3 Ways to Build Trust

There are three ways to build trust both for yourself and with your team:

  1. Create transparency
    • this is telling the truth in a way that people can verify and validate for themselves.
  2. Keep your commitments
    • failing to complete commitments will deplete the levels of trust others have in you. This occurs when you overpromise and under-deliver.
  3. Extend trust to your team
    • this is one of the best ways to build trust. Yet many leaders withhold trust because they trust only themselves. The challenge here? Distrust tends to get reciprocated. When others don’t trust you, you tend not to trust them back.

Share these three trust-building behaviors with your team and set the example for them to follow.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Why 3 Choices Are Better Than 2

It is only in recent years that businesses have started to assess the cost of employee turnover. For many years it has not been an area of priority, simply because it wasn’t being measured and what isn’t measured isn’t valued.

So what are some of the costs associated with employee turnover?

  • Lowered productivity – you will find that either the work of the individual who has left is now not being done or, if it has been allocated to one or more people, that the more important work will be done whilst other tasks will fall by the wayside.
  • Overworked staff – although this is hard to assess it not unreasonable to assume that there is now more work to be done by fewer people (until someone is recruited and brought up to speed, but more on this later). As a result they are stretched thin, the quality of their work declines, and their level of engagement and satisfaction in the role falls. This makes them more likely to start looking for a new job and to leave. Those who remain will be overworked and you will lose their goodwill.
  • Lose High-Performers, Keep Low-Performers – a further impact of losing staff who are overworked is that it will be your best performers who are most marketable and will find it easier to find work elsewhere. As such, you will find that this cycle of losing people and the declining levels of engagement and satisfaction will accelerate. In an extreme situation you will lose your best people and find that you are left with the low-performers who are unmotivated and unable to find work anywhere else.
  • Lost knowledge – many people can do what your former employee did, but they lack the specific knowledge that person had. It’s about knowing the people, the traditions, the location of relevant information etcetera. It takes time to amass this information and you lose it when someone leaves. You also lose their insight into what the role involved, and specialized information relevant to it. Too often the actual role is rarely documented well enough for someone else to understand it and pick it up easily.
  • Lost relationships – whether these are internal or external it takes time to build the right rapport, relationships and level of trust. All the previous knowledge from relationships with key people is lost and needs to be rediscovered, recaptured and developed. This can be especially costly if the individual who has left had relationships with key clients, suppliers or key individuals internally.
  • Training costs – the training costs are easy to assess. But you also have to include the time it takes, especially if a colleague is training the new person ‘on the job’. Or if they attend a course then someone has to cover for them. Finally, you also need to cross-check their work until you are confident they can do it.
  • Interviewing costs – this can be expensive in terms of time and effort of all the people involved from putting together the advert, reviewing the resumes, sending out invites for interviews, arranging the internal and external logistics, carrying out multiple rounds of interviews, debriefs, selecting the right candidate, and negotiating with him or her. And of course, this doesn’t take into account the further costs incurred if you recruit the wrong person.
  • Recruiters – if you use them this can be helpful, but at a cost. This is often based on a percentage of the annual salary for the role being filled.

So what do all these costs add up to? Well how much? Estimates vary from 100 to 200 percent, or even greater, of annual salary. Much less for lower level positions, but still significant enough to make retention a high priority for your business.

And it gets worse!

These costs that your incur come straight off your bottom-line! This means, that you need to generate sufficient sales to recover the lost profit. Let me share an example of one client I worked with.

The client team was 30 people strong and was experiencing an employee turnover rate of 30%, not uncommon for the client’s industry.  The average salary was about $100,000. Using a rule-of-thumb of the costs being a 150% the costs were:

Employee Turnover Costs

  • 9 people x $100,000 x 150% – $1.35 million off the bottom-line


  • The client operated on slim margins of 2.5%.

Additional sales order to recover the lost profit:

  • $1.35m x (100/0.025) = $1.35m x 40 = $54 million in sales

And if you are operating in an economic downturn where markets are shrinking, there is greater competition and greater pressure on the margins, then you can begin to see how the impact of losing good people goes significantly beyond a reduced headcount – it can put your business seriously at risk!

So when looking at employee turnover make sure that you only turnover those who are not productive who you do not want to keep. For others, take the steps to counsel, coach and correct before they leave, and make sure you pay them a realistic sum. Turnover is expensive. Sometimes it cannot be avoided, but when it can, you should avoid it by doing the right things for your employees.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Creating Your Head Edge

How your mind can work for you, and against you!

Get your team, individually and collectively, to picture where they want the team to be at a given time (e.g. financial year-end).  Get them to see the picture of what it will look like, how they will feel, what they are doing.

The Power of VisualizationIt is important for them to be clear not on just where they will be, but how they will get there.  What do they have to do, day in and day out, for this to happen?  How will they do this?

Repeating visualization has been shown to improve performance and results.  Build this into all your interactions with your team, whether they be 1-to-1 or as a group, formally or informally.  On-going reinforcement of this is key and helps to build resilience and performance.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here 

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

What a Lack of Trust Can Cost You

Trust taxes are costs that you incur when there is little or no trust. When trust goes down, speed also goes down and cost goes up.  This is a “tax” – and this tax can double the cost of doing business.

Meeting in office

There are 7 types of “trust taxes”:

  • Redundancy & duplication with smaller spans of control – if there is less trust, then you will find that tighter control develops over smaller areas and that there is an unnecessary duplication of resources to offset the increase in perceived risk.
  • Bureaucracy – with less trust so procedures and systems become more cumbersome in order to bridge the perceived gap between what is needed and what is available in providing security and consistency in the work done.  In the US there is Nordstrom where its high levels of trust are reflected in its one card operating manual: on one side of the card it says – “We have one rule… – on the other side, it says “use your best judgment in all situations“.
  • Politics – more silos develop and turf wars become more prevalent.  Less trust results in individuals putting their agenda ahead of others and the business overall, it also creates a “fixed mindset” where people see the pie as fixed, so that they only way they can get a larger slice of the pie is at the expense of somebody else e.g. different departments negotiating for budget allocation will compete against each other for it.
  • Disengagement – a lack of trust reduces staff engagement as they do not believe that their leaders have their interest at heart.  This is reflected in research which shows that 96% of engaged employees trust their leaders, whereas only 46% of employees who are disengaged.
  • Turnover of Employees – as disengagement increases, so staff perceives roles and jobs elsewhere as more attractive which, previously, they might not have considered.
  • Churn – low trust also extends to customers and other stakeholders who now see other businesses as more attractive and less risky.
  • Fraud – with lowering levels of trust there is a lower level of integrity increasing the likelihood of fraud being committed within the company.

If you have a lack of trust, then you are likely to incur some or all of these taxes.  If you have a lack of trust then you need to address this. This is the subject of another blog.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

What to Do Before You Start Making Decisions

What you need to do before you start the decision-making process

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Decisions Before You DecideWe make decisions every day; small ones, big ones, unusual ones, specific or general and those which have become a force of habit.  We get so involved in the decision itself that we become blind to the key dimensions that surround it. So what are they, why are they important and how can we use them to help us make better and more effective decisions?

The Four Key Dimensions

There are four key dimensions which need to be considered when making a decision.  This includes:

  1. Composition: Who should be involved in the decision-making process?  You need to make sure you have the right people, with the right information, who can contribute and develop the necessary decision.4 Dimensions of Decision-Making
  2. Context: In what type of environment does the decision take place?  Is it an open environment that fosters open, constructive dialogue?  Or a closed environment in which personal interests supersedes those of the group?
  3. Communication: What are the “means of dialogue” among the participants?  Does it involve considerable direct discussion with those with relevant knowledge and expertise, or is it ‘filtered’ through reports from senior people in the hierarchy?  Are there face-to-face meetings or is it via phone, email, reports etcetera?
  4. Control: How will the leader control the process and the content of the decision?
  • Control of the Process how do you want to shape the way that the deliberations are undertaken and followed;
  • Control of the Content how much do you want to control the outcome of the decision

This last factor- Control – is the hardest, and has the greatest impact on the decision.

A Balanced Approach

A balance between control of the process and control of the content is required.  Too little or too much control of the process and/or the content will result in sub-optimal decisions.  Some of the impacts of low or high levels of control on the process or content are shown below.

Impact of the Level of Control of Content & Process in Decision-Making

 Decisions and Control

So how can we achieve a balance in controlling both the process and content of a decision?  There are three steps:

 3 Steps for a Balanced Approach

1.      Be Clear on the Decision

Are you clear on what the decision is that you are making is?   For example, you are looking at how to improve your retention of key customers.  This is not a decision; this is a problem that needs to be solved.  Be careful not to confuse decisions with problems.

2.      Know What Objectives & Outcomes You Want to Achieve

Have a clear understanding of where you want to be as a result of the decision you have made.  Knowing this will help you understand what expertise and information you need, from whom you need to get it, and the people who should be involved.

3.      Have Checks & Counter-Balances

You will find that you and others involved in the decision-making process will fall into common decision-making traps or errors of judgement.  Understanding them, and how to avoid them will provide you with the means to check your collective thoughts, ideas and insights and reduce the likelihood of your decision being subverted.

Use this as a checklist – make sure you address the four dimensions: Composition, Context, Communication and Control – and build the means for better decisions.  Will you share this with your colleagues and those who participate in your decision-making processes?

It’s your decision.


Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Discipline Without Punishment

“We need to understand the difference between discipline and punishment, Punishment is what you do to someone; discipline is what you do for someone” – Zig Ziglar

Disciplining people has always been a difficult matter for managers with many being uncomfortable with its adversarial nature. This often leads to the performance or behavioral issue being avoided and left unaddressed (which exacerbates the problem), being addressed inconsistently (which makes the manager seem week and the process unjust), or being handled poorly (which damages the relationship and creates an on-going problem). Rarely is the discipline process handled well!

The traditional progressive discipline approach is certainly unpleasant. It breeds resentment and hostility. But the traditional system is flawed in two ways: firstly, it tends to exclusively rely on punishment, and secondly it is insufficiently demanding on the person being disciplined. Punishments used, such as warnings, reprimands, suspensions without pay, only produce compliance which only works in the short-term and is ineffective. You want commitment, and you cannot punish people to gain commitment.

So how can you discipline people effectively without resorting punishment? And how, in doing so, can you gain commitment from the employee to perform and behave to those standards which are expected?

Before we go into this there is one caveat, we are assuming that you have and follow a documented disciplinary process. If not, you need to develop this as soon as possible, so that the process is clear and transparent to everyone (managers and employees), and that you are consistent in your treatment of people.

This new approach is progressive, as problems became more serious so the responses became more serious. But instead of using punishments, the focus is on engaging the individual in agreeing to change. They are being treated as an adult, not as a poorly behaving child. The focus is on requiring the individual to take responsibility for themselves and their actions and to make the decisions for himself or herself.

Often the final step in a traditional disciplinary process, before termination, is an unpaid disciplinary layoff. In this approach, this is replaced with a paid disciplinary suspension.

How It Works – The Paid Disciplinary Suspension
Upon reaching the final step in this new system, the employee is told that he would be suspended from work on the following day. He was told that he must return on the day after the suspension having made a final decision: either to solve the immediate problem and make a total commitment to fully acceptable performance in every area of his job, or to quit and find more satisfying work someplace else. The company bears the cost of this paid day as a sincere demonstration of its desire to see the employee change and stay. However, the employee is told that if he decides to stay, and there is another disciplinary problem, then he or she will be terminated. In essence, his or her future is in his or her own hands, it is their choice to make, and the company will accept his or her decision. Fundamentally, the choice is either to change and stay; or quit and find opportunities elsewhere.

Advantages of Discipline without Punishment

  • Cooling-off period – it allows both sides to calmly reflect on the situation,
  • Provides a dramatic gesture – the suspension period forces the employee to face the facts; face unemployment or correct your behavior.
  • Defensive – should an employee be fired and then challenge the action the company has a clear and demonstrable process that the employee was fully aware of the situation and the alternatives, and that the employee made their choice.
  • Demonstrates good faith – this shows the individual that the business is serious in its intent.
  • It makes life easier for managers – many managers are loathed to take disciplinary action. This process makes it easier as the onus for the decision to stay or leave is the employee, not the manager.
  • It’s appropriate for any job – whether the employee is at the front-line, middle-management or in the upper echelons of the business it is equally applicable and transparent.
  • It reinforces your values – most organizations take pride in being fair employers. This allows you to be so without punishing people in a way that compromises the spirit of your values.

So will you keep discipline without punishment? Make people responsible and accountable for their performance and actions, and help them decide what to do – whether to leave or to commit to change and improve their performance and how they behave.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Steps to Help Your Managers Prepare for Difficult Conversations

In times of challenges and uncertainty, supervisors might be experiencing an increase in the number of difficult conversations with their staff. These could include delivering bad news about an employee’s job, informing staff about work restructuring, or discussing other complicated and stressful work situations.

  1. Preparing for the conversation

Before going into the conversation, ask yourself several key questions. Consult with peers, and other appropriate resources to be sure you’re comfortable with the answers.

Key questions include:

  • What is my purpose for having the conversation?
  • What do I hope to accomplish?
  • What is the ideal outcome?
  • What assumptions am I making about the other person’s reaction to the conversation?
  • What “hot buttons” exist – for me and for the other person?
  • How is my attitude toward the conversation contributing to the intended outcome?

Practice the conversation. You can mentally rehearse it in your mind, or practice it out loud with your supervisor, Employee Assistance Program, or Human Resources.

  1. Holding the conversation

A successful outcome will depend on two things: what you say and how you say it. How you approach the conversation and how you behave will greatly influence what you say and how it is perceived.

Acknowledge any emotional energy that might be fueled by the conversation. The emotional content is as important as the facts.

Keep aligned with the purpose of your conversation. Don’t be distracted by side tracks.

Suggestions for opening the conversation include:

  • “I’d like to talk to you about. . .”
  • “I want to better understand your point of view. Can we talk more about. . .”
  • “I’d like to talk about ________. I think we may have different ideas on how to ______.”


  1. Working Toward a Successful Outcome

Approach the conversation with an attitude of inquiry and discovery. Set aside assumptions and try to learn as much as possible about the other person’s point of view. Let the employees complete what they have to say without interruption.

Acknowledge that you’ve heard what the other person is trying to say. The best way to do this is to repeat their argument back to them. You don’t have to agree. Saying “it sounds like this issue is very important to you” doesn’t mean that you have to decide the way they’d like you to.

Advocate for your position without diminishing theirs. State your position concisely and clarify points they may not have understood.

End with problem solving. Find mutual areas where you can agree on solutions and identify what steps need to be taken. If there is no common ground, return to inquiry.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.