The Trust Buster…..Lipotage!

Watching the 2016 edition of the Chicago Cubs reminded me of some of the most enjoyable work experiences I have had in my life. Those experiences centered on working in groups or on teams that were striving to achieve a common goal where the individual success was always second to the success of the team or organization. The focus on a common goal and approach is so critical to the success in team sports that you can almost feel the personal commitment each of the players have to support other members of the team even when it impacts their own personal ability to be the “star” on a world stage. The trust that exists between each of the group members is so strong that no one would ever question that a team member would not deliver what they had committed to do.

But then I asked myself why is it that so many teams and workgroups lose that ability to function as a high performing group? I then thought about teams that I had participated in that went from high performing to ones that stopped working together and could no longer trust the other team members to the point where it froze the ability and potential of that team. What was the one event or a number of small issues that changed the dynamics of those teams from high performing to not trusting others to accomplish the team goals?

As trust broke down between the members, the commitment to the team took a backseat to the success of the individual. There must have been an event or behavior change that caused the team to lose the high level of commitment to the team. Then it hit me that it had to be LIPOTAGE!

So what is LIPOTAGE? We call it the act of giving lip service to an agreement or course of action in a group or team setting and then sabotaging that agreement or course of action later. How many times have any of us been in a meeting where the group agreed to a course of action and then once you left the room one or more of the participants began to undermine that decision? How many of us have been the recipient of those situations or have been the person that created LIPOTAGE within the group. So why is that behavior such a trust buster?

Let me tell you a story that happened at one of my clients where LIPOTAGE ended the career of a manager who had previously been on a “high potential” career growth with her company.

The manager in question had for the past two years lead her staff with efficiency and excellence in every assignment that she had been given. She was able to do this by always discussing assignments, getting the team to discuss any issues that would impact their ability to accomplish the task and ensure that all members of the team were in agreement with the set course of action. The team never hesitated to raise issues prior to leaving the planning meetings when they were not in agreement but once the issues were discussed all members walked out of the meeting and were committed to a course of action.

When one of the key individuals left her organization she decided to replace that person with an internal person from another organization who had a reputation of being an outstanding performer but was not always a team player. It was a tough decision for her but the pressure to drive more output from her staff caused her to put aside the importance of team work.

Within the first 60 days the new employee had demonstrated excellent skill in doing their job but had demonstrated to the team that they could not be trusted and showed a lack of integrity in meeting commitments to the manager and the team.

It was at the first staff meeting that the team was discussing a major project that was scheduled to start in a month. It was critical to the company’s success for the next fiscal year.

As the team began to plan the project and at the same time try to integrate the new person into the organization, they ran into some major issues with how the new person worked with them and his ability to deliver what he had stated he would be able to provide.

What the team became aware of was that the new person agreed in project meetings with the approach and deliverables, but once they left the meeting he would tell others that the project was failing and he was not going to agree to meet the project requirements. He blamed the manager for poor leadership, the project team for not working together and stated that the only way the project would be successful was because he was doing what was right for the project.

His behavior in not delivering to his teammates, talking to others to undermine the project and not supporting his manager led to many delays in the project timeline and that put the success of the project at risk.

Although the manager recognized what was happening she failed to hold the new employee accountable for his behavior and his deliverables. As a result, the project was 90 days late and put the company at risk for the coming fiscal year.

The sad part is the manager lost her job and her team went from high performing to not being able to produce the results that they had become known for in the company. The new employee, due to his “Lipotage”, was not held responsible for the failure of the team.

This was a simple but painful experience of what happens when “Lipotage” infects your team. Managers and team members are all responsible for stopping that from happening.


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