Successful Supervisor 67 Smart Pills

March 4, 2018

One of my leadership students laments that some of the decisions the supervisors in his organization make relative to policies and how to fully engage the workforce sometimes are not very effective.

These decisions reflect a misunderstanding of their impact, so the supervisors end up doing things that have an impact at cross purposes to their true desires. While they believe they are improving team motivation, they are actually reducing it.

I told the student to figure out signal which can let supervisors know when they do things that are likely to take them in the wrong direction. Then I realized that I already had discovered such a signal several years ago, which I facetiously called a “Smart Pill,” and have taught people how to administer this magic potion for quite a while.

Supervisors need a way to determine the impact of their decisions on the organization at the time of making those decisions. This knowledge will reduce the number of actions that do not have the desired effect.

Picture a supervisor of 24 individuals. There are exactly 24 people who are capable of telling her the truth about the impact of questionable decisions before she makes them. They would gladly do this if the supervisor had established an environment where it is safe to challenge an idea generated in her mind. How would a supervisor go about creating such an environment?

If a supervisor makes people glad when they tell her things she was really not eager to hear, those people will eventually learn it is safe to do it. The supervisor will build higher trust with her people. They have the freedom to level with the supervisor when she is contemplating something that might backfire.

It does not mean that all questionable things the supervisor wants to do need to be squashed. It simply means that if the supervisor establishes a safe culture, she will be tipped off in advance that a specific decision might not be best.

Sometimes, due to a supervisor’s perspective, what may seem wrong to underlings may, in fact, be the right thing to do. In this case, the supervisor needs to educate the doubting underling on why the decision really does make sense.

Here is an eight-step formula that constitutes a smart pill.

1. As much as possible, let people know in advance the decisions you are contemplating, and state your likely action.

2. Invite dialog, either public or private. People should feel free to express their opinions about the outcomes.

3. Treat people like adults, and listen to them carefully when they express concerns.

4. Factor their thoughts into your final decision process. This does not mean to always reverse your decision, but do consciously consider the input.

5. Make your final decision about the issue and announce it.

6. State that there were several opinions that were considered when making your decision.

7. Thank people for sharing their thoughts in a mature way.

8. Ask for everyone’s help to implement your decision whether or not they fully agree with the course of action.

Of course, it is important for people to share their concerns with the supervisor in a proper way at the proper time. Calling her clueless in a shift meeting would not qualify as helpful information and would normally be a problem.

The supervisor not only needs to encourage people to speak up but to provide them coaching as to how and when to do it effectively. Often this means encouraging people to express their concern in private and with helpful intent for the organization rather than an effort to embarrass the boss.

The supervisor may still make some poor decisions, but they will be fewer and be made recognizing the risks. Also, realize that history may reveal some decisions thought to be wrong at the time to be actually brilliant. Understanding the risks allows some mitigating actions to remove much of the sting of making risky decisions.

The action here is incumbent on the supervisor. It is critical to have a response pattern that praises and reinforces people when they speak their truth, even if it flies in the face of what the supervisor wants to do. People then experience higher trust and will be more willing to inform the supervisor when her judgment seems off base.

A supervisor needs to be consistent with this philosophy, although no one can be 100%. That would be impossible. Once in a while, any supervisor will push back on some unwanted “reality” statements, especially if they are accusatory or given in the wrong forum.

Most supervisors are capable of making people who challenge them happy about it only a tiny fraction of the time, let’s say 5%. If we increase the odds to something like 80%, people will be more comfortable pointing out a potential blooper because the trust is high. That is enough momentum to change the culture.

It is important to recognize that making people glad they brought up a concern does not always mean a supervisor must acquiesce. All that is required is for the supervisor to treat the individual as someone with important information, listen to the person carefully, consider the veracity of the input, and honestly take the concern into account in deciding what to do.

In many situations, the supervisor will elect to go ahead with the original action, but she will now understand the potential ramifications better and will know how to explain the final decision in ways that acknowledge the expressed concerns.

By sincerely thanking the person who pointed out the possible pitfall, the supervisor increases trust and makes that individual happy she brought it up. Other people will take the risk in the future. That changes everything, and the supervisor now has an effective “smart” pill.

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 40 – Engaging People

August 20, 2017

In this article I want to share some of my personal experience on the topic of how to obtain the full engagement of people.

Getting the maximum discretionary effort of each individual on the team ought to be a top priority for any supervisor, yet in an attempt to “maintain control,” many supervisors make critical errors that undermine their intentions. Control is extremely important, and yet there are right ways and wrong ways to obtain it.

First, there is a term that I often hear which puts a negative slant on the concept of coaching people to do better. That term is when the supervisor “writes up” an employee.

Let’s say I am an employee, and you are my supervisor. You have noticed that my breaks are too long, so you tell me that you are going to “write me up” for not following the break rules. Let’s break down some of the implications around that statement from my perspective.

1. First, you have historically failed to provide the kind of culture in which I decide, on my own volition, to take a standard break because it is in my best interest to do so. I should be writing you up for poor leadership.

2. Second, you reveal yourself to be a “Theory X” type of leader, who believes that to get people to perform their best, they need to be beaten.

3. Third you insult me by putting my “sin” on a piece of paper that you can use in the future to punish me in dark and mysterious ways.

4. Fourth, you are treating me like one of Pavlov’s dogs by expecting me to toe the line now that you have demonstrated your authority over me.

5. Fifth, you have encouraged me to figure out some ways I can get even with you in the future without being detected.

6. Sixth, you have put me on the list of enemies of the state, so I have lower engagement in the work I perform at your behest.

7. Seventh, you have lowered teamwork within the crew because some people with the same time pattern as me were not “written up.”

8. Finally, you have helped me picture you as the enemy from now on. You are not interested in me as a person but only as a cog in your machine, so I will restrict using my precious discretionary effort to some extent in the future.

Granted, some of these consequences are a tad exaggerated, but there is some truth to every one of them.

The flip side of the coin is that you would be doing a bigger disservice to me and the entire crew by ignoring my tardiness and letting me get away with it. So, what alternative methods might there be to prevent the need for you to write me up?

1. Start by treating me differently from the outset. Show by your prior behaviors that you are a different kind of leader who establishes trust with your employees. There are numerous ways to do this, but establishing a “safe” environment where I do not need to worry about speaking my truth is a key method.

2. Get to know me as a person, and show an interest in my family situation.

3. Value me for my brain as well as for my hands. Let me know what is important to accomplish in our crew and why that is.

4. Train me very well from the start, so I understand what behaviors are important to model, and provide me with a buddy who will help mentor me when you are not around.

5. Develop within me a sense of pride that I am doing good work for a reason: that while providing for my family, I am also part of a larger system that serves humanity.

6. Praise me when I do things well or at least according to the behavioral norms. Celebrate with me and the crew that we are capable of performing at a very high level and challenge me with good stretch goals.

7. If I do something wrong, speak to me in ways that maintain my self esteem while simultaneously letting me know that I need to improve in this particular area. Ask me how you can help me link my behaviors to the goals and needs of the organization.

8. Continually model the values that you preach, and explain to me why you are making the calls that you do. Illustrate that you are true to the values at all times, and stress that I need to act in ways that are consistent with the values too.

9. Help me understand how valuable I am to the organization for the work I do and also for the attitude I demonstrate, which has a real impact on the entire crew.

10. Foster a level of esprit de corps within the crew that transcends teamwork and leads to a true sense of belonging and affection.

11. Be open with me and accessible to me. Never punish me for sharing my thoughts and ideas, even if they were not what you wanted to hear.

12. Be transparent and admit when you have made a mistake.

13. Represent my viewpoint and that of my coworkers well to higher levels of management.

If you do all those things, I feel confident that there will be little need to beat on me to abide by the rules, but just in case I do not respond in a way most people do, and seem to get off track often, follow these ideas to bring me back to reality:

1. Hold me accountable in a balanced way: not just when I mess up. Let me know when I am doing well and when there is a need for some correction.

2. Enforce the rules with an even hand, and do not play favorites, but do not always treat each person exactly the same way. Recognize that my needs may be somewhat different from my coworkers.

3. If I have the same pattern of poor behavior more than once, remind me that I am an adult and am capable of learning the right way to do things. If I am habitually late or in other ways miss the mark, it is OK to put down the expected behavior on a note to remind me of the correct thing to do rather than to write me up for being bad.

Try to find out what is going on in my life that is causing me to act out at work. Show that you care about me as a person.

4. Discuss with me that the employment situation is a matching phenomenon. Not all organizations are right for a particular individual and not all individuals are right for a particular organization.

5. If I continue to struggle, look for ways to help me find a better situation where I can be more successful. Get involved in helping me make a transition to a future pattern of employment either inside the current organization or elsewhere.

Being a great supervisor means juggling the needs of each individual on the team and keeping discipline without resorting to Theory X type command and control logic.

Great leadership is an art, and if you are an excellent artist, you can paint the vision of the future on the canvass of today’s paradigm in a way that empowers and engages all members of the team because they trust you.

Following these ideas can not only lead to less documentation; it can also mean that your team operates as a world class group with high trust levels.

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 18 – Avoid Playing Whack-a-Mole

March 19, 2017

Unfortunately, there is a situation in most organizations where the supervisor is served up a never-ending supply of tasks to do and problems to resolve.

Let’s picture a supervisor named Marcie. She comes to work on a typical day with 2-3 problems left over from the previous night. Her calendar is jammed with discussions and meetings to report on the status of problems or work on emergency situations.

Perhaps there is an immediate need to reorganize her group because of an unexpected order or the absence of some key people.

She faces several new problems or crises every day. Sometimes the problems are waiting for her outside her door when she arrives in the morning. There are certain to be several new ones when she looks at her inbox or her manager shows up unexpectedly.

She instinctively knows the organization could run a lot better, but there is simply no time to even work on a long term plan. So, poor Marcie runs herself ragged and just keeps her head out of the water on most days. She goes home exhausted, yells at her kids, and tries to clear out a few more issues online before going to bed.

I call this condition the “Supervisor Whack-A-Mole” syndrome, after the famous carnival game. Every time a mole comes out of one of the holes you whack it down, but there are others emerging all the time. You can never get them all down at the same time, and they keep coming up faster and faster.

The poor supervisor feels totally overworked and cannot begin to think strategically about how to improve her conditions.

This problem is not universal, but it is far too common in most organizations. There is a way out of the maze, but it requires courage and vision. The way out is to invest time creating an improved culture within her team.

Supervisors need to see one of their key roles as creators of culture, not just problem solvers. Developing an environment of higher trust is an investment that pays off many times over the cost. This shift in mindset has numerous advantages.

First, carving out time where the entire team can work on trust issues will result in less friction between people in the future. Since many of the “problems” have to do with people being unable to work together efficiently, this investment pays off in two ways: Employees work better together with fewer problems, and employee satisfaction improves, resulting in greater productivity.

Second, by focusing on teamwork, the supervisor emphasizes that many employees are capable of solving the inevitable daily problems themselves. The supervisor has many willing hands to lighten the load of problem solving in the future.

The employees feel good about having greater responsibility as well. They become empowered and trusted to handle many situations previously delegated upward to the leader.

Third, the tendency toward burnout is greatly reduced when there is time set aside to work on the culture. Getting temporarily out of the “rat race” every once in a while to think about what is happening and do some planning is cathartic.

People have the opportunity to vent and rebuild relationships in a “safe” atmosphere. In some situations this is best handled with the help of an outside expert schooled in conflict resolution.

Of course, the supervisor needs to be creative and fit the development work into times when the pace of production is not at a peak level. This means she needs to consider how to get snips of time that would otherwise be not fully loaded and use them to figure out how to improve relationships among the team.

In the time crunch on every supervisor, many believe it is impossible to invest a few hours every few weeks to work on the culture. They are too busy solving problems and juggling all the balls on a daily basis. However, those supervisors who are able to carve out some time, find the payoff is far greater than the investment. It leads to a stronger, more productive, and more smoothly running organization. It also leads to fewer health problems due to burnout.

 

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 Part 1 – The Critical Junction

November 21, 2016

This is the first part of a series of short articles on how to be or create a more successful supervisor. Each part will be posted in this blog.

As of this writing, I cannot tell how many episodes there will be. Readers are encouraged to comment on any of the parts, which may create additional dialog along with more key points.

I believe one of the most challenging jobs in the management ranks is that of first line supervisor. Since different organizations use various terminology for the same function, let me define the role I am discussing in this series.

In every business, there is a junction between the working group of employees and the management levels. In most cases, the junction is between non-exempt and exempt employees.

Individuals in these roles have huge responsibility and are often caught in a kind of squeeze play between management and workers. Think about your own situation, whether you are operating as a supervisor or trying to coach people in that role; this series provides ideas that can help make work life more enjoyable and effective regardless of your position.

The viewpoint from above

There is a whole network of management layers working in a matrix to accomplish organizational goals. The supervisor represents the layer that translates the needs of the organization directly to the people who actually make the product or provide the service.

From this perspective, upper management counts on the supervisor level to keep things running efficiently and provide the motivational impetus to the workers (Note: this is often referred to erroneously as “motivating the troops” as I will describe in a future post.)

The viewpoint from below

There is a two-level system of workers and managers. The supervisor is the person in the organization that is both worker and manager, but really this person represents “management” to the workers.

The supervisor becomes the focal point for everything going on in the organization, whether that is good or bad in the opinion of the workers.

These two distinct perspectives result in a kind of inter-organizational tension that the supervisor is supposed to resolve in both directions simultaneously. It is incredibly challenging because a statement that might be viewed as positive to the employees, might have the wrong spin from the management perspective, and vice versa.

Recognize that the supervisor role is often a thankless task that is poorly understood from both directions. If you are a management person who is blessed with individuals who are excellent at the supervisor role, consider yourself very lucky and cherish these people for the work they do.

If you have people who are not well suited for this role, consider whether you should get them some training or perhaps find them a different role where they, and the organization, are simultaneously better off.

If you are or have been in a supervisor role yourself, I hope these articles provide some support and ideas to lighten your load. You have an incredibly important role to play, and often are not given the tools you need to do it well.

I will offer many ideas and resources you can use to make your work experience more enjoyable and successful. Here is a partial list of the topics we will be discussing over the next several weeks:

• How to improve the initial success when a new supervisor is named
• How supervisors can maintain control without coming across as a tyrant
• The methods by which supervisors can build and maintain trust
• How to reduce the tendency to use rank as leverage
• How to employ peer pressure without the danger of backlash
• Techniques to please both the top brass as well as the workers simultaneously
• The secret to inspiring motivation, and the mistakes to avoid in doing so
• How body language is the most valuable communication tool that is often overlooked or misunderstood
• How to see what is really going on and not be fooled by the appearance of things
• Employing superior listening techniques to get to a full understanding
• Why Emotional Intelligence is the key leadership skill and how to harness it
• How to give more effective employee reviews that drive true motivation
• The steps to create a great culture where everyone is fully engaged

Whether you are a new supervisor, an incumbent supervisor, or a manager who is coaching supervisors, this series of articles will provide accessible education and insight at no cost.

The segments are laid out in small chunks of pragmatic and tested advice that will provide the basis for continuous improvement and excellence in supervisory skills.

Please join us for this series by clicking on the “Sign me up” button on the right side of your screen. You will receive an e-mail every time a new episode is posted (usually once a week).

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


Trust and Micromanagement

November 28, 2015

Few things sap engagement and trust within workers as much as being micromanaged. When you are told what to do and then given explicit details about how to do it, all creativity and enthusiasm are snuffed out.

Furthermore you feel the boss does not trust you to do the job right, which is exactly the signal being sent to you. I learned a way to prevent being micromanaged early in my career.

At one point I was transferred to another division, and was very excited because my new boss was earmarked as a leader with a great deal of potential. I figured he would have good coattails.

He had a great reputation in the organization, but he did have one flaw of which many people complained. This leader was prone to micromanage the people who worked directly for him. The reputation was that he was the king of all micromanagers.

Knowing this, I set out on a course to accomplish two things in my early interfaces with him.

First I tried to anticipate what he was going to ask of me and tried to have an answer ready. For example, if he would say, “Why don’t you increase the temperature on the cooling cycle,” I would reply, “I did an experiment on that two days ago, and it made the product too brittle.”

In order to anticipate what he might suggest, I really had to do a lot of extra thinking about his approach to the process and what he could potentially request.

In doing so, I actually over prepared myself with knowledge about the process, which ultimately impressed him.

I recall at one point inviting him into a conference room on his lunch hour to show him several dozen charts of experiments I had already tried on the process.

He did not share many suggestions after that because he figured I had covered all the bases.

The second thing I did was to over communicate. He never wondered what I was up to and did not have a chance to get to me first because I always beat him to it. For example, I observed that he had a habit of leaving instructions for his staff by voicemail during his lunch hour.

Every day at about 11 a.m., I would send him a voicemail sharing my plans and ideas I was working on that day. After a few weeks, he basically a left me alone to do my work in my own way, and we got along very well for 25 years while he micromanaged the others.

Leaders who micromanage people are often not even aware they are doing it.

They prefer to call it “coaching,” but the impact can be quite negative on the culture.

Micromanagers are not well liked or well respected because they send signals that the workers are not trusted to do the work correctly without constant intervention. They sap the organization of vital enthusiasm and creativity.

You may be doing a lot more micromanaging than you are aware of. It becomes a habit, and it feels like the right way to get things accomplished. Yet in the end, it undermines the culture of trust and leads to low engagement.

Exercise for you: Today, make a special note of how you coach people to do their work in your organization. Try to be as objective as possible so that you’re not fooling yourself.

Make sure you are viewing your actions from the point of view of the workers rather than through your own filters. Ask yourself what would be the result if you were able to scale back your micromanaging tendencies by about 50%.

Increasing your awareness of the tendency to micromanage is really the best defense against overusing this hurtful practice.

You can improve not only your own productivity but also that of the entire organization by scaling back on your interventions and trusting others more. It is really just a bad habit, so it takes some real effort to change it.

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


Delegation and Trust

November 21, 2015

When Gordon Bethune became CEO of Continental Airlines in 1994, the company had gone through their second bankruptcy. The workers had been so abused by managers with so many rules, that they showed no initiative.

Using good leadership skills, Gordon showed more trust over the next few years and started to delegate more. At one point, he had all the policy manuals taken out to the parking lot and burned publicly.

Rather than relying on controlling rules, he established objectives and trusted the employees to do the right thing. The stock price went from $2 to over $50, and by the time Gordon left in 2004, Fortune Magazine ranked Continental as the Most Admired Global Airline.

By delegating more and trusting the employees, he turned around the company in just 10 years. After Gordon left, things fell apart again for Continental, and they were merged with United Airlines in 2012.

The lesson here is that performance can be turned around by great leadership, but that does not guarantee a rosy future if a weak leader follows.

The trick with delegation is to let go of the ropes in a way that sets up employees for success. Of course, there is always a risk that a delegated task will not be done to the satisfaction of the manager, but the upside in terms of allowing employees to use their creativity and energy to complete tasks dwarfs the risk that something bad will happen.

I am sure there were times when Gordon Bethune saw something done differently than he would have done it, and yet the end result was one of the more amazing corporate reversals in history.

Trust and delegation go hand in hand, because when you delegate something to another person you are demonstrating trust that the individual will do what is right.

The best way to build more trust in a relationship it to find ways to extend more trust to others.

Leaders who have a hard time delegating often use the excuse that they just want to be sure things are done the right way. Unfortunately the signal being sent to the workers is that they are not trusted to do the right thing, so the culture becomes one of apathy.

By taking the risk of delegating more tasks, leaders can foster an environment of higher trust.

Exercise for you: Today, keep track of the number of tasks that you do yourself and see what percentage might be delegated to other people if you truly trusted them to do the job right. You may be surprised at the amount of time you can gain by this practice and also the amount of employee engagement you can generate.

Here are six tips to implement more delegation in your sphere of influence.

Announce intention – Talk about the issue of delegation and let people know you would like to practice more if it. Ask that they suggest areas where they might enjoy doing a task currently done by you.

Take the risk – You will find that by letting go of the control, your performance almost always improves, sometimes dramatically.

Keep communication channels open – Avoid micromanaging delegated tasks, because that constitutes false delegation. Rather, stay interested and accessible. Keep track of the little opportunities to encourage and praise progress along the way.

Provide exposure – Let the people at higher levels see the great work being done by your subordinates. Promote their good progress. The senior executives will also view you in a more positive light for making the effort, which benefits your career.

Be flexible when things go wrong – You will never achieve 100% success with delegation, but 90% success and 10% opportunities to learn is an excellent ratio for progress in any organization.

Use your newly-found time well – An additional side benefit of delegating more is that you have the opportunity to do more strategic work yourself. You get to become more valuable to your organization when you are not tied up in details and are able to think at a higher level.

It is easy to make excuses for not delegating work to other individuals. Most of the excuses do not stand up in the light of analysis. They reveal a mindset of low trust that employees pick up on quickly.

Those leaders smart enough to let go, find the employees willing and able to do the job. Sure there is some risk involved, but the upside is so huge it is worth the risk.

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


Trust Leads to Engagement

September 19, 2015

Wedding RingsOver the past couple years I have read numerous studies that indicate the average organization has only about 1/3 of employees engaged in the work.

There is some variation from one study to another, but the general trend is clear. For example, the Dale Carnegie Organization came up with 29% engaged, 45% not engaged and 26% actively not engaged.

Said another way, if you are the CEO of an average company, you have as many employees pulling against your vision as you have pulling for it and the rest of the people are not pulling much at all.

The result of this condition is a gaping hole in financial viability of many organizations bigger than the hole that sunk the Titanic. Improving the level of trust between layers in the organization is the best way to plug the hole and right the ship.

Of course, some organizations beat this trend with much higher engagement, still others are even worse off than the average statistics. A common denominator of the groups that are doing well is that they have built a culture of trust.

It turns out that trust shows a very high correlation with having engaged workers. It is not a chicken or egg question here, the trust comes first.

After studying trust in organizations for over 30 years, I believe that improving the trust level by just 2 percentage points will translate into productivity improvements between 10-20%. The reason is that engagement in the work increases dramatically when leaders change their behaviors to increase the trust level.

The change must be sustained or the gains will quickly fade, but if leaders are sincerely trying to improve trust, employees will recognize and appreciate the effort and put more effort in their jobs.

The most important trust-building behavior for leaders is to create an environment of low fear where people know it is safe to voice their concerns and not have to worry about retribution.

Exercise for you: Try to guess what percentage of your team members are truly engaged in their work. Listen to what they say; if it is positive and about the goals of the organization, they are engaged; if it is negative and griping about conditions, they are likely not engaged.

If employee engagement is above 50%, you are beating the odds: keep up the good work and expand it to others! If it is below 50%, you have a lot to be gained by improving the level of trust.

Engagement of the workforce does not happen by default or because people need a paycheck to survive. It does not kindle with empowerment seminars or employee satisfaction surveys.

The surest way to obtain the productivity that comes from high employee engagement is for leaders to learn and practice the behaviors that foster a culture of high trust.

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