Leader = Linking Pin:  3 skills for leaders & 3 tips to make it a team value

Leader = Linking Pin: 3 skills for leaders & 3 tips to make it a team value

Leadership is . . . ensuring that every significant decision gets communicated to your team so they always know what, why, and who.  It is your job, as the leader, to make sure you serve as the linking pin for your leadership team and for your own team.  Rensis Likert came up with the concept several decades ago, and here is what it looks like:linking-pinThe theory is that any team you join puts you in a position to ensure that connections are made to other teams.  Linking pins hold things together, and coordinate critical work, even under extreme stress.

3 skills all Linking Pins possess (or develop):

  1. Ownership = See this role as a duty and are excited about the work and the responsibility.
  2. Make time = Create time in meetings to report, gather questions, debate, and leave with actions designed to keep other teams in sync.
  3. Take notes = Remember things and make sure they never get lost.  NEVER!

When miscommunication happens Linking Pins take it personally.  Then they fix it.

3 things teams can do to make Linking Pin a team value (EOS users: this is why you do things):

  1. Meet weekly.  Always!  (And layer meetings so info gets moved up and down through Linking Pins.)
  2. Keep all critical info in shared documents/spaces.  (Nobody has to look or ask for critical info – it is accessible and easy to find.)
  3. Have communication norms.  (Return calls/emails in 2 hours, texts in 30 minutes.)
  4. Share calendars.  (Make it easy to create time to share and make critical decisions.)

Are you a linking pin?  Do you ask your team to be linking pins?

Wait Not – Waste Not

Wait Not – Waste Not

I attended a leadership team meeting for a company that started 15 minutes late.   Half the team was there on time and the ninety minute meeting ended up taking two hours.  The team laughed about it, and yet during the meeting they spent a considerable amount of time talking about waste around spending and labor costs.   The leaders all scampered off talking about the meetings they were now 30 minutes late to.

In the age of lean thinking waste has become a focus.  While the focus is often financial and physical waste, the waste to our organization of waiting is often overlooked.  Think about the impact of waiting on your organization and the opportunity generate waste in the minds of the people around you.  Ever thought this?

  • John is late again, his department must still be a mess. Is he the right leader?
  • Well, if the boss does not view this as important why should I?
  • We can’t make a decision until she arrives – another example of her micromanaging style.
  • All I can think about is being late to my 2pm stand-up with my team – I would vote for any solution now so I can leave.
  • If I share my opinion it will just make this meeting longer.
  • Just another reason why we should only meet once a month.

While it might seem counter intuitive, the biggest part of an effective strategy is building the discipline to meet weekly and manage all the change that is associated with a short term (90 day) goal.  One reason the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) focuses on starting and ending every meeting on time is to harness and focus the energy of everyone on the needs of the people and the business.  Think about “start and end on time” as is not as a military leadership philosophy, but the commitment to being a team that values the person next to them above all else.

No hugs needed.  Just be on time.

Simple but not Easy

Simple but not Easy

Simple doesn’t always mean easy.

Seth Godin shared this wisdom on February 28th, 2011 and I printed the post and hand it out every time I start an EOS strategic planning for an organization.

The reality, when we face decision points as leaders Simple but not Easy means – My options are clear, and . . . .

    1. I have never done what is being asked of me and asking for help seems weak, so I will think a little more
    2. I am a leader and it is important to be right so I need to think about it some more
    3. I wish there were one where the people, the business, and our customers all won
    4. My Strengthfinder talent is analytical, so I will keep using it and then switch to reason #2
    5. I am just plain scared of what I have to do

Simple blurs the resistance that keeps us from moving forward.  Seth calls it Shipping. Simple makes us feel like ‘I just need to figure this out.’ We move by the resistance by speaking the truth and using it to gain the support that will help us ship.

I sat with a leader recently that shared a story about a difficult conversation they had just had with an employee that was not performing and it was too important of a job to allow it to continue.  The employee agreed with the non-performance, and it looks like they will probably leave in the next 30 days or be let go.  Simple.  This conversation has been evolving for 12 months.  Not Easy.

Simple doesn’t mean easy.

Choose to ship. Encourage and support others to make the same choice.

trUTip – QuickTip:  Want to explore the concept of resistance?  Check out this video by the author of Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way by Rick Carson.  I also like the book.

Mind the GAP

Before the holidays I was asked to speak to the Growth Group, a group of people working for the state of Michigan charged with helping businesses grow.  They work daily on the cash, commercial, and leadership issues that keep companies from reaching their full potential.  The request was simple – share your perspective and tools for developing leaders and talent in high growth organizations.  Here is what I shared.

The analogy to leading is MIND THE GAP – a common phrase I first heard in London as I was using the Tube, their subway system.  It is a simple reminder to watch your step, and for me it just stuck in my head AND made me constantly aware of what I needed to do next.  Here are four ways leaders MIND THE GAP.

  1. Create the GAP – At the core of leadership is defining the preferred future for the group they lead.  The simple act of planning (strategic or operational) is a way of creating the GAP.  For high growth companies, I use a tool called the Entrepreneurial Operating System that, at it’s core, helps a leadership team Create the GAP.
  2. Create the GAP 2 – Define the WHY for the key talent you need to close the GAP.  My experience in helping companies find talent has taught me that talent will come if you define your story well and help people see how the role is a critical part of what it will take to close the GAP and reach the goal.  I have a tool called the Role Summary and Focus that translates the GAP created into a compelling job.
  3. Manage the GAP – The forgotten step.  The actual work of leading and managing.  The part that made one leader say to me in frustration, “I love leadership, it’s the people part that drives me crazy”.  Managing the Gap is being intentional about building a team to bridge the GAP in front of you.  The key steps are:
    • Fill the GAP with knowledge of each other (foundation of Build TRUST).
    • Build FOCUS for each person through a SUCCESS PLAN – especially the new additions to your team.
    • Build TRUST through demonstrated competence.
  4. Owning the GAP – The last and most important piece of individual performance.  The career/development plan the individual creates to guide their development and performance so they develop faster than the organization needs them to based on the defined GAP in front of them and the organization.  The two key pieces are the career/development plan and the habit of frequent/formal one-on-one conversations.

Great conversations start with a question – and I appreciated getting asked How do you help leaders and companies through the key transition points tied to growth?

It all comes back to MIND THE GAP, except outside of the controlled environment of mass transit in London, the GAP changes daily.

As you look out into 2016 – What is the GAP in front of your team?  In front of your role?  How will you manage it successfully?

Those questions start a great conversation.

Here is the presentation – Mind the GAP – The presentation.  I am always looking for professional conferences to speak, so let me know if you are going to one this year that has an audience that would benefit from this conversation.

Owning Your Performance: Gremlin Training 101

The biggest thing getting in the way of performance for most of us is US.  It is why Tony Robbins is a multi-millonaire and countless other people make a living at getting us unstuck and doing our best work.

One book that I have always liked in this area is Taming the Gremlin:  A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way by Rick Carson.  When I read his book I quickly became aware of the stories that I am telling myself and it made a big difference in how I experienced life and others.  Recently I found a video of his where he summarizes much of what he says in his book.

Here is the link – Rick Carson – Gremlin Taming Part I

Many of you are in positions where people come to you with problems, and in many cases want an answer to fix it.  If you fix it, they will likely be back with the same question next time.  If you help THEM fix it, then the next time they come back it will probably be with a bigger problem because they have the confidence to handle the other ones.  Listen well and you will hear gremlins in their story.

Keep this video handy because it challenges us to examine our stories/assumptions that become our Gremlins.

 

How to win the Talent War – part 2

Nature abhors a vacuum.  When something is left empty of a critical piece for life something will fill it.

Take performance conversations with your people as an example:

  1. When we tell them nothing – they assume they are doing great.
  2. When we don’t explain why a leadership change happened – the  small talk around the office will create a reason.  It will become the truth, and everyone except the person involved in the change will likely hear it.
  3. When you wait two weeks to talk to someone about unproductive behavior it becomes more difficult because that action has already been filed away as ‘successful’ because the work is done and no feedback indicated it was not perfect.

A gift of leadership is creating a vacuum so something positive can happen:

  1. You share your biggest issue with your team and you create a vacuum by saying I do not know how to fix this, What do you think?
  2. You share a vision with your team that outlines dividing up Sales and Marketing when your growth exceeds $xM in sales in 12-18 months.  People begin to lay the foundation for processes that need to be in place to support that change and the current leader will start thinking about which role they will want to stay in.  People then will start to tell you who they think should be elevated to a leadership role.
  3. Monthly financials are shared, and in it you point out that a $100K gap exists in profitability that needs to be closed.  Anyone have any ideas?  Your top people will bring all the ideas you need.

In my book, People-Centered Performance, I hit this several different ways, and one is my observation that OBN leaders are afraid if they tell the truth, others will leave.  If you make a change. telling the person who received the role Why? is only part of the issue.  Telling the people who did not get the role Why Not? (which creates a vacuum – gap in performance) helps them understand what they need to work on to close the gap.  The right people will appreciate the honesty and work to get better or to shift to an area where they can be more successful and impactful.

Sometimes those conversations are hard, which is why many of your competitors (the other leaders wanting your talent) don’t do them well.  You position yourself to win the war by telling the truth in a way that creates a vacuum for people, and you follow-up to support those who want to fill it.

What vacuums are you creating today?

(for some examples of creating vacuums through performance conversations here are some templates for some of the most critical conversations leaders have with their people)

 

Powerful Question For Leaders – What is within your control?

What is within your control?

As I talked to the leader he explained a very complex situation that included a hierarchical leadership structure, a workforce that had to stay, and a customer that often spoke up in frustration.  I listened for ten minutes and then asked a single question – What is within your control?  The first response was all the things he did not control – so I repeated myself.  What is within your control?  The next response was the feelings that were created by the whole situation, so I repeated myself with a twist – What part of this situation do you control?  His final response was a list of a couple of things that mattered and a great conversation ensued.

Great conversations start with a question.  Many conversations with leaders start with challenges, frustrations, and sometimes just pleasantries.  It is when we get to the place where we name our place in an issue and what we see as our goal/ownership that the conversation becomes great.  What makes it great is that we demonstrate our trust in the person/relationship by sharing our absolute version of the truth – regardless of the risk.  What also makes it great is that we can openly disagree as part of the conversation by allowing space for others to offer their truth.

I believe trust is a gift, and when someone around me is willing to share something that could be used to hurt them or could cause conflict with a teammate my first move is to be grateful they are willing to share.  The next step is to identify what needs to be done with the idea.  As leaders, recognize there are three reasons behind a powerful statement:

  1. Just needs to be said. (We just need to listen).
  2. It raises and issue/problem that needs to be solved.
  3. It raises the thought of a potential issue/problem that needs to be explored.

The challenge is that leaders are too often wired for #2 and #3 happens by accident because we choose to ignore it vs just parking it in a place that allows further inquiry or conversation.  And #1 – that is in the Husband 101 class that we all need to keep retaking. 🙂

Listen differently today.  What do you hear?  What is your natural response to truth being expressed?

 

Empathy: 3 Things Leaders Can Do to Develop It

Seth Godin recently published a post on empathy – and it starts with the observation that Empathy doesn’t involve feeling sorry for someone. It is our honest answer to the question, “why did they do what they did?”  He goes on to share that if we really honest with ourselves, the answer to that question is rarely because they are stupid.

Simple advice, but in the world of business people doing the right things immediately impact our businesses, and often more importantly – when we get to go home at night or how much we can actually relax when we are on vacation.  Developing empathy is hard in these situations because we start in a frustrated place where the only questions on our mind are What were you thinking? or Why do I always have to fix this for you?.  These questions create fear and cause people to hide, and empathy does not reside in that place.

The thing is, empathy is a cornerstone for developing the talent in others, because when we do the work to see the things through their eyes helps to drive the conversation – What can we do together to close the performance gap that we both see?.  Asking and listening ultimately leads to the barriers others see that are getting in the way of the work.  Do you hear empathy in that statement?

Here are three things any leader can do to build empathy:

1.  Read – One thing I recommend for women and men is a book series call For Men Only/For Women Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn.  It was designed for couples to read about the perspective of the opposite sex, and I guarantee it will drive conversations and ah ha moments for both men and women.  Any book that gives you a perspective into a culture or person will create opportunities to develop empathy.  Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg was a book that did that for me this summer.

2. Do their job – In his book Rework, Jason Fried (founder of BaseCamp/37Signals) encourages entrepreneurs to do key jobs for 3 months before hiring people.  His reason is that it will give you an opportunity to know the work and challenges intimately so when you hire you find the right person and you know how to support them. Do you hear empathy in that statement?

3. Ask them – In my one-on-one templatesI share questions to help leaders start and end their time by listening.  Great conversations start with a question.  These questions are designed to hear someone else’s perspective on truth.  Remember, in performance situations the truth has multiple perspectives.

    • Recent successes and failures (to celebrate)?
    • What is energizing you right now?
    • What is frustrating you right now?
    • What is one thing that needs to be addressed by me? This organization?
    • How have I made your job harder in the last 30 days?

If we make the assumption that people want to tell the truth and we create a safe place to do that, empathy will happen when we really listen to the answer and learn how/when to act to support them.  Some things (many things) we cannot fix, but we can listen.

Listen . . . Lead.  Repeat often.

Friday Thought: Finding Your Growth Mindset – Is it there?

I work with high growth companies and growth focused leaders.  Daily I get to experience people that, in spite of setbacks, inspire me with their resiliency.  There is a name for it this – growth mindset.  In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck shares her research and belief that there are growth and fixed mindset individuals.

We all know these people:

  • Growth mindset people believe in their ability to learn and figure out almost anything.
  • Fixed mindset people are quick to point out ‘why not’ when faced with a challenge – and keep that voice throughout the work.
  • Growth mindset people have a mechanism to adapt when situations require them to make a personal change.
  • Fixed mindset people lead and/or end with That is the way I am.
  • Growth mindset people are quick to set aside their EGO, and ask a question.
  • Fixed mindset people are quick to protect their EGO, and make a statement.
  • Growth mindset people have feelings and get butterflies, they just don’t hide behind them or allow them to define their next step.

Which one do you see or hear in yourself?  Which do you see most prominently on your team?

Entrepreneurial spirit is a trait that is desired by both Fortune 100 and Inc. 5000 companies.  The powerful thing about this distinction is that it’s quickly displayed when the work starts.

It is one reason why a company in Ann Arbor called Menlo Innovations does a test in an interview where two people have to solve a problem with on pencil and one piece of paper.  It is why a strategic planning process I use (EOS) has direct feedback from your teammates in day 1 around whether you Get It, Want It, and have the Capacity to do the job the organization needs you to do.  It is the reason selection for a growth company first asks the question  – Right Person?  The Right Seat will show up eventually if it is not there already.

I have a formula in my book that urges people in the midst of change to manage their mental state so Hope > Fear + Anger + Frustration + Worry + Hunger + Weariness + ______ + _______.  NOBODY is always in balance – but I have watched growth mindset people bounce back time after time from tough situations where they were clearly in a Hope < Fear + Anger + etc. situation.

As you end your week – how is your formula looking?  Which label are you living into?  How can you support a shift in someone around you?