Delegating Greatness: 8 ways your team will tell you how great you are

Delegating Greatness: 8 ways your team will tell you how great you are

He had a big product launch coming up, and the feedback from his team was clear – you direct me too much and don’t let me do my job. It hurt, and yet it was exactly the nudge he needed because he respected his team and wanted to become more strategic in his role. He made the decision to change, and invited me, as his coach, along for the journey.

Think about yourself as a leader and imagine what you would hear if you asked everyone to give you feedback on the effectiveness of your leadership? Would an issue around delegation emerge?

In my experience coaching leaders and working with leadership teams to implement EOS® in their business, I am invited into the conversation where feedback is given and received. This is a common story in any leadership journey where organizations strive to achieve something more from their business. In all those conversations, delegation is one of the most common barriers that emerges for leaders.

So how do you know if you are delegating effectively? You could do a survey, but I challenge you to take a bolder step and just watch and listen to your team for a week using the Ladder of Control by David Marquet as a lens. The analogy Marquet presents us is a ladder, with the bottom rung being high control by the leader with a corresponding low control by the team member, and the top rung being low control by the leader with high control by the team member.

Words most heard from your people and the corresponding control you are being given or you are exerting:

  1. “Tell me what to do . . ” (high control from the leader)
  2. “I think . . .”
  3. “I recommend . . .”
  4. “Request permission to . . .”
  5. “I intend to . . .”
  6. “I am about to . . .”
  7. “I just did . . .”
  8. “I’ve been doing . . .” (low control from the leader)

Your experiment will take a week of normal work with your team. Make a list of all your people and the statements from Marquet (maybe a matrix). At the end of each day, reflect on what you heard from them that day. If a person used multiple statements/rungs, document which topics they seemed to want more control over and which ones they want to give you control.

Finally, think about your default style and how you responded in your conversations with them.

  • What rung are you most comfortable operating on?
  • What rung does the behavior of your team indicate is how you manage them?
  • Where is the opportunity to shift as a leader to help your team take on greater control and you to let go of control?

In my work with leadership teams implementing EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®), I equip them with tools called Delegate and Elevate™ and the concept of Hitting the Ceiling™ to help navigate this critical leadership change. When it does happen, it becomes such a powerful event for the leader, for the team, and for the business. My passion is “Maximizing growth and minimizing pain, helping people move to and past the tipping point of success.” Let me finish the story I started above to illustrate what this tipping point of success looks and feels like.

We met after the launch was complete, and he reflected how much work it was and how his team had really done some amazing things to get the product out on time and with relatively few issues. In the second set of feedback, his team told him that he had made great improvement in delegating and trusting them. He was not perfect, but our journey had been successful. His smile told me he was proud of himself for becoming the leader he wanted to be – his actions finally aligned with his heart. Smiles with real pride behind them always seem bigger to me.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often! ~ Scott

Do you want to explore this topic more deeply and start your own leadership journey to become skilled at delegating? Here are some of my favorites:

  1. The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Ken Blanchard, William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L Wass
  2. Management Time: Who’s Got The Monkey by William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L. Wass (Harvard Business Review Article)
  3. How To Be A Great Boss by Gino Wickman and Rene’ Boer
  4. To explore a process to make delegate and elevate a cultural norm, read Traction: Get a Grip On Your Business by Gino Wickman.
Honest Listening: What Peter says and one practice

Honest Listening: What Peter says and one practice

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.

Peter Drucker

When she walked into my office, she was clearly nervous. We had worked together for six months. In the next five minutes, she shared a very personal medical condition, how the treatment would take her out of work, and her concerns about her job and her health. There were tears.

I heard the words – and knew the next step was to leverage the policies we had in place to help all of our people get the same level of support and organizational compassion.

Somewhere in those five minutes, I heard some other unspoken messages:

  • I want to be a mom more than anything
  • I am scared
  • I love this job
  • I trust you to help me Scott, that is why I am sharing this

Within the unspoken words is the space where empathy happens, where we get to really understand what matters to people, and where the passions and fears exist that help us truly know someone.

The next time you have a conversation, listen for the unspoken messages. What do you notice? This is the real practice of honest listening, and it takes putting them first.

Honest Listening

Honest Listening

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

Stephen R. Covey

I heard this quote a couple of weeks ago and for the first time I understood. I have carried it around as a lens for myself for the last few weeks and it has changed several conversations for me – for the better.

Try an experiment ~ write it on a post-it, on the top of some meeting agendas, or any other way to remind you of it as you interact with others. Let me know what you notice: scott@thetrugroup.com

Honesty Quote

Honesty Quote

A great nugget that I wanted to share with you today. A quote from a friend around the sharing of difficult truths:

Truth without love is mean.

Love without truth is a lie.

Rodger Price, Leading by DESIGN

One of my core beliefs is fear only motivates for the short term, but love motivates for the long term. (p. 20 – People-Centered Performance)

There is lots being written about honesty today, and I want to make sure no leaders in my community forget the Love part, because the outcome is tragic to a relationship.

Lead well!

Strategic Time: Are you at 10%?

Strategic Time: Are you at 10%?

How much time do you, as a leader, spend on the strategic work of your business?

Wondering what strategic work is? First, here is what it’s not:

  1. Simply being in a room with your peer leaders and your team leader: Harvard Business Review (Stop Wasting Valuable Time by Michael Mankins) did a study on leadership teams and found 65% of them focused on talking at each other with information and not with each other to solve the biggest issues for the organization.
  2. Building an agenda with what the team wants to talk about: When studying leadership teams and how they structured meetings, the outcome was 3 hours per month spent on strategic issues. Ever been in a meeting where ‘input into your area’ or ‘issues being raised about your team/group’ ended up in you defending your team with the outcome being low trust, no decision, and multiple people leaving feeling like ‘that was a waste of time’? Be honest – given the choice, we build agendas that keep people ‘out of our business’ and don’t invite their input and help.

The solution is actually pretty simple, and yet not easy because too many leadership teams don’t fit the description of healthy (a cohesive, functional, open and honest, fun-loving team that enjoys working together).

Here is what strategic work is:

Weekly

  • Getting into a room each week to do a quick review of the health of the business (metrics and people/customer stories)
  • Providing an open and honest update to peers on the status of the big work for that quarter (we call them Rocks in EOS) and closing the loop on all the things people committed to doing after last week’s meeting
  • Picking 1 to 3 big issues the team feels need to get addressed and fixing them
  • Leaving with a clear idea of things to do, messages to cascade, how effective the meeting was, and what we can do next week to make it more effective

Quarterly

  • Spending a day together reviewing the long-term plan, getting on the same page around the progress to the plan for the year, updating the biggest issues/obstacles/opportunities for the year, putting a new 90-day plan in place for what has to get done, and solving a few big issues
  • Doing a fun activity together where work is NOT the topic, but connecting with each other on a more personal level is

Yearly

  • Getting away to do the quarterly work in a longer term way

It is always about spending time on the important things, and it begins with a commitment to spending 10% of your time being more strategically focused as a team. This quote showed up today in my inbox and I hope it challenges the excuse I hear most often from leaders when I share a picture of strategic time:

“I don’t have the time.” …almost always means, “this is not a priority.”

Seth Godin – sethgodin.com

If your team is spending too little time on strategic stuff or you want to step back and really look at your time, here are two great lenses to help you:

  1. Stop Wasting Valuable Time by Michael C. Mankins
  2. Read pp. 165 – 198 in Traction: Get a Grip On Your Business by Gino Wickman

Time is a gift, so use it for the most important things. I hope this helps start a great conversation with your leadership team.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

Lessons in Honesty: My Menlo Tour

Lessons in Honesty: My Menlo Tour

Recently I took advantage of a culture tour of Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor. While I have been on the tour seven times over the past seven years, I always leave with a key lesson or two that I can practice in my own work. This time the word radical hit me as I thought about their commitment to transparency.

Menlo’s business is software development, and they are recognized as a leader in workplace culture. If you want to know more, Rich Sheridan has just published a second book to give you a glimpse into their culture, Chief Joy Officer: How Great Leaders Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear.

Here are three ways Menlo makes their goal of transparency part of their daily work:

  1. A project manager shared why/how projects that get behind are discussed – “If a project is going to get behind, I expect them to tell me right away. Our practiced response is to smile and ask one question: What do I know now that I did not know earlier? I cannot help fix it if I don’t have visibility to the issue.”
  2. They work really hard to avoid hallway project management which is the side conversations where decisions get made after the meeting. Avoiding this is a cultural norm.
  3. Pay levels are posted on the wall, so everyone knows who is classified where and salary is transparent.

I am always amazed when companies open the book on pay and levels, creating transparency in an area that many people find very hard to openly share. This is radical transparency, and it is a commitment to honesty that I have to believe sets a standard that makes people think “If we are open with that, then it should be safe to share ______________ (fill in the blank).” It also makes me ask the question of myself, “How can I practice radical transparency?”

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

The Most Valuable Hour in Your Week

The Most Valuable Hour in Your Week

We get busy.

The ‘To-Do’ list on Monday often starts with what was left on Friday. Then the messages start coming in from the people that depend on us for things — boss, peers, customers, kids, spouse, aging parents, our team, and friends. Then we respond like we have on every other Monday — we get to work.

If you stood back and considered your day, how confident are you that you are working on the most important stuff? How confident are you that you are successfully balancing the competing priorities in your life?

I was coaching a highly intelligent and capable leader who was struggling with this feedback: “You are not following up with some of your peers on key work, and are getting the reputation of not following through.” Her life was much like what I described in the first paragraph. I simply asked the question, “How do you prioritize your work when the list gets long?” Her response: “The list is always long, so I just get to work.”

The good news — she did not need marriage counseling, a spa weekend, or even a job change. She just needed to practice managing herself.

For this practice, I asked her to set aside an hour a week to step back, reset her priorities, reset herself, and THINK about the work/business that was being entrusted to her. The result? The top 2-3 priorities started getting done every week, her follow-up was more timely with key peers, and she made time for the important things while letting a few other things go. The feedback from her leader three months later supported the impact: “The sales team is feeling more connected to your work and the impact you are having on our business is exactly what I expected when we hired you.” Her feedback was: “I feel like I am having an impact and I worry/think less about work when I am not there.”

This is a practice Stephen Covey called sharpening the saw, and Gino Wickman calls a clarity break™. The people targeted with this solution are leaders who have big goals, many resources to get focused, and a world that wants a great deal from them because of their position, personal capability, personality, and power. The simple solution? Spend an hour or two a week to reset yourself and make sure you are focusing on the things that matter to you, so the barriers that are getting in the way of your own focus and joy get removed. Is your life more like this last sentence or the first paragraph of this post?

In working with and coaching leaders who live that first paragraph every week, and ironically becoming that person, the only habit I have found that allows us to be our best is to stop doing and spend some time thinking. To work ON our life and take a break from being IN our work. Try it — get away from your desk to a quiet place, turn off your phone, and spend time to review your priorities, think about the people that matter, solve a couple of big issues you or your team has placed in your hands, and plan your return to work with new focus.

I am still working on being 100% successful on that one hour a week,  so expect it to be hard.

Here is a short video where I explain the form I have created for myself to use during my TRU time. This is named after my focus of generating TRUst and facing some of my important TRUths that I want to live by.

Our work as leaders starts with us working on our own clarity, confidence and energy/joy for our work. Start making that a priority this week by practicing a clarity break!

Extra resources to learn more:

Focus on Culture in 2019: 4 Places for Leaders to Start

Focus on Culture in 2019: 4 Places for Leaders to Start

The idea of a culture series started in early 2018. As with many ideas, I really had no idea what the impact would be, but I thought it could be powerful for my community.

The simple words that I put in every book I give to people are: Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often! The irony for me is that this series allowed me to live the words personally. I crafted the questions, invited 5 leaders known for being culture success stories, and just listened. As I read through the final versions of all the posts, I was drawn to some common truths that came through. I am not going to argue the business value of a great culture in this post (send me a note if you have questions on that), but I want to share 4 things that stood out for me. I challenge each of you to grab one and start strengthening the culture in your own team/organization in 2019.

  1. Everyone has a plan: Each of these leaders had a plan for what they wanted to create, and the journey was more trying to figure out the how. I loved the words of Jeff Disher around his startup — they were focused on: 1) Surviving, and 2) Do great work and more will come. I was struck how sharing that plan always became critical at a certain point in each journey (see #3 below). Do you have any sort of written plan you can share? Do you take time to talk about it monthly or quarterly?
  2. Stories connect: The part that surprised me most was the number of friends I have that read my blog posts and don’t mention it — ever. I only know this because as the stories from these 5 leaders were released, I had a dozen or so friends and family members share they liked them, and in one case they went and bought two fuf chairs for their remodeled basement! The theme in their comments was, “What a cool story! I have heard of them, but it is nice to know them and I want to know more.” Stories connect. In one case, I have a friend who has a strong belief in the customer experience getting his car washed more frequently just to watch for some of the things Mandi Brower shared. How are you telling your story to new hires? How do you capture and retell stories for your people? Do you ever share it with customers or suppliers?
  3. Culture matters most when you grow: The tipping point for all these leaders was growth. When the size of the organization gets to a point where culture cannot be shared by osmosis, you have to start leading culture as part of your job. Matt Jung stood out for me as someone who had to delegate work and just start focusing on telling the story, waking up every day focused on their brand and culture. Rich Sheridan had the opportunity to leverage his own wisdom and experience to build the culture at Menlo Innovations the way they wanted it from the beginning. Are you at a critical point where you have to intentionally build culture? What things did these leaders share that you should start doing?
  4. Just listen: As a young parent, I spent about 10 hours listening to a cassette tape series (I know this dates me a little!) on parenting. I cannot tell you what all the other 19 points were on good parenting, but the last one sticks in my head. The author’s final point was, “If you remember anything from this series, remember this — make sure you love your kids. Tell them, show it with hugs and time, and keep doing it their whole lives.” I learned that day that when approaching something that is hard and really matters, I need to spend time with experts that help simplify it for me. So this is the big thing from this series that I saw with all of these leaders — make time to listen to your people. Rich and Jeff have no doors, and in Rich’s case he sits in the middle of the work area. Mandi goes out to all her locations regularly. She also hired an intern to do a listening project for her because she knew as the leader sometimes people will not tell her things. She tested it with an intern project! Matt called his a listening tour. How do you schedule listening into your day? How would not having a door help you listen?

The final point I want to re-share is something my human resource expert and friend Amy Kraal shared as we wrapped up this series. “You don’t want everyone to work for you, just those people that share your values and mission.” Defining culture allows you to find the right people that will help you build your culture, and it also gives you a lens to understand why you have to spend so much time with certain people. Next time you find yourself spending many extra hours with someone, ask yourself the question — If I had a chance to do it again, would I hire them? As Amy pointed out, culture helps you build your brand with others and attract, hire, and retain the right people.

As you start planning for 2019, make culture a focus in some way. It can start with a strategic plan, but it is also how you connect planning with your daily action to get it done. If you want to explore this more, here is a free whitepaper I wrote that you can download from Amazon called Demystifying Strategic Planning. If you have a growth-minded entrepreneurial organization, take a look at the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). It is a complete and proven system that I have found extremely effective in helping teams prioritize culture and results.

Many thanks to Mandi, Rich, Jeff, Matt, and Amy for sharing. in 2019 . . . Listen, Lead. Repeat often!

If you missed any of the posts and want to go back and take a look, here are the links:

Amy Kraal: The path to being a great employer | Part 5: Culture Guest Blog Series

Amy Kraal: The path to being a great employer | Part 5: Culture Guest Blog Series

Amy Kraal of HR Solutions GroupWhen I work with clients, I always encourage them to make sure they have some experts in their network, especially when it comes to talent and human resources. Amy Kraal is one of those experts. A couple of my clients work with her, and I came away from one of our EOS sessions with ‘contact Amy’ as an action item.

I noticed over time how well any issues brought to her were handled. Amy and her team at HR Solutions Group are good at what they do. When I thought about an appropriate way to wrap up this series on culture, getting Amy to share her wisdom seemed the right way to equip leaders for a productive 2019. HR Solutions Group logo

Thank you, Amy, for tips on what leaders can do to move forward in their journey toward being an employer of choice.


What does it take to become an employer of choice?

Traditionally, human-resource departments work with company leadership to establish company values, scalable processes and systems, and organizational charts of accountability; and to provide competitive pay and benefits to attract and retain talented team members. Typical HR metrics include retention, turnover, cost of labor and employee-satisfaction levels. Jim Collin’s book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, was pivotal in helping the business community understand that employee satisfaction and level of engagement are the two most influential pieces of bottom-line results.

Organizational Culture Surveys are the most prevalent tools to measure employee engagement. Culture surveys typically ask questions focused on understanding levels of trust, fair treatment, values, communication, teamwork, accountability, problem solving, professional development, compensation and benefits. Culture-survey results provide a snapshot in time to measure and monitor employee satisfaction and the degree to which employees connect to the organization, and feel supported and enabled to be successful. Focusing on understanding and improving in these areas can help organizations accomplish the goal of being a great place to work and will make a positive impact on your financial bottom line.

Jeff Disher, Mandi Brower, Matt Jung, and Rich Sheridan were all invited to share their insights as guest bloggers in this series. They all demonstrate the natural leadership traits required to build a great company. From my perspective, a natural leader is one who has the ability to share a vision and build a work community that is fiercely passionate and enabled to achieve the company mission. For each of these leaders, it’s not lip service; it’s a foundational part of their business strategy. In each case, this strategy has resulted in highly profitable organizations that are recognized as “best-in-class” in their industries and provided a unique and remarkable employment experience that others want to emulate.

Each of these leaders has been intentional in building a sustainable framework to recognize, reward, and reinforce a high-performing workplace culture. They have shared unique and different ways in which they have found success engaging their employees toward a common goal and establishing collective sets of behavioral expectations. While each leader may have different reinforcement methods, each followed a similar process to get there.

Here are five steps to define, build, and sustain a unique workplace culture:

  1. Know who you are or want to become. Be clear on why you exist.
  2. Set simple and authentic values. Values must be easy to understand at all levels within your organization.
  3. Share the vision and live out the values! It defines how you operate and interact with customers, employees, and the community.
  4. Build and grow your work community with good hiring practices. You don’t want everyone to work for you, just those individuals with shared values and mission.
  5. Equip, measure, monitor, and reinforce. Be intentional and systematic, and stay close to it. Your success depends on it.

If you want to be a great employer, tap into the strategies of successful, natural leaders. Get focused and invest the time and resources to make it happen. Be patient and intentional; it will not happen overnight. It’s a continuous journey, but with diligence and intentional focus, it will produce positive and lasting results.

Greatness exists in all of us; surround yourself with those who can help you achieve it.


Thank you, Amy, for sharing your insights around the path to being a great employer.

If you want to know more about Amy and her team at HR Solutions Group, here are some links to:

Rich Sheridan: Change Begins With You | Part 4: Culture Guest Blog Series

Rich Sheridan: Change Begins With You | Part 4: Culture Guest Blog Series

In this interview, Rich Sheridan — founder of Menlo Innovations and author of the new book Chief Joy Officer — shares the trials and tribulations in cultivating and leading a positive work culture in an ever-changing business world.

I first met Rich Sheridan when we toured Menlo Innovations as part of a career transformation program I was leading in 2010, called “Shifting Gears.” I was taken with Rich’s passion for his team and their culture at Menlo as well as his authenticity, evident as he talked about their mistakes and the way they approached change by performing experiments with daily team-generated ideas. 

A culture conversation would not be complete without including Rich, and I’m excited to share some of his thoughts with you.


 

Q: Tell us a little about the beginning. When did you start your business? Why did you decide to start it? What vision or goals did you have for your business in the beginning?

Menlo Innovations was launched on June 12, 2001, at the depth of the dot-com bubble burst. The decision to found an IT-services firm during the darkest day was born out of two basic ideas:

  • We had recently experienced a dramatically positive transformation of a public company, Interface Systems, where I was VP of R&D, and where co-founder James Goebel had worked shoulder-to-shoulder with me on creating that transformation. While the economic tragedy of the internet-bubble burst had caused us all to lose our jobs, this dramatic downturn couldn’t take away what we had learned in that transformation. We knew we could do it again. As I like to say, when the Titanic sank, it took a perfectly good engine room with it, and it wasn’t the engine room’s fault.
  • A downturn is actually an excellent time to start a business because everything — real estate, equipment, office furniture, you name it — is less expensive! There is also an abundance of available talent seeking work.

We wanted to bring to Menlo Innovations what we had experienced at Interface Systems: teamwork, energy, results and positive culture.

Q:  When did the culture of your business become a focus for you? What were some of the first things you remember doing to start focusing on culture?

Culture was a focus right from the start. We were all in the later stages of our careers and wanted to do something meaningful and compelling. We were past the life stage of simply needing a job. We knew we could all find a job. We wanted something we could build that would last and would have impact. Our belief is that an intentionally positive culture was the only way to do that, and intentionally positive cultures were rare. We wanted rare because it energized us and we knew it would energize our team and those whom we serve.

We started this focus by teaching our culture to others. We began offering all-day classes. It was one of our first offerings to teach our “Why” (namely, to end human suffering in the world as it relates to technology and return joy to software) and our “How” (i.e., the processes and practices of the Menlo Software Factory).

Q: What are three successes and one failure in your journey of establishing a great culture in your business?

Successes:

  • We instituted a brand-new way of hiring that we dubbed “Extreme Interviewing” which energized a very tired process in most organizations. We interview without reviewing resumes and without asking questions. Rather, we conduct an unusual audition.
  • We focused on the physical space of Menlo, and we got lucky and found a compelling wide-open space in which to build our team and practice that was consistent with the values we espoused of openness, transparency, teamwork and collaboration.
  • We opened our doors to tours so that people could come and see exactly what it was we’re describing in words. Those tours quickly increased to more than 1,000 visitors per year and now number between 3,000 and 4,000 per year.

What got in the way:

  • Our intention was to build a team that would operate in this compelling space that we had. Our early clients wanted our staff members to work at their locations. We agreed and started putting staff in several locations around Ann Arbor. This thwarted our ability to grow the culture we intended to build, because we just weren’t spending enough time with each other. Whenever a client engagement ended, half of the team that worked there would end up taking another job with another company.

Q: How would I see your culture in action if I walked through Menlo Innovations today?

The good news is that you could join the thousands who come every year from all over the world to see it firsthand. I often get to walk through our front door with visitors, hoping to catch their initial reaction. Typically, the first word out of their mouths is “Wow,” because they can feel the human energy of our team. You walk in and hear the noise of work, see people working shoulder-to-shoulder with each other at a shared computer and keyboard. You hear laughter. You’re likely greeted by a Menlo dog or two. You might hear the sound of a baby brought in by a parent that day. The space is bright, colorful and visual. Our most important artifacts are push-pinned to the wall, and draw the attention of our visitors. These artifacts include handcrafted posters with our most important cultural values, including a great Frank Zappa quote: ‘The computer can’t tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what’s missing is the eyebrows.’ They also see our famous work authorization boards which outline the daily and weekly project work of our team. The projects are described on handwritten index cards and their status is reported with colorful sticky dots, using strings of yarn to mark the current day in each plan so we instantly know whether we are ahead or behind without having to ask.

Q: As a leader of a growing and dynamic business, how do you personally monitor the health of the culture?

I sit out in the room with everyone else. There is no corner office for me. While, as CEO, I will always get a skewed view of the culture, this presence knocks down a lot of the barriers. Many executives will declare that they have an open-door policy. I can’t do that. I don’t have a door.

Q: What final wisdom or advice would you share with a leader that wants to create healthier culture in their own business?

Know that change begins with you. You have to become the example to lead a dramatic change. I was taught to be a different kind of leader early in my career. I had to unlearn some things and re-learn others. Ultimately, I found that if I could learn how to bring my authentic self to work and share my joy in the present and my hope for the future, I could set the stage for a very positive and intentional culture. This kind of leadership requires the ability to envision a bright future and to pay attention to the minute details of running the business today.

My other broad advice is to stay in learner mode, and one of the best ways to do that is to read. Culture is not a program or an initiative that is separate from our daily work. Culture is the way we work.


Thank you, Rich, for sharing your wisdom and experience around your journey building a powerful culture at Menlo.

There are several ways to learn more about Menlo: