Leaders – Are you avoiding the hard stuff?

Leaders – Are you avoiding the hard stuff?

A key barrier to being a People-Centered Leader is avoiding the hard stuff.

Recent data from my four-week People-Centered Leadership journey indicates we love to watch YouTube videos and download forms that might help us, but when we are asked to share information about ourselves with a team member using the Team Member Fact Sheet™, we skip that part – 100% of the time.

My intent in offering this People-Centered Leadership journey was to help people practice the habits that are foundational behaviors of People-Centered Leaders. The barriers to those key habits are familiar, and yet I have witnessed leaders that – with a little support – break through the barriers that go up when we interact differently with our people.

Here are a couple of quotes I will remember forever:

  1. “When I started asking them questions about themselves, they asked me – Why are you asking me this? The tone clearly communicated they were skeptical of my motives. I realized that as a leader I never get to know my people, so they are surprised when I show interest. It is going to take me some time to fix it, and I am committed to fixing it.”
  2. “We work right next to each other and have been doing it for five years, and yet some of the most basic information about them I do not know. Once I got past that initial feeling of shame, I was able to start the conversation. It was a great conversation.”

As the year end approaches, it’s a great time to focus on connecting with the people around you.

I think we can have some fun with this, so watch this space for more details about the People-Centered Leadership Challenge. It will be a chance to explore your own strengths, try some time-tested  techniques, and qualify to win some great prizes. More to come. If you want to learn more about People-Centered Leadership, here is an explanation.

People-Centered Leaders: Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

The Book of Joy: The 20 thoughts that stayed with me

The Book of Joy: The 20 thoughts that stayed with me

One question I ask on the Team Member Fact Sheet is: If you could have dinner with anyone, past or present, who would you select and what question would you ask them? When I answer this, George Washington comes to mind and the thing I would ask him is: What part of what you put in place when this country was formed do you hope is still there in 200 years?

When I was handed The Book of Joy, it was not on my personal bucket list to go into a room with Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama to ask questions and listen to them share their stories and collective wisdom for a week. As I read the last page, I felt like I had been part of a very special event – and I had a book with pages dog-eared around all the thoughts I collected during the journey. I liked this book, and as you head into a gift-giving time of year, it is worth putting on your list.

Instead of writing a review, let me just share some of the thoughts I highlighted from those dog-eared pages and let the thoughts and wisdom stand on their own for a little while:

  1. So when you look at the same event from a wider perspective, we will reduce the worrying and our own suffering. ~ Dalai Lama (p. 37)
  2. A study (by Brickman, Coates, Janoff-Bulman) found that lottery winners were not significantly happier than those paralyzed by an accident.
  3. Courage: Is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. ~ Nelson Mandela (p. 94)
  4. Courage: Is not the absence of fear, but the ability to act despite it. ~ Desmond Tutu (p. 94)
  5. Studies have shown that sadness lasts longer than fear or anger. Fear lasts 30 minutes, sadness 120 hours. (p. 110)
  6. Sadness seems to cause us to reach out to others. We don’t get really close to others if our relationship is made up of unending hunkydory-ness. It is the hard times, the painful times, the sadness and grief that knit us more closely together. (p. 110)
  7. Without love, there is not grief . . . when we feel our grief, uncomfortable and aching as it might be, it is actually a reminder of the beauty of that love, now lost. ~ Gordon Wheeler (psychologist) (p. 113)
  8. Hope requires faith – even if that faith is in nothing more than human nature or the very persistence of life to find a way. Hope is nurtured by relationships, by community. Despair sends us inward. Hope sends us into the arms of others. (p. 123)
  9. Mudita is the Buddhist concept often translated as “sympathetic joy” and described as the antidote to envy. It is considered one of the Four Immeasurables, qualities we can cultivate infinitely. The other three are loving-kindness, compassion, and equanimity. (p. 140)
  10. A quote from a Tibetan imprisoned by the Chinese (and tortured) for 18 years. He told me he was in danger of losing his compassion for his Chinese guards. ~ Dalai Lama (p. 156)
  11. The real secret of freedom may simply be extending this brief space between stimulus and response. Meditation seems to elongate this pause and help expand our ability to choose our response. (p. 180)
  12. Marriages, even the best ones – perhaps especially the best ones – are an ongoing process of spoken and unspoken forgiveness. (p. 181)
  13. Research has identified key influences on happiness. One being our perspective towards life, or our ability to reframe our situation more positively. (p. 199)
  14. So many people seem to struggle with being kind to themselves ~ Dalai Lama (p.212)
  15. Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied? And what is the use of being unhappy if it cannot be remedied? ~ Dalai Lama
  16. Forgiveness is the only way to heal ourselves and to be free from the past. ~ Desmond Tutu (p. 230)
  17. We stand firm against the wrong not only to protect those who are being harmed but also to protect the person who is harming others, because eventually they too will suffer. ~ Dalai Lama (p. 234)
  18. Exile has really brought me closer to reality. When you are in difficult situations, there is not room for pretense. In adversity or tragedy, you must confront reality as it is. ~ Dalai Lama (p. 243)
  19. Joy is the happiness that does not depend on what happens. It is the grateful response to the opportunity that life offers you at this moment. ~ Brother Steindl-Rast (p. 245)
  20. Unforgiveness robs us of our ability to enjoy and appreciate our life, because we are trapped in the past, filled with anger and bitterness. (p. 245)

 

Present and Listen: 2 Things Leaders Taught Me

Present and Listen: 2 Things Leaders Taught Me

Last week I presented a keynote around strategic planning to a group of business leaders. I have made a habit of presenting and then making myself available for questions and coaching for 6 to 24 hours. While I enjoy talking to groups, I get a very valuable perspective on my topic when I interact with people after my keynote and I get to listen. Remember one of my core beliefs: Great conversations start with a question.

Here is a key message I heard: Great meetings are rare, and leaders want to get better at leading meetings. EOS has a meeting called the Level 10 Meeting™. The goal is to make it so effective and engaging that people rate it a 10 at the end. Of the twelve conversations I had with leaders after my keynote, eight mentioned the Level 10 Meeting™ tool as the one takeaway they wanted to go implement. Their reasons were mainly focused around feeling like they are doing all the talking, with engagement (i.e. voices of others) from the rest of the participants not happening.

Question for you: How do you equip new leaders with tools to run effective meetings?

Here is another key message I heard: People everywhere are knowledgeable and passionate about their work and want to contribute more. For this, you need some background information. This keynote was in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan – a long way from the major population centers of our state (Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids). There are even names used to identify two distinct groups in our state: Trolls (live below the Mackinaw Bridge) and Yoopers (live north of the bridge). When I mentioned I was going to the Upper Peninsula to do a keynote, I heard an arrogance than exists against small town business leaders; comments like “Are there any businesses up there?” The work ethic, common sense, and business sense of the leaders I met was equal to any other area/state that I have worked. I could even make an argument that the basic work ethic and humble approach to success is higher above the bridge. I knew that, and yet it is an important thing to relearn as I live the two values that drive my interactions with clients: Serve First and Kindness Matters. There is no place for arrogance in either value. As we try and reverse some of the polarization that exists between population centers and our more rural cities and towns, everyone – including me – needs a reminder to listen.

Question for you: What are your habits around leaving your main work area to listen to employees/clients in other communities and/or parts of your business?

Next time you talk to a large group, I encourage you to hang around for a while – there is lots of good learning that happens when you do.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

(If you are interested in seeing my presentation, you can find a copy here on my website. Video clips will be available soon.)

The Trust Bank: 9 Habits That Make Deposits

The Trust Bank: 9 Habits That Make Deposits

As leaders, we all have moments when decisions must be made that cannot be fully explained to the organization. Sometimes even your team has to be kept in the dark as to the full truth. Some of these moments include:

  • Firing someone for criminal acts at work
  • Reducing your team by 10%, including the two nicest and most liked people in the department
  • Asking an under-performing and extremely good person to resign in 45 days
  • Negotiating a sale of the company
  • Reassigning a leader due to allegations for certain behavior
  • Firing an executive for performance issues

I remember a conversation with a leader about the impact of one of these big decisions, on both his people and the trust within his team. He had just let someone go and nobody could know the truth. It was immediate, and it was explained by a vague email. I shared with him a perspective I learned in watching trust shifts after these BIG events: in my experience, these events did not alter the trust level because it was the thousand decisions we had made up to the event that made forgiveness easier.  Trust was kind of like a bank account. If the deposits had been made along the way, then the effects of the one big withdrawal were minimal.

Leaders make these little deposits when they:

  1. Tell people the real business numbers when sales records are hit and missed
  2. Publicly apologize for a bad decision that made life harder
  3. Show up at potlucks
  4. Go to funerals, weddings, and other big events in people’s lives
  5. Send a note after seeing someone’s child recognized in the paper
  6. Ask questions about family – and remember their names
  7. Have monthly breakfasts with people where any question is answered
  8. Answer emails from employees that send questions
  9. Embrace policies that make a positive impact on the lives of people

The good news? Big events don’t happen that often. The better news? They will pass faster if you spend the time between them being open and honest with your people, and practicing some of the habits mentioned above.

Just remember – focus each day on telling and hearing the TRUth and building/giving TRUst.

For EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) leaders, at your next clarity break tally all the ‘deposits’ you made this week and pick one thing you can do tomorrow to make a deposit.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often.

They’ll Love Your Questions – by my friend/mentor Mary Jo Asmus

They’ll Love Your Questions – by my friend/mentor Mary Jo Asmus

Today’s guest blogger is Mary Jo Asmus. Mary Jo is a friend and mentor, and I invited her to be part of this series because she is a highly skilled coach and has a gift for asking powerful questions. She has been a great influence on my own coaching approach and practice, and I am excited to connect you with her. For leaders committed to people-centered leadership, you need Mary Jo on the journey with you.

The following content is the property of Mary Jo Asmus and Aspire Collaborative Services LLC and is shared on this blog with her full approval. Any reproduction or use of this material without her consent is not lawful. If you like it and want to use it somewhere else, just ask her directly using the link at the bottom of the post.

They’ll love your questions

Someone who reports to you has a problem they want to solve, and they say they need your help solving it. A little bit of adrenaline kicks into your brain because you love to solve problems, and you can’t wait to hear more.

Stop and think deeply now. How will solving their problem help THEM over the long haul?

You might notice that the really smart and talented people who report to you don’t want your advice, even when they ask for it. How many times have you given your solutions and watched them walk away and actually use the recommendations you gave them? Ok, maybe they have, but they do so with little enthusiasm.

They really don’t want your advice. Even if they accept it, they do so begrudgingly. If they use it, they will use it reluctantly.

Do you really want those talented people who are brimming with oodles of untapped potential to go about their days doing what you tell them because you’re the boss (and they feel like they have to)?

Consider this: If you ask the right questions in the right way, they can figure out what they need to figure out for themselves. They’ll like their own solutions so much more than yours. Their creativity and intuition will kick in. They’ll become motivated. They’ll learn.

They’ll love your questions. If they are driven, smart, talented and want to learn, give them questions instead of solutions.

If you see the sense in this, you’ll need to exercise that question-asking part of your brain because you’ve been solving everyone’s problems all these years.

The way to start is to keep a few questions handy that seem to work to get people’s thinking juices started. Here are some you can start with.

To help them brainstorm solutions:

  • What will that look like when you’re done?
  • Where are you at with that right now?
  • What’s the gap between where you are at right now and where you want this to be?
  • How will you fill that gap?

To get them thinking about taking action:

  • What’s the first step you will take?
  • What’s your next step?
  • What are you willing to try?
  • What will keep you from doing that?
  • When can you start?
  • If you were courageous, what would you do?

To get them to commit:

  • What are you committing to over the next (hour, day, week, etc.)?
  • When can you do that?
  • What will keep you from doing that?
  • How can I help?
  • When should we assess your progress?

When they are really stuck:

  • What’s stopping you?
  • What does your (head or heart) tell you to do?
  • What assumptions are you making about that?

When they did what they said they’d do with great success:

  • What did you do well?
  • What surprised you about what you did?
  • What did you learn from that experience?
  • What’s your next step?

When you don’t have enough information to even ask a question:

  • Can you say more about that?

Try questions in place of problem solving and watch how smart and driven your employees (and you) become!

Did Mary Jo’s words resonate with you? Here is how you can continue to benefit from her wisdom on your leadership journey. Learn more about her executive coaching and leadership development services at www.aspire-cs.com and when you sign-up for her leadership blog/newsletter you receive a copy of her free ebook, Working with Your Executive Coach. Mary Jo is an award-winning blogger and a Professional Certified Coach.

Let’s call it Trust Building, not Team Building

Let’s call it Trust Building, not Team Building

When I say team building, how many of you roll your eyes or audibly groan? It is a common response. I once had a leader refuse to participate. His displeasure included the statement, “I have done a ton of these and they are a waste of time.” I used to get mad and secretly dreaded the response after I introduced our next team building activity. I have grown to appreciate the transparency, which has allowed me to step back from the situation and ask the question, “What can I do as a facilitator to set up this team building time so it is a productive conversation for all involved?”

I see my role as a facilitator to create the conditions in which teams can have a productive conversation. Recently, I received an answer to the above question which challenged me to make team building time productive and inclusive.

As part of my strategic planning process (Entrepreneurial Operating System®), we spend 2-3 hours on team health during annual planning. We start with a conversation centered on the pyramid from Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni. We end with time for team members to share some information about themselves and give/receive feedback on observed strengths as well as one thing they could do differently to increase the effectiveness and health of the team. (Here is the form I use.) We frame all the activities that the teams do together as trust building time focused on team health.

My answer came during the wrap-up, when leaders offered feedback by answering the question: “What was the highlight for me?” The answer that created a sacred moment for me was, “Every year I look forward to that exercise and the feedback that I receive from it.”

Imagine, an activity where we receive feedback and love it!

As I wrapped it up, the thought hit me that I call the time together trust building time focused on team health, not team building.  A simple change in name paved the way for an amazing experience for leaders who had done similar activities dozens of times in their careers. 

What if you became more intentional about trust building time focused on building team health? It could be as simple as creating time at your next planning session. What if you provided a list to the team titled Trust Building Activities and included things like a meal together, taking an assessment as a team, meeting regularly as a team, or a ninety-minute escape from work for a little fun? If all agree team health is important, make it a priority to do something monthly from the list.

Based on my experience, eye rolls go away and even the often-cynical 50+ year old white male dives in.

Team health:  Let’s call it what it’s intended to be and challenge people to own their part of it by diving in and helping to build and maintain it. Words matter, and the response I see from leaders is proof that a simple change creates conditions where all engage.

Lead well.

Some next steps:

  1. Email me at scott@thetrugroup.com if you want a list of team health exercises
  2. Watch my Johari Window video for some trust building tips you can do daily with your team
Social Media and Relationships: 3 headlines you will never see (for Leaders AND Parents)

Social Media and Relationships: 3 headlines you will never see (for Leaders AND Parents)

When I begin EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) with a client, we talk about how being an effective leader is like being a good parent. The key is having a few rules, repeating them often, and being consistent (i.e., demonstrating them through your actions). We do this because most leaders are also parents/aunts/uncles/etc., and the powerful correlation helps make it easier to remember this critical message.

Those of you who have spent time with me in keynotes or classes know that I bring in parenting stories often because I believe the skills we use to lead at work are the same ones we use to lead at home.

So here is my story . . .

We have a rule in our house that you don’t get a cell phone until you are going into ninth grade. This summer, our youngest child received her first phone. My wife is very good about starting intentional conversations around important topics for all of us to learn and talk about as a family. She does not dictate the family reading list often, so when the book The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch showed up, our summer conversation was clear. Then, when a printed copy of the The Atlantic’s article, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?, showed up the conversation went up a notch.

A note to parent leaders: The Atlantic article provides some powerful statistics around children and time with parents, timing of driver’s license, # of hours of sleep, dating activity, sexual activity, and rate of depression/feeling lonely since the introduction of the iPhone. At the very least, go to the article and review the graphs. It is a must-read.

For business leaders: I believe we do not have to wait for a study to come out and tell us the impact of social media on our key relationships as leaders. Do you honestly believe any of the following will ever appear as a headline that is backed by credible research?

  • Facebook Credited With Decreasing Divorce Rate
  • 24/7 Access to Email = Increased Employee Engagement
  • Instagram Rebuilding Families Around The Globe

Don’t wait for the data. Healthy relationships at home mirror healthy relationships at work. Time together talking, listening, laughing, and sometimes crying is how relationships are built. I will not offer web-friendly “5 Habits To  . . . ” or “3 Things To Do . . .” lists. Each of us has to figure that out, and the resources I linked to above are a good place to start.

Remember the mantra about being an effective leader = being an effective parent:

  • Have a few rules
  • Repeat them often
  • Be consistent (Walk the Talk)

Lead well – at home and at work . . .

 

Two questions to assess mindset; One question to invite a shift

Two questions to assess mindset; One question to invite a shift

We were ending our day, and I used a tool from the Entrepreneurial Operating System® to get feedback about our time together and actions to improve it for the next group. The simple question was:

How would you rate our time together from 1 (not valuable) to 10 (extremely valuable)?

When we got to Eric, he said 7.5.  My follow-up question is standard, “Thanks for the feedback Eric. What could be done to make it an 8.5?” His response was quick, “I have been to a lot of these types of sessions and they can never be above a 7.5.”

In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, author Carol Dweck shares her research that has identified fixed and growth mindsets. A fixed-mindset person is focused on looking good and proving their worth with effort. They excel at protecting and criticizing. A growth-mindset person is someone who sees potential as something that continues to be stretched and grown through challenges, learning through the difficult journey of delivering on a commitment. This person perceives a negative outcome as the first step to doing it better next time.

If you want to grow as an organization, fixed-mindset thinkers will be like an anchor to your ideas. It is a key leadership skill to accurately assess the mindset of your team. I use these two questions on the back of my team member fact sheet to help provide a glimpse into their mindset:

  1. What is the biggest behavioral change you ever made?
  2. What is the biggest mistake you have ever made and what did it teach you?

These are hard questions, but a growth-mindset person will appreciate the challenge. In my experience, a fixed-mindset person will either not answer or create a  diversion through sarcasm or anger/frustration to allow the question to move on without providing a thoughtful answer.

The next key leadership skill is inviting a shift (fixed-mindset) or increasing the wisdom within the team (growth-mindset). Here is the question to invite that shift and increase the team wisdom:

  1. What wisdom would you be willing to share from that experience to help all of us get a little wiser?

Fixed-mindset people focus on protecting and proving, which ends up making them largely inward focused in their work. It is especially important in EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) companies to limit or eliminate fixed-mindset thinkers. Traction requires a growth-mindset.

Do you have any on your team?

What is your mindset?

My final point is that fixed-mindset is not equal to bad/mean person. Eric and I had a great conversation after the day together because we shared some professional experiences, and I found him easy to talk with. But if I am charged with growing or improving an organization, it is critical to have people who get excited about continuously improving work and creating stretch goals. The teams will be more successful without the Eric’s of the world.

What questions would you ask?

Tip: Read trUTips #8 to read about how to handle B players (or in this case, a B-player)

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:

2 Free Resources to Learn and Grow as a leader

2 Free Resources to Learn and Grow as a leader

As many of my US readers head into the Fourth of July weekend, I am hoping there will be time to relax and reflect. I have a goal to increase the learning material available around people-centered leadership, and wanted to let you know of my two whitepapers that are now available as a free download on Amazon/kindle, iBooks, and most other popular formats.  I also made them FREE. Here are the links to the first two volumes of my People-Centered Leadership Series:

Volume 1: Don’t Avoid the Gaps, Lead Through Them: A view on leadership as creating gaps and managing through their closure – Includes a self-assessment at the end to help you assess your habits and your own gaps. Master these three gaps and good things will happen with your team.

Volume 2: Demystifying Strategic Planning: How to create one and effectively lead through the gap – Includes tips, techniques, and resources to help you become an effective strategic leader regardless of where you sit in an organization.

One of my core values is Learning + Doing = Growth. If you have leaders you work with that are looking to develop their own effectiveness as a leader, please forward this on to them and, even better, read one of the whitepapers together and support each other in the action plans that result. Would you also be willing to help others understand the value of the articles by leaving a review? I would appreciate it if you did.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often! . . . . and for those of you in the northern hemisphere – enjoy the summer!

EXTRAS:

If you are looking for a good read this summer, here are past lists that include some of my favorites:

fyi – If you are part of the Kindleunlimited program my book, People-Centered Performance: Bringing Out Our Best Through Honest Conversation is free.