occurs, because that reinforcement will encourage continued progress.
If there is a another set-back, it is time to cycle back on the steps above and not give up on the relationship just because the healing process is a challenging one.
In many cases, it is possible to restore trust to a higher level than existed before the breach. This method is highly dependent on the sincerity with which each person really does want the benefits of a high trust relationship with the other person.
That outcome is really good news because it allows a significant trust withdrawal to become an opportunity instead of a disaster.
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 600 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, firstname.lastname@example.org or 585.392.7763
On a daily basis, we experience situations where we are at odds with the actions or words of other people. It is human nature to disagree with other people at times. How we handle ourselves when this happens determines our quality of life, because it will establish how the rest of the world reacts to us.
John Wooden, the iconic basketball coach of UCLA, used to challenge his teams to learn to “disagree without being disagreeable.” We need to find the words to signal a disconnect without short-circuiting relationships. If you listen to people as they interface about their differences, you will hear all kinds of phrases that cause an increase in heat within the conversation. Here is a small set of examples you will recognize:
• What makes you think that…
• How could you possibly believe that…
• Who died and made you the queen of…
• You are not only wrong, you are stupid if you…
• What part of “NO” don’t you understand….
• Don’t you see! My way is better because…
• You never listen to me…
• If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you…
There are millions of ways to humiliate other people when we disagree with their words or actions. Note that the statement may be current or past, written or verbal, and the action may be historical, or something that just occurred. What we need to do is suppress the human urge to blast the other individual and seek a more politic way to have an adult conversation.
The four word phrase, “Please help me understand…” is an excellent one to use as long as it is not given with a sarcastic tone of voice. Reason: The phrase does not start by putting the other person down. It is shorthand for a message indicating open mindedness but also some confusion about what the other person is saying or doing. It does not assume the other person is clueless, underhanded, dishonest, or has any other character flaw.
The phrase simply asks for more information. It calls into question the action or statement without violating the other person. It may not work in every application, since we are all different. Some individuals might even read something negative into the phrase. I think it has a lot to do with what is in the heart of the sender.
By sending a polite signal about a disconnection with the other person, it gives him or her time to rethink what was said or done to see if it was too edgy. Often just this little nudge will cause the person to reframe the action or statement into something more reasonable. It is also an honest way to stop the conversation for a gut check on reality.
When you are tempted to blast a co-worker for something said, written, or done, think about saying “Please help me understand,” and you will see a more helpful and constructive reaction in most cases.