The Importance of Clarity + 2 Tips for your Organization

The Importance of Clarity + 2 Tips for your Organization

I had a clarity issue in my recent trip to Italy to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We only spoke English and all the people we met only spoke Italian. In hindsight, the celebratory dance I did when we were able to get the grocery store owner to realize we were looking for eggs (fyi: uovo in Italian) would probably be embarrassing if it was released to YouTube.

It is impossible to have clarity if we speak different languages, and the irony is each day we go to work and find places where clarity issues exist between people who speak the SAME base language. Some examples:

  • Engineering talking to sales
  • Leadership reporting financials to everyone
  • Accounting communicating to anyone

We have all experienced it, and the irony is that it is always the other person’s fault. One of the reasons every leadership program has a piece on communication styles – using a tool like DiSC or BEST – is because we need a lens to see these moments differently so we can step back and ask, “What can I do to communicate more effectively?”

The place I encourage you to start is with your words. For leaders, I see a huge opportunity to standardize how you talk about the priorities in your business.

I use a methodology called EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) with my clients for strategic planning. It is very clear around setting terms for priorities and commitments we make:

  • To Do: less than 7 days to complete (single owner)
  • Rocks: less than 90 days to complete (single owner)
  • Goals: 1 year to complete (owner is leadership team, or whatever team commits to doing it)

Even with these terms defined, leaders still come back and talk about goals the team set for this quarter or tactics for 2017. It is a simple concept, and yet not that easy to do.

Here are two tips for creating clarity around your plan and priorities:

  1. Commit to the same language: I can help you start this with my ebook Demystifying Strategic Planning (free on Kindle). This simple step will have a huge impact on your ability to create clarity at all levels of your organization. Also, remember that things have to be communicated 7 times before they are retained – so the roll-out is a journey, and not just an email or single all-employee meeting.
  2. Write things down on a single page: The spoken word does not create clarity. The written word does not, by itself, create clarity. But writing it down will help drive a more productive clarity conversation so you will get there faster.

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

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 . . .


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!


The Ultimate Team-Building Tool + 3 Tips for Using it

The Ultimate Team-Building Tool + 3 Tips for Using it

A friend recently emailed a group of us asking for icebreaker ideas. The group responded with many of the standards: 2 truths and a lie, 5 things we all have in common, and a few other ideas. All effective at getting people laughing and talking – but none can be taken back and used when the new VP walks in or you pull a project team together.

I shared my Team Member Fact Sheet™ – over the past 5 years it has become the only tool I use. My experience with adults is that too many barriers exist in the workplace (or in our cul-de-sacs for that matter) which prevent equal sharing of ‘what you need to know about me’.

Here are three ways to use the Team Member Fact Sheet™ at one of your upcoming team gatherings or EOS® Quarterly Planning Sessions:

  1. Ask everyone to fill it out and go around and share 2 to 4 facts with each other, then hand out their sheet. As the leader, send out your completed sheet first.
  2. Give everyone a blank fact sheet and ask them to meet people and take turns asking each other questions from the sheet. Spend 2 minutes per conversation, then move on. Keep it to 2 questions. Debrief by going around and introducing their current partner and sharing 1 new fact they learned.
  3. Advanced: Fill it out for your teammates. Hand a Team Member Fact Sheet™ to each person on the team. They write their name on the top and pass the sheet to the right. Each team member has 60 seconds to fill in as much information as they can about that person, then it gets passed again. Debrief by having each person share answers to 2 questions the team did not complete and 1 correction (where the team answered wrong). I give each person a different colored pen so their answers are color-coded – and watch as people look around the room to try and figure out who answered based on ink color. Laughter is generated.

Brain research tells us that getting people talking about themselves has the same impact as feeding them or handing them money. 98% of us want to be people-centered leaders, and this is a step toward doing that.

The form is free, and if you want more tips just email me. I love to watch this sheet travel!

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

Hidden leadership secret? Showing Up

Hidden leadership secret? Showing Up

I spent a day with a group of leaders last week, and one of our topics in management was walking around. Each person was given an assignment to go do it daily for a week and journal about it. Only a third of the class did it, but those who did had some great stories of what they heard and observed.

The rest missed an opportunity. If you believe in people-centered leadership and the basic belief that people work harder when they feel cared for/listened to (and when they care about/listen to the people around them), then showing up is what you do – always. Do any of these statements reflect your commitment to show up?

  • You show up for potlucks or any event organized by your team around food
  • You show up at wakes and funerals
  • You send hand-written notes when there is a birth, death, or marriage
  • You walk around the office routinely, with the single goal to listen to and learn what your people are thinking about
  • You tell people what you are thinking about – both celebration and sorrows
  • You show up at the fundraisers your people care deeply for
  • You show up in the lunch room/break room and talk
  • You complete evaluations on-time
  • You show up for one-on-ones, or reschedule quickly

Showing up always starts as a physical presence. When it is done well, at some point it moves to a more emotional presence. This is where agape love kicks in. What is agape love? Read about it in People-Centered Performance.

I lost my father a couple of weeks ago after 90 years of life. As I thought about what I admired about him as a father, the top on the list was he showed up. Once I was challenged by a coach that showing up was not enough. I believe he was wrong, because when we show up consistently relationships are changed. When I look around at broken friendships, failed leaders, dysfunctional teams, and lonely people – it always seemed to start when someone stopped showing up.

I hope somebody writes the same thing about me someday. What about you?

Why don’t you try management by walking around for a week or so. Be part of the 33% that get it.

When you are ready – why don’t you try parenting by walking around and marriage by walking around?

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

The key to a long journey? Focus on the next town. (Thanks, Gary.)

Yesterday on my daily run with my golden-doodle, I ended up walking with a guy named Gary. We have passed each other on the trail for two years and never really spoken. Sometimes I realize it is time to walk and listen, and this was one of those moments.

As Gary told me about his journey across the 2000+ mile Appalachian Trail in 2008, I asked him this question (remember – great conversations start with a question):

“What is the trick to successfully completing the Appalachian Trail?”

Without much thought he answered,

“You just have to focus on the next town and not think about how far away Maine is.”

I thought of my EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System™) clients and how creating a vision for a company is critical, but establishing smaller goals and the disciplined execution of those goals is most critical.

Successful leaders learn to help their teams understand and stay focused on the next town. People-centered leaders invite their people into the process vs just sharing the goals.

Sometimes you just have to slow down and talk to the Gary’s you run into – they have a lot to share.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often.

What’s on people’s minds? Clicks and questions…

What’s on people’s minds? Clicks and questions…

We were moving into a new building, and created sessions with the CEO for all employees to learn about the move and ask questions. We told our CEO to go around and collect questions BEFORE answering any.

His agenda was architecture, timelines, space for growth, and decorations; their agenda was storage, kitchen areas, and noise/privacy. It was hard for him to not jump in with answers right away, but when each session ended he was excited about the time with his team and made better decisions around the change because of what he heard. The outcome was an amazingly effective move that provided the business with a momentum bump.

When we really listen…people tell us what’s on their mind. My #1 saying to new leaders is, “Mind reader is not in your job description. Focus on listening well, making leadership decisions based on what you hear, and repeat often.”

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

Clicks are like questions. At my monthly business review with my marketing lead, we reviewed what you clicked on the most in the last 28 days. Here is what your clicks told me:

  1. Rock Planning Sheet – EOS template
  2. 5 Key Outcomes – Individual Development Plan Conversation
  3. Talent Management Templates

Your clicks show me a high concern for defining the bigger work you and your people are doing so it can be managed. They also show a desire to manage the longer-term development of your people. Based on many other conversations, I know most of your organizations are doing the evaluations but have never completed the formal development planning with your people.

In two weeks, I will facilitate a day of learning with a group of leaders in a leadership development program I helped create (LeaderWork). Your clicks have given me some great material to share as I help leaders work on connecting strategy to actions for their teams. That is the way good listening works.

Do any of these topics make you want to click? How are you gathering questions from your team this week? If you look at all the questions you are hearing, what new questions get generated for you?

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

If you would like a different perspective on listening and leading, take a look at my JoHari Window video.

Documize: 1 Tip for creating and leading a safe environment for your team

Documize: 1 Tip for creating and leading a safe environment for your team


Last week, I was leading an EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) session and this word came out of my mouth. I did not know I did it. Within a minute, one of the leaders I was working with said “Scott, what is documize? You just said it.” As I paused, another leader spoke up and said he heard it too.

Have you ever said something stupid, or uttered words that in hindsight did not accurately represent what you really meant?

That’s exactly where I was. One of the desired outcomes of my work with teams is to help them become healthy and smart together, which requires a high degree of trust. Since I teach it, I challenge myself to model the things that are the big contributors to trust and safety.

So, I held back the urge to say “I did not say that . . ” or “Yeah, but . . . . ” and just smiled and thanked them for making me aware of that. I then made up a fictitious definition that conjoined ‘document’ and ‘systemize’, and asked the team for the intellectual property rights. Then we moved on to a productive day of learning and planning.

In a world where people are increasingly attacked for what they say, and less emphasis is put on conversations around “What did you mean?” or “Just clarify and apologize and move on….” – safety is a gift. This leadership team provided it for me, and I accepted it.

How safe is the environment in your leadership team? Creating it takes some diligence, but the open debate and unmeasured/unedited comments that people share could be the difference between a successful year and a cash or quality emergency that takes months to fix.

Documize – It is my constant reminder that I get to work in special, safe places. Are you creating such spaces with your actions?

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

Empathy 2.0: The power of leaders becoming students

Empathy 2.0: The power of leaders becoming students

I just ended a vacation where our four children were around a lot. One of my goals was to listen, and I also found myself reading one book they all recommended (Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff) and starting a second book recommended by my oldest daughter (Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam M. Grant). The reading focus was in-line with my listening strategy.  Let me explain . . .

Last month I published my 7 favorite books for a leadership book study. The last book was The CEO’s favorite book. I did that because picking someone else’s favorite books automatically puts you in a listening mode because they love it and `will want to talk about it. For leaders, when you hear someone talking about a book, especially one that is motivational or work related, it is your opportunity to listen.

Walking by the opportunity could be an indicator of what I call intellectual arrogance, which is simply defined as possessed intelligence to a level that blinds us from entertaining another truth.

Walking by the opportunity could also be an indicator of OBN leadership (defined in my book as the Ought, But Not leadership). I believe in the developing of my people, but when given the opportunity to join in their learning I chose not to. People-centered leaders see that an opportunity to listen and

Don’t walk by too many of these opportunities, whether you are leading at home or at work

When the student is ready the teacher will appear.

It is a powerful statement by a leader to become the student. Powerful things will happen in that space. Remember that I titled this post Empathy 2.0. People-centered leaders are committed to finding time to see the world through the eyes of their people.

As you think about development goals for 2017, what about adding Ask each person on my team to teach me something. Here is your goal for being taught:  Success is learning it and applying that learning successfully – and my teacher will judge ‘successfully’.

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often.

One practice for a Happy-er Holiday

One practice for a Happy-er Holiday

There will be lots of gathering happening over the next few weeks. Here is a bit of advice to make that time have more impact on the important relationships in your life.


It is one of those simple things that is hard to do. Here is an example I experienced in the last few months where listening helped me make a personal shift that will have an impact on the people that matter most to me.

My wife and children have all read a book call Love Does by Bob Goff. They quote him, laugh about the fact that he shares his phone number in the book, watch his Facebook broadcasts, and my son went so far as to successfully book him for a speaking event as part of a class project. I have never read his book. My reasoning was simple – I have read a lot of motivational/self-help books and my cornerstones are Parker Palmer – Let Your Life Speak and a few others that speak to me. The problem that hit me was this book spoke to THEM, and they are very special to me, and seeing the world through their eyes is harder the older I get. I am on page 183 and I will be done by Christmas Eve – and I love the book. I can’t wait to talk about the book with my family and to call Bob directly!

I caught myself in what I name with clients as “intellectual arrogance” – which translates into I know enough to not listen to you. It took me a year of resisting to realize this, and I am thankful I did.

When I am asked to sign my book, I do so with the simple line – Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

As we head off for the holidays I would like to leave you with the words I am going to try hard to live into over the holidays.  Listen . . . Love. Repeat often!

Many blessings to you, your teams, and your families.