Identifying when a person is bored seems very simple. The outward signs are pretty obvious and well known.
You need to be careful, however, because the gestures for a person who is fatigued are almost the same as for one who is bored.
Here are some tips to separate the two concepts.
First of all, consider what is going on around the person. If this is hour three of a four-hour lecture on pollution containing hundreds of detailed PowerPoint slides, then when a person has his chin in his palm, it is likely out of boredom.
On the other hand, if a student is holding her head up with her hand, during a lively or funny class, you might want to inquire if she was up all night finishing her paper.
The big difference between fatigue and boredom is in the eyes. A bored person is usually sitting and staring out with a blank stare and heavy, but not closed, eyelids. A tired person usually will have her eyes shut or nearly shut.
If you see a person unable to maintain focus with her eyes, then suspect boredom as the cause. You may also observe a rolling of the eyes with boredom but not fatigue.
The usual position of the hand is for one hand to be propping up the head. Occasionally you may see both hands doing this at the same time, but the predominant gesture is just with one hand.
A person experiencing extreme fatigue will often put his or her head down on the table rather than try to hold it up with a hand.
The telltale sign of a bored person is to yawn. Unfortunately, it is difficult to separate a yawn induced by boredom from one caused by being overtired. It is often the case that both fatigue and boredom may be occurring simultaneously.
It is interesting to observe how infectious yawning is. When a person sees another person yawn, it is common to see the first person yawn within about 10 seconds. You can observe yourself yawning shortly after observing another person doing it. You may even yawn immediately after seeing your dog do it, or vice versa.
The most common forms of boredom occur when people are seated. People who are bored generally lean forward rather than backward. The opposite is often true for people who are fatigued.
Look for fidgeting or doodling as another indication of boredom rather than fatigue. A tired person is trying to sleep, so there is no energy to play with a paperclip or make a paper airplane.
A person who is bored has some energy that is likely to come out in the form of interfacing with a handy object, like a pencil.
What to do
Usually teachers or those who facilitate group activities will see these kinds of gestures.
Obviously if many of the students are exhibiting these kinds of symptoms, you need to take note and call a break or an activity that will get people moving or engaged some other way.
With fatigue, you normally will see the reaction in only one or two people, while boredom can spread over an entire group.
Be alert for the problem and change your methods to keep people engaged. When their outward gestures are extreme enough to see, they are not listening to you anyway.
This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”
Over the past 20 years, I have taught Business and Leadership at seven universities, along with several hundred corporate and professional groups.
One thing that has disappointed me is the discussion of corporate culture in most of the MBA textbooks. They usually leave out the most important parts of culture. This topic has fascinated me for years.
The success and longevity of any organization is directly linked to its culture. We sometimes notice the parts that make up culture, but often they are transparent because they are just a part of doing business in a particular group.
If we stop to think about what defines culture and work to manage or influence it, we can uncover some powerful leadership leverage.
Most of the Leadership textbooks I have read describe the culture in terms of physical attributes that characterize an organization.
For example, here is a typical list of the things purported to make up a company culture.
1. Physical structure 2. Language and symbols 3. Rituals, ceremonies, gossip, and jokes 4. Stories, legends, and heroes 5. Beliefs 6. Values and norms 7. Assumptions
The above list is a montage of the lists in several textbooks. When you think about it, these items do go a long way toward defining the culture of an organization.
Unfortunately, I believe these items fall short, because they fail to include the emotions of the people. After all, organizations are made up of people, at all levels, interacting in a social structure for a purpose.
Let us extend the list of things that make up the culture of an organization to include how the people feel.
1. Is there a high level of trust within the organization? 2. To what extent do people have the opportunity to grow in this organization? 3. Do people feel safe and secure, or are they basically fearful? 4. How do people treat each other on their own level and on higher or lower levels? 5. Is the culture inclusive or exclusive? 6. Do people generally feel like winners or losers at work? 7. Is the culture one of reinforcement or punishment? 8. Are managers viewed as enablers or barriers? 9. Are people trying to get into the organization or trying to get out? 10. What is the level of satisfaction for people in this organization? 11. Can people “speak their truth” without fear of reprisal? 12. Do people follow the rules or find ways to avoid following them?
I could go on with another 20-30 things that relate to the human side of culture. I hope you agree that the items above are at least as important as the items on the first list in terms of describing the culture.
Why then do most textbooks on leadership not mention them when they discuss culture? It baffles me.
Perhaps the view is that these “people-centered” items are best discussed separately and only the “system-centered” items define the culture. Personally, I do not agree with that.
Let’s zoom in on just one item of my list above: item #1. The level of trust in an organization is actually the most significant part of the culture, in my opinion.
The reason I put Trust in the front and center of culture is that with high trust, all of the other things (rituals, ceremonies, values, language, etc.) work to engage people in the business. With low trust, you can have all the trappings, but people will laugh at you behind your back.
You are probably familiar with the CEO who spouts out the values at every chance, but does not live them, so there is no trust. The values are just a useless pile of words.
In fact, they are worse than useless, because every time the CEO mentions the values it reminds people what a hypocrite he or she is.
Why is Trust so powerful? Let’s contrast a few dimensions for a company with high trust versus one with low trust to view the impact.
All organizations have a steady stream of problems. If the culture is one of low trust, each problem represents a high hurdle to overcome. We have to stop everything and have a meeting to figure out who said what and try to unscramble the mess.
We also have to contend with the interpersonal squabbles that are part of a low trust culture.
If there is high trust, first of all there will be fewer problems, but then the remaining problems are easily overcome, like pebbles in the road we kick aside with our shoe. We can focus energy on the vision rather than the problems.
Any problems will be resolved quickly, and the solutions will be of higher quality, because people will not be afraid to voice their creative ideas.
In groups with low trust, trying to communicate is like walking on eggs. Every word or phrase is a potential trigger for a sarcastic remark. Things are frequently taken the wrong way and create damage to control.
With high trust, communication seems easy. People have the ability to “hear between the lines” and the instinctively know the intent of the message even if the words come out wrong. Employees are not coiled and ready to strike anytime there is an opportunity.
In areas of low trust, people are focusing on protecting themselves or bringing other people down. Most of the energy is directed inward to the organization in numerous battles that really don’t help the organization succeed.
If trust is high, people are feeling aligned, so their focus is outward at the opportunities (customers) or threats (competition). This shift in focus from inward battles to outward opportunities is huge in terms of organizational success.
When trust is low, rumors spring up due to poor communication. Since there is nothing to retard them, they take on a life of their own.
The rumors and gossip spread like wildfire all over the organization creating significant damage control for management.
In areas of high trust, there will still be rumors from time to time, but they will be easily extinguished before they do significant damage. This is because people believe management when they say something is not true.
Look at the people in an organization of low trust; what is their general attitude? Usually it is one of apathy. They need their job in order to live, but they dearly wish it wasn’t such a struggle.
Now look at the attitude of people in an organization of high trust. You will see passion and motivation to really help the organization succeed. The difference here is huge in terms of organizational survival.
For one thing, customers notice the difference immediately. You know the feeling of sitting in a restaurant where the trust level between management and the servers is low.
You get an uncomfortable feeling and may net even realize why you decide to not patronize the place again.
With these differences, the result when workers have high trust has been shown by several authors is that they are between 2-5 times more productive than low trust groups.
Think of the number of organizations where managers are constantly feeling under-staffed. “We need more people,” is the common phrase.
My retort is that it is a leadership problem. What you need is not more people, but better leaders who know how to build a great culture of trust.
We could go on with numerous more examples of the difference between a culture of high trust and low trust, and that is only the first item on the list above.
I hope it is obvious that having the right kind of culture makes all the difference in the ability to survive in business.
Take the time and energy to work on your culture; the ROI is astronomical.
The preceding information was adapted from the book The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, by Robert Whipple. It is available on http://www.leadergrow.com. Mr. Whipple is also the author of Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, , 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.
I have always been fascinated by mistakes. As human beings, we share several things in common; making mistakes is one of them. The vast majority of the time we blunder into mistakes innocently.
Obviously, if we could see mistakes coming, we would take steps to avoid them. The mistake is usually like a mouse trap that is sprung on us while our focus was on something else.
The interesting thing to me is how we react after a mistake. It is here that I learned a great lesson in leadership and trust. The lesson came years ago when I was a young manager.
I was in Japan negotiating a deal for some equipment. I had inadvertently left some material on a table while a group went out for lunch. Some of the material would have been damaging to our negotiating position if it were leaked to the other side.
Upon returning from lunch, I realize that I had left things in a state where they could have been copied and later used against us. I did not know if anybody actually did copy some pages, but I felt horrible about my lapse.
Upon returning to the home office in the US, I immediately reported to my boss’s office and said, “Dick, you would never know this if I didn’t tell you, but I made a mistake when I was in Japan this week.”
He looked up at me with a smirk and said, “Whatd’ya do?” I explained my lapse in detail. He said, “You’re right, Bob. That’s not the smartest thing you ever did. The smartest thing you ever did was to tell me about it.”
From that moment on, I felt a much higher level of trust and respect for me in the eyes of my boss. I believe it gave my career a significant and lasting boost.
The key point in the above lesson was that he really would never have known anything about it if I had not admitted the gaff. It was the unprompted admission that spoke much louder than the sin.
Since then I have studied the impact of admitting mistakes for leaders, and come away with some observations.
Let’s suppose that I have gathered several leaders into a room and asked them to answer the following question: “After you make a mistake, in terms of maximizing respect for you, is it better to admit it or try to finesse it?”
Nearly all leaders would say admitting the mistake has a much greater probability of increasing respect. The irony is that when subsequently a mistake is made, most of these same leaders choose to hide it, blame someone else, or pretend it didn’t happen.
The real conundrum is that if you were to tap the leader on the shoulder at that time, you would hear “I did not want to admit my mistake because I was afraid people would lose respect for me.”
This situation illustrates that intellectually, most leaders know how to improve respect and trust after a mistake, but many of them tend to not act that way when there is an opportunity to apply it in the field. It seems illogical.
Perhaps in the heat of the moment, leaders lose their perspective to the degree that they will knowingly do things that take them in the opposite direction from where they want to go. I believe it is because they are ashamed of making a mistake.
When you admit an error, it has an incredibly positive impact on trust, because it is unexpected. This is especially true if you are a leader.
Perhaps this is one of the differences between IQ and Emotional Intelligence. Intellectually, leaders know the best route to improve trust, but emotionally they are not mature or confident enough to take the risk.
When you admit an error, it has a positive impact on trust because it is unexpected. As Warren Bennis in Old Dogs: New Tricks noted, “All the successful leaders I’ve met learned to embrace error and to learn from it.”
Respect is not always increased if a mistake is admitted. For example, here are three circumstances where admitting a mistake would reduce respect and trust:
1. If this was the third time you had made the same mistake 2. If the mistake was so stupid it reveals you as being clueless 3. If the mistake was made in an effort to hurt someone or part of a sinister plot
If you find yourself making these kinds of mistakes, it would be wise to reconsider if you are right for a leadership position at all.
The vast majority or mistakes are honest lapses where something unexpected happened. For these so-called “honest” mistakes, it is far better to admit them and ask for forgiveness than to try to finesse the situation or blame others or circumstances. It is a tangible demonstration of your integrity, and that improves trust.
Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He can be reached at email@example.com 585-392-7763. Website http://www.leadergrow.com BLOG http://www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind
In the current environment, many teams are forced to operate remotely. This article is based on one that I wrote with Nancy Settle Murphy in 2013 and recently modified to apply in today’s pandemic conditions.
I think Nancy is one of the most effective consultants to help build more cohesive remote groups. Her blog “Communique by Guided Insights” is normally centered on how to operate effectively with a virtual team.
Today’s astonishing economic and social distancing situation affects virtually every working individual around the globe. As organizations are forced to make drastic cuts and other difficult changes to remain viable, the need for competent, credible, trustworthy leaders has never been greater.
At the same time, the very nature of our global pandemic and economic collapse has bred deep distrust for many business leaders, money managers, politicians and others who contributed or are reacting to the current morass.
Leading an organization through turbulent times requires an uncommon ability to inspire trust. But when people are geographically dispersed, especially in scary times, they are far more likely to be fearful, suspicious and immobilized in the absence of trust.
Industry studies show that in the best of times high-trust teams are between 200-300% more productive than low-trust teams. In tough times, that delta is likely to be even greater. That’s why organizations that operate virtual teams need leaders who know how to earn and cultivate trust among teams that feel increasing pressure to perform.
Here are nine practical tips for leaders who struggle to maintain trust in these troubled times.
1. Verify a vision and goals eye-to-eye.
Without a shared vision and focus, conflict and distrust become frequent and harder to resolve. Virtual teams have few opportunities to test for shared meaning, validate assumptions, and spot disconnects before they become problems.
Arguably, this alignment might be achieved through a series of superbly-executed team calls and online conferences; but in reality, the surest and easiest way to galvanize a team is to bring people together face-to-face, if not in person, then virtually live.
Once coalesced, the team can then modify goals and verify buy-in from afar on a regular basis. All team members need a palpable connection with the root vision. Without it, the best intentions of team leaders are likely to fall short.
2. Agree on a shared set of team principles, behaviors and norms.
To build trust, all team members need to hold each other accountable to some standards of behavior. If these principles are nothing more than vague intentions or fuzzy “feel good” rules, they won’t provide the specificity members need to call each other out in case of a transgression.
When leaders permit some members to violate agreed-upon norms, they risk their credibility with team members who expect them to enforce the rules.
An example of team behavior that can help enforce desired behavior: “We will eliminate ‘silent no’s’ from our conference calls.” (A “silent no” is when a member of the call does not agree with the conclusions but does not voice objections and instead works to undermine the decision, destroying solidarity and trust in the process.)
3. Reinforce candor.
To foster a culture of trust, the leader needs to ensure people are not worried about being punished for voicing their reservations or concerns. The ability of a leader to encourage and reinforce candor lies at the heart of the trust-building process.
When people are naturally paranoid about their longevity in an organization, they will stifle any misgivings unless the leader is explicit about the safety of voicing concerns. Trust cannot grow in an environment where people are scared to speak their truth.
4. Anticipate and address stress points.
When people feel pressured to perform, unattractive behaviors such as finger-pointing and defensiveness can emerge. When team members can’t have face-to-face conversations to smooth ruffled feathers, such behavior can quickly derail even the most well-aligned team.
By creating a culture of mutual support and respect, team members can minimize the fall-out after a misstep. Establishing ground rules related to giving and taking responsibility, solving problems and escalating issues can help.
Creating norms around communications during times of conflict or dissension are essential. The leader’s behavior sets the stage for all members. If lapses should occur, the leader needs to acknowledge them as such, lest team members assume they can follow suit and violate other norms.
5. When in doubt, reveal more rather than less.
Team leaders are often privy to inside information to which others don’t have access. Err on the side of being more transparent rather than less, providing you don’t violate any policies.
Even in the best of times, remote team members may feel left out of the communication loop. But when futures seem uncertain, remote team members may feel even more discomfited and disconnected.
Team leaders might open each Zoom by asking members what rumors they’ve been hearing, and then address each point with the latest, most accurate information they have.
If team members seem reticent, open an anonymous virtual conference area where team members can pose questions or express concerns, to which team leaders can respond to the team as a whole.
6. Celebrate the small wins.
Especially in these difficult times, it’s important to highlight the good things that happen in small ways on a daily basis. In addition to recognizing achievements and milestones, team leaders might also acknowledge instances of collaboration or creative use of resources.
Leaders might establish a program where members can recommend other team members for a reward based on behaviors or actions that contribute to the success of the whole team.
For example, members might earn rewards doing more than their share to keep the project on track or finding “free” resources. Rewards can include a gift certificate for an online store or a personal note sent to the person’s home.
When setting formal team goals, make sure that the team has many opportunities to celebrate milestones and that the goals always have the appropriate amount of reach.
7. Encourage creativity and reasonable risk taking.
Surviving in today’s tough climate requires courage, creativity and a certain amount of fearlessness. This is particularly true for health workers or other vital service providers.
Team leaders need to be clear about the type of risks that are allowed, versus those the organization cannot afford to take. Once ground rules are in place, team leaders can find ways to move creative ideas into action.
For example, brainstorming sessions can be set up via phone or virtual conference area where all team members can easily contribute a volley of ideas, which can then be vetted and acted upon.
Even when new ideas don’t pan out as planned, team leaders should congratulate team members for their creativity, helping to cultivate an innovative, energized, and supportive environment that is so important in difficult times.
8. Keep an eye out for the small problems.
In some remote teams, members may have never even met each other or may have only a superficial relationship. As a result, it can take a long time to cultivate trust, especially when in-person interactions are limited.
When team members don’t feel entirely comfortable having candid conversations, little annoyances can lead to big problems. Since people may be feeling near their endurance limit with personal issues, they may be more short-tempered than normal.
Team leaders need to be vigilant about addressing small rifts and immediately bring team members back to the sense of purpose. In some cases, this requires an open conversation with the whole team, and in others, a private phone conversation may be more appropriate.
If turf battles become too much of a distraction, it may be time to bring all or some team members together on one Zoom to settle differences and repair relationships. The way leaders can prevent silos from forming is to continually remind the groups that they share a common goal at the next higher level.
9. When draconian actions are required, let people grieve.
Nearly all businesses will need to make increasingly difficult decisions to remain viable. Layoffs, salary freezes, pay cuts, forced furloughs, divestitures, and mergers all take a huge emotional toll on the workers who remain.
Leaders should encourage team members to discuss their sense of loss and talk about their grief rather than giving members a cheerful pep talk or ignoring the pervasive sense of loss.
In the wake of each such change, leaders can start team calls by asking people how they are feeling. Remember that individuals need to go through the stages of the grieving process (anticipation, ending, transition, and beginning) in their own way and time.
Having time to grieve allows people to become fully functioning players in the new order rather than continually mourning for what was lost. When individuals are part of the rebuilding process, they’ll be more emotionally committed to the success of the team.
Keeping a team motivated, energized and productive during times like these will test the mettle of even the most accomplished leader. But when team members work remotely, team leaders must take extraordinary measures to cultivate mutual trust and a truly level playing field among everyone on the team.
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
Pay close attention to how managers view the commodity called “labor.” In most organizations, the perspective is that labor is an expense. It is handled on the financial statements as an expense.
In most cases, labor is the highest monthly expense for an operation. It is the payment made in order to secure the resources needed to create the products or services sold by the organization.
As the largest expense for many operations, labor is watched and managed very closely. The profitability of the operation is directly impacted by how many workers there are, so all kinds of techniques are used to keep this variable under tight control.
Managers want to have exactly the right number of people on the roster, so perhaps they utilize temporary workers during peak times to mitigate overtime. They need to be careful because the temporary workers need to be sufficiently trained so there are no safety issues or quality lapses.
In many professional settings, the workers are stretched to the elastic limit and beyond. Managers ask individuals to take on responsibilities that were formerly done by two people or even more. This is done in the pursuit of maximum productivity, which is thought to be the prime governing mechanism for profit.
When budgeting, managers at various levels play games trying to pump up the size of the workforce realizing there will be cuts down the road. Alternatively some managers cut the estimated number of people to the bone in order to show positive yearly trends in productivity. The sequence goes on year after year in many organizations. The charade is well known by managers at all levels, and the posturing or tactics sometimes go beyond annoying to downright fraudulent.
Only in a small percentage of organizations do they view employees not as expense items but as assets. Oh sure, most companies have a value on the plaque in the lobby that states, “People are our most important asset,” but the managers’ daily actions reveal the hypocrisy of that platitude.
If people were the most important asset, then during times of low demand, the managers would be selling inventory or buildings and training the employees for future service. Instead, you inevitably see layoffs or at least furloughs to control labor expenses in slack times.
Try looking through a different lens
What if we really did think of employees as assets rather than expenses? Would that provide some unique and amazing possibilities for profits? I think so. Here are some benefits you might see…
1. People would feel valued
In most organizations, people feel like pawns. The investment is always minimal, and the expectation is that employment is a temporary condition at the whim of management and the vicissitudes of the fickle marketplace.
Treating people as valued assets would bring out the best in people because they would feel more engaged in the business. The magnitude of this effect can only be estimated, but it is a lot larger than most leaders realize.
For example, several studies have shown that the productivity multiplier between low trust groups and high trust groups is two to five times. When people are engaged in the work, they perform significantly better because they feel valued.
2. Development of people would be emphasized
The mindset of treating employees as assets would lead to continual training. When you invest in an asset, you take care of it and make sure it is performing at peak levels. This creates a situation where employees truly want to stay with an organization, which reduces the issue of turnover.
Turnover is often the most controllable expense in an organization, yet the true cost is hidden somewhat. World class organizations achieve turnover rates below 5%, while many organizations habitually live with a 30% or higher turnover rate. Do you know the turnover rate for your organization? Do you have an estimate of the cost for turnover?
3. The culture would be uplifting
When employees are learning and growing, they become more valuable not only for what they can do but for how they influence others. The workplace takes on a feeling of freedom and joy rather than of being an oarsman on a Viking ship. When people are treated like assets, they band together as a strong team or family that is unstoppable. The power of synergy is obvious, and the productivity gained from lack of quarreling is immense.
4. The focus would be on the right stuff
In most organizations, where people are considered expenses, the daily focus is myopic. People are grumbling about each other and trying to protect their turf and future. The atmosphere is one of scarcity where the resources are not there to do what is needed to survive. People are always clamoring for more resources. I knew one professional who spent about 40% of his time going around grumbling about not having enough resources to do his job.
When people are assets, the atmosphere is one of abundance where there is high value internally. People focus on the customer and on the mission of the unit. Since there is no longer a need to protect your back, you have the ability to move beyond just satisfying the customer or even delighting the customer to actually amazing the customer. That focus becomes a competitive weapon which further entrenches security for the future.
5. Organizations could be flatter
The need for numerous hierarchical levels has to do with control. When people are treated as expense items, they need to be kept in line. That means the span of control for any one manager cannot be too great. There is a lot of accounting work that needs to be done in order to assure the expense of labor is optimized.
When people are treated as assets, trust grows naturally. That dynamic means less supervision is required, so over time the hierarchy can become flatter. The overhead cost savings available to most organizations is staggering.
6. Improved Teamwork
If people are assets, the organization is going to do a lot of cross training, especially during slack times. That increased capability pays off handsomely when the cycle reverses and there is a need to cover some critical positions based on bench strength.
When workers cross train each other, they form a kind of bond that is intangible but highly valuable in times of high need.
These are just six ways an organization can prosper by considering employees as assets instead of expenses. The operation can be much more profitable in the long run with this kind of mindset. Try it in your organization and experience the difference for yourself.
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. 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
The advantages of working in a high trust environment are evident to everyone from the CEO to the shop floor, from suppliers to customers, and even the competition. Building and maintaining trust within any organization pays off with many benefits.
Here are 12 benefits of working in a high trust culture:
1. Problems are easier to solve – because the energy is on the real problem, and people are not afraid to suggest creative solutions. 2. Focus is on the mission – rather than interpersonal protection. 3. Efficient Communication – less need to “spin” information. 4. Less unrest – little need for damage control. 5. Passion for the work – that is obvious to customers. 6. A real environment – no need to play head games. 7. People respect each other – less bickering and wasting time. 8. Fewer distractions – things get done right the first time. 9. Leaders allowed to be human – can make a mistake and not get derailed. 10. Developing people – emphasis on being the best possible. 11. Reinforcement works better – because it is not perceived as manipulative. 12. People enjoy work – the atmosphere is light and sometimes even fun.
With advantages like these, it is not hard to figure out why high trust groups out perform low trust organizations dramatically. There have been many studies that indicate the leverage you get with a high trust group over a low trust one is at least three times. That is why it is common for groups to more than double productivity in less that a year if the leaders know how to build trust.
There are dozens of leadership behaviors that will develop higher trust. An example would be to do what you say (“walk your talk”). I believe the most powerful leadership behavior that will develop higher trust is to create a safe environment. My quote for this phenomenon is “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”
Creating a culture of low fear is not rocket science at all. Leaders simply need to make people understand that they will not be put down for sharing their opinions as long as it is done in an appropriate way and time. I call this action “reinforcing candor,” because the person needs to feel welcome to share a contrary view without fear. Leaders who can accomplish this kind of culture will have the advantages listed above.
Work to consistently build, maintain, and repair trust in your organization. I believe the leverage in doing so is the most significant path to greatness in any organization.
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.TheTrust 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, email@example.com or 585.392.7763
In my seminars on trust, I always do an exercise that illustrates the pivotal importance of trust in any organization.
In this experiential exercise I split the group up into small discussion groups and give each group a different dimension to work on by answering the following question: for your dimension, can you contrast what it is like to try to accomplish it if you are working with a high trust group versus a low trust group?
I could think up dozens of dimensions to explore, but to keep the exercise bounded in terms of time, I use only nine dimensions with groups. Here is a list of the nine dimensions along with my comments on the contrast of trying to do them in a high versus low trust group.
1. Solving Problems
In organizations of high trust, problems are dealt with easily and efficiently. In low trust organizations, problems become huge obstacles as leaders work to unscramble the mess to find out who said what or who caused the problem to spiral out of control.
Often feelings are hurt or long term damage in relationships occurs. While problems exist in any environment, they take many times longer to resolve if there is low trust.
In addition, the creative ideas of people are more readily accessible to the group when people aren’t afraid to speak their minds.
Sometimes a lack of trust can cause small problems to bloom into first class disasters.
A good example of this progression is the Challenger Disaster in 1986. The Rogers Commission (1987) found that NASA’s organizational culture and decision making process were key contributing factors of the accident. Technicians who were aware of a problem did not feel it was safe to bring it up due to low trust levels.
2. Focused Energy
People in organizations with high trust do not need to be defensive. They focus energy on accomplishing the Vision and Mission of the organization. Their energy is directed toward the customer and against the competition.
In low trust organizations, people are myopic and waste energy due to infighting and politics. Their focus is on internal squabbles and destructive turf battles.
Bad blood between people creates a litany of issues that distract supervision from the pursuit of excellence. Instead, they play referee to a bunch of adult workers who often act like children.
Trust leads to constancy of purpose as well as focus. In Managing People is Like Herding Cats (1999), Warren Bennis wrote: “A recent study showed people would rather follow individuals they can count on, even when they disagree with their viewpoint, than people they agree with but who shift positions frequently. I cannot emphasize enough the significance of constancy and focus.” (p.85)
3. Efficient Communication
When trust is high, the communication process is efficient, as leaders freely share valuable insights about business conditions and strategy.
In low trust organizations, rumors and gossip zap around the organization like laser beams in a hall of mirrors. Before long, leaders are blinded with problems coming from every direction. Trying to control the rumors takes energy away from the mission and strategy.
High trust organizations rely on solid, believable communication, while the atmosphere in low trust groups is usually one of damage control and minimizing employee unrest.
Since people’s reality is what they believe rather than what is objectively happening, the need for damage control in low trust groups is often a huge burden. Not only is verbal communication enhanced by trust, all forms of communication including e-mail, body language, and listening are improved by trust.
In A Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, Steven B. Sample (2002) discusses the concept of Artful Listening which enables a leader to “…see things through the eyes of his followers while at the same time seeing things from his own perspective” (p.22). He calls this skill “seeing double.” Sample stresses that Artful Listening is enabled by trust.
4. Retaining Customers
Workers in high trust organizations have a passion for their work that is obvious to customers. When trust is lacking, workers often display apathy toward the company that is transparent to customers.
Most of us have experienced this apathy while sitting in a restaurant where the service is poor. If there is a low trust environment, we feel an uncomfortable tension that discourages our future return to that establishment.
All it takes is the roll of eyes or some shoddy body language to send valuable customers looking for alternatives.
5. A “Real” Environment
People who work in high trust environments describe the atmosphere as being “real.” They are not playing games with one another in a futile attempt to outdo or embarrass the other person.
Rather, they are focused toward a common goal that permeates all activities. When something is real, people know it and respond positively.
When trust is high, people might not always like each other, but they have great respect for each other. That means, they work to support and reinforce the good deeds done by fellow workers rather than try to find sarcastic or belittling remarks to make about them.
The reduction of infighting creates hours of extra time spent achieving business results.
6. Saving Time and Reducing Costs
High trust organizations get things done more quickly because there are fewer distractions. There is no need to double check everything because people generally do things right.
In areas of low trust, there is a constant need to spin things to be acceptable and then to explain what the spin means. This takes time, which drives costs up.
In The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey relates that when trust is low, organizations pay a kind of “tax.” This tax increases costs and reduces speed (Covey, 2006).
7. Perfection not Required
A culture of high trust relieves leaders from the need to be perfect. Where trust is high, people will understand the intent of a communication even if the words were phrased poorly.
In low trust groups, the leader must be perfect because people are poised to spring on every misstep or misstatement to prove the leader is not trustworthy. Without trust, speaking to groups of people is like walking on egg shells.
The irony is that leaders should be glad when people are vocal about apparent inconsistencies between actions and values. People will not do so unless the leader has created an environment of trust.
This phenomenon was described by Noel Tichy (1997) in The Cycle of Leadership as follows: “The truth is that the leader gets nailed to the wall for failing to live the values only if he or she has created an open and honest shop. More often, people simply become demoralized and ignore the values just as the leader does” (p. 43).
8. More Development and Growth
In low trust organizations, people stagnate because there is little emphasis placed on growth. All of the energy is spent jousting between individuals and groups.
High trust groups emphasize development, so there is a constant focus on personal and organizational growth, as described in Treat People Right (Edward Lawler, 2003).
9. Better Reinforcement
When trust is high, positive reinforcement works because it is sincere and well executed.
In low trust organizations, reinforcement is often considered phony, manipulative, or duplicitous, which lowers morale. Without trust, attempts to improve motivation through reinforcement programs often backfire.
The trick is to get people to want to do the right thing through reinforcement.
Ken Blanchard (2002) in Whale Done wrote “Instead of building dependency on others for a reward, you want people to do the right thing because they themselves enjoy it” (p. 56).
Once groups wrestle with these nine dimensions and contrast what it is like to operate as part of a high trust group versus a low trust one, they understand the immense impact that trust has on every aspect of how an organization operates.
Simply put, if you have high trust, all aspects of the organization work well, but with low trust, nothing works as expected.
Seek to build trust at every level all of the time. If trust becomes compromised for any reason, move swiftly to repair it (the subject of a future article).
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, firstname.lastname@example.org or 585.392.7763
A student in one of my graduate leadership classes posed an interesting question. If bully managers cause so much grief, why are so many of them allowed to remain in power?
The question got me thinking of the many reasons bully managers, even the extreme ones, seem to hang onto their positions. Here are some of the reasons.
1. Weak Leadership Above – If a bully manager is allowed to remain in place, it means the leaders above him or her are not doing a good job. If those in charge look the other way while a manager is abusing people, then they are the real culprits.
It is rather easy to spot a bully manager when doing a 360 degree review process, so once one is identified, if the person is allowed to stay in a management position year after year, I blame the top leadership.
Also, weak leadership might look the other way because the bully has powerful allies. Bully bosses intimidate people at their own level and higher in the organization. They know the buttons to push or people to pressure in order to get their own way. If a weak leader is afraid of the bully, that can be a reason this person is allowed to continue.
If the bully is the top dog and not beholden to anyone, there is no force from above to curtail the negative behaviors. In this case, barring some kind of epiphany, the bully will keep on with the same conduct until he or she leaves.
Attempts from below to enlighten this person will usually be fruitless; they may even exacerbate the problem.
2. Sufficing –
A bully manager does elicit compliance because people are fearful. The unit reporting to this manager will perform at a credible level, even though people are unhappy and underutilized.
The crime is that the unit could be so much better, and the lives of the workers could be richer if the manager was replaced by someone with higher Emotional Intelligence.
Many units get by sufficing on a culture of compliance and avoidance and do not even realize the huge potential they are missing.
3. Being Clueless –
I have written on this before. The idea is that most bullies simply do not see themselves accurately. They would view themselves as being tough or having high standards of conduct.
My observation is that most bully managers are genuinely proud of their prowess at getting people to behave. They have no impetus to change, because their twisted logic reinforces the behaviors that elicit compliance.
They often view themselves as smarter than the people working for them and bark out orders because they sincerely believe they know best.
Another clueless possibility is that the entire corporate culture is stuck in this Ebenezer Scrooge mentality.
Hard as it is to fathom, there are still old style companies where management likes to terrorize. The same holds for family businesses where one generation intimidates the next.
4. Lack of trust –
A bully manager trashes trust on a daily basis without realizing it. When trust is low, all other functions in the organization operate like a car would run on watered-down gasoline.
The irony is that when the bully manager sees things sputtering and not working well, the logical reaction is to jump in with combat boots on to “fix” the problems.
That bullying behavior perpetuates the problem in a vicious cycle of cause and effect. If there is no external force to break the cycle, it will just continue.
5. Short term focus –
Most bully managers have a fixation on short term actions and do not see the long term damage being done to the culture. They would describe “culture” as some squishy concept that is for softies.
If you propose ideas to improve the culture to a bully manager, he or she will start talking about performance and accountability. Holding people accountable is a very popular phrase in management these days.
Imagine a world where there was less need to talk about holding people accountable because the culture they worked in was one that automatically extracted their maximum discretionary effort.
If the vast majority of workers in a unit habitually performed at the very peak of their potential because they wanted to, then accountability would take care of itself.
6. Lack of skills –
Bully managers often have not had good leadership capabilities built in through training and mentoring. You cannot blame a tyrant if he or she has never been shown a better way to lead.
Bully managers are often accused of having a “my way or the highway” attitude toward people, but I would contend that many of these misguided individuals simply feel “my way is the only way I know how to get things done.”
For these leaders, some intensive reprogramming can be an effective antidote only if they come to the table eager to learn new ways.
7. Fear means people will not challenge –
Most workers are not going to be willing to challenge a bully boss. The fear of getting their heads chopped off for leveling with the boss makes the prospect of telling the truth feel like knowingly walking into a lion’s den.
Every once in a while there is a person so foolish or confident that he will just walk into the lion’s den because there is little to lose. This person can help provide shock therapy for bully leaders by providing data on how the behaviors are actually blocking the very things the leader wants to accomplish.
These people might be called “whistle blowers” because they provide an errant manager, or the leadership above, with knowledge of what is actually happening.
Occasionally, a bully manager is so extreme that he or she must be removed and replaced by a more people-oriented manager. Unfortunately, it is also true that many bully bosses have the ability to remain in place for long stretches.
This adhesion to power is extremely costly to the organization in terms of current and future performance along with a prime cause of high turnover. If you have a bully manager reporting to you, get him or her some help through training.
If that does not work, move the bully out of a leadership role and put in someone with high Emotional Intelligence.
According to one study, (Selden & Colvin, 2003, Harvard Business Review) nearly 80% of mergers or acquisitions fail to reach their initial performance targets.
Not all of those crash and burn, but the results are none-the-less disappointing.
The reasons for these failures are as numerous as leaves on a tree. I believe there are some conditions that align to stack the odds in the direction of failure rather dramatically. Here are ten examples:
1. Perspective Problem
When first contemplating a merger, the benefits are rather easy to see and to quantify.
The problems or impediments are far more numerous, yet most of them are hidden from view, like bats in a cave. They will eventually come out and swirl around us, but at the start we do not know the magnitude of the problems.
If we are lucky, and we picked the right cave, the problems will be small and manageable, but if we are unlucky, the sky can turn black with a swarm of issues, and our safety nets are woefully inadequate.
2. Over Enthusiasm
The senior leader “falls in love” with the concept of the merger and loses a sense of reality.
If anyone dares to question the sanity of what is being contemplated, that person is dubbed a non-team-player and sent off to the minor leagues.
Just as love can be blind, managers can ignore the symptoms of problems until it is far too late. Then, all that can be done is to mitigate the damage.
3. Focus on Financials
The deal is conjured up as a financial arrangement having to do with ownership of property, technology, and processes.
The cultural aspects of getting people to work together effectively is assumed until the deal is struck.
The polarization between groups and the interpersonal hassles metastasize throughout the organization and become untreatable very quickly.
4. Wrong People on the Bus
During the run up to a merger, people are aware of what is going on, even though there is a laughable charade of secrecy.
The highest performers recognize the risk and have their alternate landing spot already selected. By the time of the announcement, some of the best people already have job offers elsewhere.
The poorer performers hunker down in the trenches and become problems to deal with after the news is announced.
5. Lack of Trust
The games played during the due diligence and negotiation end up destroying trust within both organizations, and neither group has much trust in the other entity.
Building up a culture of high trust is a daunting task under the best of conditions, and trying to do it amid the chaos of a whole new organization is about as likely as the sun turning blue.
6. Stiffing the Customer
The customers of both organizations don’t care a whit about the integration. They just want seamless service and excellent quality products on time.
When both organizations are urgently focused on stamping out internal problems and redefining their processes, there is little focus on satisfying the established customer base.
In hundreds of ways the poor customer’s needs get shoved to the back burner every day. Since there are alternatives, it does not take long for smart customers to turn elsewhere.
7. Uncertain Environment
People at all levels are petrified. They really do not know their future, and they just hang on until the dust settles.
Teamwork is pretty rare, and everyone is looking out for number one. Meanwhile the work is not getting done as before because people are not getting clear marching orders.
8. Spotty Communication
Since a good portion of the discussions are supposed to be secret (which is a true sham since everyone in both organizations knows what is going on) little credible communication is coming out of the top level.
This environment is a perfect incubator for rumors and gossip that only add more instability to an already fragile system.
9. Faulty Assumptions
Many of the procedures must be recast with both groups having to change in some ways. It is common for both groups to feel they have been “taken over” and forced to revamp their culture to accommodate the other entity.
Bitter feelings arise as people would rather live in the world that existed before. Of course that is not possible, so there is a grieving process going on, just when the organization needs people to be at their best.
You can observe true chaos in one of these situations. It is as if a major earthquake just hit off the coast, and people on the island are scrambling because of the tsunami to follow. Not much constructive work is happening during this time.
These are just ten of the conditions that make the M&A process so chancy. There are dozens of other negative things going on as well. It is no wonder the track record of success against the goals is so low.
My new book, Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, explains how to improve the odds dramatically by focusing equal energy on the cultural parts of the integration as the mechanical process. Doing this mitigates all of the problems listed above and gives a fighting chance for success, despite the issues.
The book will be launched on August 18, 2014 by ASTD Press and is currently available for preorder. The book is about how organizations must do a better job of preserving and enhancing trust when they go through changes such as reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, or other restructurings. Your purchase of the book includes access to a set of videos that enhance several of the key points. For a video introduction to the book, click here.
A student in one of my graduate leadership classes posed an interesting question. If bully managers cause so much grief, why are so many of them allowed to remain in power? The question got me thinking of the many reasons bully managers, even the extreme ones, seem to hang onto their positions. Here are some of the reasons.
Weak Leadership Above – If a bully manager is allowed to remain in place, it means the leaders above him or her are not doing a good job. If those in charge look the other way while a manager is abusing people, then they are the real culprits. It is rather easy to spot a bully manager when doing a 360 degree review process, so once one is identified, if the person is allowed to stay in a management position year after year, I blame the top leadership.
Also, weak leadership might look the other way because the bully has powerful allies. Bully bosses intimidate people at their own level and higher in the organization. They know the buttons to push or people to pressure in order to get their own way. If a weak leader is afraid of the bully, that can be a reason this person is allowed to continue.
If the bully is the top dog and not beholden to anyone, there is no force from above to curtail the negative behaviors. In this case, barring some kind of epiphany, the bully will keep on with the same conduct until he or she leaves. Attempts from below to enlighten this person will usually be fruitless; they may even exacerbate the problem.
Sufficing – A bully manager does elicit compliance because people are fearful. The unit reporting to this manager will perform at a credible level, even though people are unhappy and underutilized. The crime is that the unit could be so much better, and the lives of the workers could be richer if the manager was replaced by someone with higher Emotional Intelligence. Many units get by sufficing on a culture of compliance and avoidance and do not even realize the huge potential they are missing.
Being Clueless – I have written on this before. The idea is that most bullies simply do not see themselves accurately. They would view themselves as being tough or having high standards of conduct. My observation is that most bully managers are genuinely proud of their prowess at getting people to behave. They have no impetus to change, because their twisted logic reinforces the behaviors that elicit compliance. They often view themselves as smarter than the people working for them and bark out orders because they sincerely believe they know best.
Another clueless possibility is that the entire corporate culture is stuck in this Ebenezer Scrooge mentality. Hard as it is to fathom, there are still old style companies where management likes to terrorize. The same holds for family businesses where one generation intimidates the next.
Lack of trust – A bully manager trashes trust on a daily basis without realizing it. When trust is low, all other functions in the organization operate like a car would run on watered-down gasoline. The irony is that when the bully manager sees things sputtering and not working well, the logical reaction is to jump in with combat boots on to “fix” the problems. That bullying behavior perpetuates the problem in a vicious cycle of cause and effect. If there is no external force to break the cycle, it will just continue.
Short term focus – Most bully managers have a fixation on short term actions and do not see the long term damage being done to the culture. They would describe “culture” as some squishy concept that is for softies. If you propose ideas to improve the culture to a bully manager, he or she will start talking about performance and accountability. Holding people accountable is a very popular phrase in management these days. Imagine a world where there was less need to talk about holding people accountable because the culture they worked in was one that automatically extracted their maximum discretionary effort. If the vast majority of workers in a unit habitually performed at the very peak of their potential because they wanted to, then accountability would take care of itself.
Lack of skills – Bully managers often have not had good leadership capabilities built in through training and mentoring. You cannot blame a tyrant if he or she has never been shown a better way to lead. Bully managers are often accused of having a “my way or the highway” attitude toward people, but I would contend that many of these misguided individuals simply feel “my way is the only way I know how to get things done.” For these leaders, some intensive reprogramming can be an effective antidote only if they come to the table eager to learn new ways.
Fear means people will not challenge – Most workers are not going to be willing to challenge a bully boss. The fear of getting their heads chopped off for leveling with the boss makes the prospect of telling the truth feel like knowingly walking into a lion’s den. Every once in a while there is a person so foolish or confident that he will just walk into the lion’s den because there is little to lose. This person can help provide shock therapy for bully leaders by providing data on how the behaviors are actually blocking the very things the leader wants to accomplish. These people might be called “whistle blowers” because they provide an errant manager, or the leadership above, with knowledge of what is actually happening.
Occasionally, a bully manager is so extreme that he or she must be removed and replaced by a more people-oriented manager. Unfortunately, it is also true that many bully bosses have the ability to remain in place for long stretches. This adhesion to power is extremely costly to the organization in terms of current and future performance along with a prime cause of high turnover. If you have a bully manager reporting to you, get him or her some help through training. If that does not work, move the bully out of a leadership role and put in someone with high Emotional Intelligence.