Leadership Barometer 108 High Performing Teams

September 1, 2021

Many teams in the working world have various symptoms of dysfunction. You can observe all kinds of back biting, laziness, sabotage, lack of support, passive aggressive behavior, grandstanding, and numerous other maladies if you study the inner workings of teams. Yet some teams are able to rise above the petty problems and reach a level of performance that is consistently admirable. 

I have studied working teams for decades and have concluded that there are four common denominators that all successful teams share. If your team has these four elements, you are likely enjoying the benefits of a high-performance team. If you do not see these things, then chances are you are frustrated with your team experience.

A Common Goal

This is the glue that keeps people on the team pulling in the same direction. If people have disparate goals, their efforts will not be aligned, and organizational stress will result.

If people on your team are fighting or showing other signs of stress, the first thing to check is if the goal is really totally shared by everyone. Often people give the official goal lip service but have a hidden different agenda. Eventually this discontinuity will come out in bad behaviors.

Trust

When there is high trust between team members, the environment is real. Where trust is low, people end up playing games to further their own agendas.

Achieving high trust is not simple, nor is it the main topic of this paper. I have written extensively on the creation of trust elsewhere.

One caveat is that trust is a dynamic commodity within a team. You need to keep checking the trust level and bolster it when it slips. Constant attention and vigilance are required.

Good Leadership

A team without a leader is like a ship without a rudder. But the leader does not have to be the anointed formal leader. Often a kind of distributed leadership or informal leadership structure can make teams highly effective.

Beware if there is a poor leader who is formally in charge of a team. This is like the kiss of death. No team can perform consistently at a high level if the official leader is blocking progress at every turn. The best that can be achieved is an effective work-around strategy.

A Solid Charter

I have coached hundreds of teams and discovered that the ones with an agreed-upon team charter always out-perform ones that have wishy-washy ground rules.

A good charter will consider what each member brings to the team so the diversity of talents can be used.

Second, the charter will contain the specific goals that are tangible and measurable.

Third, it will have a set of agreed-upon behaviors so people know what to expect of each other and can hold each other accountable.

Fourth, the team needs a set of ground rules for how to operate. Ground rules can be detailed or general, it really does not matter, but some ground rules are required.

Finally, and this is the real key, there need to be specific agreed-upon consequences for members of the team who do not abide by the charter. 

The most common problem encountered within any team is a phenomenon called “social loafing.” This is where one or more members step back from the work and let the others do it. This inequity always leads to trouble, but it is nearly always avoidable if the consequences for social loafing are stated clearly and agreed upon by all team members at the outset.

People will not knowingly slack off if they have already agreed to the negative impact on themselves, or if they do it once and feel the pain they will not do it again.  This last element of successful teams is the most important ingredient. When it is missing, you are headed for trouble eventually.

There are numerous other elements that can help teams succeed, but if you have the above four elements, chances are your team is doing very well. All high-performance teams have these four elements in play every day. Make sure your team has these as well.

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

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

 


Leadership Barometer 86 Better Teamwork

March 31, 2021

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.

Better Teamwork

The culture of a team governs its effectiveness. Most teams have a culture that allows adequate performance despite many unfortunate outbreaks of tension and sometimes childish behavior.

It is unfortunate that more teams do not experience the exhilaration of working in a supportive culture that produces excellent results. The methods of building teams into high performing units are well documented, but most teams do not go through the rigor required to get to that level.

This article blends well known processes with horse sense born of experience that will allow any team to perform better.

The Tuckman Model

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman described four stages that every team goes through. They are Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.

Forming

A critical time for any team is when it is forming, when the team is trying to figure out its role and goals. Members are not sure of their status or contribution at this point, and personal bonding is a key element to the eventual success of the team.

It is advisable for the group to go offsite for some initial teambuilding activities. Many leaders avoid this step, because often team building activities involve a kind of game atmosphere that does not feel like “work.”

In fact, team building is real work that may be fun at the moment, but it is deadly serious business that can result in millions of dollars of profit if done well or millions of dollars in damage control if not done at all.

Storming

During the storming phase, there is some kind of power struggle where members vie for position and influence. It is up to the team leader to help the team move quickly through this awkward time.

Usually, the storming stage is short simply because it is painful. People want to get out of the rut of consternation and move on to getting the work done.

Norming

It is in the norming phase that the team decides the degree of effectiveness it will ultimately enjoy. If individual and team behaviors are agreed upon with conviction, the team will immediately begin to perform with excellence.

Included in this phase is identifying the individual skills brought to the team by the diversity of talent in the group, the goals of the team, the ground rules of expected behavior, and the consequences of failing to comply with team expectations.

Performing

This step is the logical consequence of the first three steps. The bulk of the time a team is together will be spent in the performing phase, and the quality of the work will be dependent on how the first three steps are handled.

Two Key Building Blocks

The two most basic things required for any team to become a high performing unit are 1) a common goal, and 2) trust. If you put these building blocks in place, all of the rest of the team dynamics (like excellent communication) will sort themselves out.

If either of these conditions is missing, the team will sputter and struggle to meet expectations.

Insist on Respect

A key rule fostered by most teams that is most often compromised is to treat each member with respect. There is a kind of disease that sets in most teams where members subtly undermine each other.

People often make jokes in team meetings. Keep your antenna up and you will discover that, for most groups, the majority of jokes are sarcastic digs about other people in the room.

Everyone knows the barbs are only jokes, and they laugh, but deep down there is always some damage.

Smart groups have a conscious norm that they will enjoy humor in meetings but never make a joke at someone else’s expense. It may seem like a small thing, but over time this practice can really help improve the function of any team.

Set the Expectation

Setting expectations is easy to accomplish. The leader just needs to insist on agreed-upon behaviors and remind people when they slip up.

In coaching some groups with a particularly bad habit on this, I have suggested that any time a person makes a joke that is a dig, he or she has to put $5 in a kitty. The money is used later by the group for a party. This small change can actually change the entire culture of a team.

Look for these behaviors and keep track in a few meetings with some hash marks on a piece of paper. You will be astonished how pervasive this problem is and also how some people are addicted to the practice. Then, solve the problem and begin enjoying the benefits of better teamwork.

I have coached hundreds of teams and find that there are patterns that lead to success and other patterns that lead to extreme frustration and failure.

Most Common Problem

There is one condition that rises above all the others when it comes to dysfunctional teams. When some members of the team believe other members are not pulling their fair share of the load, the team is going to have major problems.

This problem is so common there is even a name for it. The practice is called “social loafing,” where one or more people slack off and let others do more than their portion of the work.

Unfortunately, this situation is so common, it is almost universal, yet there is a simple cure that is about 95% successful at preventing this condition or stopping it if it happens. The cure is to have an agreed upon Charter for the team upfront, before behavior problems surface.

Create a Charter

During the forming stage of a team, there is an opportunity to document several critical parameters of how the team will operate. These include:

1. A list of the talents and skills each member of the team can contribute
2. A set of solid, measurable performance goals for the team
3. A set of agreed upon behaviors that the members pledge to follow
4. A statement of the consequences that will occur if a member fails to live up to the behaviors

When teams take the time at the start to document these four items, the chances of success are much higher than if this step is omitted.

The most powerful item is #4, and it is the one that is most often omitted from a charter. The reason it has power is that when the team is forming usually all members have good intentions to pull their weight for the good of the team.

If team members agree that letting the team down by slacking off and having others pick up the slack will result in some unhappy consequence (like being voted off the team, or having no points on an assignment, or having to do extra clean-up work, or some other penalty), they are far less likely to practice “social loafing.” If they are tempted to goof off, then the penalty they have already agreed to is applied, and the bad behavior is quickly extinguished.

Most teams without a good charter end up in the frustration of having one or more people believing that they are unfairly doing more than their fair share of the work. When a good charter spells out the expected behaviors and the penalty for non-compliance before the team experiences a problem, it greatly reduces this most common of all team maladies.


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.


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 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 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.



Talent Development 1 Are You Doing Enough Cross Training?

June 20, 2020

Don’t you love the advertisements that promise to cure all your problems just by taking a pill? They try to convince you that all ailments are related, and for only $19. 95 plus S&H you can have a full month supply of the cure.

“But wait! If you order within the next 20 minutes, we’ll double your order; just pay separate S&H.” It is amazing that there are people who actually believe this drivel.

For organizational ailments, I believe there is a potion that really does attack many issues at the same time, and you can actually get a double dose for a very low price with no S&H (and the offer does not expire in 20 minutes).

The tonic I am referring to is cross training. Let’s look at some of the reasons why this practice is such powerful medicine.

Link Between Training and Satisfaction

Several studies over the past 50 years have established a strong link between training and satisfaction. Organizations that continuously train their people have more motivated employees and less absenteeism.

If you study the organizations in the Top 100 companies to work for in the United States, you will see that every one of them has a strong cross training program in place for employees.

Improved Bench Strength

It is not rocket science to discover the benefits of having people cross trained on each other’s job. Every time an employee is out for an illness or vacation, it is a simple matter of moving people around to cover the lost function.

Having several back-ups for each position generates the flexibility to operate efficiently in today’s frenetic environment. In sports, we know that a team with great bench strength has an easier time winning than one with monolithic superstars.

Better Teamwork

When people train others on their function, a kind of personal bond is struck that is intangible but powerful. It is really a large team-building effort to install a cross training program in a company.

People actually enjoy it and rightfully feel the additional skills have something to do with job security.

Interestingly in organizations that do not cross train, many people are protective of their knowledge thinking that being the only one who knows procedures makes them indispensable.

Actually, the reverse is true because when large numbers of people feel that way, there is high tension, and the organization fails when someone is out. Jobs are not very secure in organizations like that.

Reduction in Turn Over

An organization that focuses on cross training suffers less from employee churn. Why? Because people have more variety of work and higher self-esteem.
They have more fun at work and tend to stay with the organization. Also, the opportunities to learn new things adds to the equation.

Basically, people operate at higher levels on Maslow’s pyramid in organizations that cross train.

Leads to Higher Trust

Trust is directly related to how people feel about their development. In organizations were people have a solid training program for the future, people know management cares about them as individuals.

The discussions to develop the plan are trust-building events because the topic is how the individual can improve his or her lot in life. That is refreshing and bodes well for the future.

Not Expensive

Of all the medications an organization can take for their problems, cross training is one of the least expensive. Reason: Training can be inserted during the little slack periods within an operating day or week.

Training keeps people occupied in growth activities when there is nothing much else to do. So, the real cost to the organization is much lower than it appears on the surface. When compared to the benefits, the ROI is fantastic.

Keeps the Saw Sharp

We all know the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. This is because in order to explain what you are doing you have to understand it very well.

A cross training policy forces incumbent workers to have their job processes well documented and easy to communicate.

Also, in the process of training someone else, there is the opportunity for the trainee to suggest better ways of approaching a task, so the process is being honed and refined all the time. That is healthy because it prevents stagnation.

If your organization does not have an active and specific cross training process, get one started today. It has so many upsides and really no significant downside.

If you have a program, ask yourself if it is fresh and vital. Are you milking this technique well or giving it lip service? If the latter is true, you have a lot to gain by revitalizing your cross training process.


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.



Your Workforce: Expense or Asset?

May 14, 2019

Pay close attention to how managers view the commodity called “labor.” In most organizations, the perspective is that labor is an expense. It is handled on the financial statements as an expense.

In most cases, labor is the highest monthly expense for an operation. It is the payment made in order to secure the resources needed to create the products or services sold by the organization.

As the largest expense for many operations, labor is watched and managed very closely. The profitability of the operation is directly impacted by how many workers there are, so all kinds of techniques are used to keep this variable under tight control.

Managers want to have exactly the right number of people on the roster, so perhaps they utilize temporary workers during peak times to mitigate overtime. They need to be careful because the temporary workers need to be sufficiently trained so there are no safety issues or quality lapses.

In many professional settings, the workers are stretched to the elastic limit and beyond. Managers ask individuals to take on responsibilities that were formerly done by two people or even more. This is done in the pursuit of maximum productivity, which is thought to be the prime governing mechanism for profit.

When budgeting, managers at various levels play games trying to pump up the size of the workforce realizing there will be cuts down the road. Alternatively some managers cut the estimated number of people to the bone in order to show positive yearly trends in productivity. The sequence goes on year after year in many organizations. The charade is well known by managers at all levels, and the posturing or tactics sometimes go beyond annoying to downright fraudulent.

Only in a small percentage of organizations do they view employees not as expense items but as assets. Oh sure, most companies have a value on the plaque in the lobby that states, “People are our most important asset,” but the managers’ daily actions reveal the hypocrisy of that platitude.

If people were the most important asset, then during times of low demand, the managers would be selling inventory or buildings and training the employees for future service. Instead, you inevitably see layoffs or at least furloughs to control labor expenses in slack times.

Try looking through a different lens

What if we really did think of employees as assets rather than expenses? Would that provide some unique and amazing possibilities for profits? I think so. Here are some benefits you might see…

1. People would feel valued

In most organizations, people feel like pawns. The investment is always minimal, and the expectation is that employment is a temporary condition at the whim of management and the vicissitudes of the fickle marketplace.

Treating people as valued assets would bring out the best in people because they would feel more engaged in the business. The magnitude of this effect can only be estimated, but it is a lot larger than most leaders realize.

For example, several studies have shown that the productivity multiplier between low trust groups and high trust groups is two to five times. When people are engaged in the work, they perform significantly better because they feel valued.

2. Development of people would be emphasized

The mindset of treating employees as assets would lead to continual training. When you invest in an asset, you take care of it and make sure it is performing at peak levels. This creates a situation where employees truly want to stay with an organization, which reduces the issue of turnover.

Turnover is often the most controllable expense in an organization, yet the true cost is hidden somewhat. World class organizations achieve turnover rates below 5%, while many organizations habitually live with a 30% or higher turnover rate. Do you know the turnover rate for your organization? Do you have an estimate of the cost for turnover?

3. The culture would be uplifting

When employees are learning and growing, they become more valuable not only for what they can do but for how they influence others. The workplace takes on a feeling of freedom and joy rather than of being an oarsman on a Viking ship. When people are treated like assets, they band together as a strong team or family that is unstoppable. The power of synergy is obvious, and the productivity gained from lack of quarreling is immense.

4. The focus would be on the right stuff

In most organizations, where people are considered expenses, the daily focus is myopic. People are grumbling about each other and trying to protect their turf and future. The atmosphere is one of scarcity where the resources are not there to do what is needed to survive. People are always clamoring for more resources.  I knew one professional who spent about 40% of his time going around grumbling about not having enough resources to do his job.

When people are assets, the atmosphere is one of abundance where there is high value internally. People focus on the customer and on the mission of the unit. Since there is no longer a need to protect your back, you have the ability to move beyond just satisfying the customer or even delighting the customer to actually amazing the customer. That focus becomes a competitive weapon which further entrenches security for the future.

5. Organizations could be flatter

The need for numerous hierarchical levels has to do with control. When people are treated as expense items, they need to be kept in line. That means the span of control for any one manager cannot be too great. There is a lot of accounting work that needs to be done in order to assure the expense of labor is optimized.

When people are treated as assets, trust grows naturally. That dynamic means less supervision is required, so over time the hierarchy can become flatter. The overhead cost savings available to most organizations is staggering.

6. Improved Teamwork

If people are assets, the organization is going to do a lot of cross training, especially during slack times.  That increased capability pays off handsomely when the cycle reverses and there is a need to cover some critical positions based on bench strength.

When workers cross train each other, they form a kind of bond that is intangible but highly valuable in times of high need.

These are just six ways an organization can prosper by considering employees as assets instead of expenses. The operation can be much more profitable in the long run with this kind of mindset. Try it in your organization and experience the difference for yourself.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 78 Trust and the Development of People

June 3, 2018

There are many things supervisors need to do to build a culture of high trust. One important concept is to continually develop their people.

When people see a pathway to higher capability, their work is more interesting and rewarding. They trust their supervisor to improve their lot in life by making them more valuable to the organization.

They recognize the company’s investment in growing them, and they look to return the favor by investing themselves further into their work.

There is a solid correlation between development of people and the level of trust an organization can achieve with the work force. Development of people also creates low employee turnover because employees are happier.
Cross training is one of the easiest ways to develop people.

Here are some of the benefits of a good cross training program.

Improved Bench Strength

Every time an employee is out for an illness or vacation, it is a simple matter of moving people around to cover the lost function. Having several back-ups for each position generates the flexibility to operate efficiently in today’s frenetic environment.

Better Teamwork

When people train others on their function, a kind of personal bond is struck that is intangible but powerful. It is really a large teambuilding effort to install a cross training program in a company.

People actually enjoy it and rightfully feel the additional skills have something to do with job security.

Interestingly, in organizations that do not cross train, many people are protective of their knowledge thinking that being the only one who knows procedures makes them appear to be indispensable.

Reduction in Turn Over

An organization that focuses on cross-training suffers less from employee churn. Why? Because people have more variety of work and higher self esteem. They have more fun at work and tend to stay with the organization.

Also, the opportunities to learn new things add to the equation. Basically, people operate at higher levels on Maslow’s pyramid in organizations that cross train.

Leads to Higher Trust

Trust is directly related to how people feel about their development. In organizations where people have a solid training program for the future, people know their supervisor cares about them as individuals.

The discussions to develop the plan are trust-building events because the topic is how the individual can improve his or her lot in life.

Not Expensive

Of all the ways an organization can improve employee skills, cross-training is the least expensive. Reason: Training can be inserted during the little slack periods within the operating day.

Training keeps people occupied in growth activities when there is little else to do.

The real cost to the organization is much lower than it appears on the surface. When compared to the benefits, the ROI is fantastic.

Keeps the Saw Sharp

The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. This is because in order to explain what you are doing, you have to understand it very well.

Also, in the process of training someone else, the trainee may suggest better ways of approaching a task, so the process is being honed and refined all the time.

If your organization does not have an active and specific cross-training process, get one started. It generates many advantages and no significant disadvantages.

If you have a program, ask yourself if it is fresh and vital. Are you milking this technique well or giving it lip service?

Benchmark Example

Wegmans is a grocery chain in the northeast United States that is based in Rochester, NY. This private organization has been on the list of top 100 companies to work for in America every year since 1998, often scoring in the top 10, and won the top slot in 2005.

I am familiar with this company because I live in Rochester.

They have worked for years on developing a culture of high trust. They do this through numerous methods championed by their late founder, Robert Wegman.

One hallmark of Wegmans is that they are fanatical about the development of people. It is not the only underpinning of their culture, but it is an obvious pillar of why they are so successful.

As a result, they have extremely low employee turnover: significantly lower than 10% percent in an industry that normally suffers high turnover of about 40% per year.

Take stock of how much development you are doing in your organization. The best companies spend more than $1500 per employee and provide more than 50 hours of training each year. If you are doing less, think about increasing that amount.

Trust and development of people go hand in hand. Companies that stress development normally enjoy higher trust, which translates into much better performance. It is one of the hallmarks of an excellent organization.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

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, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763.


Successful Supervisor 64 – Signs of Impending Conflict

February 10, 2018

I have written extensively on conflict and even produced a 30-video series on the topic entitled “Surviving the Corporate Jungle.” This article focuses on conflict within shop floor teams that supervisors are trying to manage.

A smart supervisor realizes that conflict is generally there to some extent, even though things may look placid on the surface. She is on the lookout for the signs of impending open conflict so she can take corrective actions before serious damage is done.

Heed the Signs of Impending Conflict

By observing the behavior of people constantly, the supervisor can detect when interpersonal stress is starting to boil over. Here are six of the signs:

1. Body Language Indicating People are “Fed Up”

Watch for wild arm movement like putting hands on hips when addressing coworkers. Another telltale sign is crossing of arms when addressing another person. Arms straight down with clenched fists is a sign of extreme agitation. Contrast that body language with a person making a point to another individual with his arms slightly forward and palms up, which is usually a sign of openness.

An extreme position of being fed up is thrusting one’s arms upward and fists clenched. This is an expression that the person is ready to blow up. All of these arm and body gestures will be accompanied by stressed facial expressions.

2. Facial Expressions

There are literally tens of thousands of facial expressions we use to communicate with each other all the time. Some of these are obvious and easy to spot, like clenching of the jaw or a frown. Other expressions are more complex and involve several parts of the face (eyebrows, cheeks, mouth, eyes, etc.) at the same time. If you would like to take a quick quiz of how accurately you read facial expressions, go to this link for a fun test.

3. Cliques Forming

The ideal configuration for a team is where all members share equal access to information and each other. When you see cliques starting to form, it is a sign of impending conflict or even active conflict. Some grouping of people within a team is normal for any group.

People will sit with their friends in the break room; that is normal human behavior, but if a subgroup physically cuts off access to some members, there is a specific reason. Smart supervisors view the ambient group norms for access and pay particular attention to changes in these habitual patterns.

4. Pointing

One tell-tale sign of boiling over interpersonal tension is when people address each other while pointing a finger at the other person, like in the picture for this article. A pointing finger is one of the most hostile gestures in the body language lexicon. The message is “You need to shut up and listen to me.” Teach people to avoid pointing and use softer gestures to gain attention. When you see people pointing, it is time to find out what is going on between them.

5. Talking at the Same Time

Any mother will intervene when two siblings are shouting at each other. The message is always the same; “You cannot possibly hear each other when you are both talking at the same time.” In the work place, you can observe the same kind of childish behavior when anger is pent up. The first instinct in any argument is to block the inflow of information, so it is natural to start shouting over the other person. Smart supervisors intervene immediately when this behavior is happening.

6. People Avoiding Each Other

Another childish practice that you can witness when tensions become extreme is avoidance. It looks like this. People are together in a room when another member of the team walks in. Another member gets up, looks disgusted, and leaves the room without saying anything. Total avoidance is an extreme gesture that is unmistakable. It is important to get to the root cause of the tension when you observe this kind of thing.

These are just six of the signs you can observe within groups of adults who are working together supposedly with a common purpose. Actually, the best way to prevent dysfunctional behavior is to ensure everyone in the group shares a common goal.

Reduce Stress by Building Trust

When there is trust within any group and people truly care about each other, the small interpersonal stress points do not blossom into open warfare. In fostering such a culture, the supervisor plays a dominant role by continuously demonstrating and saying that we are all on the same team and we are pulling in the same direction.

Your Own Behaviors and Body Language Count the Most

People are continuously watching what the supervisor does for clues of what acceptable behavior is in this team. If the supervisor indicates lack of respect for one or more people by rolling her eyes so others see it, then she is sowing the seeds of conflict that will eventually erupt elsewhere. The supervisor’s body language is evident in literally thousands of ways every day, so her true feelings will always be known by people within her team.

The most important advice for any supervisor is to make sure her true feelings and care for the people on her team are deep and genuine. If she does that, then her people will observe congruity between her body language and the words she uses to encourage her group to always act as a high performing team.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

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, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor 63 Reduce Silo Thinking

February 3, 2018

The term “silo thinking” refers to a situation when members of a team put up barriers of communication and interaction with other teams in order to protect their turf. Information and resources become trapped within the silo walls like grain is trapped inside a farm silo.

The silo problem is frequently a major issue in production departments when different supervisors have control of resources within an operation or shift. Resources are squandered when intergroup friction erupts into conflict or even sabotage.

Smart supervisors take preventive actions to reduce the tendency toward silo thinking, but often they are so close to the problem, they do not recognize when it is happening right in front of them.

Reducing Silo Thinking

The first step toward eliminating the problem is to realize it is a human tendency to feel allegiance to one’s home team. In most aspects of life this bonding is a good thing because it helps teams perform at sustained peak levels.

However, like most good things, too much team spirit can lead to insulation and dysfunctional competition with other groups.

Team spirit should not be wiped out, but rather expanded to include outside individuals or parallel groups. The supervisor needs to recognize this dynamic and take steps to keep team spirit at a healthy level while mitigating any negative side effects.

Here are five suggestions I have found to be effective at controlling silo thinking:

1. Reinforce the Common Goal at the Next Higher Level

Two groups at odds due to silo thinking always share common goals at the next higher level. For example, on a football team, it is common for the offensive unit to become a silo separate from the defense, so the coach has to remind everybody that they are on the same team, and the enemy is external.

Once people are reminded of their common allegiance to the larger effort, the parochial thinking process within the sub units is weakened.

2. Do Teambuilding for the Combined Group

Mixing two feuding groups together for a teambuilding activity allows the members to see and appreciate the resources in the other group.

It is important to have a good facilitator provide excellent teambuilding activities, and the points made during the exercise debriefs are particularly important. There are several excellent teambuilding exercise that stress working across boundaries for a common goal.

One of my favorite team building activities to illustrate working together is to mix people together in random order and have them form into small groups with some members from each team in each group.

Then ask them to brainstorm all the ways that performing as a high performance team is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. If you allow them to brainstorm for 15-20 minutes they will come up with all kinds of helpful concepts.

For example, even though there are different parts of the scene, the whole puzzle must be completed in order to succeed, so each part of the puzzle is equally important.

3. Reinforce Behavior of the Combined Group Rather Than the Silos

The trick here is for the supervisor of Group 1 to “team up” with the supervisor of Group 2 when reinforcing good work by both groups. If the supervisors model a kind of family spirit, then people will quickly get the message and begin to think like a single unit. When trying to accomplish this larger team spirit, it is important to eliminate language that focuses on “we” and “they.”

4. Eliminate We/They Thinking and Language

A Litmus test for the elimination of silo thinking is the absence of the language that uses we and they in conversation. This problem is often evident in email exchanges.

For example, note the flavor in this email, “Your group needs to realize that if you want a neat environment, you need to pick up after yourselves. We cannot be responsible for always picking up your messes. It is a sign of laziness to not pick up your own trash and we should not have to deal with it.” Note the very strong we versus you emphasis in this note.

A softer and more constructive note might be as follows, “The audit inspection turned up some trash left in the break room over the weekend. Let’s all work together to make sure our environment is neat and healthy.”

It is up to the supervisor to 1) model proper team language, and 2) insist that all people in her group refrain from using inflammatory language such as the first note above.

5. Cross Fertilization

This process involves swapping one key resource from Team 1 with another resource from Team 2. For a while the swapped resources remain emotionally linked to their former group, but eventually they become more aligned with their current group.

If the supervisor encourages a few of these swaps over time, soon it will be hard to tell which team is which, and the silo barriers will have been lowered.

This technique is often unpopular with the people being moved, so it is important to select the swapped people carefully. One legitimate way to explain the move is to let the people know they are highly valued, and the additional cross training on different functions will make their background even more valuable to the organization.

The primary action for any supervisor is to be alert to the problem of silo thinking subtly creeping into the thinking process and conversations of her team. Stay close to other supervisors and be vigilant on this issue, and you can reduce a lot of organizational acrimony.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

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, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763