Are you a BUT or AND leader?

A coach and mentor taught me the lesson of substituting the word AND for BUT in my statements.

BUT . . .

  • sends the message that the important part of the message is coming.
  • begins the process of rebuilding a thought or action plan.
  • says start listening.
  • is an accountability word.

AND . . .

  • recognizes progress and paints a picture of a preferred future.
  • begins the process of building upon a thought or action plan.
  • says keep listening
  • is an accountability and problem solving word.

Assignment:  Listen to how you and those around you use BUT / AND today.  What do you notice?

I would welcome a few posts of BUT or AND sentences that you hear.

Universal truths: Leadership, Parenting . . . and conflict

I recently reviewed a book on these pages by David C. Baker, and in my interview with him he talked about parenting being a place where leaders can learn.  He related it to his own experience where the things unsaid often consumed more energy than the things that were said.  Reminding us, as leaders, parents, wives, husbands, and friends – we need to find ways to share the truths as we see them.

I was reminded how being a parent or leader is so similar, and the things we learn to be effective at both roles are the same.  It hit home for me when I want to a parenting seminar from celebratecalm.com and Kirk Martin talk about dealing with teen children.  First he described the boiling over of emotions that often happens in tense situations,  and for me and several friends it was a familiar reaction.  Then he talked about a more effective way to acknowledge what was happening, step back (find another place), and then address it.  He even talked about using the simple action of sitting to help put ourselves in a physical position to effectively deal with conflict.  It was obvious how these skills, used consistently, would alter the conversation and help create a more positive outcome on many levels.

It is important to recognize the roles we play in life (parent, leader, teammate, spouse, friend), our priorities for those roles, and the actions that need to accompany our commitments in these roles.  Too often we think we have to shift gears to play those roles, when in reality many of the skills that make us a good leader will make us a good parent, a good neighbor, or a good friend. 

And if we are an overbearing/directive leader – well maybe that is why teenagers were created. 🙂

Leadership: The Power (And Trap) Of Non-Verbals

We have been studying nonverbal communications in class and it is interesting how you can tell what people are thinking by their actions – especially when they are inconsistent with their words.  Is it important for leaders to know this?

I received this note from a leader who also loves to learn.  It reminded me of a couple of things:

  1. 60-70% of our communication is non-verbal 
  2. Great communicators have mastered non-verbal cues
  3. Stress behaviors for leaders (according the the Birkman Method) often shows up as us sending the wrong nonverbal signals

My big concern about teaching leaders how to read non-verbal signs is that we fail to teach them the skills needed to use it to have a great conversation about how a person really feels.

It is a slippery slope if we start taking a nonverbal cue as their statement.  Imagine the power of a leader saying “I heard you say you supported the decision, but I sense that support is not 100%.  What % would most accurately gauge your support? . . . . “ 

Understanding non-verbals gives leaders/individuals a tool to know when to hit pause in a conversation and allow someone space to share what they are thinking/feeling. 

My admission (I am supposed to be skilled at this) – Today I read a nonverbal (watery eyes) cue and my interpretation was someone is done reviewing their Birkman results after a 90 minute discussion.  They had absorbed all they could in one sitting. When I shared that perception it turns out it was allergies, and that launched us into 15 minutes of great conversation.  I was wrong, and I am glad I found out before I unilaterally shut the conversation down.

Read them – yes.  But remember that it is a cue to keep talking / listening.

They asked: Performance management in small companies and Crucial Conversations

For my blog readers – the following is a post inspired by questions received from HR leaders that I will be talking with tomorrow as I share with them my talent scorecard presentation.  My pledge is that I will answer questions they have, and these were submitted as part of a survey I asked them to take.  It is in the vein of what I normally talk about, but exceeds my personal 200-300 word limit that I try and stick to because I want our conversation to fit into your busy schedule. 🙂

Question:  How do you create an employee development program specific to the needs of each employee?

I found out an interesting fact several months ago – 99.9% of organizations in the United States have less than 500 employees.   These organizations employ about half of the people in our economy.  This feeds into this question because the traditional answer to the question from training and development is to:  1) Develop job descriptions  2) Define competencies/measures for each role  3) Perform a gap analysis  4) Create a plan based on gaps  5) Revisit yearly with a performance evaluation.  Most organizations do not have the time, HR expertise, and patience to do all of these things.   Two things that are critical in developing people:  1) A trusting relationship between leader and follower  2)  A conversation around what they need (both company and individual) that is captured in a plan   2.5)  A follower ready to own the plan and a leader committed to supporting it.  Here is a link to the development plan and other templates I provide that will drive the right conversations and capture key information in a written form that can be managed.    fyi – it is that simple, but not necessarily easy.  I can blog on that at another time if you would like – just ask.  ANY size organization can put development plans in place for their people, and it is the key to helping people develop.

It states in Crucial Conversations that “one study of 500 stunningly productive organizations revealed that peak performance had absolutely nothing to do with forms, procedures, and policies that drive performance management.”  From my experience, I agree.  Please discuss how the process you are presenting makes a true difference in peak performance, including the aspects of the process which are most crucial to success. 

The reference to Crucial Conversations is a series of two books published by and sold by a consulting group called Vital Smarts.  My belief system on performance was actually born out of a conversation I had with one of their partners and a co-author from another book they published, Influencer.  I spent a couple of days with David Maxfield listening to him teach and working with him on a rollout plan.  Let me say the guy is brilliant, experienced, and their focus on helping organization/leaders become great at having difficult conversations is world class.  But in one conversation I asked “Do you assume that organizations you are trying to help already have a culture in place where regular one on one discussions are already happening, because it seems that is the key place where it would be easiest to practice what you are teaching.”  His answer was “Yes’.  What I knew based on my conversations with leaders in this growing organization was the one on one habit was not firmly in place.  As a result, the implementation of this key leadership skill was spotty at best.  I agree that conflict management is a critical leadership skill to enable great performance, but  I base performance/talent management on the relationship first, and then the other pieces/habits build off that.  I also agree that it is not policy, procedures first – – but I also know from experience that in order to Build Rhythm there has to be some structure in place.

I love talking to groups and want to make the conversation longer than an hour long keynote.  Feel free to comment or ask follow-up questions.  I welcome them.

My Top Shelf – Books that I love

Everyone should have a top shelf – the one you share with people at work when they ask for a reading recommendation.  A few caveats on my list:

  1. I generally only recommend books <200 pages, with a few exceptions.  (I favor authors who have mastered clarity, passion, and brevity)
  2. These are around business and/or personal development books.
  3. I will explain any selection, but not apologize or argue about it.  It is my shelf – so build your own if you disagree. 🙂
  4. I do not loan these out, but will often buy people a copy.  They are marked up and I would hate to lose them.

It has expanded over the years, but my general rule is that the number has to be limited.  Now to add one I have to take one off.  I had a shelf with about 8 books for many years, then I got a bigger shelf. 

Here is my top shelf:

(they are in no particular order – but left to right in the picture)

  1. The Mindful Coach – Doug Silsbee
  2. Co-Active Coaching – Whitworth/Kimsey-House, Sandahl
  3. Sway – Ori/Ram Brafman
  4. Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
  5. All Things New, A Fable of Renewal – Rodger Price
  6. Confessions of a Public Speaker – Scott Berkun
  7. Good to Great – Jim Collins
  8. First, Break all the Rules – Marcus Buckingham/Curt Coffman
  9. Fierce Conversations – Susan Scott
  10. Linchpin – Seth Godin
  11. Strengthsfinder 2.0 – Tom Rath
  12. How Full is Your Bucket – Tom Rath/Don Clifton
  13. Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – Verne Harnish
  14. Drive – Daniel Pink
  15. One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard/Spencer Johnson
  16. For Men Only – Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn
  17. Mastery – George Leonard
  18. Let Your Life Speak – Parker Palmer
  19. Rework – Jason Fried/David Heinemeier Hansson
  20. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
  21. Death By Meeting – Patrick Lencioni
  22. The Will of God As A Way of Life – Gerald Sittser
  23. Season of Life – Jeffrey Marx
  24. The Servant – James Hunter
  25. Who Moved My Cheese – Spencer Johnson
  26. Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer
  27. HalfTime – Bob Buford
  28. Tribes – Seth Godin
  29. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
  30. Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach
  31. Do the Work – Steve Pressfield

Some are great books, and some have achieved significance for other reasons.  In the end, I will recommend other books on occassion, but I love these selections.  In addition, I also have 2-3 Harvard Business Review articles I love for people not having time to read.

Looking for a good question to ask your new leader?  What two books stand out in your mind as great?  (might be a good idea to read them – it will often explain how they think and what they value)

Submit a question to this posting if you want a more detailed explanation on any of these selections.

A trap: Over Leading and Under Caring

I have seen several recent posts about leadership vs management.  Here is a link to one from Seth Godin .  They made me think.  First let me say that when I see this topic come up I roll my eyes, because most discussions seem to elevate the importance of leadership and the confining nature of management.   Here is my take . . .

It is important to be a leader.  Vision has to be cast, the rallying cry needs to be heard, and the organization needs to see relentless energy towards the goal.  But, the relationships that make your team really go are built when you manage.  Managing is about connecting to people one on one, knowing their struggles, understanding their needs, and being familiar with their lives(distractions/support) outside work.  One piece of evidence I point to is something a peer shared with me about executive onboarding.   Her business is built 100% around helping executives make successful transitions.  Part is to highlight/fix communication issues and help navigate the complexities of organizations.  But part is to just bring some of the ‘other’ things into the discussion like:   What is my true job description? and How prepared is my family for this change?.

We need to be careful about outsourcing managing.  Is it wise to spend $xx,xxx on a successful transition of a $xxx,xxx executive?  An ROI can be easily proven based on the leader’s impact on the income statement and the balance sheet. 

The hidden benefit of spending a little time as a manager/CEO gives you a glimpse into the person, not the leader.  This is where the relationships are built.

I think back to a ‘relationship/leadership’ session I lead one time with a CEO and leadership group.  The day after that session the CEO quietly asked the HR team to assemble a list of  family members for all the people on the team.  I celebrated the request, but was reminded that some of these people had worked for him for 3+ years.

My advice for leaders – Don’t forget to manage a little.

Post tomorrow – 3 Habits That Will Help Leaders Manage Well

Great Teams are Like Great Family Vacations

I just returned from a two week family vacation spanning 3940 miles and 9 states – all in a car.  It was great! . . but not all the time.  Somewhere in the drive across one of our beautiful, but LONG western states it hit me what a great family/team I was traveling with.  It also hit me that successful family vacations and successful teams have lots of similarities.  Here are a few: 

  1. Commitment to make the best of it – When the car starts it has begun and no amount of complaining changes it.  Great teams and families disagree.  Debate, complain, argue, maybe scream . . but when the car starts, it is time to make it work. 
  2. Something for everyone – Asking the question in the beginning What would you like to do? changes the journey.  When people get to do certain activities they want to do, it makes non-grumbling participation easier for other have to do activities. (for our kids have to do = museums)  This also helps with #1.
  3. Find tasks that fit talents – Everyone has something to contribute.  Older kids carry more.  Planners do research and put shopping lists together.  Everyone helps pack and unpack.  The youngest makes people laugh.  Everyone having a role ensures everyone is working together.
  4. Accept imperfection – Even the greatest leader will have an If I have to stop this car! moment.  Don’t let it define the event.  Followers acknowledge it and leaders apologize for it.  Both work to get beyond it.
  5. Create quiet time for engagement – Emails, texting, and all the other distractions are ways to escape.  Turn things off and focus on being together.  It changes things for the better.

There are probably a few more, but every like every vacation – every blog must have an end.

Want to practice leading a team this summer.  How about leading a vacation differently.

How do you motivate others to do more? #followership

For my regular readers of my blog – this is a longer than usual entry.  Here is why . . . . . . .

I taught my class on Leadership / Followership (Building Organizational Performance Through Teamwork and Understanding) at the Holland Chamber of Commerce on Thursday (May 19th) and pledged to the participants that I would blog answers to any questions they had that could not be answered in class.   Here is the question and my answer – for clarification make a comment and we will continue the discussion . . . .

Question:  How do you motivate a follower to move up to the next level(s) without influencing, or dragging down, the others on the team?  Example:  A Minimizer to a Doer?

Answer:  This is a big question, so I will focus on the toughest situation, which is working with a Minimizer to move to a Doer.  (Here is a link to a post where I define my 5 Levels of Followership)

First question:  Start by asking yourself if this person has demonstrated a positive attitude and commitment to the organization.  Is it someone you want to have around?  If the anser is “No” or Not really”, then follow whatever process you have, but make plans to move the employee out of your organization.  Minimizers take energy that could be given to other, more valuable people in your organization.  If the answer is yes I want to keep them read on.

Part 1:  Understand the Situation (especially your role)

My first thought is to recognize the role of the leader in this situation.  The basic information that people need about their role is: (these are from the Gallup Q12 that are explained in the book First, Break All The Rules)

  1. Clear understanding of their job duties and measures of success.
  2. The tools (skills, training, support) to do the job well.
  3. An opportunity to do what they do best every day.

The first question is one that you define for them, and it would be a good exercise for you to write down the 5 or 6 key things you expect them to do in their role.  Question 2 is one you should address together based on your knowledge of what specific things they need to know and their knowledge of what they need (or might be uncomfortable with).

The challenge you will have is in the conversation to get this information on the table and have a great discussion about it.  As a leader, your key role is to get this information on the table in such a way that it can be dealt with and decisions can be made.

Part 2 – The Traps

The second issue is around the harsh realities of these situations.  In your question you mention wanting to avoid dragging the team down.  Here are three things to think about:

  1. If there is a Minimizer on the team everyone knows it and are probably waiting for you to deal with it.  Your inaction is having a negative impact on the Trust they have in you as a leader.
  2. The Minimizer probably does not know they are thought of that way.  I know leaders always struggle with this, but after being pulled into dozens of situations like this, I can safely say that at least 90% of people being fired or getting talked with about their lack of performance are surprised when it happens.
  3. Ask yourself the questions Am I ready to let them go if their performance does not improve and Am I willing to put in some hard work for the next 60-90 days to help them be successful?  These are the two questions I ask in choosing to help save someone.  If either question is NO then it is a situation that cannot be fixed so live with it.  If it is a relative (as happens with small businesses) – Maybe pay the person to stay home and get on with work.  This sounds crazy, but if they are taking energy from you and making mistakes that are costing the organization dollars it is too expensive to have them around.

Part 3 – A solution:

1.  Meet to get the issue on the table.  The key to this conversation is to make your observations known about their performance.  When sharing your feedback, focus on the situation and not the person.  When sharing the performance use the format “Here is the behavior I see, Here is the impact, and here is how it makes me feel.  Any conflict management book uses this as the basic outline.  Here is an example of how this might sound in a sentence.

Joe, you have worked here a long time and I have appreciated your dedication to this organization.  I have observed a few things recently in your performance that I want to talk about.  Last Tuesday a customer called with a problem and I heard you say “That is the only answer I have so if you do not like it, tough.”  The outcome of that discussion is the customer has taken all of their business to a competitor.  I am feeling frustrated because we worked hard to land that customer and keeping customers happy is critical to the future success of the business. 

A great resource to explore this discussion is Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.

They have two things to do in step 1 before things move on:  1) Take ownership for the performance issues you point out   2)  Express and demonstrate the desire to make the changes necessary to be successful.  If these both do not happen (give them 24 hrs to think about it if necessary) then there is no sense keeping them.

A key piece for you in this conversation is to be open to their feedback on things you could be doing differently that would help them be successful.  Maybe they need weekly check-ins or you have not been really prompt about returning calls.  It could also be that they are in the wrong role.  Be willing to listen and consider things they bring up.

2.  Create a plan for their success that includes:  1) Short term(1-4 weeks) and long term (3-6 month) goals   2)  Area of focus to improve their performance – Build Trust, Build Focus, Build Confidence, Build Rhythm  3)  Needs they express (in areas of Support and Personal Development)

This is not an area where there is a set recipe.  The key is to ask yourself the critical question up front (do you want to keep them) and then get the truth(of their performance) on the table and Build Trust by demonstrating that you want them to be successful. 

Here is a link to a trU Tips  and a video on the topic of dealing with low performers that might also be helpful.

Great question – thanks for asking.

Leave the Squirrels Alone – Put Energy Where It Matters

Today at breakfast I watched the squirrels eat at my bird feeder.  Remember – I called it a bird feeder.  I grew up watching my Dad chase the squirrels away with every trap and method imaginable, so to this point in my life I saw the squirrel as an enemy.  Then I realized that 25 lbs of sunflower seeds was less than $10 . . . and that squirrels are just hungry.  Suddenly, the reason I had started this battle in the first place was fuzzy.  The only thing I could come up with was it was a matter of principle because I wanted to feed the birds.  So I decided to feed the squirrels and turn my energy to other things.

Seth Godin calls the part of our brain that takes over when we feel threatened the lizard brain.  More specifically, it is the amygdala or inner brain, and when it takes over the thought and reasoning parts are idled and fight/flight thinking dominates.  The resulting behaviors have been researched and identified by the Birkman Method as stress behaviors, and they are not normal or productive.  They happen when the lizard brain is in charge.

So what are the ‘squirrels’ you are battling?  In the business world I have seen operations square off with sales, engineering with design, quality with suppliers, finance with sales, and purchasing with just about everyone.  There are lots of battles going on, and in many the lizard brain is in charge.  Getting out of the lizard brain is one of those things that is simple, but difficult. Here are five steps to taking the control away:

  1. Step back and see the behaviors (yours and others) as lizard brain thinking.
  2. Ask the questions:  What is our common goal here?  What is the solution we are each offering?  Why are we so passionate about our solution?  (keep asking Why? until you get to the basic answer)
  3. Listen well and write the answers so everyone can see.
  4. Ask:  What solution best fits our common goal?
  5. Make a decision – and move on.

A grown man, in his pajamas, sneaking through the snow with a club to attack a squirrel is an image that reflects some lizard brain thinking.  What is a good image of your lizard brain taking over?  Identify it, remember it, and take the power away from it when it happens.