3 Difficult Conversations that People-Centered Leaders Have Regularly

3 Difficult Conversations that People-Centered Leaders Have Regularly

Great conversations start with a question ~ Scott Patchin

When we ask questions of people and provide space for them to tell us about themselves and share their thoughts, it has the same neurological effect as feeding them or giving them money.

When we ask powerful questions of people, it fills up the OPEN part of the Johari Window. It lets us, as leaders, deal with tangible things in our decision-making, and takes the guess work out of what our team thinks of the change that is happening or the work they are doing.

People-centered leaders find ways to have these difficult conversations on a regular basis:

  1. How am I making your job harder? There are several ways to ask this. If you look in the one-on-one templates I have published, you will see this mining for frustrations is the focus of some of the questions.
  2. What is going well this week? This is a difficult conversation for people who are wired to solve problems and overwhelmed with a fast-paced business to manage. When we ask and answer this question, it forces us to pause and celebrate. It also reminds our team of the progress we have made.
  3. What do you want in the future from your work? Your life? Shifting perspective to the future is important and difficult. There are two questions on the development plan template I share. Having asked them to over one hundred people, I have seen emotions flow from fear to excitement.

Are you a people-centered leader? How regularly are you having these conversations, and how effective are you at having them?

Great conversations start with a question – and people-centered leaderships is about having honest conversations that lead to thoughtful conversations and improved performance.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

Documize: 1 Tip for creating and leading a safe environment for your team

Documize: 1 Tip for creating and leading a safe environment for your team

Documize.

Last week, I was leading an EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) session and this word came out of my mouth. I did not know I did it. Within a minute, one of the leaders I was working with said “Scott, what is documize? You just said it.” As I paused, another leader spoke up and said he heard it too.

Have you ever said something stupid, or uttered words that in hindsight did not accurately represent what you really meant?

That’s exactly where I was. One of the desired outcomes of my work with teams is to help them become healthy and smart together, which requires a high degree of trust. Since I teach it, I challenge myself to model the things that are the big contributors to trust and safety.

So, I held back the urge to say “I did not say that . . ” or “Yeah, but . . . . ” and just smiled and thanked them for making me aware of that. I then made up a fictitious definition that conjoined ‘document’ and ‘systemize’, and asked the team for the intellectual property rights. Then we moved on to a productive day of learning and planning.

In a world where people are increasingly attacked for what they say, and less emphasis is put on conversations around “What did you mean?” or “Just clarify and apologize and move on….” – safety is a gift. This leadership team provided it for me, and I accepted it.

How safe is the environment in your leadership team? Creating it takes some diligence, but the open debate and unmeasured/unedited comments that people share could be the difference between a successful year and a cash or quality emergency that takes months to fix.

Documize – It is my constant reminder that I get to work in special, safe places. Are you creating such spaces with your actions?

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

Empathy 2.0: The power of leaders becoming students

Empathy 2.0: The power of leaders becoming students

I just ended a vacation where our four children were around a lot. One of my goals was to listen, and I also found myself reading one book they all recommended (Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff) and starting a second book recommended by my oldest daughter (Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam M. Grant). The reading focus was in-line with my listening strategy.  Let me explain . . .

Last month I published my 7 favorite books for a leadership book study. The last book was The CEO’s favorite book. I did that because picking someone else’s favorite books automatically puts you in a listening mode because they love it and `will want to talk about it. For leaders, when you hear someone talking about a book, especially one that is motivational or work related, it is your opportunity to listen.

Walking by the opportunity could be an indicator of what I call intellectual arrogance, which is simply defined as possessed intelligence to a level that blinds us from entertaining another truth.

Walking by the opportunity could also be an indicator of OBN leadership (defined in my book as the Ought, But Not leadership). I believe in the developing of my people, but when given the opportunity to join in their learning I chose not to. People-centered leaders see that an opportunity to listen and

Don’t walk by too many of these opportunities, whether you are leading at home or at work

When the student is ready the teacher will appear.

It is a powerful statement by a leader to become the student. Powerful things will happen in that space. Remember that I titled this post Empathy 2.0. People-centered leaders are committed to finding time to see the world through the eyes of their people.

As you think about development goals for 2017, what about adding Ask each person on my team to teach me something. Here is your goal for being taught:  Success is learning it and applying that learning successfully – and my teacher will judge ‘successfully’.

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often.

A Friday thought for parents/leaders – Thank you Bob Goff

A Friday thought for parents/leaders – Thank you Bob Goff

I shared in my last blog about Bob Goff’s guarantee of answering his phone when called. I called and here is what it said “You have reached Bob Goff. I am sorry but I am in a place where I don’t have cell service. Please email me at bob@bobgoff.com and I will get back with you promptly.” So I did and here is what I asked:

I asked:

Your final call to action was Love Does – So what do I do?  Our oldest son graduates in the spring and my wife and I have been coming along side him to support him in making a successful jump to work and life after college. I know you have been in this situation, so what advice would you give us about what we can do to help his transition?

Bob’s response:

Our son is just out of college too. We keep telling him about who he is, and I bite my lip before telling him what to do.  There’s a lot of “You’ve got this!” happening, and not a lot of “Here’s what you need to do.” It’s kind of hard because you and I do know what our kids should do, but having the confidence of a father is better than all the advice.

For leaders – What if, as leaders, we focused on showing confidence and providing support vs direction and oversight?

For parents – What if we practiced some of the same things at home that we do at work?

Finally, Bob provided a guarantee that he did not hit, after all, he did not answer the phone like he promised. Yet he gave me a reasonable option and followed up as promised (< 5 minutes). I could have called out his error, maybe even went so far as to point out the hypocrisy of his promise. That would have taken energy and framed my relationship with Bob as an adversary. The cost of doing that would have been in missing some good advice that has the potential to take me much farther in a role that I cherish – father.

Don’t be afraid of what guarantees might cost you, but have the courage to move the balance of your focus on what they tell the world about you. There will always be ‘gothch’ customers, and over time a guarantee could be a way to ask them to go away.

I am still a fan of guarantees, and I have EOS® (entrepreneurial operating system® to thank for that.  I am now a huge fan of Bob Goff, and it is because of a guarantee and the conversation that happened because of it. Thank you Bob!

Listen . . . Lead/Parent. Repeat often!

(ps. Bob Goff approved me sharing his advice – and responded to my request within an hour. 🙂 He gets it!)

What’s your guarantee?

What’s your guarantee?

Every business does not have a guarantee. But should you?

Less than half of all businesses have a guarantee, and when I work with EOS® clients this is hard for them to do, because once you say it people might use it. Here are some guarantees that came to mind for me:

  • USPS has a guarantee on overnight shipments
  • Buffalo Wild Wings has a 15-minutes or it is free for lunch
  • Our local running shop, Gazelles, will accept shoes for return after you run on them if they don’t fit right
  • Bob Goff gives his phone number at the end of his book, Love Does, and guarantees he will answer

I use a strategic planning system my business called the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®) that I also use the clients. EOS® has a guarantee I use for the rest of my business – No contracts/No pay guarantee: If our work together does not meet your expectations don’t pay me. If it does, pay me when we are done.

Here is the thing about guarantees:

  • They tell people what you are serious about
  • The commitments make you better at what you do because you focus on meeting that pledge
  • It provides immediate feedback for something you need to fix

My personal experience is that I am focused on preparing with my client for planning sessions because bringing value for them is my guarantee, and it takes work. But it is work that I believe in, and making it fundamentally makes me work at improving my capacity to deliver excellence every time I work.

I think it is a question I will start asking all leaders – What do you guarantee to your team? Your peers? Your leader?

What are you willing to guarantee?

fyi – I called Bob Goff and he picked up. 🙂

Tip: Instead of asking your people what their guarantee is, ask:

  • What are the communication standards that guide you? (answer in terms of preferred method and timing of responses)  
  • When I work with you how will I know it is going well?
  • How will I know if it is not going well?

Imagine the power of everyone on the team answering these, putting them on the wall, and then determining a standard for working together? That is a guarantee.

 

 

 

One practice for a Happy-er Holiday

One practice for a Happy-er Holiday

There will be lots of gathering happening over the next few weeks. Here is a bit of advice to make that time have more impact on the important relationships in your life.

Listen

It is one of those simple things that is hard to do. Here is an example I experienced in the last few months where listening helped me make a personal shift that will have an impact on the people that matter most to me.

My wife and children have all read a book call Love Does by Bob Goff. They quote him, laugh about the fact that he shares his phone number in the book, watch his Facebook broadcasts, and my son went so far as to successfully book him for a speaking event as part of a class project. I have never read his book. My reasoning was simple – I have read a lot of motivational/self-help books and my cornerstones are Parker Palmer – Let Your Life Speak and a few others that speak to me. The problem that hit me was this book spoke to THEM, and they are very special to me, and seeing the world through their eyes is harder the older I get. I am on page 183 and I will be done by Christmas Eve – and I love the book. I can’t wait to talk about the book with my family and to call Bob directly!

I caught myself in what I name with clients as “intellectual arrogance” – which translates into I know enough to not listen to you. It took me a year of resisting to realize this, and I am thankful I did.

When I am asked to sign my book, I do so with the simple line – Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

As we head off for the holidays I would like to leave you with the words I am going to try hard to live into over the holidays.  Listen . . . Love. Repeat often!

Many blessings to you, your teams, and your families.

Journey to Mastery – What’s in a name? #wordsmatter

I like the word Mastery. The definition (Merriam-Webster) = possession or display of great skill or technique. I love watching Mastery at work, whether it’s a Zamboni driver at an ice rink, a teacher managing a learning space, or an engineer sharing a process created for producing great parts. True Mastery energizes me because of the energy coming from the master.

I like the word so much I named my proven process for individual development Journey to Mastery. Here is why and how.

Mastery: George Leonard wrote a book called Mastery in 1991. I give a copy to every career planning client as the ultimate guide to finding success and fulfillment in life. When a friend challenged me on this book vs a few other more popular books on this topic, I shared my rule – I don’t recommend books where the author’s picture is on the cover. Mastery is work, and while it requires inspiration, it requires a whole lot of perspiration – so I look for people who are going to help create inner strength for the journey.

Journey: This word evokes a trip from one place to another. The special part of this journey is that we don’t know exactly where it ends, but we know what a journey takes: movement, ability to react to change, and endurance.

I outline the basic steps in my publication – Own It! 5 Tips for Managing Your Career and Performance.  This time of year is a good time to return to Step 5.5 – the check-in on your progress and resetting your direction/goals for the coming year. Mastery is not about wandering, and Step 5.5 helps reset the purpose of your journey.

Another great quote from Leonard also reminds us that the Journey to Mastery is inclusive; we just need to focus on reminding ALL people, especially those that need some extra help/support because they don’t believe it is for them.

It’s available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it – regardless of age, sex, or previous experience.

How are you doing on your Journey to Mastery? How are you promoting it and supporting it in your own organization?

2017 is a great year to start.

Wondering HOW to start?

My gift to you: An outline of my proven process, Journey to Mastery – and it comes without a picture of me. 🙂

3 Reasons Career Discussions Don’t Happen; 2.5 Steps to Start

3 Reasons Career Discussions Don’t Happen; 2.5 Steps to Start

I sat down with a leader to talk about succession, and her biggest concern was the age of two key people and the timing of their retirement. When I asked if she had initiated a conversation about their career plans, her answer was, “My lawyer told me not to because they could sue me for age discrimination.” When I asked what their counsel has told them they could do, she answered, “He never told me that.” I was tempted to ask if they had only paid half the standard hourly rate for that conversation, but held back.

This is not a post about age issues, but a conversation around the barriers I see in leaders around career conversations. The reality is there are risks in these conversations because plan <> promise, and yet having these conversations will make you stand out as a leader and will engage your best people even more.

Reason 1: Don’t know where to start (Ignorance) – When I lay out my proven process to leaders, you can see the tension release. They realize how simple it is and come to see their role as more guide/partner than a leader.

Reason 2: Bad past experience (Scared) – The example I shared above is a great example of scared. The other situation is a bad past experience with career plans because they were laid off in 2007-2009 and still see ‘keeping my job’ as a career goal. They are afraid to say it or assume that is what the answer is. One reason I start my own process with capturing strengths and successes is to energize people.

Reason 3: Too much other work (No time) – I received this from a leader, and when I asked, “How much of your time do you think this will take?” they started a list: meetings, having to fill out a bunch of forms, constantly monitor progress, schedule future meetings, and generally do lots of extra work. When I shared with them my process and their role of being present, asking questions, and giving the ownership to the individual, they were pleasantly surprised and this barrier disappeared. It is work, and the work is largely on the individual if it done correctly. Time is a concern, but it should not be a barrier.

In 2015, I wrote Own It! 5 Tips for Managing Your Career and Performance. This stemmed from my experiences helping leaders become more people-centered, in which I noticed them struggling with some of the basic performance conversations with their people. Own It! was written to be handed to someone so they saw their role and each tip becomes a step in the conversation between leader and team member.

Step 1: Ask if it would be of value? If they say yes, hand them Own It! and Peter Drucker’s Managing Oneself (Harvard Business Review) to read. If they say no, and you are okay that they have no plan, then focus your efforts on other people on your team.

Step 2: Have them pick the questions around long-term or short-term goals (p. 4 of Own It!). Make the first meeting about reviewing their answers. Ask questions to better understand their answers, and provide them with input on how those fit into some of the challenges you face as a leader and organization.

Step 2.5: Write down their answers and any goals/actions set because of the conversation; set a date to review them in 6-12 months. (Here is a template if you need one.) Around 80% of the time there will be some tangible things the individual can do, either start exploring their plan through gathering more information or actually doing work or start learning around a role they aspire to do.

One of my favorite quotes to frame this whole effort is:

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song ~ Maya Angelou

 

How would it change your own journey if you saw your career plans as a song you wanted to sing instead of an answer you were trying to find/provide?

Go Own It!

My top blog posts on this topic:

 

Will you be my mentor? 4 Steps to make this effective.

Will you be my mentor? 4 Steps to make this effective.

I was talking to a group of graduate students and the question was asked, “What advice would you give to someone about finding a mentor?”

I asked the follow-up question, “How many of you have ever had a mentor?” 

Less than half of the hands went up. So I started at the beginning because, from my experience in working with learners of all ages, I knew most of them (even the ones with their hands up) were missing some key knowledge they needed to create a great mentoring experience.

Mentoring is a personal growth and development strategy where a mentor supports the mentee by sharing resources, expertise, values, skills, perspectives, attitudes, and proficiencies.

 

The short version –

Mentoring is finding someone smarter than you and learning from them so you get smarter faster.

 

As I work with leaders of high growth companies, I encourage them to find people who have faced the same challenges they have faced and learn from them. I do this because as a consultant and coach, I need them to own their development and find people to help accelerate their development.

I believe that in growth transitions (double-digit growth or moving into a new leadership role), there is tremendous opportunity for growth and tremendous risk. Having a support team around you in those transitions that is focused on your development is critical. I am confident in what I can do as a coach or consultant, and I also know I cannot do it all. Encouraging mentors is my way of asking for help without eroding their confidence in me as a consultant and coach.

Here are the 4 Steps for creating a positive and productive mentoring experience:

  1. Identify what you are trying to learn or what problem you need help solving.
  2. Do some research: Who do you know that has the knowledge or experience that you are seeking?
  3. Determine who is the best fit and how long you think it will take to meet your objectives.
  4. Make the ask by reaching out (or being introduced); be ready to provide this information:
    • What input/expertise are you looking for?
    • Why are you asking them?
    • What is the time commitment? (guide is 1-2 hours a month for 3-6 months or until objectives are met)

Recently, I reached out to a friend who is about 10 years ahead of me in consulting. I am reaching a point where I need to run my business differently to continue the growth I have experienced in 2016. I followed these steps, we had two sessions, and I left with a pretty big assignment: analyze my time and use it to create filter on my work in 2017. In this way, I can focus on the most important things, find help for some things, and say no to other things.

My commitment was to follow up with her by the end of the year with my progress. In my experience of mentoring dozens of people, this follow-up is the #1 missed step. Remember, at the heart of every mentor is a desire to help. Follow-up lets them know how they helped and demonstrates our ability to follow-through on commitments. It is also a fundamental belief/value of my business:

Learning + Doing = Growth

 

Whether you are a leader charged with developing your team, an HR leader supporting questions around development, or an individual that is committed to mastery in what they do, mentoring is probably the most powerful and accessible tool to help achieve your outcomes.

Here is a document I share with coaching clients to help them build powerful and positive mentoring relationships.

Lead well . . .

My 7 Favorite Books for a Leadership Book Study

My 7 Favorite Books for a Leadership Book Study

Book study groups are an easy way to get leaders at all levels of your organization connecting and learning together.

One of my core beliefs is Learning + Doing = Growth, so I’ve also offered some tips on how to put this learning into action.

Here are my top 7 book recommendations, plus book study tips.