Section 2.6 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Career & Leadership Development. The first bullet reads,” Skill in sourcing, designing, building and evaluating leadership development experiences.”
In this article, I will describe the process I use to develop, refine, upgrade, and evaluate leadership development programs for my Leadergrow, Inc. Business.
All my life I have been fascinated by leadership. Even as a young boy I wanted to know what made some leaders amazing while others, seemingly equally qualified, struggled. During my early years I observed constantly, but I did not find the answers I was looking for.
Upon entering the corporate world, I started studying leadership in earnest. By reading and listening to programs, I was mentored by many of the great leadership gurus of all time, including Napoleon Hill, Earl Nightingale, Brian Tracy, John Maxwell and numerous other leadership authors. My knowledge base was growing, but I needed to get more specific with the training.
For over 30 years, I ran a “leadership laboratory” at my place of work. I surrounded myself with the best leaders I could find, and we learned from each other how to apply the theories we were reading about at the time. I also completed my MBA studies in Behavioral Science at The Simon School at University of Rochester.
Eventually, I learned that there are a million behaviors that constitute great leadership, but all of them are enabled by one single concept. That concept is trust. I learned that the leaders who can build, maintain, and repair trust enable all of the other behaviors (such as respecting people, being consistent, delegating well, etc.) to work like magic.
Leaders who fail to create a culture of high trust work like crazy on all of the other behaviors without much success.
Trust becomes the golden key to great leadership. If you have it, your success as a leader is assured. If you fail to develop high trust with your group, then you will be locked out from the halls of great leadership.
Immediately after retiring from my full-time job as a Division Manager for a large company, I went to work designing leadership development programs. Developing leaders was always my passion at work, and I figured that doing the same thing after leaving the corporate world would be rewarding and also lead to a stable income for decades to come.
I started teaching at several of the Business Schools within driving distance. I also made a proposal to the local Chamber of Commerce to run a series of “Leadership for Managers” courses at the chamber, which I have taught three times a year for the past 17 years. These teaching opportunities made sense, as they both fed my consulting and coaching business.
I also joined the National Speakers Association and prepared to spread the word about the benefits of a high trust culture widely.
As I teach each course, I take feedback at the end, so the material can be continually upgraded. The course has now expanded beyond the original 20 hour format because there are so many wonderful videos available to illustrate key points. Also, during COVID-19 I recast the entire program to be virtual. This change is a real blessing, because I can now reach people all over the world without having to travel.
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.
Aside from the promotion from within the ranks, there is a second major way to obtain a new group supervisor. Bringing in a resource from outside the group has some advantages, but there are huge caveats for this method.
In this category, there are two common approaches that are used:
1) bringing in someone who has been a supervisor in another area, and
2) hiring a new college graduate as an entry level position.
In this article, I will describe some challenges and recommendations for each situation.
Transfer from another area
When bringing in a supervisor from another area of the company, or even a different company, at least she has the advantage of being a seasoned person who has experience leading front line employees.
A typical mistake made by the supervisor in this situation is to be too zealous with advice learned on the prior job.
Suppose a supervisor has been moved from the packaging area to the formulation group. She has been successful in the packaging assignment and wants to bring her enthusiasm and knowledge to the new challenge.
She begins by asking questions in meetings about how things are done in the formulation group she is now leading. She will make suggestions with various forms of “When I was with the Packaging Group, we used to have a daily update so we were all informed.”
People in the inherited group will listen politely as the supervisor makes logical suggestions based on her history. Unfortunately, after just a few suggestions, her new employees will start referring to “Miss Packaging” behind her back.
It will be a very long time before the new supervisor has the purchasing power she will need with people in the Formulation Group.
The antidote here is for the new supervisor to listen to how things are done in the new area without making continual references to her prior experience. The rule I tried to encourage with new managers is to allow them to refer to the old job one time for the first three months. That is a difficult challenge, but it is really important to not be overbearing with pre-existing theories at the start of a relationship.
New hire to the company
A second method of bringing in a new supervisor is to hire a high-potential person right out of school. Often the first line supervisor position is used as a way to “season” a bright new MBA in a large organization. This method is fraught with so many problems, it is a wonder that it ever works out.
First of all, the supervisor has no practical experience leading people in the real world. She may have had a leadership course in her MBA curriculum, but her employees will be eager to show her where theory breaks down in the real world.
The cultural gap between a college educated supervisor and the people on the shop floor is huge. There is also a jealousy factor that results from the supervisor being viewed as a “silver spooner” who got a college degree simply because daddy had enough money and who never had to do “a real day’s work” in her life.
The new supervisor does not have the experiential background to handle the myriad of issues she will face in her first few weeks. As she is trying her best to learn, the employees in the area will be polite on the surface, but the breakroom discussions will center on how clueless she is.
It will take a very long time before she has the purchasing power to lead, yet she has been given a position that calls for great leadership from day one.
When you couple the lack of supervisory knowledge with the lack of content knowledge of the processes, the experience for the new supervisor is usually overwhelming, and failure is a typical result.
It is awful for the organization because performance will suffer; It is awful for the people because they are not being well led; It is worst for the new supervisor, because she is going to start out her career with a very bad performance.
1. The antidote here is to use a mentoring process where a new person coming out of school has the chance to learn the processes and people before being put into a position of supervisory power. Staff assignments can allow time for this mentoring to occur. Another position that can work as a temporary learning spot is an assistant to an excellent incumbent supervisor.
2. There are many training courses offered on how to make a solid entry as a new supervisor directly out of school. The American Management Association, Fred Prior Seminars, Franklin Covey, and Dale Carnegie all offer excellent baseline courses that are short in duration and not very expensive.
I also have such a course that I run several times a year in my home town of Rochester NY. They can really help bridge the gap between the sterile world of academia and the messy world a new supervisor will soon face.
3. There are a number of great books on this specific topic. One of my favorites is “Managing People is Like Herding Cats” by Warren Bennis.
4. I have put out a series of 30 videos entitled “Surviving the Corporate Jungle” that contain tips on how to manage people with less potential for conflict. You can view some sample videos free at the following address.
If you are facing a situation where a new sheriff is coming in to lead a group, make sure you avoid the traps outlined above. You want to set up the new supervisor for success and not let her flounder for months before gaining the credibility to lead.
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
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
6. Values and norms
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.