Building Higher Trust 1 A New Series

November 24, 2020

Having just completed a series of 100 articles on Body Language, it is time for me to start a new series of fresh content on my favorite subject: TRUST. I will write on all aspects of trust as I have come to know it.

About 30 years ago, I came to the conclusion that trust is the “golden key” to great leadership. We know it when we experience trust, but it is a bit elusive when we try to define it with precision. I intend to take the mystery out of the topic and discuss numerous aspects of trust and how they relate to leadership.

I will be covering:

1. The nature of trust in many dimensions
2. How leaders can obtain more trust consistently
3. How they can maintain and build higher trust over time
4. How they can leverage trust to improve performance in all dimensions of business
5. How they can repair damaged trust
6. How they can teach other leaders how to create a culture of higher trust

While the bulk of content in this series will be slanted toward business settings, the points and techniques will be equally valid for social groups, families, church congregations, university settings, hospital staffs, legal offices, and any other setting where human beings interact.

Layout of articles

I will do more than simply describe the content; I will give specific examples from my personal experience and suggest exercises you can do to increase your skills at building higher trust. As always, I invite dialog through comments to this blog or on my website.  For each article, I will include a Bonus Video that goes along with the content of that particular article. These videos are all very brief (less than 3 minutes).

An exercise for you

As a first exercise in this series, try to recall a time when you experienced a feeling of high trust. Recall the details of what was going on and how you experienced great security in that moment. Now go back and recall a time when there was a serious trust violation in your life. Recall the empty feeling of being let down. Were you able to rebuild the trust, or was it the end of that relationship? Later in this series I will deal with ways to repair damaged trust.

How trust works

In an organization, I think of trust as the lubricant that allows everything to work as it was intended. Without trust, we get friction and heat between people. In this series, we will focus on these aspects of trust and what specific thought patterns and behaviors that result in building higher trust over time.

Benefits for you

It does not matter what your position is; you can benefit from reading this series because it will help your life run much better. If you are a leader (and I contend that we are all leaders at some point: think about leading yourself) this series will be extremely valuable in that it will reveal many aspects of trust that you may not have been aware of that will enrich the quality of your life.

Bonus Video

Link to video of “Leadership and Trust”





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 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations


Talent Development 17 Knowledge Management

November 18, 2020

Section 2.5 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Knowledge Management. Section B reads, “Skill in designing and implementing knowledge management strategy.”

For any organization to be successful in the long run, there needs to be an effective strategy to retain the knowledge that makes up the intangible assets of the company. The ebb and flow of people into and out of the organization make it imperative that the process knowledge of how things get done be organized and accessible.

 

Standard Operating Procedures

Gone are the days when a set of SOPs for the organization were maintained in current shape by an administrative group. Those books became extinct several decades ago. In most organizations, the content knowledge of procedures exists in some cloud-based system where people can access the knowledge and keep it current.

Security has always been a major concern when archiving organizational knowledge. The best approach is to have layers of information, from readily available to the public to highly classified trade secrets. Each layer needs to have a special control relative to who can access and suitable passwords (normally two levels) to keep private information from getting out and hackers from getting in.

Management and Leadership Knowledge

I spend my time working with the leaders of companies in all different industries helping them sharpen their leadership skills. I have a listing of about 100 topic areas where I train supervisors, managers, and leaders. I let them select the areas of most benefit to them and then design custom training specifically tailored for their situation.

Three Areas of Greatest Need

Over the years, I have found three areas where there is the most frequent need for training:

1. Building, maintaining, and repairing Trust
2. Holding people accountable in a principle-centered way
3. Reducing conflict between people in the organization.

Training Patterns

Normally, I split up the training into half day events. A typical application will have me work with a group of managers from 3-6 sessions to cover the materials of highest interest to them.

I have found that the half-life of information shared in a training session is about one week. That means that after one week, roughly half of the training benefits will be forgotten in the hubbub of daily activity.

Method to S-T-R-E-T-C-H out the Content

What I do to improve the knowledge retention by my clients is to follow up the half day (in person or virtual) training sessions with 30 days of very short (3 minutes each) and very professional videos of the content served up in a unique format.

Bonus Video

To give you the idea of what these videos look like, here is a link to one on the relationship between trust and the need for leaders to be perfect.

By having the content metered out in these short bursts over a period of a month following the initial training, I get significantly higher retention of the tools I am teaching. In each video, I provide the main point of the learning, then I describe why it is important to remember, finally I give an exercise for the person to do that day in order to use the content immediately.

By refreshing the content over a longer period of time, and by having the leaders actually do something with the content each day, they get significantly more out of the training and the knowledge is retained.


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


Leadership Barometer 71 Demonstrate Integrity

November 11, 2020

There are hundreds of assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly. You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership.

There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

Demonstrate Integrity

Lou Holtz, the famous football coach had a remarkably simple philosophy of doing business. It consisted of three simple little rules: 1) Do Right, 2) Do the best you can, and 3) Treat other people like you would like to be treated.

The basic Do Right Rule means acting with integrity. If doing what is right is such a basic and easy thing, why am I even bothering to write about it?

It’s simple; most leaders have a hard time figuring out what the right thing is. That is a stunning indictment to make, but I really believe it is true on occasion. Reason: in the melee of everyday challenges, it is so easy to make a judgment that seems right under the circumstances, but when extrapolated to its logical conclusion it is really not ethical, or moral, or it is just plain dumb.

Rationalization

For a leader, it is easy to rationalize the particular situation and convince yourself that something marginal is really OK to do “all things considered.” There must be a safeguard for this common problem. There is, and I will reveal it later in this article.

The Problem Escalation

I believe that most of the huge organizational scandals of the past started out as subtle value judgments by leaders in their organizations. There was a decision point where they could have taken path A or path B. While path B was “squeaky clean” in terms of the ethics involved, path A was also perfectly logical and acceptable based on the rules in place at the time and was also somewhat more profitable than Path B.

The problem is that if path A was acceptable today, then A+ would be fine the next day, and A++ the next. Other people would get involved, and the practice would get more embedded into the culture.

Eventually, after a few years, it was clear that rules were being bent all over the place in order for the organization to look good to investors. There was no convenient way to roll back the ethical clock, nor was there any impetus. They seemed to be “getting away with it.”

Ultimately the practice, whether it was Enron’s disappearing assets or Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme, became too big to hide and things blew up.

My contention is that these people were not intending to do bad things originally, they just got caught up in what Alan Greenspan called irrational exuberance and had no way to quit the abuse. Of course, by that time they really were evil people doing evil things, but I believe it did not start out with those intentions.

At the start I believe these leaders were truly blind to the origin of corruption that brought down their empires and bankrupt thousands of individuals in the process.

The Antidote

How can leaders protect themselves from getting caught up in a web of deception if they were originally blind to the problem? It’s simple; they needed to create a culture of transparency and trust whereby being whistle blower was considered good because it protected the organization from going down the wrong path.

Imagine if the culture in an organization was such that when someone (anyone) in the company was concerned about the ethics of current practice and he or she brought that concern to light, there would have been a reward rather than punishment.

To accomplish this, leaders need to reinforce candor, in every phase of operations. It has to be a recognized policy that seeing something amiss brings with it an obligation to speak up, but that is OK because speaking up will bring rewards.

When leaders at all levels reward the whistle blower, it sets up a culture of high trust because it drives out fear. One of my favorite quotes is, “The absence of fear is the incubator of trust.”

The concept or rewarding candor creates opportunities for leaders to see things that would otherwise be hidden and take corrective action before the tsunami gets started.

It also allows leaders to be fallible human beings and make mistakes without having them become a reason for them to spend the rest of their life in jail.

So here is a good test of your leadership ability. How transparent is your organization? Do you truly reward employees when they bring up things that do not seem right to them, or are they put down and punished?


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


Leadership Barometer 69 Admitting a Mistake

October 27, 2020

There are hundreds of assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly. You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership.

There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

Admit Mistakes

All leaders make mistakes. Few leaders relish the opportunity to publicly admit them. I think that is wrong thinking.

For many types of mistakes, a public “mia culpa” is a huge deposit in the trust account. Sure, there are types of mistakes that should not be flaunted before the general population.

For example, if a mistake is similar to one that a leader has made several times in the past, it is not a good idea to stand up in front of a group and say, “well folks, I did it again.”

Likewise, if a mistake is such a bonehead move it brings into question the sanity of a leader, it is not a good idea to admit it. But barring those kinds of issues, if an honest mistake was made, getting up and admitting it, apologizing, and asking for forgiveness is cathartic.

I once had the opportunity to call people together and admit a mistake I had made in a budget meeting the previous day. People were not happy to hear the news that I inadvertently gave away $10K, but I did have a steady stream of people come to my office later to tell me my apology was accepted and that my little speech hit a home run on the shop floor.

Reason: people do not expect leaders to apologize because it is almost never done. You catch people off guard when you do it, and it has a major impact on trust.

Apologizing upward is another tricky area that can have a profound impact. The same caveats for apologizing downward apply here; if a mistake was plain stupid or it is the same one you have made before, best not admit it to the boss unless some serious damage would result. But if you have made an honest mistake, admitting this to the boss can be a big trust builder. This is especially true if the boss would never know unless you told him.

I recall a situation in my career where I had inadvertently divulged some company information while on a business trip in Japan. Nobody in my company would ever know I had slipped in my deportment, but it bothered me. I took some special action to mitigate the mistake and went hat in hand to my boss.

I said, “Dick, I need to talk to you. I made a mistake when I was in Japan last week. You would never know this unless I told you, but here is what happened…” I then described how I let a magazine be copied where I had written some notes in the margin. I described how I retrieved the copy and was given assurances that other copies had not been made.

My boss said “Well, Bob, you’re right, that is not the smartest thing you ever did, the smartest thing you ever did was to tell me about it.”

That short meeting with my boss increased his trust in me substantially, and I received several promotions over the next few years that I can trace to his confidence in me.

Granted, his confidence was influenced by numerous good things I had done, but by admitting something that I did not need to do, the relationship was strengthened rather than weakened. This is powerful stuff, but it must be used in the right way at the right time for the right reason.

After making a mistake most leaders try to hide it, downplay the importance, blame others, or use some other method to try to weasel out of it. Often these actions serve to lower trust. Consider taking the opportunity to apologize publicly. Often it is a great way to build trust. Use this technique carefully and infrequently, and it can be a positive influence on the quality of your leadership.



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



Leadership Barometer 68 Firm but Fair

October 18, 2020

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

Firm but Fair

The book “Triple Crown Leadership” was coauthored by my friends Bob Vanourek and his son, Gregg. In the book, they stress that great leaders have the ability to flex between “steel” and “velvet.”

They are firm and unyielding on matters of principle or values, but they also display a softer more human side when dealing with some people issues.

Great leaders have this ability to flex, and they also know when to do it. If an issue has to do with certain characteristics (like integrity, safety, ethics, honesty) it is a mistake to bend the rules, even just a little. But, if the issue has to do with showing people you care and want to be fair to people, then on those issues you can flex to show you value these things too.

It is a mistake to take a hard line on every decision and always go “by the book.” Some leaders feel it is essential to maintain control by having a firm hand on the tiller. They often lose the respect of people because they show no human side.

It is also a mistake to be too soft and basically ignore important principles or rules. This posture will also cause a loss of respect.

To get the right balance, great leaders let people know they will be steel on some things and velvet on other things. This causes higher respect and also leads to higher trust within the organization.

One important caution on this philosophy is that you need to establish a predictable pattern for when to flex. If you do something for one person and not another, then you will be tagged as playing favorites, which always lowers trust. If it is unclear to people why you are being hard on one issue and soft on another, then you are going to confuse people, which also lowers trust.

I always found it helpful to explain to people why I am taking a hard line on some visible issue. For example, I might say, “We cannot allow this slitter to run with this safety interlock compromised. Even though we really need the production right now, we will never jeopardize the safety of our workers.”

Once you have established a track record for making the right choices, it is not as important to explain your rationale for each one. The way to tell is to watch the body language of people. If they look confused when you make a decision, then always explain your rationale.

If there is ever any push back on a hard or soft decision, listen to the input carefully before proceeding. Keep in mind that your perspective is not the entire story. There may be other worthy opinions.

Show by your consistent actions over time that you stand for certain things, but always be willing to listen to and consider contrary opinions. Then when you make a final decision, let people know why you went that direction. If you do that, you will grow trust consistently.


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


Leadership Barometer 67 Connects Well With People

October 9, 2020

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

You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership.

There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

Connects Well with People

A good way to evaluate the quality of a leader is to watch the way he or she connects with people both upward and downward. Great leaders are known for being real rather than phony.

People describe the great ones as being “a nice guy” or “an approachable woman” or “like a friend.” The idea is the leader does not act aloof and talk down to people. There is no pedestal separating the leader from people in the organization.

There are numerous ways a leader can demonstrate the genuine connection with people. For example, John chambers, former CEO of Cisco Systems, worked from a 12X12 foot cubicle and answered his own phone. There was no executive washroom and no corporate plane.

Other leaders dress more like the workers in jeans and polo shirt rather than suit and tie.

Probably the most helpful way to be connected to people is to walk the deck often. There is a way you can tell if you are getting enough face time with people.

When you approach a group of workers on the shop floor, watch their body language.

If they stiffen up and change their posture, you know that your visit it too much of a special event. If the group continues with the same body language, but just welcomes you into the conversation, then you are doing enough walking of the deck.

They used to call this habit MBWA – short for “Management By Wandering Around.” It is, by far, the easiest way to stay connected with people. I tried to find at least an hour each day to do this, and I found it to be the most enjoyable hour of my day.

Being close to people has the added benefit of helping to build trust and improve teamwork. By sharing news or getting people’s opinions you show that you care about them. That works wonders for building higher engagement in the work,

Likewise, great leaders know how to stay connected with the people above them. In this case MBWA does not work too well because there is no real “shop floor” for upper management. Being accessible helps, so know the layout and drop by on occasion to check in. Do not be a pest – there is a fine line.

One suggestion is to experiment with the preferred modes of communication of your superiors. For example, I can recall the best way to keep in touch with one of my managers was through voice mail. Another supervisor would rarely reply to voice mail or e-mail, so I would make sure to stop by to see her physically.

One tip that was helpful to me was to arrive very early in the morning – before any of the upper leaders were present. Most executives arrive at work before the general population to prepare for the day and get some quiet work done before the masses arrive.

I would always be in my office working when my leader arrived. There were many occasions when something had to be done to help her very early in the morning. Since I was the only one around, I had the opportunity to do little favors to help her out. Over time that builds up a kind of bond. It is not being a suck up. It is just being available to help.

Beating the leaders in to work consistently demonstrates a kind of dedication. The manager has no way of knowing when you arrived. You could have gotten there just 5 minutes before her or already been hard at work for an hour. I always enjoyed having my car make the first set of tracks in the snow of the parking lot. Over time, that built up a helpful reputation for me that paid off.

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


Talent Development 8 Compliance and Ethical Behavior

August 27, 2020

The topics of Compliance and Ethical Behavior are part of the ATD CPTD Certification model.

This topic involves a knowledge of laws, regulations, and ethical issues related to the access and use of information. There are numerous statutes that help to safeguard sensitive information, whether that is copyrighted information, patented technology, or personally sensitive data.

The area of ethical corporate behavior is the topic of this article. I have been involved with ethics all my life and have taught different courses on the subject at local universities. I consider ethical behavior to be a subset of trust, and it is simply about doing business the right way.

We tend to rationalize situations when there are difficult choices. We use flawed logic to make something seem right when it really is not. To guard against ethical lapses, we need organizations to build cultures of trust and psychological safety.

The ability to speak up when you see something that does not seem right is at the core of ethical behavior. Unfortunately, in many organizations, the leaders find ways to punish rather than reward whistle blowers.

Leaders who have built up a high degree of trust based on the knowledge that it is a good thing to speak up when something does not seem right have the advantage of many eyes and ears to view each action. If a leader gets off the straight and narrow through some form of rationalization, the individuals will point that out. It is up to the leaders to reinforce this candor by making the whistle blower glad he brought up the problem.

In Rochester New York, we have a group that has been seeking to raise the level of ethics in our extended community by celebrating organizations that are doing great things with respect to ethics.

We call the effort “Elevate Rochester” because by openly celebrating highly ethical organizations we raise the level of awareness for ethics. Our vision is to eventually become the “Gold Standard” in terms of an ethical community.

We have a long way to go, but our program is strong and vital. It involves an annual contest to uncover highly ethical organizations (except 2020 due to COVID-19). The contest starts early in the year by a series of breakfast meetings to encourage organizations to apply for an award we call the “ETHIE.”
Groups then fill out a brief application form that asks for content and examples in the following four areas.

1. Ethical Leadership – we ask the organization to identify the importance of values, ethical standards and moral conduct in all stakeholder relations.
2. Organizational Excellence – to establish and maintain ethical standards and operational processes that are well deployed throughout the organization.
3. Ethical Challenges – this is a description of how the organization deals with ethical issues when they come up either internally or externally.
4. Corporate Citizenship – how the organization gives back to the community and supports the well-being of society.

For 2021, we will be adding a fifth section that deals with how well the organization practices inclusion and equity principles in their work.

Organizations fill out the application, and an independent panel of judges decides which organizations meet the criteria and pass on to the next level of activity, which involves a site visit to witness the degree of deployment of the above areas.

Finally, in the Fall, there is a celebration that mimics the Oscar Awards, thus celebrating the best ethical organizations in our region.

Participating organizations tell us that the organized process is the valuable part of the contest. Getting a glass statue for the trophy case is the icing on the cake, but the real benefit is bringing ethical behavior front and center within the organization on a daily basis.


Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, 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.



Leadership Barometer 62 Level of Trust

August 20, 2020

There are hundreds of assessments for leaders. The content and quality of these assessments vary greatly. You can spend a lot of time and money taking surveys to tell you the quality of your leadership.

There are a few leading indicators that can be used to give a pretty good picture of the overall quality of your leadership. These are not good for diagnosing problems or specifying corrective action, but they can tell you where you stand quickly. Here is one of my favorite measures.

Level of Trust

Good leaders create a legacy of trust within their organization. I have written elsewhere on the numerous hallmarks of an organization with trust as opposed to one that has no trust.

Is there a quick and dirty kind of litmus test for trust? Think about how you would know if an organization has high trust.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do the people focus on the vision of what they are trying to accomplish, or do they focus on each other in a negative way.  The former is an indication of a high trust group while the latter is how low trust groups interact.

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

I used to tell people that I could tell the climate of an organization within 30 seconds of watching a meeting. You can actually see it in the way people interact with each other.


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



Talent Development 4 Identify Goals, Gaps, and Opportunities

July 19, 2020

A major area in talent development is titled “performance improvement.”

Leaders need to hone the skill of performance analysis to identify the goals, gaps, and opportunities that will allow the culture to advance.

I do a lot of leadership development work in organizations of all types and sizes. A typical scenario has me meet with a CEO who laments that things are not going very well.

The organization is lagging behind in performance, and the CEO wants me to come in and train the supervisors and managers on how to do a better job of leading.

I explain that no two of my development efforts are the same. Each one is a custom effort designed to fit this particular situation and group of people.

Many leadership development consultants have their vinyl notebooks already made up when they walk in the door. They offer cookie-cutter programs that sort of fit a general population. Unfortunately these are not very effective.

Instead, I sit with several of the leaders and managers as well as some of the front-line workers to get a first-hand view of what has been going on. I have them all fill out a questionnaire containing roughly 80 different areas where we might consider some development work.

A few examples of the areas are:
• Reducing conflict
• Effective change leadership
• Building a culture of trust
• Improving teamwork
• Better listening skills

Each person has to rate each item on a scale of zero to three. 0 = no need, 1= routine need, 2= important now, and 3= urgent to improve now. The sum of all the opinions gives me a start to know which development areas would be most helpful.

Then I meet with the HR Manager and ask to see any extant data the organization has such as recent quality of worklife surveys, turnover rates, discipline patterns, leadership evaluations, etc.

In some cases where there appears to be trust issues, I have a separate trust survey that not only tells me the level of trust by area, but also what parts of the trust equation need the most work in each area.

For example, the issue of accountability often shows up as an issue that is impacting trust.

I then take all of that data and go back to my office where I have about 120 possible modules of training that could be done. Based on the data I just assembled, I run a “comb” through all of those modules.

Out pops a subset of gaps and opportunities for improvement efforts. It takes me only a couple hours to do this analysis, and I never charge the customer for this service. I go back with the CEO and show him or her the analysis I just completed.

Then I reveal a program that is targeted specifically for that organization and the people in it. By that time, I have a good idea how many sessions will be needed and how much calendar time will be required, so I can give a rough quote for how much it will cost. I share the custom outline of a program with the CEO.

Most times the CEO is flabbergasted with how perfect a fit the development effort is for that particular group. I recall one CEO listening intently as I reviewed a page with seven recommendations for training. He looked at the page and wrote BINGO next to my list.

By this time, the CEO is totally sold on the training, so I give a final quote and begin the specific design work. I customize all the material in the modules for the specific industry so the training is done in their “language.”

I design the various experiential activities such as role plays, body sculpture, games, stories, illusions etc. to fit with this specific group (for example, a training program for a hospital will be different from one for a financial service group).

I then get the materials assembled and go back to discuss how to schedule the training to be most user-friendly to that group. Then we proceed to do the development program I have designed.

My track record using this method is quite high, because I have listened to the client carefully and designed the specific interface that is laser-focused on their needs.



The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on http://www.leadergrow.com.

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



Leadership Barometer 54 The Impact of a Culture of High Trust

June 9, 2020

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.

Problems

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.

Communication

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.

Focus

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.

Rumors

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.

Attitude

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.

Impact

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.