Why do your 3-year old and 18-year old drive you crazy? A graph to make you laugh and think . . .

Why do your 3-year old and 18-year old drive you crazy? A graph to make you laugh and think . . .

I am beginning a series on powerful questions, starting with my trUTips coming out tomorrow. (sign-up for the mailing list here)

It’s based on a study that shows how children change the tools they use to learn over time. (fyi – 4-year old girls ask 390 questions a day!)

Here is the rub – what are we doing as parents and leaders to drive the behavior that is driving us nuts? As a parent, uncle, and friend, here is what I see myself doing: I don’t listen consistently.

Two summers ago, I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg with my then-18-year old daughter. We ended our reading group by going to lunch to discuss our reactions to the book. At the end of our conversation, I asked the simple question, “What is the one thing you need me to know as a father of an 18-year old woman?” She did not even pause with the answer, “Dad, when I state my opinion on something, just listen to me.” The message was clear. While my ongoing performance is a different matter, I did hear and I am trying.

Many times, key parenting skills are also key leadership skills. When we develop them in one role we find ourselves being more effective in the other.

Listen . . . Lead (including parenting). Repeat often!

Extra tip: Entrepreneurial Operating System® leaders – if you are not doing 5-5-5™, can you see where listening is built into this template?

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:

Why learning TOGETHER is best – the data!

Why learning TOGETHER is best – the data!

I recently shared My 7 Favorite Books for a Leadership Book Study Group – and something great happened. A conversation started with a leader who wanted to help me (and you) get smarter faster.
An organization called the NTL Institute published their findings on the average retention rate of different teaching methods.
Here is the data:
  • Lecture – 5%
  • Reading – 10%
  • Audio/Visual – 20%
  • Discussion Group – 50%
  • Practice by Doing – 75%
  • Teaching Others – 90%

In other words – you will only remember about 5% of what you learn by lecture, while a full 90% of information will be retained when you are teaching others!

Read my tips for making a book group a very effective learning method, and you will see the tie to discussion/practice/teaching that will move you quickly from 10% to 50%+.

Recently, a CEO I work with to deliver a learning program (Paul Doyle – Leaderwork) shared some information he read: the annual spend in the United States on leadership training is between $14 and $50 billion each year – and there are approximately 15 million people in leadership roles in the US. How many of you have been to programs that largely focus on reading and lecture? I have spent two decades in companies of various sizes/industries and my experience is that lecture/reading is the norm.

I know many of my readers are leaders looking for tips to develop themselves and their teams. Make it a goal in 2017 to push for more conversations, practice, and learning in groups – even if it means slowing down the process to practice and reflect.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

3 Reasons Career Discussions Don’t Happen; 2.5 Steps to Start

3 Reasons Career Discussions Don’t Happen; 2.5 Steps to Start

I sat down with a leader to talk about succession, and her biggest concern was the age of two key people and the timing of their retirement. When I asked if she had initiated a conversation about their career plans, her answer was, “My lawyer told me not to because they could sue me for age discrimination.” When I asked what their counsel has told them they could do, she answered, “He never told me that.” I was tempted to ask if they had only paid half the standard hourly rate for that conversation, but held back.

This is not a post about age issues, but a conversation around the barriers I see in leaders around career conversations. The reality is there are risks in these conversations because plan <> promise, and yet having these conversations will make you stand out as a leader and will engage your best people even more.

Reason 1: Don’t know where to start (Ignorance) – When I lay out my proven process to leaders, you can see the tension release. They realize how simple it is and come to see their role as more guide/partner than a leader.

Reason 2: Bad past experience (Scared) – The example I shared above is a great example of scared. The other situation is a bad past experience with career plans because they were laid off in 2007-2009 and still see ‘keeping my job’ as a career goal. They are afraid to say it or assume that is what the answer is. One reason I start my own process with capturing strengths and successes is to energize people.

Reason 3: Too much other work (No time) – I received this from a leader, and when I asked, “How much of your time do you think this will take?” they started a list: meetings, having to fill out a bunch of forms, constantly monitor progress, schedule future meetings, and generally do lots of extra work. When I shared with them my process and their role of being present, asking questions, and giving the ownership to the individual, they were pleasantly surprised and this barrier disappeared. It is work, and the work is largely on the individual if it done correctly. Time is a concern, but it should not be a barrier.

In 2015, I wrote Own It! 5 Tips for Managing Your Career and Performance. This stemmed from my experiences helping leaders become more people-centered, in which I noticed them struggling with some of the basic performance conversations with their people. Own It! was written to be handed to someone so they saw their role and each tip becomes a step in the conversation between leader and team member.

Step 1: Ask if it would be of value? If they say yes, hand them Own It! and Peter Drucker’s Managing Oneself (Harvard Business Review) to read. If they say no, and you are okay that they have no plan, then focus your efforts on other people on your team.

Step 2: Have them pick the questions around long-term or short-term goals (p. 4 of Own It!). Make the first meeting about reviewing their answers. Ask questions to better understand their answers, and provide them with input on how those fit into some of the challenges you face as a leader and organization.

Step 2.5: Write down their answers and any goals/actions set because of the conversation; set a date to review them in 6-12 months. (Here is a template if you need one.) Around 80% of the time there will be some tangible things the individual can do, either start exploring their plan through gathering more information or actually doing work or start learning around a role they aspire to do.

One of my favorite quotes to frame this whole effort is:

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song ~ Maya Angelou

 

How would it change your own journey if you saw your career plans as a song you wanted to sing instead of an answer you were trying to find/provide?

Go Own It!

My top blog posts on this topic:

 

The ONE question leaders should answer hourly

The ONE question leaders should answer hourly

In the next week, I’ll be publishing a list of 5 books I recommend for leadership book clubs. A new addition is my favorite book this year: Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith. Here is why.

I believe that great conversations start with a question. Marshall Goldsmith asks some great questions in his book Triggers.

Some of the best:

  1. What is the most memorable change you have made in your adult life?
  2. Did I do my best to set clear goals?
  3. Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals?
  4. Did I do my best to find meaning in my work?
  5. Did I do my best to be happy?
  6. Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
  7. Did I do my best to be fully engaged?
  8. Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic? (called AIWATT for the rest of this post)

There are many reasons I love this book, and the main one is the author’s sharing of powerful questions that he has accumulated in his career as an executive coach. This post will focus on the significance of question #8, and how you can use it as a leader.

In a recent EOS quarterly, a leader shared a learning – “When we set goals, we need to make sure we set them so we can be excited about them and use that energy to complete them.” That is a powerful learning, and something that every leader needs to be thinking about when they accept a To Do or a Rock (quarterly goal). The AIWATT question is the action to ensure this happens.

Remember my 5 Tips for Managing Your Career and Performance? The first tip is Own It, and it is my way of saying what Goldsmith does by posing this question to us. If you answer No to AIWATT, then some other conversations need to happen.

This brings me to a second belief I have – Leadership is about honest conversations that lead to thoughtful actions and improved performance. One of the powerful outcomes for me from Triggers is that, as a coach, I need to always be focusing on creating space that allows honesty to happen, because that is the hard part. In my experience, thoughtful action is the easier part.

Two myths that leaders need to remember:

  • We need to love 100% of our work. There is an eastern adage: Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.  After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. Here is an example: I don’t like confronting people I don’t know. However, as president of an all-volunteer athletic booster organization, one of my roles is to call volunteers who have made commitments and are not doing the work. It is my job and the team depends on my doing it – so I do it because I have to, and make sure I overbalance it with other tasks I enjoy doing.
  • We have to do 100% of our work. Delegating pieces of our work to others who have more talent/passion for that work is fine. Just don’t always pass on the hard conversations, and tell them why you are asking for their help – because they are better at it/more passionate about it.

Let me propose two actions:

  1. For EOS leaders: Teach the AIWATT philosophy. As you go through the To Do list, ask people to answer the AIWATT question with the caveat that if the answer is No they acknowledge who they will ask for help – or that I will Own It (and use those words). *Note: Make a note for anyone answering the latter, and follow-up with them one-on-one to do some micro-supporting.
  2. For individuals: Put an AIWATT on two post-it notes and stick one to your computer screen and one to your phone for a week. Ask yourself that question continuously during meetings, when you answer emails, and when you do any morning/evening quiet time. After a week, do 5 minutes of personal reflection with the question, “How did AIWATT impact my leadership this week? Of myself? Of others?” If this reveals something for you that you need to bounce off someone, just call me and we can do a 15-minute coaching session: 616-405-1018.

I believe . . . great conversations start with a question.

 

Leadership is . . . having honest conversations that lead to thoughtful actions and improved performance.

 

Lead well . . .

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.

 

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

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

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

Here are a few examples I have experienced:

  • Hope in a major personal transition

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

  • Hope in developing your best people

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

  • Hope in leading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johari Window and Leadership Development – 4 Ways to Increase Self Awareness

Every time I share the Johari Window with a group of leaders, I am amazed at the impact it has on their view of the conversations they have with their team.

Then I think of the group of 24 leaders that I took through a four-day leadership development program last summer; at the end, 13 of those leaders committed to focus on asking more powerful questions. I need to stop being surprised because the leaders I meet want to be people-centered leaders, they just don’t know how.

I believe most leaders want to be people-centered leaders, and when given the tools and some feedback (to indicate their effectiveness in doing it) they opt to become more effective listeners. The Johari Window is a great lens for leaders to think about their interactions and for people to see what their leaders are trying to accomplish. At the core of an honest conversation is clarity around both the actions we are taking and the intentions of those actions, which is fertile ground for feedback and developing our self-awareness and ability to lead.

Here are the 4 tips I have added to help leaders see the key activities that develop their self-awareness:

  1. Experience – The best way to learn about leadership and work on how you balance telling, asking, and listening is to do it. If you are intentional about it, you will learn a lot about yourself, and your team will help you get better.
  2. Personality Inventories – These provide a great lens into your BLIND SPOTS and help you formalize how you talk about your own strengths and weaknesses. I focus on transition points, so I use the Birkman Method assessment because of the language it presents around needs and stress behaviors. This provides great feedback for things the leader can share (revealing the HIDDEN) and things they did not see (BLIND SPOT).
  3. 360 Feedback – Sometimes this is just asking people some key questions routinely or finding an outside resource to do a survey of key people. The whole intent is to bring things into the open, by confirming something the leader already thought was in the OPEN area, or revealing a BLIND SPOT.
  4. Coaching – This is the most common way for executive leaders to create an individualized development plan and work on the personal change necessary to make it happen. Coaches provide perspective, access to additional resources/learning, and ask the questions that allow for self-reflection, personal growth, and focused action.

Here is a handout that includes 4 additional introspective tips for moving things into the OPEN area.

Use the Johari Window as a lens to help you ask more powerful questions of yourself and your team. That is what is at the core of people-centered leadership.

If you want a deeper dive, here are two short videos (video 1 / video 2) that introduce the topic and give you tangible advice on what you can do now to be a more people-centered leader.

3 Questions to Shift Perspective on Performance Gaps

3 Questions to Shift Perspective on Performance Gaps

Too often we see performance gaps as things that should be hidden or apologized for. Our narrative around these events contains adjectives like poor or disappointing, which only makes us want to escape them more. Then you start trying to hide what you see as the truth, which too often results in a series of moves where your ego shows up too much or too little to others. It does not take a Psychology major to spot someone who is not comfortable in their work – we just have to listen to the story they are telling.

Then you find a person or place where gaps are accepted, and more energy is put into talking about them, learning from them, and working together to close them in your business and your personal life. At the Inc 5000 conference last week, I interacted with 5 start-up leaders, and while each story contained big challenges that worried them, it also contained things like pride, resourcefulness, teamwork, hope, and perseverance. They were not trying to cover anything; they were just sharing.

It never ceases to amaze me what energy comes from choosing a more hope-filled narrative. If you are a leader, you can shape this with the questions you ask.

Three I love are:

  • What is energizing you right now?
  • What is frustrating you right now?
  • What are you learning today?

People need a place to vent. We also need to create equal amounts of space to dream and reflect so we can learn and plan. We can use words like failure, and when they are used with words like learning and growth our story is fundamentally changed. People-centered leaders create this space and invite people in – and those that value that involvement #ownit.

To learn more about my philosophy on Performance Gaps – take a look at my new whitepaper.