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?