Reducing Conflict 23 Extend More Trust

January 10, 2022

If you are a leader and you want to see more trust within your group, your first order of business is to find ways to extend more trust. 

Many leaders fail to recognize this basic law of trust, and they picture their employees as being not trustworthy.  The reality is that the vast majority of people will act in a trustworthy manner if they are well led.

Leaders who fail to extend trust because their people are “not trustworthy” need to take a long hard look in the mirror to view the source of their problem.

I have witnessed numerous managers who beat on their people and have little faith in their capabilities. The employees habitually respond by lowering their performance to match their leader’s expectations.

Trust is reciprocal, so if you want to experience more trust within your group, you need to find ways to show more trust in them. 

Some Examples

If you cannot yet trust a professional colleague to handle a large and critical negotiation with another organization, perhaps you can trust her to assemble and present the relevant documentation for more experienced lawyers to use in the negotiation.

If you cannot trust your teenage son to drive the car to a late-night party, perhaps you can trust him to check in with you if he needs help and to complete his homework before he leaves.

If you cannot yet trust a newly-hired mechanic to rebuild a complex transmission, perhaps you can trust him to assist in the disassembly and cleaning of the parts.

Show the tendency to trust more

By showing an inclination to trust other people to the edge of their capability you will encourage them to trust you back and be motivated to gain more skills for the future. They will almost always rise to meet your expectations.

Do not extend blind trust way beyond the current capability of the individual. That approach would be setting him up for failure. If there is a failure along the way, don’t persecute the individual, instead consider it a learning opportunity for the person.

We all learned to walk and talk by trial and error. We fell on our backside enough times to figure out how to balance our huge mass on two tiny feet.  When you think about the skill of walking upright, it really is a miracle we can do it, yet we just take it for granted in most cases.

Give people the blessing of learning by trial and error.  In the case of walking, coach them gently on how to obtain better balance.  Don’t yell at them for falling down. Praise them for getting back up and trying again. 

Free Video

Here is a 3-minute video that contains more information on how to extend more trust.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.


Building Higher Trust 51 Who Can I Trust

December 24, 2021

The question of who can I trust does not come up every day, but when it does, it can be an interesting puzzle.

Have you ever had a situation where you are with a bunch of people who are new to you and you are wondering how much you should trust a particular individual?

You do not have enough data to make a firm assessment, so what can you go on? You might say to yourself, “Well, since I don’t know any of these people yet, I’ll start off trusting everybody.” That would be a kind of “blind trust” that would backfire in some cases.

I think a better approach is to use your gut feelings about an individual based on just a few seconds of observation.  If a person seems self-absorbed and is looking around the room for who is there, I would be a bit cautious, at least at first. 

On the other hand, if an individual steps up and introduces herself to you with a friendly demeanor, then you might have a small bond already. Add in some small talk with good eye contact, and you have found a person that you can relate to and likely trust at least to some extent.

If you are not sure how to read a person, try extending a greeting and see how he or she reacts.  Obviously, if there is no reciprocal greeting, then the caution flag should go up immediately.  Something is wrong, and you need to reserve judgment until you can gather more data. 

Reading people quickly is a challenge because some people are naturally more shy than others.  Beware of the extreme case where a person is totally reticent to interact or the other extreme where a person appears overly friendly.

An example of the latter might be a person who uses a two-handed handshake when first meeting you.  That is far too presumptuous for a first handshake, almost like putting their hand on your shoulder as they shake your hand.  Hang on to your wallet!

Thankfully, the kind of situation I am talking about in this article is not very common.  Usually, you have a lot more data to go on as you decide how much trust to extend to another person.  Keep track of your emotions when meeting new people and debrief the situation with yourself to ask why you reacted the way you did.

A variant of the face-to-face situation is when the other parties are virtual. Body language is significantly more difficult to read in these cases.  For example, in a virtual discussion real eye contact is impossible to achieve.  If you look directly into the camera, then you cannot see the eyes of the other person. If you look at the screen, then you are not looking directly at the other person from their perspective. Keep in mind that the position on the screen is different for different people.

You can also have phone conversations where voice inflection is an important ingredient as well.  You need to take into account the communication limitations of whatever medium you are using.

Since the virtual arrangement, or at least a hybrid situation, is common these days, you need to go more slowly when trying to assess how much to trust another person.  Pay attention to the feelings you have as the other person addresses you and try to send consistent signals yourself.  Give it time and try to extend trust as soon as you can.

Recognize that fully mature trust does take time because it requires verification of perspectives based on the early clues. In a virtual world, it does take longer to develop full trust.  

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. Website   BLOG He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals,  Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind

Building Higher Trust 47 The Meaning of Trust

November 26, 2021

In your opinion, what is the meaning of trust? Most of us use the word trust several times a day. It is actually one of the more common words in our lexicon, yet when I ask people in my seminars to define what it means, I often get an awkward silence, then a few definitions come out, like “confidence,” or “integrity,” or “walk the talk.”

Eventually, most groups come up with a dozen or more definitions, and they begin to realize that what they pictured as one single phenomenon is actually a myriad of concepts that mean vastly different things in different circumstances.  

I have been working in the area of trust for nearly 30 years. The topic is infinitely fascinating to me, and I am always gaining new understanding thanks to the many other authors and people who network with me. I have found several concepts to be central to the idea of building and maintaining trust, and as I thought about some of these words, they started to form an acronym for the word TRUST.

Acronyms are strange mutations of the language that I find curious. Sometimes an acronym will seem rather strained or far-fetched as an attempt to be cute or simply a trick to help people remember concepts.

The acronym below is neither of these; instead, it is a way for me to highlight five central issues about trust that I continue to emphasize.

Trusting others. I have coined what I call “The First Law of Building Trust.” It is that when leaders are not satisfied with the level of trust they see within their organization, the first question to ask is how they can show more trust in others.

Trust is a reciprocal relationship, and numerous authors have identified the best way to have people trust you more is to increase your visible trust in them.

I once observed a male Vice President who really struggled with trust. I asked him if he could find ways to demonstrate more trust in his people. His reaction was, “You are asking the impossible; these people show me by their actions every day that they cannot be trusted to do what is right.” 

As I dug into the situation, I found that his workers had been so abused by this leader, they had no reason to even try to do things right. It was a toxic environment, where the VP would literally yell at the people and say things like, “You are so stupid I cannot rely on you for anything. I have to watch you like a hawk or you will just goof off and not even try to do your job right.” 

This is a classic case of a Theory X management style described by Douglas McGregor in the 1960s, and the VP was truly unaware that he was the real cause of his problem.  

I grant that in any workforce, there are some bad apples who can never be trusted, but if you have any of these people on your team and tolerate them, shame on you. Get rid of them.

The vast majority of workers, I believe over 95%, will respond positively and do good work if they are well led. When trust is low, The First Law of Building Trust puts the onus on the leader to do three things:

  1. Recognize his/her own contribution to the problem,
  2. Modify his/her behavior to be more trustworthy, and
  3. Start showing more trust in his/her workers.

Unfortunately, the first step is the most difficult. I have observed numerous leaders who are simply blind to the fact that they are causing their own problems. It is so much easier to blame the workers than to take a hard look in the mirror and ask some tough questions.

There are numerous other actions required to build and maintain trust, but the three steps above are the precursors that must be in place, or nothing will change.

Also, recognize that the process to rebuild lost trust is arduous. Wounded workers will observe improved behaviors for a long time before believing they are genuine.

Reinforcing candor. After a couple decades studying trust, I believe the most central enabler of it is reinforcing candor. This is the leader’s ability to refrain from punishing people when they speak their truth. Most leaders cannot do this.

When workers state that a leader is doing things inconsistent with the vision, they take a risk because most leaders punish that kind of candor. Brilliant leaders recognize that if they can establish a pattern of making people glad when they bring up difficult issues, it enables trust more than any other single factor. The concept is called enabling psychological safety.

I put reinforcing candor in the center of my Leadergrow Trust Model because it is the one skill that most leaders find difficult to do, yet once they understand its power, they have a much easier time creating and maintaining trust.

Universal goals. I have found when trust is absent in an organization, usually, individuals and groups have conflicting goals. They often do not realize they are pulling in different directions.

When you have an organization that is truly focused on one consistent set of goals, then you have alignment. Many organizations struggle with poor alignment such that only a small fraction of the workforce is actually pulling in the direction of the stated vision. Organizations with high trust achieve the reverse of that condition and have almost all people in the organization pulling in the direction of the vision.

It is easy to see if goals are not universal when you observe silo thinking, conflict, low trust, lack of respect, fear, management abuse, and any number of other organizational ills.

The starting points for establishing an environment of high trust are 1) complete agreement on where the organization is trying to go, and 2) enrolling all members of the organization to engage their full effort toward that vision.

Sincerity. This is the human dimension that shows leaders care about everyone in the organization. It is never the case that all people in an organization are exactly equal, yet the role played by each individual is of critical importance to the organization’s success. When managers and leaders are duplicitous, people quickly get the idea, because they see a lack of sincerity and care for individuals.

The antidote for low sincerity is very simple. The Golden Rule is the most important concept to show others that we care about them. If you treat other people the way you would like to be treated, you will find they respond in a positive way because they know you care.

It is quite simple, but unfortunately, many leaders have their priorities mixed and put short-term financial performance above the notion of caring for the people in the organization.

The best approach is to treat people the right way, which means being alert to the needs of each person as a unique individual and treating him or her as a person who will happily perform well if treated properly.

Transparency. The final T in my trust acronym is transparency. Organizations that share information widely about what is happening, what the goals are, where we are going, what the strategies are, what behaviors are needed, and how we have been performing recently, get the best that people have to offer.

Transparency is an interesting concept because it is not always good, or even legal, to be totally transparent. You must combine common sense, kindness, ethical behavior, and care into the equation when deciding how much information to reveal. Unfortunately, most organizations err on the side of too little transparency rather than too much.

The irony is that transparency is becoming less of a choice for senior executives due to social networking and the ability for people to get information more quickly and easily than ever before.

Leaders who try to hide information from workers are becoming increasingly frustrated because the information leaks out anyway, often in the form of rumors. A better approach is to aim for maximum transparency and a very fast response time when incorrect information gets out in the social networks.

These five concepts: Trusting others, Reinforcing candor, Universal goals, Sincerity, and Transparency form the acronym TRUST. While there are many other concepts and issues around trust and being trustworthy, I believe these five concepts are really at the core of creating an environment of higher trust.

Researchers have established through numerous studies that organizations with higher trust out-perform those that have low trust. A high trust group enjoys two to five times the productivity of a low trust group. No organization can survive for very long if they have an environment of low trust. Focus efforts on these five concepts, and you will improve your ability to achieve and maintain high trust in any organization.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. Website   BLOG He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals,  Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind

Leadership Barometer 113 Building Trust When Your Manager Doesn’t

October 6, 2021

Sometimes building trust within your organization is difficult because your manager is not good at fostering trust in the larger organization.

 In my work with leaders who are trying to build higher trust within their organizations, the most persistent complaint I hear is a mid-level manager who says, “Your material is excellent. I know this can make a huge difference in our organization, but my boss seems intent on doing things that destroy trust almost daily. How can I be more effective at building trust in my arena when the environment is habitually trashed from above?”

This is an interesting conundrum, and yet it is not a hopeless situation. Here are six tips that can help.

First  ̶̶   Recognize You Are Not Alone.

Nearly every company today is under extreme pressure, and restructuring or other unpopular actions are common. There are ways to build and maintain trust, even in draconian times, but the leaders need to be highly skilled and transparent.

Unfortunately, most leaders shoot themselves in the foot when trying to manage in difficult times. They do lasting damage rather than build trust during the struggle.

Second – You Have Limited Ability to Control Your Manager

My favorite quote on this is “Never wrestle a pig. You get all muddy and the pig loves it.” The best you can do is point out that approaches do exist that can produce a better result.

Suggesting that your leader get some outside help and learn how to manage the most difficult situations in ways that do not destroy trust will likely backfire. Most managers with low emotional intelligence have a huge blind spot where they simply do not see that they are causing the problem.

One suggestion is to request that you and some of your peers go to some training, or bring in a leadership trust seminar and request the manager come along as a kind of “coach” for the group.

Another idea is to start a book review lunch club where your peers and the manager can meet once a week to discuss favorite leadership books. It helps if the manager gets to nominate the first couple books for review.

The idea is to get the clueless manager to engage in dialog on topics of leadership and trust as a participant of a group learning process. If the manager is especially narcissistic, it is helpful to have an outside facilitator help with the interaction.

The key flavor here is to not target the manager as the person who needs to be “fixed.” Rather, view the process as growth for everyone. It will promote dialog and better understanding within the team.

Third – Avoid Whining About the Culture Above You

Griping about the situation does not help the people below you feel better (it really just reduces your own credibility), and it annoys your superiors as well. When you make a mistake, admit it and make corrections the best you can. 

Fourth – Create a Culture of Trust in the Environment That You Influence

That means being as transparent as possible and reinforcing people when they bring up frustrations or apparent inconsistencies. This habit can be tricky because the lack of transparency often takes the form of a gag rule from on high.

You may not be able to control transparency as much as you would like. One idea is to respectfully challenge a gag rule by playing out the scenario with alternate outcomes. The discussion might sound like this, “I understand the need for secrecy here due to the potential risks, but is it really better to keep mum now and have to finesse the situation in two weeks? Would we be better served being open now even though the news is difficult to hear? My observation is that most people respond to difficult news with maturity if they are given information and treated like adults.”

If your desire to be more transparent is overruled by your manager, you might ask him or her to tell you the words to use down the line when people ask why they were kept in the dark.

Another tactic is to ask how the manager intends to address the inevitable rumors that will spring up if there is a gag rule.

Keep in mind there are three questions every employee asks of others before trusting them:

1) Can I trust you?

2) Are you committed to excellence?  

3) Do you care about me? 

Fifth – Lead by Example.

Even though you are operating in an environment that is not ideal, you can still do a good job of building trust. It may be tricky, but it can be done. You will be demonstrating that it can be accomplished, which is an effective means to have upper management see and appreciate the benefits of high trust. Tell the manager how you are handling the situation, because that is being transparent with that person.

Sixth – Be Patient and Keep Smiling 

A positive attitude is infectious. Many cultures these days are basically worn-down and morose. Groups that enjoy high trust are usually upbeat and positive. That is a much better environment to gain the motivation of everyone in your group.

Great Additional Resource 

For additional information on this topic, call up the article “Leading From Below” by my friend Gregg Vanourek.

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


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 105 Invest in Your Culture

August 11, 2021

Culture is critical to the performance of any organization. When I advise CEOs how to improve the performance of their organization, I first analyze the situation, then report back to the top officer with some advice. Quite often my advice will sound something like this:

“There is low trust in this organization, and that is causing a lot of conflict. You and your top leaders are running yourselves into the ground trying to solve problems all day. It is like you are playing Whack-a-mole, and the problems keep coming faster each day, so you cannot catch up.

Many of these problems are of your own making. What you need to do is carve out some time to work with your entire organization on improving your culture, because that is the only way to get out of the Whack-a-mole Game.”

They often look at me in utter astonishment. They know what I am saying but just cannot imagine that it is possible to actually take time away from solving problems to invest in the culture. 

Some of these leaders blow up at me and throw me out of their office with words like, “You must be insane. You have no idea the issues we are resolving every day. If we took time off, we would be buried almost instantly. Get out of here and stop bothering me.”  I head for the door, and on my way out I say, “Well, then, I hope you enjoy your Whack-a-mole game.”

What they fail to see is that four hours of time invested in the culture will save them more than 8 hours of solving problems and conflicts later. The reason is three-fold:

  1. Taking time to improve the culture instantly reduces the most time-consuming problem any leader has. That is the inability for people in the organization to get along with each other. Most managers spend from 30-50% of their time dealing with interpersonal issues. If the culture were improved, much of that time would be reclaimed.
  1. When people work on the culture, they are also helping to chart the way forward for the organization. This means that the leader has many willing and eager hands to resolve technical issues. He or she does not have to solve every problem. Many issues can be delegated to other people in the organization who would be delighted, even thrilled, to help out. People in the organization will have higher buy-in, so they put more effort into their tasks. Presto-another 15-20% of time is reclaimed.
  1. The ability to get away from the constant mind-numbing pressure of the daily grind and think about how we can work better together is therapeutic. Working on the culture affords the opportunity to relax, recharge the batteries, and build a stronger team. That pays off in increased energy to resolve the few problems that remain.

Consider the return on investment of taking time regularly to improve your culture.  You will find the quality of your life to be significantly enhanced, and your organization will function more smoothly. The other benefit is that when you take a sick culture and turn it into one of high trust, productivity goes up by a factor of two or more. Leadership becomes a blast rather than a grind.

If you are an exhausted leader who is not happy with performance, try my prescription.  You will feel a whole lot better, and your organization will prosper.  

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

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.

Building Higher Trust 33 More Complex Than We Think

August 6, 2021

I have been studying trust for several decades, teach it in corporate and academic settings, and have written four books on it.

Trust such a common word that it is used numerous times a day without thinking. Just listen to the advertisements on TV, and you will hear the word trust in the majority of them.

Many people have a misconception about the concept of trust. They think of trust as a singular concept when the word is used in daily conversation. They picture it as a kind of bond between them and another person.  It takes on a singular connotation: either they trust another person or do not trust her at some level right now.

Brainstorming Meaning

The way I get groups to think about trust at a deeper level is by asking them point blank what the word means. There is always a kind of pause and awkward silence for a few seconds as people try to define it. 

Then, someone will offer that trust is the confidence that another person will perform in a certain way.  Someone else will chime in that trust is taking a risk that they could be disappointed.  A third person will add that trust is about having shared values. Then someone will add that trust is having their back or sticking up for them. Once the ball gets rolling, a group can come up with a couple dozen unique definitions of trust in about 15 minutes. 

Trust is All Around Us

Now the group is ready to entertain the idea that trust is a multi-faceted concept that exists not only between people but with organizations, products, services, and all kinds of systems.  People get the idea that trust is ubiquitous and is all around them in every waking moment of their day. 

They recognize that before they get to work in the morning, they have experienced trust (usually unconsciously) several hundred times. 

In the Bathroom

They walk into the bathroom and turn on the lights. They trust the whole system to provide light without thinking about where the electricity is coming from unless there is some kind of rare electrical failure. 

They turn on the water and just expect potable water to come out without any problem. From the time they first open their eyes until they reach the breakfast table, trust is experienced dozens of times; then things get really complicated. 

At the Table

At breakfast they are confident that the vitamin pill they are taking is safe even though they have no idea who made the pill and what ingredients went into it.  They just swallow the pill and expect it to help. 

In the Car

They get into their car and turn the ignition key.  Now, inside the engine, there are thousands of explosions each minute that allow the car to move while they peacefully enjoy the classical music on their favorite station and crank up the air conditioning if it is a hot day. 

They have no worry when they press down on the brakes that the car will stop before hitting the truck that is stopped in front of them. 

They drive over numerous bridges and overpasses without blinking an eye and do not think of the consequences if the structure would become unsafe.  This is nearly always the case, even though there is ample visible evidence that some structures are not very safe at all.

All Parts of Life

On and on it goes all day every day that they simply take for granted things will work as designed even though they recognize on occasion things might fail for some obscure reason. The failures are so remote that they put them out of their mind unless something unusual is going on.

Trust Between People

Now let’s focus on how trust between people is built and lost for all of us.

In general, we all focus our conscious energy about trust on the relationships we have with other people. Often, we forget about the transactional nature of trust. It is impacted by everything (seen and unseen) that happens between people.  Trust is bilateral. I trust you and you trust me at some level, and the levels are not the same. 

Something happens, and I may trust you more while you trust me less.  The whole thing is dynamic and constant. Most of the trust interactions are going on in our subconscious minds. We have a kind of score card in our mind that is like the balance in a bank account.

Many authors, including me, have likened trust to a bank account where we have a balance, and we make deposits and withdrawals. The size of the deposit or withdrawal will vary depending on what is happening, and the transaction may be totally subconscious. We can make a huge withdrawal of trust with another person and be totally oblivious to it.

The Erosion of Trust

Many people observe an erosion of trust over time as they witness the world around them changing. A visible example of this situation is our trust in the media.  Since you can dial up whatever version of the news you want to hear, the credibility of any one station is suspect at best.

My wife sent a check in the first-class mail. It took more than 30 days for the supplier to get the check, and they were only about 400 miles away. That kind of situation creates doubt about the entire system.  


Trust is more complex and ubiquitous in our lives than we realize.  Try to be more aware of this aspect of trust, and you can see it working for you more consciously on a daily basis. It is fun, and it certainly is an eye opener.


Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations.


Leadership Barometer 91 Ten Hallmarks of High Trust Organizations

May 5, 2021

The advantages of working in a high trust environment are evident to everyone from the CEO to the shop floor, from suppliers to customers, and even the competition.

Building and maintaining trust within any organization pays off with many benefits. Unfortunately, not many organizations have been able to create an environment of high trust. The few that do have high trust enjoy an incredible sustainable advantage.

To understand why, we can contrast high trust environments with lower trust areas along many dimensions.

Solving Problems

In organizations of high trust, problems are dealt with easily and efficiently. In low trust organizations, problems become huge obstacles as leaders work to unscramble the mess to find out who said what or who caused the problem to spiral out of control. Often feelings are hurt or long-term damage in relationships occurs. While problems exist in any environment, they take many times longer to resolve if there is low trust. That is wasted time.

Focused Energy

People in organizations with high trust do not need to be defensive. They focus energy on accomplishing the Vision and Mission of the organization. Their energy is directed toward the customer and against the competition.

In low trust organizations, people waste energy due to infighting and politics. Their focus is on internal squabbles and destructive turf battles.

Bad blood between people creates a litany of issues that distract supervision from the pursuit of excellence. Instead, they play referee all day.

Efficient Communication

When trust is high, the communication process is efficient as leaders freely share valuable insights about business conditions and strategy.

In low trust organizations, rumors and gossip zap around the organization like laser beams in a hall of mirrors. Before long, leaders are blinded with problems coming from every direction.

Trying to control the zapping information takes energy away from the mission and strategy.

High trust organizations rely on solid, believable communication, while the atmosphere in low trust groups is usually one of damage control and minimizing employee unrest. Since people’s reality is what they believe rather than what is objectively happening, the need for damage control in low trust groups is often a huge burden.

Retaining Customers

Workers in high trust organizations have a passion for their work that is obvious to customers.

When trust is lacking, workers often display apathy toward the company that is transparent to customers. This condition undermines top line growth as customers turn to more upbeat groups for their services.

All it takes is the roll of eyes or some shoddy body language to send valuable customers looking for alternative places to do their business.

A “Real” Environment

People who work in high trust environments describe the atmosphere as being “real.” They are not playing games with one another in a futile attempt to outdo or embarrass the other person. Rather, they are aligned under a common goal that permeates all activities.

When something is real, people know it and respond positively. When trust is high, people might not always like each other, but they have great respect for each other. That means, they work to support and reinforce the good deeds done by fellow workers rather than try to find sarcastic or belittling remarks to make about them.

The reduction of infighting creates hours of extra time spent achieving business goals.

Saving Time and Reducing Costs

High trust organizations get things done more quickly because there are fewer distractions. There is no need to double check everything because people generally do things right.

In areas of low trust, there is a constant need to spin things to be acceptable and then to explain what the spin means. This takes time, which drives costs up.

Perfection not Required

A culture of high trust relieves leaders from the need to be perfect. Where trust is high, people will understand the intent of a communication even if the words were phrased poorly.

In low trust groups, the leader must be perfect because people are poised to spring on every misstep to prove the leader is not trustworthy. Without trust, speaking to groups of people is like walking on egg shells.

More Development and Growth

In low trust organizations, people stagnate because there is little emphasis placed on growth. All of the energy is spent jousting between individuals and groups.

High trust groups emphasize development, so there is a constant focus on personal and organizational growth.

Better Reinforcement

When trust is high, positive reinforcement works because it is sincere and well executed.

In low trust organizations, reinforcement is often considered phony, manipulative, or duplicitous which lowers morale.

Without trust, attempts to improve motivation through reinforcement programs often backfire.

A Positive Atmosphere

The atmosphere in high trust organizations is refreshing and light. People enjoy coming to work because they have fun and enjoy their coworkers. They are also more than twice as productive as their counterparts in lower trust areas.

In groups with low trust, the atmosphere is oppressive. People describe their work as a hopeless string of sapping activities foisted upon them by the clueless morons who run the place.

These are just ten contrasts describing the difference between high trust and low trust organizations. There are many more distinctions, some of them very subtle. No list of contrasts could be complete.

If you have an organization where trust is low, you are operating under such a huge disadvantage to your counterpart with high trust you cannot hope to survive.

Most top leaders understand all of the above. The conundrum is, they sincerely want to build an environment of high trust, but they consistently do things that take them in the wrong direction.

Many leaders end up hiring expensive consultants to help create a better environment within their organization. This rarely works because the leader does not realize the problem cannot be fixed by an outsider.

To fix the problem of low trust the leader needs to say, “The atmosphere around here stinks, and it must be my fault because I am the one in charge. How can I change my own behavior in order to turn the tide toward an environment of higher trust”?

With that attitude, there is a real possibility an outside coach or consultant can help the organization. Unfortunately, most leaders have a blind spot on their own contribution to low trust, so in those groups there is little hope of a lasting change.

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

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.

Building Higher Trust 9 Trust and Communication

February 13, 2021

Communication is one of the most foundational skills in any organization. Leaders spend a lot of time communicating with people in their organization, yet when workers are asked what the most significant blockage is to motivation, most groups report that communication is the biggest problem.

In this brief article I will explore the relationship between how well communication works in a high trust environment versus a low trust environment.

When Trust is Low

Even in a world where everyone is physically in one place, communication becomes chancy if there is low trust. People tend to hear what they believe the leader is trying to say rather than what was actually said. It is so easy to get the wrong flavor of a message, and the real damage is done because the leader often does not know that his or her message was misinterpreted.

When Trust is High

When Trust is high, people have an easy time hearing the real message and interpreting it accurately. In these cases, the leader can tell by the body language whether the workers have absorbed the true meaning. This is true both in person and virtually.
With high trust, people will not feel intimidated if they are unclear about the real message. They will feel free to ask a question for clarification because there is psychological safety, and they know a legitimate question will not lead to them feeling punished.

Working Remotely

The issue of accurate and believable communication is amplified significantly when we have a hybrid workforce where some people are working in the office but others are working remotely, sometimes even in another country, where time zone and cultural issues can exacerbate the problem. It is so easy to have the remote workers feel at least inconvenienced or at worst left completely out of the tight communication loop.

That is why it is imperative that all leaders redouble their efforts to communicate as much or more with the remote people as they do with the people close at hand. Try to beat down the “us versus them” issues that result in silo thinking.


When trust is low, communication is going to be chancy and difficult to control. This is true for all types of communication, including electronic communication. When trust is high, there is a much better chance for robust and acceptable communication. Trust becomes a significant enabler of effective and timely communication.

Bonus Video

Here is a brief video on Trust and Communication.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 1000 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations

Leadership Barometer 80 Lowers Credibility Gap

February 10, 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.

Lowers Credibility Gap

In any organization, credibility gaps exist between layers. These gaps lower the trust within the organization and make good communication more difficult. The credibility gaps may exist for a number of different reasons. I will share a few common examples for clarity, but recognize there can be hundreds of different causes for the gaps.

1. Managers may believe most of the workers are not working up to capacity in order to have an easier time. The manager perceives a lack of dedication by the lower-level workers.

2. Workers may not trust the managers because they believe the managers are insincere or really just don’t care about the workers. They are in it just to make more money.

3. Non-local workers, or those working remotely, may believe the people at the main office have built-in advantages and perks.

4. People may think they are not being given the full set of information and that some vital points have not been shared, like a potential plant shutdown.

5. Gaps in communication between on-site and remote staff can create mistrust.

Fill in the Gaps

Great leaders have a knack for lowering these gaps, first by recognizing their existence, and second, by filling in believable information in both directions, up and down the hierarchy.

These gaps form much more easily in an environment where some people are working remotely, so extra care must be extended during those interactions. The cure is to increase communication with people when they are working remotely.

When there is tension between one layer and another, great leaders work to find out the root cause of the disconnect. It could be a nasty rumor, it could be based on a prior breach of trust, it might be an impending reorganization or merger, it could be due to an outside force like a new government restriction. Whatever the root cause will determine how the gap can be eliminated.


Excellent leaders take steps to reduce the problem while the gap is a small crack and before it becomes like the Grand Canyon. They help people breach the divide by getting the two levels to communicate and really negotiate a better position. Weak leaders are more like victims who wait until the battle is raging and the chasm is too broad to cross without a major investment in some kind of bridge.

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 25 Organizational Development Strategy

February 8, 2021

Section 3.3 in the CPTD Certification program for ATD is Organization Development and Culture. Section A reads, “Skill in designing and implementing organizational development strategy.”

I will share my process for helping organizations establish a constructive pathway for organizational development. The process always starts with knowledge of the organization.


You must be intimately familiar with the needs, desires, purpose, vision, mission, and values of the organization before starting to craft a successful OD effort.

Going in with a standardized or cookie-cutter approach may allow you to make some progress, but the end result will be far off the mark from one that is totally customized for this particular application.

Start by talking with people in the organization. For sure, you want to interview the top leaders and managers to get their ideas. You also want to interview several people at different levels in the organization, because the view at lower levels may be significantly different from that at the top.

Obtain any extant data that is available, such as employee quality of work-life surveys, grievance data, turnover stats by area, blockage surveys, and other data. These data are usually collected by the Human Resources Staff.

Collect Additional Data

You need more specific data before starting to design an OD program. There are many commercially available surveys you can use for this purpose. I prefer some instruments that I have developed over the years that allow me to assess what topics have the greatest need in this particular group.

The one I use most often is what I call the “Analysis of Leadership Training Needs.” This instrument is a broad look at what specific training modules would be most helpful for this particular population. A total of 56 different skill areas are on the survey, and each individual gives all of the skills a score of 0-3. Zero means there is no need for training on that skill. Three means there is an urgent need for training on that skill.

I have a suite of ten different surveys that I use depending on the data generated in the interviews. For example, if there is an issue with ethics in this organization, I have an instrument that will measure what types of skills need work.
If the group might be considering a merger or acquisition, I have an instrument that measures readiness for that. These assessments can be accessed on my home page under “Services.”

Design Phase

Once the data phase is complete, it is time to start the design phase. You will need to select not only the topics to cover, but also the OD methods to use. In general OD activities fall into four categories. (There are others, but they are usually combinations of these four.)

1. Action Search
2. Appreciative Inquiry
3. Future Search
4. Whole System Intervention

Although the objective of each of these methods is the same, the viewpoint and methodology for each is different. I will give my personal views of the strengths and problems with each method from my experience. All of these can work. The trick is to match the leadership style and organization culture so that the one selected has the best chance of success in a particular case.

Action Search

Most organizations contemplating an OD initiative, do so because they are not satisfied with how things are going. If the current trajectory of business is meeting or exceeding goals, there is little impetus for change. The Action Search approach takes on a somewhat negative spin from the outset. The idea is to determine what is wrong and fix it quickly.

Appreciative Inquiry

This approach is the mirror image of the “action research” technique. The process starts by asking what is working well. Groups focus on what is going right rather than what is going wrong. The idea is to find ways of doing more of the right things, thus providing less reinforcement for doing the wrong things.

Future Search

In this process, the focus is on the vision rather than the current state. The idea is to get groups engaged in defining a compelling view of the future. When compared to the present, this allows clarification of the gaps between current practices and organizational goals. Outstanding vision is the most powerful force for all individuals and organizations.

Whole System Intervention

This is a kind of zero-based approach to OD. In this case, the activities of the organization are viewed through a “systems” approach. The emphasis is on getting a critical mass within the organization to redefine the business. Processes become the focal point for redesign efforts. This approach is less threatening than the action research technique because of focuses on the “what” and “how” rather than the “who.”

It is always best to work with a skilled facilitator whenever doing any form of Organization Development. Groups that try to navigate these choppy waters without the help of an experienced sea captain often end up in a bigger mess than when they started.

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.