Tag Archives: trust

The Secret of Getting Your People to Perform for You.

Have you prepared your people for success? If not, why not? If the purpose of management is to equip your people with that which they need in order to succeed, you need to provide them the tools that will help them relate to you.


In Soldier: The life of Colin Powell, Karen DeYoung provided Powell’s “How to Survive as My Aide–Or, What Not to Do” list. The list was originally provided to William Smullan after he became Chairman Powell’s communications aide and press spokesman.

This type of tool is invaluable because it creates standards and expectations. Here are Powell’s rules:

—Don’t ever hesitate to ask me what to do if uncertain.

—Don’t ever sign my name.

—Never use your money on my behalf.

—Avoid “The General Wants” syndrome—unless I really do.

—Provide feedback but be tactful to those who ask—talks between you and me are private and confidential. Alma (my wife) has nothing to do with the office.

—Never keep anybody waiting on the phone. Call back.

—I like meetings generally uninterrupted. I ask a lot of questions. I like questions and challenges.

—I like to remain enormously accessible. I like to do things with people.

—I will develop ways of getting to know what’s happening.

—Don’t accept speaking engagements without my knowledge.

—Keep track of whom I have seen.

—I tend to get moody, preoccupied. I will snap but that clears the air.

—Be punctual, don’t waste my time.

—I prefer written information rather than oral.Writing tends to discipline.

—I like to do paperwork—and I do a lot.

—NEVER, NEVER permit illegal or stupid actions.

—No surprises.Bad news doesn’t get any better with time.

—If there is a problem brewing, I want to know of it early—heads up as soon as possible—I don’t like to be blindsided.

—Speak precisely—I often fudge for a purpose. Don’t over-interpret what I say.

—Don’t rush into decisions—make them timely and correct.

—I like excellent correspondence—no split infinitives. (pp. 187-188)

Know Yourself and Help Your People Know You Too.

Powell’s rules are not absolute. There is no one size fits all system, but the idea of providing this kind of guidance is brilliant.

What is the secret of getting your people to perform for you?  The secret is simple. Set expectations for your people to follow. Be clear and help them help you.

Were I to write a list, it would look something like this:

-I believe that you know more about your job than I do and I expect YOU to come up with solutions.

-You are a professional. I trust YOUR judgment. Use it.

-You will never get in trouble for speaking your mind. Do not keep your opinions from me.

-I want to talk, but put it in writing first. I make decisions when we talk. The writing clarifies thinking and creates a record.

-I hate paperwork but I want you to leave a paper trail for documentation.

-If there is a conflict between two rules, we do no harm to our students (as in baseball, the tie goes to the runner).

-I only measure productivity. I do not measure time in your seat. Just be accessible by phone or email.

-Anticipate what needs to be done. Do not wait to be told.

-Free me from day-to-day administration so I can focus on moving forward.

-Everyone is entitled to an off day once in a while.

I had not previously created a written list, but I am working on one now. I believe that the administrators with whom I work would recognize and even say similar things about how I operate if they were asked.


On my first day on the job, I distinctly remember saying “You will never get in trouble for speaking your mind. Do not keep your opinions from me.”   Over time, they have learned how much I hate paperwork and that I only measure productivity. To their credit, they have adjusted to the way that I operate.

While some ways of operating are better than others, there is no one best way to lead. My list is not the right list. It is customized to me. It may not work for you.

What Is On Your List?

Do you have a list? If you manage anyone, you probably should. Maybe it is time you developed a list.

[If you read this far, you probably do care about leading your people well. See my Top 10 Leadership Books.]

So what is on your list? What is on your Boss’s list. I would like to hear your thoughts.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 26, 2012


Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University



Filed under Effectiveness, Leadership, Motivation, Organizational Behavior, Success, Trust

To Those Who Seek To Lead Well

Leaders talk about openness and transparency. That is good. It is nearly impossible in this age of empowered social media to be successful as a command-and-control leader. But talking about openness is not enough. You must act on that openness too.

The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”  

-Patrick Henry

Openness Shrugged

 In the Obama team’s 2008 campaign book, Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama’s Plan to Renew America’s Promise, we find  a number of passages about what openness and transparency would look like under a future Obama Administration. They write: “When it comes to the corrupting influence of lobbyists on our politics, sunshine is truly the best disinfectant” (p. 149).

This is an ironic plagiarism of Justice Louis Brandeis’ 1913 quote “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants,” but we can all agree with the larger point. It is better to expose potential corruption than to cover it up.

In a more interesting passage about openness, we find this elaboration:

It means opening up our government with greater transparency so average citizens can access the information they need to hold their leaders accountable. And it means inspiring and calling on all Americans to engage as citizens.
Our government has an important role to play in this work, and every aspect of it should be under review. We’ll eliminate waste, streamline bureaucracy, and cut outmoded programs. An Obama Administration will open up the doors of democracy. It will put government data online, and use technology to shine a light on spending. It will invite the service and participation of American citizens, and cut through the red tape to make sure that every agency is meeting the highest standards. It will hold true to the obligations we have as stewards of our precious natural resources. And an Obama Administration will make sure that the doors of opportunity and community are open to all. We can’t begin to tackle the challenges of the twenty-first century without the hard work, creativity, and patriotism of every American (p. 146).

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityNow, these ideas are compelling. Who does not want a transparent government that is open to all? But campaigning and governing have turned out to be two different things. The promise of the campaign was not redeemed by the actions of the administration.

Openness is defined not by the leader, but by the followers.

If your followers say that you are not open and transparent, odds are that you are not. In all fairness to Mr. Obama, liberals said the same thing about George W. Bush, particularly as it related to the war in Iraq.

The First Rule of Leadership

The first rule of leadership is simple: Do what you say you will do. Your actions must be consistent with your words. In  The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner wrote:

Here are some of the common phrases people use to describe how they know credibility when they see it:

  • They practice what they preach.
  • They walk the talk.
  • Their actions are consistent with their words.
  • They put their money where their mouth is.
  • They follow through on their promises.
  • They do what they say they will do.

A judgment of “credible” is handed down when words and deeds are consonant (p. 40).

[Note: The Leadership Challenge is required reading for aspiring leaders.]

What Does This Mean for Those Who Aspire to Lead Well?

When it comes to transparency, what is true in politics is also true in business.

It does not matter if we are talking about a scandal like Benghazi or the rumors of layoffs at the office (the premise of the hit TV show, The Office),  failing to be open leads to a breach of trust. You cannot lead effectively when your people do not fundamentally trust you.

Is your organization transparent?

November 27, 2012


Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University


Filed under Books, Current Events, Leadership, Organizational Behavior, Poltics, Trust

Love the Suck

When you are looking for a little inspiration about leading your people, think about what soldiers experience in the U.S. Army Ranger School.

Some time ago I read The Unforgiving minute: A Soldier’s Education. In the book, Craig Mullaney describes his experiences at the United States Military Academy and U.S. Army Ranger School before heading off to War.

The book was a compelling inside view of what it took to complete each component of Mullaney’s military education. To give you a taste of the book and the leadership lessons contained within, let me provide two brief excerpts. I found these two passages particularly riveting. The instructors drilled simple but profound ideas into the men as they trained them to be Rangers–the U.S. Army’s battlefield leadership. Mullaney wrote:

As we spent nights marching through torrential thunderstorms, officers urged us on with motivational cheers. ‘Nothing but a little Ranger sunshine, cadets.’ ‘If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training.’  ‘You gotta love being cold, wet, and miserable. Love the Suck, men, love the suck.’   On the face of it, their cheers were silly. Who could love being miserable? (p. 50).

Now, Mullaney was right. These cheers were silly, but remember that leadership is a mindset. Too often we think that leadership is about having certain traits or taking correct actions. Success often hinges on the leader’s focus (why he is leading, not  how or what). In battle, Rangers would be responsible for motivating their men regardless of the conditions.

Love the Suck 

I have passed that little bit of wisdom on to my MBA students at times when they were overwhelmed by the demands of work, home, and their classes. I remind them that if they play their cards right, they will have more pressure, not less. But when they rise through the ranks of their organizations, their people are going to be sustained by the training they are experiencing right now in my class. No discipline is pleasant at the time (Hebrews 12:11).

At home, I have encouraged myself with the same message when it was hard to comfort a crying baby at 3AM. I have 5 kids, so I know what it is like to be tired and frustrated while caring for a child. But as a parent, I know that hard times are part of the job description, and this is the point. This is why we need to learn to “love the suck.”

Leadership is Not About You. It is About Your People 

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityWhether you are leading soldiers, managing employees, or raising children, the only correct leadership mindset is one that places the best interests of those you lead first. This does not mean that they necessarily get their way; it does mean that they get your best.

In another passage, Mullaney explained that one of the Ranger instructors:

asked each of us one simple question: ‘Why are you here?’ The answers were predictable, ranging from ‘For the challenge’ to ‘My platoon sergeant made me.’ I admitted with the other infantry officers that I hadn’t had a choice.

‘Wrong answer, Ranger,’ he said to each person before addressing the group. ‘You are here for one reason.’ He paused for effect. ‘You are here for the troops you are going to lead. You are responsible for keeping them alive and accomplishing whatever mission you’re given. I don’t care if you’re tired, hurt, or lonely. This is for them. And they deserve better. You owe them your Ranger tab’ (pp. 101-102).

The instructor was absolutely right: You lead FOR THE PEOPLE YOU LEAD. Remember that, and the correct actions will be much more likely to follow.

The Professor’s Recommended  Reading:


-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

November 24, 2012


Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University


Filed under Books, Effectiveness, Leadership, Management, Military, Motivation, Trust

I Would Tell You What I Really Think, But…

Have you ever been in a boring meeting where you thought  to yourself, “I would tell the boss what I really think, but I don’t want to get fired.” As a consequence, you reign yourself in. The boss feels free to say whatever he wants, but you can’t. It is unfair. It is a double standard.

So, you zone out and fantasize about the day when you can tell your people whatever is on your mind—a time where they have to sit there and take it from you.

Be careful. This fantasy is a subtle trap.

While it is true that you cannot speak your mind without consequences, it is also true that your boss cannot either. When he disallows your opinions and thoughts, he has cut himself off from the very thing he needs. He needs your ideas, your motivation, and your heart.

The Cost of Arrogance

Why would anyone limit himself in such an absurd way?

Maybe he thinks the he already understands what you do. If he did your job before he was promoted to his job, perhaps he thinks that since he had the answers then, he has the answers now. It does not matter that the times may have changed.

Or, perhaps he simply does not value you because he is the superior type. Limiting your input is a less-than-subtle way for him to show you who is boss.

Either approach stems from insecurity.

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern UniversityAn effective boss is humble enough to know that he does not have all the answers and he is secure enough to let you speak your mind.

What other consequences occur when your boss does not make it safe for you to speak up? I would love to hear what you have experienced.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

November 23, 2012


Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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Complain, Complain Complain: The Top 5 Reasons Your Employees Are Complaining.

You know who I am talking about. You already have a picture in your head of the worst offender at the office. Why does he complain so much?

Here are the Top 5 Reasons:

1. You.  There. I said it. It may be that if you have treated him poorly, he is reacting to you. Often employees and their managers get trapped in a vicious cycle where one negative interaction prompts another.  Sometimes managers continue to unintentionally inflame the issue. As a leader, you must be very careful. Your attitude leaks. Others pick up on your attitude even when you believe it is carefully concealed. But for the sake of argument, let’s say you are not to blame…

2. Them.  The Arbinger Institute put out a great book a few years ago entitled Leadership and Self Deception: Getting out of the box.  It is a leadership fable like those written by Ken Blanchard or Patrick Lencioni.  I have used this book in an organizational behavior class for years because it gets right down to the heart of the matter.

Sometimes the complainer is the problem. But the fascinating thing is that he never thinks that he is the problem. Everybody else in the office knows that he is the problem, but the problem person–the self-deceived person–is blind to this reality (Jeremiah 17:9).

3. You. If the last point is true, it also means that you are vulnerable. You too may be unaware that you are the problem. Let’s circle back to the first point. I tell my MBA students that as a manager, if you are not hearing negative feedback, one of two things is happening: either you are leading perfectly or your people do not trust you. The statistics are not in your favor.

4. Them. Or, then again, Maybe your problem employee is just a chronic complainer. Some people just complain about everything. So, maybe it is them or…
5. Them. You thought I was going to say “you” for the sake of symmetry, didn’t you? It might really be them, but for an entirely different reason.  There are two types of complainers. We already discussed the chronic complainer, but the second type complain even more loudly about select critical issues. These people complain because they care. They are trying to protect the organization from difficulties you may not be able to see. Unfortunately, most managers never distinguish between the two and they treat these complainers as problems.

Get your MBA Now from Charleston Southern University

Chronic complainers (#4) are like cholesterol. Over time, they destroy the organization by limiting capacity and destroying morale.  Acute complainers (#5) are like white blood cells. When these complainers complain, listen. What you are experiencing is loyal opposition. They see danger and if you are willing to listen, this complainer may save you from disaster.

What kind of complainer do you have and what is causing the complaining?

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

November 21, 2012


Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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Filed under Books, Interdisciplinary, Leadership, Management, Organizational Behavior, Trust

Take the Trust Test

If you are a manager, do your people trust you? Would you like to know if you are the problem in your organization?

Here is a Simple Test:

1. How many of your people bring you problems? Think back over the last week or two and give yourself a ratio. For example:

Trust Ratio

  • If you have 10 employees and only 2 have brought you problems, give yourself a 2/10.
  • If you have 10 employees and 9 have brought you problems, give yourself  a 9/10.
  • Now add 20% to your ratio. Not everyone has problems all the time. The goal, however, should be to allow a free flow of information when problems arise.

Feel free to classify challenges, obstacles, and other difficulties as problems.

More problems would seem to be more an indication of bad management, but this is an illusion.

Openness about difficulties  reveal trust. It is counter-intuitive, but the lower your ratio,  the more of an issue you may have with trust in your office.

2. Adjust your ratio for inflation:

Adjusted Ratio

  • For every problem that your people brought to you that they could have solved on their own (at their level of competence), adjust your ratio down by .5 per person. The odds are that they are covering their butts by getting your approval. This is time-wasting political behavior. Such activities evaporate in a climate of trust.
  • For every problem that your people brought you where they did not also bring you a solution, adjust your ratio down by .5 (if they trust you, they will generate solutions because they know you will listen).
  • For every new opportunity that your people brought you, adjust your ratio up by .5 (since they will be more likely to be proactive in an environment of trust).

How is Your Ratio?
Where trust is lacking, employees wait for managers to tell them what to do. After all, they don’t want to get in trouble for doing the wrong thing.  They avoid bringing bad news to the boss even when that bad news is exactly what the boss needs to hear. They rarely volunteer to take on additional assignments.

Get your MBA at Charleston Southern University

In an environment of trust, your people will bring you problems. But, as you cultivate trust, they will also bring you solutions.

The Professor’s Recommended Reading:

So, what is the trust ratio in your office?

If you are a manager, how are you doing? Do your employees trust you, or is it possible that you have a trust deficit?

If you are an employee, how is your manager doing?

I would love to hear what you think about the trust test.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

November 17, 2012


Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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Filed under Books, Interdisciplinary, Leadership, Management, Organizational Behavior, Trust