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
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:

My 7 Favorite Books for a Leadership Book Study

My 7 Favorite Books for a Leadership Book Study

Book study groups are an easy way to get leaders at all levels of your organization connecting and learning together.

One of my core beliefs is Learning + Doing = Growth, so I’ve also offered some tips on how to put this learning into action.

Here are my top 7 book recommendations, plus book study tips.

3 Tips for Getting Your People to Own Their Development

3 Tips for Getting Your People to Own Their Development

It is a choice . . . to buy into the fear and the system or to chart your own path and create value as you do.  It’s your job to figure out how to chart the path, because charting the path is the point.  ~ Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indespensible?

 

The most important part of my development plan template is the last page.  It is where the individual signs it and commits to scheduling the next update meeting with their leader. That is ownership and I ask people to sign it before I end our session.

The key to getting to this point is to only start the process if the individual is ready and willing to own the process and excited about doing the work. This is not about tricking a person or trying to get into their head and guess their motivations, it is simply about providing them an opportunity to show they are ready and willing to own it.  Here are 3 ways I use to test that:

  1. Ask them to read a book before we start (the two I like are Linchpin by Seth Godin and Do The Work by Steven Pressfield).  The books are important, but more important is their capacity to create time to learn for themselves and demonstrate they can follow-thru. This demonstrates ownership.
  2. Gather 360 performance feedback and present it back to them.  Do they listen and graciously accept the gift of feedback and work through it to the point where they start making changes based on it or do they make excuses why it is not accurate? This demonstrates the ability to own their own strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Ask them to email me to setup a meeting and/or invite them to a learning event. Showing up sounds like a low threshold to demonstrate ownership – but you would be surprised how effective this is.

Seem simple? It actually is, because any one of these give you an idea that they are ready.  The ability to fill out the development plan and spend time quarterly to reflect and update it will be the ultimate test.

Remember, not showing ownership does not mean someone is a bad person or an underperformer, it just means at this point in their life they don’t have the capacity to own it.  I remember one time I took on a stretch assignment of design and delivery of some learning for a group of senior leaders at a Fortune 100 company where I worked.  It was challenging, stressful, and happened during the third trimester of our fourth child. I realized that it was too much when I saw myself spending too much time working and no time feeling the baby move and helping with the other 3 kids so my wife could rest a little. I finally asked for help and handed off the duties because it was too much at that time in my life.  I could support the work, I just did not have the capacity to lead it.

Mastery is a journey, and it is a choice. Help people understand the choice, invite them to own it, and then provide an opportunity to show ownership.

 

Powerful Questions

Powerful Questions

Great conversations start with a question.  This is one of my core beliefs.

I spent four days this past month delivering a customized leadership development program to twenty-five leaders – in their final checkout one-third of the leaders shared a commitment to asking more powerful questions.  As leaders, they realized they had limits to what they could accomplish without help.  After being challenged to get their teams more aligned and engaged in the goals for their group, it became clear that asking questions is a critical first step.  It was great to see them own it.

The difference between a question and a powerful question is in what it produces.  Powerful questions produce thinking, feeling, and ultimately sharing that makes the conversation meaningful and helpful to both people who are engaged in it.  Powerful questions reframe our perspective on an event so we see it in a more significant way.  Here are some examples:

  • Question: How was your day?  Powerful question:  What was the best part of your day?
  • Question:  What are you working on right now?   Powerful question:  What are your top 2 priorities to complete this week?
  • Question:  How would you like to spend our time today?    Powerful question:  What 2 things do you want to make sure we cover today?
  • Question:  What did you think of the book?   Powerful question:  What is one thing you plan to do differently based on what you read?
  • Question:  What went wrong?   Powerful question:  What was your role in the outcome?

To achieve mastery at asking powerful questions, it is important to create scripts that help ensure they get asked in the time you devote to your people.  Let’s face it, we get weary sometimes and when we do our conversations become shorter and shallower.  We miss opportunities to really listen as leaders, so scripting helps create more moments where powerful questions get asked.  Here are four that I put into my one-on-one template:

  1. Recent successes and failures (to celebrate)?
  2. What is energizing you right now?
  3. What is frustrating you right now?
  4. What do you want to make sure we cover in our time today?

What meeting do you have in the next 24 hours that needs some powerful questions to be asked?

Remember – Great conversations start with a question . . . . think of how much greater it could be if it started with a powerful question.

If you want to explore some other ways to work questions into your conversations with your people many of my templates have questions included. Here is the link to some free talent management templates.

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.

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.

How to win the Talent War – Part 3 – Be people-centered leader

At a key midpoint in my career I was in a job that was not stimulating and wondering what was next.  My manager at the time gave me space to say that and actively helped me get into classes and get a coach to help me find some answers.  He stated at the time that his goal was “what was best for me, even if it meant leaving the organization.”  I ended up going through a 12 month journey (as I continued to contribute in my current role) that resulted in me moving to another role within the organization that was a perfect fit for my talents and passions.  I stayed five more years in that organization and did some great work.   Ironically I stayed there longer than my manager did.  He was a people-centered leader.

How committed are you to the development of your people?  A people-centered leader is committed to aligning the unique abilities of their people with the work that has to get done for the organization.  Committed to a point where the person realizes their ideal role might be outside of their current organization.  Committed to moving beyond that point until the right match is found.

Yes, there are lots of reasons to draw boundaries around our support, but know that every boundary sends a clear message that “I am a people-centered leader, but . . . . “.  At the heart of the OBN leader is great intent, but actions that raise doubt in others.  (OBN is Ought But Not leader – a term from my book – People-Centered Performance)

What if you asked people at their annual performance review to share their career plans?  I guarantee that if you ask 5 people and they are honest – at least one has a role they are targeting that would take them outside your organization.  This will be the ultimate test of your capacity as a people-centered leader, and testing our capacity is the only way to build it.

Here is the other challenging (or liberating) part of this solution – you don’t have to ask anyone else’s permission or blame a company policy for getting in your way.

Listen . . . Lead.  Repeat often!

 

Extra: If you ask people for their career plans you will get some blank stares.  Here is a whitepaper that outlines my 5 Steps for managing your career and development.  This will get them started.

Post #300 – Two Things That Are Critical For Great Development Conversations

(quietly I am celebrating my 300th post.  Thanks to those who continue to include me in their leadership journey.)

I believe the cornerstones of improved performance are honest conversations that lead to thoughtful actions.

Two things to help prime these conversations for leaders and individuals who desire to continue the journey to mastery.

Key Thought #1:  When people are not successful in their roles because of poor performance, what are the reasons?

  1. Lack of knowledge – 6% of the time
  2. Lack of skill – 13% of the time
  3. Lake of motivation – 10% of the time
  4. Lack of a supporting situation (ie. resources and leadership) – 71% of the time

This is the main reason that the first reaction by a leader to poor performance should be to assume #4 and work first to meet their needs by addressing gaps in knowledge, skill, or resources.  Then it is on the individual to work to close the gap.  (See my Own It!  5 Tips for Managing Your Career and Performance whitepaper)

Key Thought #2:  A quote to remind us about the importance of our actions and/or behaviors.

To know and not do is to not yet know ~ Kurt Lewin

Remember, at the core of a great relationship is TRUST and TRUTH.  With those as the foundation, we can have honest conversations that lead to thoughtful actions and improved performance.  It is Monday, which is a good day to start.

Lead well . . . . . .

#peoplecentered #leadership – A Hashtag Does Not Make It So

Last month I was able to spend 90 minutes with a group of leaders from across the country to walk through my book and help them to experience the content.  I did this through polling them and equipping them with two tools they could take back and start using the next day.  I asked them the following questions:

  • How effective are your business leaders in building strong relationships with new people during the on-boarding process?
  • In your organization – What do you see most often from your leaders – Love or Fear?
  • What part of the RESISTANCE does your leader manage MOST effectively?
  • What part of the RESISTANCE does your leader manage LEAST effectively?
  • How would I score my EGO? (1=not enough, 5=just enough, 10=too much)
  • How often are performance conversations (1 on 1) happening in your organization?

A few observations from me:

  • It is nice to see more LOVE than FEAR in the workplace.  I still wonder what those were experiencing that answered 4.  I am thinking there is still too much FEAR.
  • The one part of OBN leadership that is being managed most effectively is They think they are . . .   Self-awareness is so important in leadership, and being able to actively manage it is critical.  I am glad to see that is #1.
  • Stress induced tunnel vision is being managed least effectively.  Hmmm . . . . .
  • How would I score my ego?  Way too many 10’s!
  • Leaders are not being effective often enough at building strong relationships with new people.  This concerns me, unless I am recruiting and trying to steal talent from someone else, then I am glad because people are making it easy.

Here are the results – so take a look.

If you are looking for a speaker let me know.  My favorite score is the 81% engagement of the people that were there.