Communication: One reality and three healthy habits

Communication: One reality and three healthy habits

Great conversations start with a question.  Let’s have one on communication.

  • How is the communication in your team?
  • How does your team feel about the flow of information?

In a recent post, Why Growing Past 20 Employees is so Damn Hard (and what you can do about it) by Eric Jorgenson, the author makes the point that a 10-person company can have 45 different 1:1 relationships while a 20-person company can have 190. Think about these numbers – we increase the size of the team by 100% and we increase the communication complexity by over 300%.

The reality of communication, especially for growing organizations, is that complexity grows exponentially as we add people to our team. Layer on top of that the complexity of building trust with new teammates and with you as the leader, and it might make you want to curl up in a ball in the corner.

People-centered leaders face realities like this and overcome them, because effective communication unleashes the talents and skills of people. The other opportunity is having help to do the work, solve the problems that arise everyday, and celebrate the successes that will inevitably happen. If leaders do this well, the health of the business will follow. The other truth is that these do not depend on your leadership style; they are leadership skills that can be learned.

Here are three healthy habits that will help achieve healthy growth using communication:

  • Company gatherings – Quarterly (monthly if you can): What are the key messages that have to be shared and the key questions bubbling through the organization which need to be answered by you? Make this a priority and NEVER cancel it! A best practice is to record it so everyone has a chance to see it.
  • Team gatherings – Weekly (direct reporting team): Review progress, revisit commitments from the last meeting, get aligned as a team, and solve the biggest problems facing the team. If you do these 4 things every week the teamwork and culture will thrive.
  • Individual meetings with your team – (One-on-Ones or 5-5-5™ if you are an EOS® company): I see too many executive teams ignore this because of their calendar, their ego (“I am an executive and don’t need the coddling”), or their fear of sharing they are scared and confused. People must need this, because it is the #1 download from my website.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

. . . and do your organization a favor by passing this on to a few peers and/or teams so you can critique your own performance at your next leadership meeting and fill in the gaps that exist in your own habits!

Notes:

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 . . .

Hope as a leadership strategy: 4 keys and 2 questions to help build one

Hope as a leadership strategy: 4 keys and 2 questions to help build one

There is power in Hope, and yet it is something that does not come from the world as much as it used to. It is still something that comes from within us, and it is the hidden and critical piece of our ability to perform at our best.

Here are a few examples I have experienced:

  • Hope in a major personal transition

I experienced an unexpected job loss, and in the days that followed I learned about the difference between a good day and a bad day. On a good day, my personal outlook was captured in this formula: Hope > Fear + Anger + Hunger + Frustration + Loneliness + _______ + ________. I learned that in times of overwhelming change, our foundational outlook and strength (I called it YOUR ROCK in a keynote earlier this year) will be tested and defined. This is where our faith and social capital (friendships) will be tested.

  • Hope in developing your best people

When doing development plans for people, the best place to start is with something that will demonstrate their ability to get feedback and use it; 360° evaluations do that. I think of an organization that did this simple task with three high potentials (future leaders), in which two of them accepted the feedback and had a hope-ful discussion about how they could use it. The third was not ready, and spent most of her time on the threat and fear it created, not able to move past it.

  • Hope in leading

People expect leaders to be human in some ways, but not when it comes to managing stress and being hope-ful in the most difficult situations. Part of my work as a coach is providing a safe place to be honest and allow frustrations and fear to come out. When I coach, it is important to allow what has to come out to come out, and then ask the question – “What would be the one thing you want to focus on today in our time together?” It is a simple invitation to a hope-based problem solving session. Leaders need to learn how to balance reality and hope, and this gets modeled and practiced in every coaching session.

I read some wisdom recently from a hope expert, Dr. Anthony Scioli, who wrote a book based on his research – The Power of Hope.  He identified the four cornerstones of hope:

  1. Attachment – a feeling of connection and trust
  2. Mastery – a sense of empowerment and purpose
  3. Survival – the ability to manage our fears and generate multiple options
  4. Spirituality – faith in a religion or a set of life-defining values

Notice any common themes between my words and Dr. Scioli’s? It is no coincidence that the name of the process I use for career/development plans is simply called Journey to Mastery.

What are you doing as a leader to build and rebuild a hope-filled outlook for yourself? What are you doing as a leader to build and rebuild a hope-filled outlook for your team?

A client asked me to lead a sensitive conversation for them in the midst of some major change, and added, “You have such a great ability to make it safe to share difficult things and help us find solutions.” I thanked her, and thought back to my internal compass for selecting the clients that I work best with – passionate, hope-filled leaders that are over-challenged and under-supported.

What does your hope formula look like today?  Hope > ______ or Hope < ________?

What can you do to change the latter and maintain/build the former?  (Hint: See cornerstones above)

That is the foundation of a hope-filled leadership strategy.

Career Plans – Your Best People Should Have One; Here is How

I was leading a succession planning process with a group of nursing managers. The goal of the process was to identify future supervisors and managers from the current staff and create a process to develop them, monitoring their progress so they would be ready for a leadership role in 1 to 5 years.

Part way through the process, an epiphany happened for one of the managers. After talking about identifying people who were hungry for learning and taking on more responsibility, she said “I just realized that my most skilled nurses, the ones who have been around the longest, are not the people that will be leaders for me in a few years. They just want to do their job.”

The fact is, everyone should have a career plan – even if it is to stay in place and help solve bigger problems. But if you have limited time as a leader, your first focus has to be on the people who want more and are capable of doing more. Is this fair?  Based on the trUPerformance lens I use, I would say yes. A career plan takes guidance from you as a leader and extra effort/ownership from an individual, so asking that of someone is only fair if they are willing and have the capacity to do it. It is built on a foundation of trust and truth.

These three questions are the foundation of truth for this conversation:

  1. Do you want more responsibility?
  2. Are you willing to take on the work?
  3. Do I believe you have the capacity to grow into the larger role?

The ability to answer these questions with the truth, and face-to-face, requires trust.

I have personally been through at least a half dozen processes, from multiple day assessments to formal outplacement services. When it is all said and done, here are the key pieces of information that any individual needs to document:

  1. Strengths (not just Talents, but what the individual has proven they do well)
  2. Weaknesses
  3. Achievements
  4. Short-term goals (6-12 months)
  5. Long-term goals (1-5 years)
  6. Current job responsibilities/accountabilities
  7. Development areas (1-3) to focus on and action plans

The process to do this is outlined in my whitepaper, Own It! 5 Tips for Managing Your Career and Performance.  The trick for you as a leader? Being confident enough to put some extra work into identifying and engaging your best people in the conversation, and the skill to lead the conversation while delegating most of the work. Here is a link to the form to get you started.

If you need help getting started, it is just one click away – scott@thetrugroup.com.  This is a great time of year to have this conversation – it will feed into a few New Year’s Resolutions that will make your business more successful and help you tackle some of the problems that are making your job harder.

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)