Mandi Brower: Be Kind | Part 2: Culture Guest Blog Series

The Quality Car Wash story was first revealed to me at a local chamber event when the business received a small business award. I have since become a frequent guest at one of their locations, and after hearing Mandi talk about their culture, I have seen firsthand how it translates to their team members. Their car wash team is always warm and kind.

When it came time to think of leaders to share their wisdom, I thought of Mandi. She graciously agreed, and I am excited to share her thoughts with you.

Mandi has also just been awarded Small Business Person of the Year for 2018 by the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce. In accepting her award, Mandi brought up all the people from her team to share a little about the company and help everyone get to know the organization from some different perspectives. I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to Mandi and everyone at Quality Car Wash for this well-deserved recognition.


Q: Tell us a little about the beginning. When did you start your business? Why did you decide to start it? What vision or goals did you have for your business in the beginning?

We are a third-generation business that was started by my grandfather and great uncle in 1969. They were entrepreneurs who already ran a bowling alley and saw the need in the community for a car wash. Innovation is a big part of what we pride ourselves on, and it really started at the beginning.

Before building their car wash, Grandpa watched the process at other businesses. In those days, a car wash was just a pull-in stall that you had to back out of when you were done. He realized how inconvenient it was for the customer, so when they built their first location, he removed the end wall and put in a garage door to create a drive-thru car wash. Even then, he was focused on the customer experience. My father joined the business and really became the innovator around the technology we use in our car washes. When you drive through, you see round arches. These were my father’s innovations, and you can find his innovations at car washes globally. Both my grandfather and father are still involved in the business.

From the beginning, my grandpa used a pretty simple phrase to guide everyone: “Be kind.” It wasn’t a fancy vision or mission statement, but it started everyone being focused on treating people the right way, and that continues today. The other key concepts that we have formalized over the years are warm, friendly service and an exceptional guest experience. Personally, I have grown to see the business as my personal-mission field, and see our business as a tangible way I can serve others.

Q:  When did the culture of your business become a focus for you? What were some of the first things you remember doing to start focusing on culture?

From the day our grandpa started talking about “Be kind,” it has been the heart of our business. In the years since the business started, we have added definition around our culture. One of the transforming events for us was the purchase of two new locations in 2012. At the time, I had just joined the company and we only had three locations. We were suddenly faced with having to integrate new teams into our culture and hire new people into locations that were not as close to our original locations. This helped focus our energy into defining our culture and being very intentional about building it at all our locations.

This resulted in us formalizing our hiring process, bringing all of the teams together for Rally Nights twice a year, creating a vision statement, and defining our values. Our vision is: “Enriching Life, Adding Value, and Serving Communities.” Our core values are centered around the acronym, “WE OWN IT!”

  • Wow Factor
  • Exceptional Guest Experience
  • Outstanding Team Work
  • Winning Attitudes
  • Never-Ending Pursuit of Excellence
  • Immediate Call to Action
  • Training

Q: Would you share three successes and one failure in your journey of establishing a great culture in your business?

The first success we have had is to integrate our culture into the hiring process so that we are bringing on new team members who are the right people for our organization. We implemented a four-step interview process that starts with a phone call, moves into a first interview and tour of one of our locations, a personality profile, and a final interview to ensure that the future team member and management both see the match. All new hires also go through an onboarding process where our culture is a big focus. These steps have really transformed our ability to hire the right people and get them making positive contributions to our culture from their first day on the job.

The second success is focusing on doing all the steps in our hiring process, especially when time-pressure to hire someone creates situations where people want to skip steps. The talent shortage we are operating in has created that pressure, and I really watch for this and remind our leaders that we can do steps quickly and efficiently if needed, but skipping them is not an option. That discipline is hard to maintain, but it has really helped us in continuing to get the right people, even in this labor market.

The third success is Rally, which is an all-company event that happens twice a year. We hold one in the summer where we have had an Olympics competition, speakers, team-building and talent shows. We always share the vision and have a meal together. Our other traditional Rally event is held at Christmas.  We are a much bigger company now, and these events help us feel smaller because team members get to know each other and meet people from other facilities. The other benefit is the training we can provide each of our team members. We focus on topics that they can use at work and at home. I love the stories we get back from them on how things they learned at work have impacted their life outside of work.

The one failure was a realization that if you went out into our business today, I don’t think all of our team members know what the exact values are behind “We Own It.” The lesson we have learned is that it’s easy to get bored after repeating the same information. We got to a point where we assumed everyone knew it. Since that realization, we have gone back to do a better job of making our core values visual everywhere and reviewing them often with our team members.

Q: How would I see your culture in action if I walked through your business today?

When you walk into any of our facilities I would expect you to be welcomed and feel a warmth in our business. You should also meet team members who are helpful and appreciative.

Q: As a leader of a growing and dynamic business, how do you personally monitor the health of the culture?

On an ongoing basis, we meet with 10-person focus groups each summer to get their input on a variety of topics like marketing, our fundraising program, and operations. It’s a great way to help them inform us on ideas that could help us improve as a business, and we get time to just listen to our team members. This has proven to be both helpful and energizing for our leadership team.

We also do quarterly reviews for everyone in which each team member must answer three questions. We roll the answers up across the organization and review them as a leadership team. This helps us to keep a pulse on the business, because we know everyone is getting feedback from their manager quarterly, and we get to pause to see what messages our teams are sending us through the questions we ask.

Another thing I personally watch is which teams are getting volunteers for their extra projects. We offer extra hours for team members to come in outside of their scheduled shift and do things like replace carpet in a dining area, painting, and other projects that help us keep our facilities in great shape. Volunteering to fill an extra shift for a special project is a great measure of engagement. I can look at the lists of people who sign up (or don’t) and tell you which facilities might have a culture issue that needs to be addressed.

I also do a lot of management by walking around. I make time to be in every operation biweekly and use that time to talk to people and just observe team members and interactions with our guests. One thing I look for is body language, another good indicator of engagement. I also listen to responses to guests, and expect to hear warmth and kindness. It’s a great time for me to personally catch people doing something right, and to model and remind people of the behaviors we expect that create a great guest experience.

This past summer, we also hired an intern to have conversations with more than half of our people around the health of our culture and to get input on what we could do to make Quality a better place to work. The survey provided us with valuable feedback on what was working and a few things that we needed to change.

Q: What final wisdom or advice would you share with a leader that wants to create healthier culture in their own business? Are there any people you follow who have been a source of inspiration or guidance?

Creating a great culture takes grit. You have to commit to repeating yourself often and leading by example. In the journey, it’s also important to recognize your team for every positive step they make in living it out each day with their teammates and our guests.

We believe in training our leaders. In 2018, we sent 41 people to watch the Global Leadership Summit from Willow Creek Association. We also frequently use the learning events through our local chamber (Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce) and share books from Zig Ziglar and John Maxwell.


Thank you, Mandi, for sharing your wisdom and experience around culture and how to intentionally sustain and grow it as a business opens multiple locations.

If you live in West Michigan and want to learn more about the people at Quality Car Wash, visit one of their locations. One of the innovations at a couple of the newer locations is a conveyor for your car as you go through the car wash. It’s very cool! I also want to put in the plug that we are close to the holidays and car wash coupons make great gifts. 😊

Jeff Disher: Make a Positive Difference | Part 1: Culture Guest Blog Series

Jeff Disher pictureI have known of Jeff for many years. We worked at the same organization earlier in our careers. Around the time that Jeff was starting DISHER, I remember hearing that he left to start his own company and thinking, “That guy has some courage; I hope it works out.” I didn’t yet get being an entrepreneur at that point in my life.

Fast forward to 2016: I was flipping through Fortune magazine and saw DISHER recognized as one of the top-5 small company workplaces. Things have worked out for Jeff and the DISHER team, and in getting to know them over the past three years I have always been impressed with how what they believe just oozes out of them. They are a powerful and positive force in my community with their service mindset and their commitment to helping organizations grow. I will let Jeff take it from here to share a little more about his story and his wisdom around building a great culture.Disher logo


Q: Tell us a little about the beginning. When did you start your business? Why did you decide to start it? What vision or goals did you have for your business in the beginning?

DISHER opened its doors officially on January 10, 2000. Y2K had just happened a week and a half earlier. The world didn’t end, so I figured it was a good time to start a business. Kidding aside, it was a good time to start the business I was in, given the predicted shortage of technical talent over the next couple decades. I just didn’t know it at the time.

My reasons for starting DISHER were two-fold. First, I was unhappy with the engineering firms I was hiring when I was an engineering manager at Prince Corp. I felt that I, as the customer, wasn’t being supported in the best way by these firms. I started thinking of what I would do differently if I was in their shoes to make me happy as a customer. Not realizing it at the time, I was formulating my business model for DISHER at that moment.

Second, I know that people find out what they are made of when they are pushed to the extremes of life. Whether our backs are against the wall, struggling to survive, or we’re experiencing extreme success, both will show us the real picture of what (and who) is inside us. I wanted to find out who I am at the core, and starting a business from scratch with no safety net was the way I was going to find out. If it failed, I wouldn’t have liked it, but I would have learned a ton about myself along the way. If it succeeded, I also would’ve learned a ton about myself. From that perspective, either way I couldn’t lose. So, after much prayer and planning, along with the full blessing of my wife Kathy, I took the risk.

My goal for the first year was to survive, plain and simple. We had two survival goals the first couple years:

  1. Say ‘yes’ to as much work as we could do, and
  2. Do all our work with excellence, because that would lead to more work

Only after surviving the first year did I scratch out on a piece of paper (which I still have) a vision for the company. Today, 18 years later, we have accomplished — or, at least, tried to accomplish — every part of that vision, and more.

Q:  When did the culture of your business become a focus for you? What were some of the first things you remember doing to start focusing on culture?

I wrote our mission statement, “Make a Positive Difference,” a few months before our business opened its doors. I had learned earlier in my career how important and powerful a clear and simple mission can be to any organization. I wanted that for DISHER. I also had a handful of early values written out that helped guide the few of us who were on the team. Having our mission and initial values written out from the beginning gave us all a standard by which we held ourselves accountable, no matter how small we were. I remember having lots of discussion with our team about how to conduct ourselves, how to live our mission out in all kinds of situations and why it all matters, but our culture didn’t start to find its identity and strength until years later.

Much like the natural laws of the farm, cultivating a strong culture doesn’t happen overnight. It has to germinate and grow. All along, each person needs to water, weed and fertilize it to the best of their ability. The moment you stop nurturing it, it begins to die. We work hard on building and sustaining our culture at DISHER.

We’ve learned so much from other companies and we’re sharing back by providing culture tours for any organization interested. Building a strong culture takes hard work and intentionality. There are no shortcuts, but the rewards make it all worthwhile.

Q: What are three successes and one failure in your journey of establishing a great culture in your business?

The first success we had was keeping our mission simple, clear and in front of us every day. Without this, our culture would be blind and without purpose as it tries to find its way. The second success was establishing a clear set of 12 value phrases that we call “Culture Characteristics,” and covering a different one each month throughout the year with our entire team. This gives us a chance to tell stories and highlight what each one means to us. The third success has been our semiannual off-sites with our entire team. These are day-long events that build comradery through discussions around company strategy, improvement, updates, learning and stewardship.

One failure we had early on was not being careful enough to hire for a cultural fit. We would bring people in first because of the talent and skills they had. We ended up with some people who would create dissension within our team due to their attitude and how they treated others. This hurt our culture more than it helped our business. Now we’re very careful to interview candidates first for a cultural match. This has made an incredible difference.

Q: How would I see your culture in action if I walked through your business today?

We have a wall in our lobby dedicated to our mission, and another wall with our culture characteristics displayed so everyone can see them. You would see a ripple chart showing how each person has made a difference in our business. You would hear how we encourage each other and hold ourselves accountable in our weekly team meetings. You would see emails sharing which nonprofits in the area need help and who is coordinating support for them. And, occasionally on a Friday afternoon, if we’ve had a long week, you might get pelted with Nerf bullets as an act of love from a neighboring teammate.

Q: As a leader of a growing and dynamic business, how do you personally monitor the health of the culture?

Staying connected with and being available for all team members allows me to hear where our team is at, and what trends are happening that we need to respond to. We have various opportunities built in throughout the year for all these interactions to take place. I also have an open office with no door, and I let everyone know that they are welcome to stop in if they have a question or something to share with me. I see these not as distractions, but as a part of my role and a chance to connect and help. If I need protected time, I find a conference room or coffee shop.

I’ve also found that the more authentic and vulnerable I am with people, the more they are the same with me. Office politics and gossiping are pet peeves of mine. Being real with people, and encouraging the same from others, is the best way I know how to avoid those cultural-health busters.

Q: What final wisdom or advice would you share with a leader that wants to create healthier culture in their own business?

My advice is to know and communicate clearly the purpose (mission) of your company to your entire team. Make it simple enough for each person to immediately understand and personal enough so that each person can see how they connect to it through the work they do. Once you have that, talk about it often — more than you think is needed; every day, if possible — and encourage others to talk about it, as well. Then, be very intentional in living it out for others to see that you are serious about it and adamant that everyone lives it out in their own way, as well.

Culture is not a program or an initiative that is separate from our daily work. Culture is the way we work.


Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your wisdom and experience around your journey building a powerful culture at DISHER.

If you want to learn more about the people at DISHER and how they work, you can: 

3 Reasons Culture Matters

3 Reasons Culture Matters

Lots has been written about the value of a defined and healthy culture in an organization.

In Good to Great, Jim Collins’ research showed great companies had values, everyone knew them, and they were built into everything they did. He also coined the phrase right people in the right seats, which connected the concept of getting people that fit a particular culture (right people) doing the work that fit their natural strengths and passions (right seat). More recently, in their book The Purpose Revolution, John Izzo and Jeff Vanderwielen made the business case that companies having a strong purpose are retaining people, more profitable than their peers, and are making a visible difference in the communities in which they operate. A purpose, cause, or passion can be a key part of defining culture.

My goal in this post is not to debate if culture matters, but to start a conversation about how it can solve some of your challenges and invite you to listen to 5 experts I have lined up to share their wisdom. I hope the outcome is a plan for your business in 2019 to be more intentional about growing the culture.

Here are the three reasons culture matters, based on my time working with successful entrepreneurial leaders and leadership teams:

  1. A defined culture is the only way to attract and retain the right people.  In a yearly survey of leaders using EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®), the number one issue identified that keeps leaders up at night is people. As an EOS Implementer™, I have seen organizations struggle with hiring smart people that take a lot of management time because they treat others so poorly. I have also witnessed the relief that happens – and the amount of great work that starts getting done – when the focus changes to hiring people that align with the values of an organization. A focus on culture makes this happen.
  2. A strong culture is an ethical balance to a ‘profit first’ message.  The lure of more profit takes organizations down a dangerous path. The irony is that most leaders don’t intend that message to be the only thing people hear, but it happens too often. The recent struggles at Wells Fargo and Uber are public examples of this. We all have local businesses that we loved, and then something changed. Over time our experience changes because the people are not excited about working there anymore; how they treat us and the quality of the product/service we receive reflects that shift in culture. Have you had that experience? I have, and when I’ve been in a position to learn more, there was always a leader change who thought the choice was profit or culture, not profit and culture.
  3. It provides a constant reminder to love your neighbor.  A big topic in the United States is coming together, despite our differences, to solve big problems facing us. In my book, People-Centered Performance, I share my belief in more love and less fear in our work relationships because love takes you farther. I don’t mean the sexual version of love that is represented by the Latin word for love, eros. The unconditional love of family (agape) or friendship (philia) are the bonds that get created when we treat each other in a way that places value on how we treat our neighbor/teammate at work. A defined culture enables this.

Do any of these reasons resonate with you? As you look to 2019, where do people and culture fit into your goals?  What is your plan to get there?

The goal of my upcoming culture series is to present the concept of culture in a way that any one of you can identify some actions to do tomorrow to cultivate and build a stronger culture in your organization. Now is the time to start thinking about this, before the holiday hits and the personal resolutions cloud our minds. If you have not signed up to receive the series, join the mailing list here. I adhere to international standards related to personal information and spam, so at any point I make unsubscribe as easy as subscribe.

If you care about the culture of your team and organization, I guarantee the conversations with our panel of experts (Rich Sheridan, Jeff Disher, Matt Jung, Mandy Brower, and Amy Kraal) will help you become more of a Chief Culture Officer than just whatever title you have today.

The first post comes out on November 13th – Sign-up here to receive the blog post in your inbox!

Exit Interviews – 1 Question Leaders Should Ask

Exit Interviews – 1 Question Leaders Should Ask

I make it a point to partner with leaders I respect and admire. It’s important to be around people that push you to become a better version of yourself.

In a recent Leaderwork program session I attended, we covered the topic of ‘Develop People’ which follows a defined process to select, recruit, onboard, and develop your people. In the conversation about exit interviews, a seasoned CEO shared the one question he wants to ask everyone who leaves his organization:

When did you first think about leaving?

He went on to explain why: that this question takes people back to the moment when they made the decision and therefore helps him understand the things that need to change in order to manage these moments that happen for everyone. It is the gap between this moment and the day they told people they were leaving that needs to be examined.

Great conversations start with a question, and seasoned people-centered leaders have lots of great ones that should be part of your organizational scripts.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

Great Conversations from Great Questions

Great Conversations from Great Questions

A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about the book What the Heck is EOS by Gino Wickman. This was part book review and part tips on how to use the book.

This post has regularly featured in my top ‘most-read posts’ list, and for the last two months has been #1. I hope that means this is providing valuable information that people find useful and actionable. If you haven’t read it yet, here is the post.

I particularly like the way that questions are used in this book. As you probably know, I have a core belief that great conversations start with a question. At the end of each chapter are questions that employees should ask their leader – these are the start of many great conversations.

If you are struggling with what questions to ask your employees to start these conversations – or just want some inspiration – here are some that work. Each will help build your relationship with your employees as you ask and then really listen to their response:

Lead well!

Scott

Does Your People Process Include a Stay Interview?

Does Your People Process Include a Stay Interview?

We ask people questions when they leave, it is called an exit interview.

We ask people questions when they get hired, it is called onboarding.

Do you ask people questions each year designed to explore how they feel about their work and to ensure proactive action is happening to make their job more desirable?

If you don’t, you should. This is called a stay interview.

Stay interviews can be a crucial part of your people process, because it focuses on your best people and it allows leaders from other parts of the organization to get to know them and help identify potential changes that would make them more engaged and your business more successful. Does that sound like a win/win?

Recently Ken Savage, who has accountability for people at Cascade Die Casting Group, shared the questions he implemented as part of their stay interview process. It is targeted at their most valuable people, and it is a way for him to go out into the business to listen.

  1. What about your job do you like the most?
  2. What about your job frustrates you the most?
  3. Do you feel like you get recognition for your performance?
  4. Where are you being under-utilized?
  5. What about your job would you change?
  6. Could anything tempt you to leave this organization?

The caveat Ken shared is the questions are not exact, but a synthesis of a conversation that would include natural follow-up questions based on responses. If you would like to learn more about how Cascade Die Casting Group uses the stay interview, let me know and I will connect you with Ken. He has graciously agreed to talk individually with people wanting to know more.

Additional Note: Pure EOS® Moment

The process component of the EOS model requires you to name the handful of core processes in your organization, define them, and then implement them to the point they are followed by all (FBA). Refer to the following pages in your leadership team manual:

  • The 3-Step Process Documenter™ – page 30
  • Followed By All (FBA) Checklist™ – page 31
  • The H/R Process – page 32

A great process design quote I heard to support the 80/20 rule is to design your processes for your best people. That will be enough for them to get it done well, and if they don’t get it they are probably in the wrong seat.

3 Questions to Test for Trust

3 Questions to Test for Trust

I believe that great conversations start with a question. One of the questions I ask all leadership teams during our EOS® annual planning is:

What role do you want in this organization in 3 years?

I can see the discomfort right away, and I let it stay there. This is part of the process of building transparency within the leadership team about how they want to contribute in the future.

I can vividly remember the faces of one leadership team as they shared their answers. It was clear they were being at least 80% honest because they all mentioned different roles than they were in today, but clearly aligned with what they were interested in doing. They smiled as soon as the words came out of their mouths, as if some sort of internal pressure had been released.

People-centered leaders work hard at finding powerful questions to ask that will reveal truth and test for trust. These leaders mine for feedback and view this feedback as an action item for themselves – and a measure of how much their team trusts them. Here are three powerful, people-centered questions:

  1. How have I made your job harder in the last 30 days?
  2. What role would you like to be doing in 3 years?
  3. What questions do you have for me?

People stay safe and vague when they are afraid. The first question focuses on telling you which feeling is winning – fear or trust.

Maturity and safety allows people to be honest for the second question. One answer I love is the same role. My follow-up question for them is: If you stayed in this role, tell me a little more about the challenges you would like to help fix or how you want to be challenged?  Staying in the same role is okay. Lack of interest in changing or improving is not if I am a leader challenged with accomplishing more. When you invite people to help in a more significant way, most will respond. Questions invite them to help.

Finally, the last question helps judge the depth of their thinking about your work and how much they are willing to challenge your decisions. Both are indicators of how much passion they have for your work, and whether they will help you make better decisions. It takes courage to come back with challenging questions, and this creates space for that.

I work with a leader who has become a mentor for me. He has become a mentor because he is so grateful when I challenge his thinking or bring a new idea. My idea does not always win, but he listens. I trust him enough to tell him I am having a busy day or a terrible day. I learn something every time I am around him and it feels so good to be able to be transparent with him. I have found that it takes so much energy to pretend.

Trust is about not having to pretend.

Create space for authentic conversations by using powerful questions and listening.

Lead well . . .

Teambuilding 101 – Enter the Danger (and I don’t mean find a ropes course)

Teambuilding 101 – Enter the Danger (and I don’t mean find a ropes course)

It was one of the many moments of an EOS® session where a big question was in the room which everyone has a chance to answer. Today the questions were: What are the problems, obstacles, barriers, ideas, opportunities you see as you look around your business? What’s frustrating you?

The Ops leader broke the silence: “Our sales are struggling and it looks like we will be faced with layoffs this quarter unless something changes. And we don’t have a plan.”

A hard conversation ensued, and before our next break a tired leadership team looked at me. The Integrator spoke up with the observation, “We must be one of your most messed up clients.”

My response was easy. “We are right where we need to be in this conversation, and I know this team can get to some action plans after break. As for what I see when I look at you? I see a group of people becoming a leadership team.”

One of the things EOS® has taught me is to celebrate when the team goes into what we call entering the danger. It’s a place with risk to egos, relationships, and outcomes; it is also a place where groups become teams. This is where respect and trust are built, which are foundations for great teams and teamwork. Nobody loves to enter the danger, and yet healthy teams who want to leave with a meaningful plan go there sooner rather than later.

Some teams head to a ropes course or a team-building event, but actually there are danger zones to walk by or walk into every time they get together.

As you go through your next leadership team meeting, do you see your team going through the motions or entering the danger and emerging with action plans that the whole team is behind? If you want to work on this with your team in 2019, a good place to start is with Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable.

One final thought: stop calling it team building and always refer to it as TRUST building – because all leaders and leadership teams need more of that.

Lead well . .

2 Quotes All Leaders Should Have On Their Desk

2 Quotes All Leaders Should Have On Their Desk

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer

It sings because it has a song.

~Maya Angelou

I can thank the US Postal Service for this quote, because I discovered it on a stamp a few years ago and it has stuck with me. It is a great reminder of the work we all have to do in managing the intent and focus of our work. As a consultant, the trap is to always enter a situation with an answer, and allow people to just pull answers from you versus working together to find and implement a solution that moves us towards a desired future. In my mind, it is the fine line between being a consultant or a partner, and I strive to be the latter.

I first became aware of the approach of assuming all my clients “whole and resourceful” and “possessing the answer to their problem” when I took my coaching training with Doug Silsbee, a master coach. His presence-based approach to coaching and leadership is focused on helping people develop the capacity to be present with all the people and the situations around us, and use that awareness to build relationships and solve problems differently. His The Mindful Coach: Seven Roles for Facilitating Leader Development book is still one of my go to coaching guides. His most recent book, Presence-Based Leadership: Complexity Practices for Clarity, Resilience, and Results That Matter,  has been a fun read for me this summer because it so captures his beliefs, the models he created from his work, and the stories that capture the essence of the impact of his approach. I can still see his subtle motion to remind me to relax my jaw when listening during one of our coaching practices.

Doug passed away on July 30th. This quote is also a celebration of the song he shared with me that has shaped and continues to shape my approach to coaching, consulting, and teaching.

Do you have any quotes on your desk? Words that bring you back to a core belief or encourage you to stay on a challenging journey?

A second powerful quote for me:

People will forget what you said,

People will forget what you did,

But people will never forget how you made them feel.

~ Maya Angelou

Lead well!

Help is Not a 4 Letter Word

Help is Not a 4 Letter Word

How well do you ask for help? If we did a word association right now and I said the word help, what would be the first 5 words that come to mind?

I work a lot with leadership teams that are full of achievement minded, smart, goal oriented, and passionate leaders. One way I know the team is working is when I see one of those leaders openly admit they are stuck and ask for some time with the team to talk through the issue and help them get unstuck. I also watch for avoiding it, and if I see it I will make sure it gets named and talked about. It is when my job of helping teams have a productive conversation gets tough, and yet it is in these conversations that leaders are made and teams get healthy.

One of my 2018 summer reading list for leaders, I recommended Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. In this book, they share a model called the Ring Theory by Susan Silk. It is a graphic representation of the rolls of different groups around a situation that generates trauma. The use is pretty simple, those closest or most impacted by the trauma go in the middle, and each ring contains the names of individuals or groups impacted by the trauma. The farther you are from the middle, the less impact it has on you emotionally. In Sandberg’s situation with the death of her husband, she put her children in the middle, herself and his parents/siblings in the next ring, and then different groups after that. The tool is simple, create the ring and comfort in, dump out. Dumping is unloading the emotions the situations is causing and/or asking or accepting help from those that are in outer rings.

The Ring Theory by Susan Silk

The lesson for leaders, when you drive change or have to react to change the market exerts on your organization, it is often helpful to look at it through the lens of the Ring Theory because of the emotions that are generated.  Have you ever been in one of these conversations:

  1. Restructuring a team due to growth, resulting in dividing up teams and changing leaders around
  2. Firing a well liked person
  3. Firing someone you hired, maybe a friend
  4. Trying to support someone who is going through one of the big three life stressors – death, divorce, job loss

All these situations, some sort of loss is created for people that requires work and time to heal before people can return to a a more normal state of productivity and joy. I have watched many leaders go through a similar situation in leading change, where they are focused in (their team members or teams), and not asking for help or accepting help. The Ring Theory is a reminder that those resistant forces often require us to dump out be seeking or accepting support from others.

The trick is, support in only works when people ask for or accept help. Effective leaders do it, and the rest treat help like a four letter word and avoid it at all costs, even though their need is obvious to all.

So let’s adjust the question: Do you act like HELP is a four letter word?

Lead well!