Leadership Barometer 73 Negotiate Well

December 1, 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.

Negotiate Well

All leaders exist in a kind of sandwich. They report to someone at a higher level and also supervise other people at lower levels in the organization. Great leaders are experts at negotiating the needs of both groups.

They interpret the needs of the organization from above to the people below in a way that makes most of them understand and appreciate the policies of the larger group.

Simultaneously, great leaders advocate well for the needs of individuals reporting to them to levels above in the organization. It is this give and take role that requires constant attention and skill at negotiating well.

Learning to Negotiate

Effective negotiating is a science. You can take graduate level courses on this topic, or there are numerous books and seminars outlining the various stratagems.

You can study the tactics and countermeasures for months and still not be very skilled at negotiating well.

The most important ingredient for effective negotiating within an organization is credibility. Leaders who are believable to their people and to upper management have more success at negotiating needs in both directions effectively.

So, how does a leader become credible? Here are some tips that can help. (I apologize in advance for all the clichés in this list. I decided that using the vernacular is the best way to convey this information succinctly.)

1. Be consistent – people need to know what you stand for, and you need to communicate your own values clearly.


2. Show respect for opinions contrary to yours – other opinions may be as valid as yours, and you can frequently find a common middle ground for win-win solutions. This avoids unnecessary acrimony.


3. Shoot straight –speak your truth plainly and without a lot of spin. Get a reputation for telling the unvarnished truth, but do it with compassion. Do not try to snow people – people at all levels have the ability to smell BS very quickly.


4. Listen more than you talk – keep that ratio as much as possible because you are not the fountain of all knowledge. You just might learn something important.


5. Be open and transparent – share as much information as you can. However, be careful to not divulge too much information too soon.


6. Get your facts right – don’t get emotional and bring in a lot of half truths to the argument.


7. Don’t be fooled by the vocal minority – make sure you test to find out if what you are hearing is really shared broadly. Often there are one or two individuals who like to speak for the whole group, and yet they may not share the sentiments of everyone.


8. Don’t panic – there are “Chicken Littles” who go around shouting “The sky is falling” every day. It gets tiresome, and people tune you out eventually.


9. Ask a lot of questions – Socratic and hypothetical questions are more effective methods of negotiating points than making absolute statements of your position.


10. Admit when you are wrong – sometimes you will be.


11. Know when to back off –pressing a losing point to the point of exhaustion is not a good strategy.


12. Give other people the most credit – often the smart thing to do is not claim victory, even if you are victorious.


13. Keep your powder dry for future encounters – there is rarely a final battle in organizations, so don’t burn bridges behind you.


14. Smile – be gracious and courteous always. If you act like a friend, it is hard for people to view you as an enemy.



These are some of the rules to build credibility. If you are familiar with these and practice them regularly, you are probably very effective at negotiating within your organization. Once you are highly credible, the tactics and countermeasures of conventional negotiating are more effective.





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 63 Growth and Development

August 30, 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.

Growth & Development

Good leaders focus on the growth and development of people. If you want to test the caliber of a leader, just measure how much energy she spends on developing people. The concept is that there is vast reservoir of talent in all people that is ripe for development.

I estimate that most organizations typically get around 20%-30% of the available energy and talent of their workforce. My estimate may be a bit off, but not too far. Think of it this way. It would mean that we can triple the productivity of the workforce and still have people working at roughly 60%-90% of their capacity. Wow, what a great way to improve output and lower costs.

Of course, you cannot obtain 100% of the energy of all people all of the time. That would require so much Adrenalin it would kill everyone. But we really don’t need the 100%. I contend there is so much pent up potential in most organizations the upside is seemingly infinite.

What holds us back? Well, it is a lot of factors I am describing in this series. One of the key ones is whether people have been given the skills to do their best work. Good leaders know this and put a lot of emphasis in the development of people.

You can contrast this with poor leaders who do not seek to do much development. They may be afraid that if they develop outstanding raw talent, they will surpass the leader and leave them in the dust.

They may be too ignorant to realize that 1 hour in a good training program brings more than 3 incremental hours of productivity to the organization. It may be that the organization is in such a state of panic, there is simply no time to develop people for the future. This myopic viewpoint is similar to the orchestra playing their final tunes on the Titanic.

Development of people also enables higher trust, because the organization is investing in the future of their workers. Even the discussions between the supervisor and the worker helps build trust, because it shows that the supervisor cares for the individual.

Another aspect of development is the degree to which the leader seeks to grow as an individual. Does she have discussion groups around some leadership books?

Is she enrolled in several professional organizations? Does she spend time going to at least one professional conference per year? Does she listen to recorded programs while driving? Does she have an active reading list?

All of these actions are signs of a person who is really interested in growing as a leader. When you see these signs, you know the person understands the value of continuous learning. If these actions are absent, even if for good and valid reasons, it shows a lack of interest in personal development, which is a sign of a weak leader.

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 3 Growth and Development

June 17, 2019

Here is another one of my quick and easy measures for the quality of leaders.

Growth & Development

Good leaders focus on the growth and development of people. If you want to test the caliber of a leader, just measure how much energy she spends on developing people. The concept is that there is vast reservoir of talent in all people that is ripe for development.

I estimate that all but the very best organizations typically get around 30% of the available energy and talent of their workforce. My estimate may be a bit off, but not too far.

Think of this. It would mean that we can double the productivity of the workforce and still have people working at roughly 60% of their capacity. Wow, what a great way to improve output and lower costs!

Of course you cannot achieve 100% of the energy of all people all of the time. That would require so much Adrenalin it would kill everyone. But we really don’t need the 100%. I contend there is so much pent up potential in most organizations, the upside is huge.

What holds us back? Well, it is a lot of factors I am describing in this series. One of the key ones is whether people have been given the skills to do their best work. Good leaders know this and put a lot of emphasis in the development of people.

Interesting Contrast

You can contrast a development oriented leader with weaker leaders who do not seek to do much development. Weak leaders may be afraid that if they develop outstanding raw talent, they are in danger of being passed over by the newly-developed worker.

They may be too ignorant to realize that 1 hour in a good training program brings more than 3 incremental hours of productivity to the organization.

It may be that the organization is in such a state of panic, there is simply no time to develop people for the future. They simply need all hands on deck. This myopic viewpoint is similar to the orchestra playing their final numbers on the Titanic.

Look for the Following Important Signs

Another aspect of development is the degree to which the leader seeks to grow herself as an individual.

  1. Does she have a personal development plan that has been reviewed with her superior?
  2. Does she have discussion groups around some leadership or inspirational books?
  3. Is she enrolled in several professional organizations outside of work?
  4. Does she spend time going to at least one professional conference per year?
  5. Does she listen to recorded programs while driving?
  6. Does she regularly interface with professionals outside her organization on social networks?
  7. Does she have an active reading list?

All of these behaviors are signs of a person who is really interested in growing as a leader. When you see these signs, you know the person understands the value of continuous learning.

Leaders who want to develop others need to consider if they are modeling the above behaviors themselves.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to growing leaders. He speaks and conducts seminars on building trust in organizations. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585-392-7763.


Operate Ahead of the Power Curve

May 23, 2010

A wise mentor of mine used to have a saying that he often shared with me. He advocated I should “operate ahead of the power curve.” It took me a while to figure out what exactly he meant by that and a lot longer to appreciate how fantastic his advice was. I now try to operate ahead of the power curve always, and it reduces my stress level, improves the quality of my work, makes me less edgy with others, and allows me to display a more professional and controlled image. So, exactly what is this magic advice all about?

The advice is to always do the bulk of the work on a project or assignment immediately so you have it nearly completed well ahead of any due date. Then you can relax and complete the work at a less frantic pace to produce high quality work with very little stress.

Do it in school

I do a lot of university teaching where students are encouraged to write their assignments early in the week. Get the bulk of the writing done at least 1 or 2 days in advance of the due date, then finish up the editing after taking a break. By tricking yourself into thinking the paper is due on Saturday when it is actually really due on Monday, it changes the process dramatically. Now, the student applies significantly more effort early and can relax on Sunday. This improves the quality of student life and also leads to higher quality work. Reason: most students procrastinate until Monday afternoon to even begin writing. Then, they are in a state of panic while trying to concentrate on the organization and technical aspects of the paper. Little interruptions close to the deadline become huge annoyances because they distract the student from an important mission at a critical time. But if the work was already done two days earlier, then a last minute distraction can be accommodated with grace.

Do it making a movie

In Hollywood, when they make a movie, they have a saying for when the bulk of the movie is completed. They say it is “in the can,” which means the expensive shooting is completed and initial editing is done. What remains is the fine tuning to produce a finished product. This is done at a more leisurely pace, which helps improve the artistic creativity of the finished work.

Do it writing or consulting

I do the same thing in my writing and consulting work. For example, I am writing the bulk of this article on Thursday morning. I intend to put it out on my BLOG on Sunday evening, so I will have a draft to refine for 4 days before putting it out. I am doing some leadership consulting with a company in two weeks. I already have my materials organized and packaged up for the event. I will have a chance to soak on the material and make many refinements over the next 14 days and do so at a relaxed pace. That will make a significant difference in the quality of my work.

Do it in a tough spot

Let me share a graphic example of how powerful this philosophy can be. Several years ago I was a Division Manager in a large company. There were 4 Divisions in a large unit of the company, and we were told there would be a forced ranking of all our professionals in order to select who would be leaving as a result of a planned RIF. My Division was not the most powerful group, so I realized my people would be at a disadvantage when it came time for the rankings. As soon as I learned the ranking sessions would take place in two weeks, I immediately told all my Department Managers to drop everything for a command performance meeting that afternoon. We went into action immediately to map out a strategy. It became obvious that we did not have enough supporting evidence on the merits or talents of some of our professionals. We established a listing of what things were needed to have at our finger tips during the ranking process and set out to gather that information. It took nearly all of the two weeks but with a few days to spare, we stood back and looked at our organized data base. It was impressive.

Meanwhile, the other 3 Division Managers went on with their daily activities that habitually took up all of the time. They fretted and worried about the upcoming ranking process. The day before the ranking began, these managers hunkered down with select underlings to discuss their people. There was a lot of infighting and bickering among the various sub managers, and things became highly strained. They worked nearly all night frantically trying to get their ducks in a row. Meanwhile my managers and I were able to spend some quality time calmly focusing on our values so we would do the responsible thing the following morning.

During the ranking process, it became obvious that the other three Divisions had not done their homework well and were in a panic while my managers were well rested and ready. Whenever someone from another Division tried to downgrade one of our good people, we had a string of examples and hard data to back up our claims. They had very little documentation and only anecdotal stories as evidence. Finally one individual from the most powerful Division stood up slightly purple with rage. He said, “Whipple, the only reason your people are all coming out on top is because you were more prepared.” He was angry at me for being prepared? For once, I was speechless and said nothing.

Do it for yourself

You are probably saying to yourself, “How do you get the time to do the work well ahead of deadlines”? It is simply a matter of priority. It can be done if the will is there and the practice has become a habit. The peace of mind gained by having tasks well in hand long before the due date is well worth the early workload. The added benefit of higher quality work makes a huge difference in terms of one’s reputation.