Leadership Barometer 70 Lead by Example

November 3, 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.

Lead by Example

Leading by example sounds like a simple concept, yet many leaders struggle to do it in day to day operations. Reason: it is easy to fall into a trap of “do as I say, not as I do.”

Leaders have a tendency to rationalize their current actions based on the particular situation. Of course, this is a deadly sin for any leader. Most leaders would deny having a problem in this area, yet many of them really do not see how they are compromising their position. Here is an extreme example of a Plant Manager to illustrate.

I once worked for a Plant Manager who was world class at this flaw. He would rant and rave about following the “do not walk inside the barrier” signs when construction was happening in the plant. He wanted managers to consider firing any employee caught crossing a barrier.

Yet, I saw him coming to work one day and park in his “special spot” next the building. He then stepped over a safety cone and chain to get to the door of the building. He was aware of the fact that no work was going on at the time, and he was in a rush, but he was unaware that anybody saw his transgression.

This same manager insisted in having a shutdown and review any time there was a safety incident within the plant. That was laudable. During one such inspection following a safety incident, he was standing in the production area twirling the safety glasses we had given him around next to his face. I politely told him to please put on his safety glasses, and he did so but gave me a dirty look.

A third incident with this leader that really upset me was when we had a rather serious incident that could have caused a fatality. I ordered the operation shut down for a full investigation. This was a large conveyor system for heavy materials that needed to be operated in complete darkness because the product being moved was photographic movie film.

One of the interlocks to keep product separated had failed, and an operator went in to clear a jam. He successfully cleared the jam but nearly got crushed by the incoming product afterward.

The team reviewed the accident report with me and indicated they were ready to start up again. I asked if they could guarantee the same problem would not happen again in the future. Not receiving a suitable answer, I ordered a complete stand down of the operation until further fail-safe measures were in place. This was not popular with the employees, who figured they could just be more careful.

After wrestling with the issues for a full day, the operations and maintenance personnel came up with a solution that really would guarantee the problem never happened again. I called a special meeting with the production people and the Plant Manager to go over the problem and the resolution.

We had the meeting, but the Plant Manager never showed up, even though his administrative person said he was available at that time. What an awful signal to send the troops.

After I wrote a blistering e-mail, I was on his blackball list for the rest of the time until he was fired by upper management for insubordination and lying.

The point of these examples is that people really do notice what leaders do. When they say one thing and then do something more expedient, there is no way to command respect. It should be grounds for termination of any manager.

However, lowly employees do not have the power to actually fire their leader, so they just do it mentally and write him off as a lost cause. By the way, if you asked this Plant Manager if he has ever sent mixed signals on safety, he would firmly deny it. He was honestly unaware of his stupid actions, as is the case with most managers who are duplicitous.

Beyond these obvious atrocities, there are many positive things leaders can do. When you go out of your own comfort zone to do something positive, people notice that as well. If a leader cuts her vacation short by 2 days in order to support an important plant tour with a new customer, that really registers with people.

If a manager goes out and buys a gift certificate with his own money to thank an employee who went way beyond the expected performance, word of it gets around.

When a manager helps clean up a conference room after a long meeting, it sends a signal.

In the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, he described what he called “Level 5 Leaders.” They were passionate people, but they were also humble. They were “more plowhorse than showhorse.”

These ideas are not rocket science, yet many managers fail at this basic stuff. You need to seek out ways to go above and beyond what people expect of you and never, ever violate a rule you expect others to follow.


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 13 Business Insight

October 15, 2020

Section 3.1 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Business Insight. The first bullet reads, “A skill in creating business cases for talent development initiatives using economic, financial, and organizational data.”

In this article, I will describe the process I use to create, refine and present business cases to potential clients.

A proposal to do some training and development work has little chance of being approved unless you can identify the benefits that will accrue. One mistake that consultants often make is to consider only the tangible or visible benefits such as higher output, greater safety, or better quality.

Usually there are intangible benefits that are not immediately or easily measurable but that have a profound impact on the operation in the long run. These concepts might include the impact of training on trust, morale, or teamwork. Often these intangible benefits dwarf the more visible things that can be measured physically.

If the training is highly experiential rather than just reading and listening to lectures, the impact on personal growth will go well beyond what is in plain sight. This is why I design my programs to have a great deal of variety of experiences where the participants actually become part of the action.

These experiences include several role play activities, body sculpture, assessments, polls, breakout sessions, magic illusions, videos, group and individual activities.

My rule of thumb is to have some kind of hands-on activity for every 10-15 minutes of information sharing. That level of involvement allows the group to stay sharp through multi-hour sessions. I also provide a physical break every two hours and provide refreshments, if the session is in person.

I work from PowerPoint Slides but follow a rigid protocol to avoid “death by PowerPoint.” All slides are on a totally white background. Usually there are only 5-6 bullets with large text with less than 8 words per bullet. Each slide has a real photograph (not clip art) that I have downloaded and purchased. The photos are indicative of the content on the slide and are often whimsical in nature.

I never read the PowerPoint bullets verbatim. I discuss the content and let the participants read the actual words while I am talking. Of course, I share the slide program for later review and recall.

Considering these presentation details, there is a lot of team building going on while I impart the subject matter. That improved teamwork serves to enhance trust and build morale, which both translate into productivity for the group.

It is common to have productivity increase by more than 50% as a result of training a family group for just a few hours.

I also customize all training for the specific needs of the group. I have a survey instrument with about 100 different areas where training might be considered. The participants tell me ahead of time which items have the most value, so that I can customize the program to be focused on the areas of greatest return.

I determine any extant data that is available for the group. I will review things like Quality of Work-life Surveys, Turnover data, Grievance Reports and other data that is available on the prior state of the group.

I also customize all slides to be industry specific, so that the training will translate into the language the particular organization uses daily. I want all of the participants to get the feeling that this training was designed specifically for them, because it was.

Taking these steps allows me to present a business case to the organization that is thorough, balanced, and tailored to be laser-focused on the needs of the specific group.



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 66 Builds an Inclusive Culture

September 29, 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.

Builds an Inclusive Culture

Organizations where people at all levels feel a part of the action and are appreciated for the diversity of talents they bring to the organization are run by enlightened leaders. You can observe the leader going out of her way to include as many people as possible in discussions about issues and decisions in the organization.

When I discuss diversity and inclusion, please understand that it includes racial and gender differences, and it also goes way beyond those dimensions. It includes age, ethnicity, background, religion, sexual orientation, different abilities, and a host of other variables.

True diversity is inclusive to all people because the benefits of diversity are obtained when all people in the organization give their best every day.

Less talented leaders surround themselves with a small clique of insiders who guide the fate of the rest of the organization. I visualize a shell around the anointed people on the inner circle. It is hard to communicate through the shell, and people who try to penetrate it are often repelled and scorned.

If you have a leader who operates from a small command and control type style, you can see the bunker mentality in most activities. This exclusivity leads to lower empowerment throughout the organization.

Having an inner circle of leaders may feel like an efficient way to make decisions, but it leaves so much useful muscle and energy off the table.

The bunker mentality means that if you are not on the inside then you are on the outside, by definition. You will comply with the rules, but you will not be engaged in making good things happen. The organization will suffer because of this impact.

To be a winning organization, all of the talents of everyone are required fully aligned behind the vision of the organization. Good leaders know this and instinctively get people involved as much as possible.

Oh sure, there are occasions when it is necessary to operate behind closed doors while decisions are being cast. That is no reason for the normal daily routine to mimic the College of Cardinals who have to send a smoke signal out to the masses when their deliberations are over.

Most activities can be visible, transparent, and inclusive of the general population. In return, people will give their best to accomplish the goals of the organization.

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 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.



Leadership Barometer 61 Your in Versus Out Ratio

August 10, 2020

There are hundreds of leadership 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.

Know your “In Versus Out Ratio”

Are people striving to get into your organization or are they trying to find ways to get out? It is pretty easy to assess if people want to get in because you will have a long line of individuals contacting you to ask in what way they can join your group. Some people are very persistent, and it is a good sign when highly talented people ask you to keep looking for a spot for them.

The second measure is harder to assess because when people want to get out of your organization, it is not always obvious. The telltale sign is if individuals are “looking for other opportunities.” Usually a leader does not know what percentage of his or her population is trying to find alternate employment. That is because if lots of people want out, there is likely very little trust in the organization.

With low trust, people will hide the fact they are looking for a different job out of self protection. The best time to find a job is when you already have a job, so people can go years while looking around to find a better position. Likewise in an environment of low trust you might be afraid for your employment if your boss knew you were looking elsewhere.

It is obvious that when people are looking elsewhere, they are not giving 100% of their best to the current organization. If there are several people in this situation it can really sap productivity and morale.

So the yin and yang for a leader is that if trust is high, people will generally be wanting in and that information will be rather transparent due to the long line. If trust is low, the number of people wanting out is a hidden number.

My bottom line for all leaders is to ask if they know the ratio of people wanting to get in versus out. If they have a good idea, then they are good leaders. If they have no clue, it reflects poorly on the quality of their leadership. It is a simple and remarkably accurate barometer.

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.