Teambuilding 101 – Enter the Danger (and I don’t mean find a ropes course)

Teambuilding 101 – Enter the Danger (and I don’t mean find a ropes course)

It was one of the many moments of an EOS® session where a big question was in the room which everyone has a chance to answer. Today the questions were: What are the problems, obstacles, barriers, ideas, opportunities you see as you look around your business? What’s frustrating you?

The Ops leader broke the silence: “Our sales are struggling and it looks like we will be faced with layoffs this quarter unless something changes. And we don’t have a plan.”

A hard conversation ensued, and before our next break a tired leadership team looked at me. The Integrator spoke up with the observation, “We must be one of your most messed up clients.”

My response was easy. “We are right where we need to be in this conversation, and I know this team can get to some action plans after break. As for what I see when I look at you? I see a group of people becoming a leadership team.”

One of the things EOS® has taught me is to celebrate when the team goes into what we call entering the danger. It’s a place with risk to egos, relationships, and outcomes; it is also a place where groups become teams. This is where respect and trust are built, which are foundations for great teams and teamwork. Nobody loves to enter the danger, and yet healthy teams who want to leave with a meaningful plan go there sooner rather than later.

Some teams head to a ropes course or a team-building event, but actually there are danger zones to walk by or walk into every time they get together.

As you go through your next leadership team meeting, do you see your team going through the motions or entering the danger and emerging with action plans that the whole team is behind? If you want to work on this with your team in 2019, a good place to start is with Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable.

One final thought: stop calling it team building and always refer to it as TRUST building – because all leaders and leadership teams need more of that.

Lead well . .

Help is Not a 4 Letter Word

Help is Not a 4 Letter Word

How well do you ask for help? If we did a word association right now and I said the word help, what would be the first 5 words that come to mind?

I work a lot with leadership teams that are full of achievement minded, smart, goal oriented, and passionate leaders. One way I know the team is working is when I see one of those leaders openly admit they are stuck and ask for some time with the team to talk through the issue and help them get unstuck. I also watch for avoiding it, and if I see it I will make sure it gets named and talked about. It is when my job of helping teams have a productive conversation gets tough, and yet it is in these conversations that leaders are made and teams get healthy.

One of my 2018 summer reading list for leaders, I recommended Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. In this book, they share a model called the Ring Theory by Susan Silk. It is a graphic representation of the rolls of different groups around a situation that generates trauma. The use is pretty simple, those closest or most impacted by the trauma go in the middle, and each ring contains the names of individuals or groups impacted by the trauma. The farther you are from the middle, the less impact it has on you emotionally. In Sandberg’s situation with the death of her husband, she put her children in the middle, herself and his parents/siblings in the next ring, and then different groups after that. The tool is simple, create the ring and comfort in, dump out. Dumping is unloading the emotions the situations is causing and/or asking or accepting help from those that are in outer rings.

The Ring Theory by Susan Silk

The lesson for leaders, when you drive change or have to react to change the market exerts on your organization, it is often helpful to look at it through the lens of the Ring Theory because of the emotions that are generated.  Have you ever been in one of these conversations:

  1. Restructuring a team due to growth, resulting in dividing up teams and changing leaders around
  2. Firing a well liked person
  3. Firing someone you hired, maybe a friend
  4. Trying to support someone who is going through one of the big three life stressors – death, divorce, job loss

All these situations, some sort of loss is created for people that requires work and time to heal before people can return to a a more normal state of productivity and joy. I have watched many leaders go through a similar situation in leading change, where they are focused in (their team members or teams), and not asking for help or accepting help. The Ring Theory is a reminder that those resistant forces often require us to dump out be seeking or accepting support from others.

The trick is, support in only works when people ask for or accept help. Effective leaders do it, and the rest treat help like a four letter word and avoid it at all costs, even though their need is obvious to all.

So let’s adjust the question: Do you act like HELP is a four letter word?

Lead well!

 

 

Leadership Wisdom 101: The Power of 2 or 3 or 10 (Part 3 of 3)

Leadership Wisdom 101: The Power of 2 or 3 or 10 (Part 3 of 3)

This is the third part in a series I called Leadership Wisdom 101:
Part 1: Seeing the Bigger Picture in Leading
Part 2: Developing Your Capacity to Lead Change

I have stared at this post for almost a month now, with the confidence that I needed to write it, but lacking the clarity on what I was going to write. Then Sebastian Junger’s latest book, Tribe, dropped into my lap thanks to a summer reading list for my daughter’s AP Literature class. His exploration of the power of belonging was my weekend read (only 136 pages) and it helped crystallize what I needed to say on this topic.

I have always known the power of having friends, parents, and being part of a strong team. Here are some random – but powerful – statistics on the power of being in relationship with others and having a sense of belonging to something:

  • If you are a smoker and a loner, and your goal is to live longer, statistically you should keep smoking but invest time in developing a group of friends. (Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam)
  • Single men will die 8-17 years earlier than their married male friends. (NBCNews.com)
  • One of the key 12 questions from Gallup to measure employee engagement – I have a best friend at work.
  • During the bombing of London in World War II by the Germans, doctors in London saw a decrease in mental health issues such as depression and suicide.

The importance of being connected to others is well-documented as a benefit across all areas of our lives. Junger’s book even provides some startling statistics around societies where a strong sense of community and individuals being connected to that community impacts things like suicide rate, PTSD in soldiers, and mass/random shootings. I recommend giving it a read. (Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger)

So what does that mean for leaders?

  1. First of all, you will not be at your best if you have no safe place to go talk about things you are struggling with or if you lack friends/significant others in your life.  A leader’s first job is not to drive profit, but to take care of themselves so that when hard decisions/times hit you have a web of community around you to keep you fresh and resilient.
  2. Secondly, when new people come onto your team, be intentional about getting them connected to others faster. Assign a mentor to them for 6 months and have them go around to each teammate or key contact from another department with the single item of getting to know them. (Best practice is to use a personality tool like DiSC or Birkman Method to talk about how they will work together along with a Team Member Fact Sheet to share personal information.)
  3. Thirdly, find activities every month to bring people together around a meal or an activity to maintain and build that sense of team and trust. It can be as simple as pizza or a potluck. It could also be a half day working on a Habitat for Humanity build or another community project.
  4. Finally, use planning to focus a team on a single problem to solve or a goal to reach. One of the reasons I became an EOS Implementer™ was the power in creating a simple plan that everyone could contribute to and understand. Coupled with weekly and quarterly rhythms around planning, the team becomes a community vs just a group of people working together.

There is more power in 2 than 1. The feeling of connectedness is a powerful thing, for our individual health and the ability to have a healthy and resilient city/state/country. The evidence is there, and as leaders this needs to be a basic truth you believe in and stay focused on – in both the habits you create for yourself and the ones you create for your team. Remember, teams will watch you how live as much as they listen to what you say. When they see you having friendships with peer executives, carving out family time for yourself, and being active in your own community, your words will become more powerful.

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

(Another great book about the power of a healthy community to impact performance and change lives is Season of Life: a football star, a boy, a journey to manhood by Jeffrey Marx. I am adding this and Tribe to my 2018 Summer Reading List for leaders)

Golf, Ego and Leadership: 3 questions to get you out of the trap

Golf, Ego and Leadership: 3 questions to get you out of the trap

In my league this week I shot double my handicap, which in my case is an extra 10 strokes for nine holes. I was playing against a guy named Reese, who happened to shoot under his handicap, which was a 3 already. In real terms, he shot a 37 and I shot a 55. I lost.  More than losing though, is I lost a chance to learn. You see, part of my problem was the long grass that has grown since my last round. When I got in it, I never cleanly hit my ball out, and one time it took me 3 swings to move it 40 feet to regular grass. Reese got into the same grass and knew how to hit the ball cleanly towards the hole, and one shot traveled over 100 yards and landed within 10 feet of the hole.

My loss was not in the score, but in the anger and frustration that just made me swing harder. Ironically it was 12 hours after the round ended that it dawned on me – why didn’t I just ask Reese for some tips on how to hit out of that grass?  He and his father were both great golfers and nice guys, and I am sure he would have given me some pointers because I will be back in that stuff next week, guaranteed. 🙂 My EGO got in the way.

Has your EGO ever put you in a position where you just ‘swing harder’ or maybe just stopped participating?

In my book, People-Centered Performance, I call misaligned ego as the number one threat to people-centered leadership. Ego, by itself, is actually a necessary ingredient for leaders. Merriam-Webster defines ego as “the opinion that you have about yourself.” As a leader, it gives you confidence and helps you recover quickly from mistakes. Here is what I wrote about the conditions that make ego get negative:

Ego is most at risk when we are in the midst of disorienting change. When change is too much, too fast, our self-perception is challenged by the unfamiliar landscape. Anytime our ego is at odds with reality, we are vulnerable.

Back to my golf game, I wrote these words but did not live by them. You see, I am not a great golfer and if I am faced with changing conditions I will shoot a higher score until I figure out how to change how I play. Historically it is the next round. 🙂 My misaligned ego kept me from adjusting. It kept me from asking for help.

Where is your ego misaligned?

  • Is a peer offering input that you are dismissing because you have more experience?
  • Are you managing people that are experts in their work and you spend time getting in the minutia of their work vs aligning their efforts with bigger organizational goals and removing barriers they are encountering?
  • Are you working for someone younger or less experienced than you are and find yourself thinking ‘What an idiot’ or ‘Who are they to tell me what to do?’ everytime they open their mouth in a meeting?

As I look back on my coaching work over the last year I have seen this over and over. It can be an expensive leadership lesson if not corrected quickly – Your best people leave. Your bonus is lower. A promotion goes to someone else. You lose your job.

Tip: Spend a week looking for situations or people that trigger you into going into EGO overdrive. If you are not sure ask your spouse or close friend and they will tell you. Next time you find yourself in that situation or with that person, here are three questions to get out of the heather:

  1. What outcome is important here?
  2. Who can help me achieve this?
  3. Am I ready to ask for their help? (then ask)

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

Leadership Wisdom 101: Seeing the bigger picture in leading (Part 1 of 3)

Leadership Wisdom 101: Seeing the bigger picture in leading (Part 1 of 3)

We were meeting to review the launch of EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) with her team, when one comment stuck with me:

Scott, one of the things you did extremely effectively was to bring in analogies around leadership and planning that relate back to being a parent. We are all parents, and that helped us see how our experiences as parents are actually building blocks for us as leaders.

I was glad to hear that, because that is a core message of mine and she listened!

It is also a passion of mine to help people see themselves leading in all aspects of their lives. In my work with hundreds of leaders, too often I see them compartmentalizing their learning to one aspect of their lives, and missing the chance to apply it to all areas of their lives.

Another recent reinforcement of this was during a check-in with a leadership program I lead. When asked to share one way in which they applied a learning since the last time we met, a leader shared – with a significant amount of surprise and some timidness – that “the active listening learning actually helped me at home in some situations I was working through with my teenage daughter.” My response? Grateful! Grateful this person was strong enough to share a non-work and personal experience to remind us all that we lead in all aspects of our lives.

Do you see yourself leading in all aspects of your life? Here are three questions to help you reflect and learn from your own experiences:

  1. In what part of your life are you being most challenged to lead and it is not going well?
  2. In what part of your life is your ‘leading’ going well?
  3. How can you apply what you have learned in #2 to have more success in the area you defined in #1?

I face the same challenge everyday, too. One tool I have used to help me see my ‘whole life’ as my leadership canvas is the Wheel of Life exercise, which is a foundation for coaching. If you want to explore this, download it and follow the directions.

More to come on lessons I have learned in one area of my life and how they apply to leading in others. . .

Lead well!

Stress – is it bad?

Stress – is it bad?

Last month I shared my 5 favorite leadership TED talks. Today I want to add one:

How to make stress your friend ~ Kelly McGonigal

I work with leaders of growth-minded organizations, and one of the most important questions is, “Do you have time to do the accountabilities of the job/jobs you signed up for?” It is a core part of the EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) process. It is during this conversation where the leaders who feel overwhelmed say it, and it is over the next six months of working together that I can tell how they are handling it. Stressed people can still be happy and productive, and yet some get so buried in it that rocks don’t get done and they start to withdraw from the work of the leadership team. This video puts some perspective on it, and it is really a life or death situation.

My favorite part of the video is the last six minutes, where we see the impact of reaching out to others to help you with stress or reaching out to friends that you know are under stress. One big aha: Caring for others creates resilience.

Stress is not bad in itself. What is harmful is how we process it. When we process it by connecting with others, it actually makes us stronger.

Lead well!

Leaders: What their questions will tell you

Leaders: What their questions will tell you

Recently I was invited in to lead an EOS® review session with a group of next level leaders. I believe great conversations start with a question, so every session I lead starts with, “What questions do you want answered today?”

When I asked this group of leaders, here is what they shared. As you read these questions, what themes do you see and what gaps would they reveal if this were your organization?

  1. Data/Scorecards/Measurables/Issues: How do you make things more visible and knock them out forever?
  2. What is the biggest hurdle when companies go to EOS®?
  3. Agile is a software design approach of cross-functional teams. How does EOS® fit into this?
  4. Does EOS® work for all companies/organizations?
  5. What happens when Rocks are not hit?
  6. How did EOS® come about? Why did we decide to use it?
  7. When did our organization start using EOS®?
  8. How challenging should Rocks be?
  9. How many companies have implemented EOS®?
  10. Accountability: Is it dependent on my manager?

As I listened, a few things hit me about this group:

  1. There was a gap in teaching around Rocks and people were still a little uncertain about them. (#5, #8)
  2. When helping adults learn, it is important to connect new concepts/words with something they are already familiar with. This should be part of onboarding, and I wondered if that was happening well? (#1, #3, #10)
  3. It is easy to forget to talk about the ‘Why?’ when teaching and spend too much time focused on the ‘What?’ and ‘How?’. Someone on the leadership team needs to be a storyteller, and in this case not enough time had been spent talking about the journey. (#6, #7)

Empathy is not a talent that all people have, and trying to become an expert in reading behaviors or all the subtle hints that get passed along in conversation is something most of us will fail to master. We can all ask questions, and if we couple that with creating a space where we can listen to the answers, it becomes easier to understand the needs, wants, and barriers of the person sitting across from us.

That is the main belief behind my people-centered leadership motto: Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!


Here are some valuable tips on listening using the Johari Window in a short video.

Here are a couple of tools I use to script questions for leaders:

Key Leadership Skill: Sharpening the Saw or Clarity Breaks – 2 Tips to help you get started

Key Leadership Skill: Sharpening the Saw or Clarity Breaks – 2 Tips to help you get started

We are all too busy.

Do you believe that? I see too many leaders struggling with this feeling, and with the health effects that all too often follow this constant state of being.

At this moment, 20+ leaders from my EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) clients are doing a 6-week challenge to develop or reinforce the habit of taking one hour every week to spend time in what Stephen Covey called ‘sharpening the saw’. Gino Wickman calls it a ‘clarity break’™, and like many of the leaders I coach, I have struggled to establish the habit. I believe it is important, and currently I have two straight weeks of clarity breaks going, so here are two tips that have helped me:

  1. I created a template to make it easy to focus on the most important questions I need to answer each week and the work I need to review.
  2. The place is important. I live near Lake Michigan, and have found that a short drive to the water and sitting in my car helps me detach from my work. The picture you see here is the view that I have. My desk and coffee shops did not work for me.

Clarity breaks don’t fix being too busy, but the impact is to help you see your priorities more clearly so that the time you have will be focused on them. (FYI – check out my LinkedIn article about 3 Things Leaders Should Stop Saying in 2018 – “I don’t have enough time” is one.)

I am thinking of doing a broader Clarity Break Challenge in a few months for all of the readers of this blog and I am open to allowing each of you to invite people from your company. If you have interest in learning more, sign up here; if you would like to explore doing a challenge with leaders/individuals within your company indicate that in the note space. I would be glad to explore the possibility of kicking it off with a webinar or lunch and learn to help jumpstart their success.

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

The #1 Skill Your People Need

As I reviewed the most popular pages on my website in 2017, I found that the Rock Project Plan was the most visited page. I was surprised at first, but the more I thought about the leaders I had coached, taught, and mentored in 2017 and the challenges they faced, the more it made sense.

The fundamental thing your people need to understand is how to predict and plan how the work of a project will get done. Creating a project plan is a great way to organize this information and break down a goal into actionable steps and accountable owners.

Two things that are driven by a project plan:

  1. The foundation of accountability, i.e. the goal and the specific work that has to happen to complete the task
  2. Multiple moments where “I need help” can be said

All leaders are helped by #1, because it creates conditions that are easier for them to manage.

All individuals are helped by #2, because the hardest words for the leaders I coach to say are “I need help.” This impacts your team’s outlook because if they see you as resistant to asking for help, they interpret that as not being okay. Here is an example – I did a feedback session with a leader and their team where each person had the chance to give and receive feedback to every other person through answering the question: What is one thing [person’s name] could START or STOP doing in 2018 for the greater good of this team? The overwhelming message people told their leader in the feedback – we see you being stressed and busy, and you need to START asking for help because we want to help you! Hidden benefit – a project plan of any type drives teamwork too!

All this from a little old project plan. Practice and teach this skill in 2018 and reap the benefits of performance AND teamwork!


So you understand the following templates, in EOS® we call the most important work for the next 90 days ‘Rocks’. All Rocks need a basic project plan. Here are free templates I share to help you be the most effective leader/manager you can be.

View all of the 25+ FREE templates. I share them to equip aspiring and committed people-centered leaders. Lead well!

Present and Listen: 2 Things Leaders Taught Me

Present and Listen: 2 Things Leaders Taught Me

Last week I presented a keynote around strategic planning to a group of business leaders. I have made a habit of presenting and then making myself available for questions and coaching for 6 to 24 hours. While I enjoy talking to groups, I get a very valuable perspective on my topic when I interact with people after my keynote and I get to listen. Remember one of my core beliefs: Great conversations start with a question.

Here is a key message I heard: Great meetings are rare, and leaders want to get better at leading meetings. EOS has a meeting called the Level 10 Meeting™. The goal is to make it so effective and engaging that people rate it a 10 at the end. Of the twelve conversations I had with leaders after my keynote, eight mentioned the Level 10 Meeting™ tool as the one takeaway they wanted to go implement. Their reasons were mainly focused around feeling like they are doing all the talking, with engagement (i.e. voices of others) from the rest of the participants not happening.

Question for you: How do you equip new leaders with tools to run effective meetings?

Here is another key message I heard: People everywhere are knowledgeable and passionate about their work and want to contribute more. For this, you need some background information. This keynote was in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan – a long way from the major population centers of our state (Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids). There are even names used to identify two distinct groups in our state: Trolls (live below the Mackinaw Bridge) and Yoopers (live north of the bridge). When I mentioned I was going to the Upper Peninsula to do a keynote, I heard an arrogance than exists against small town business leaders; comments like “Are there any businesses up there?” The work ethic, common sense, and business sense of the leaders I met was equal to any other area/state that I have worked. I could even make an argument that the basic work ethic and humble approach to success is higher above the bridge. I knew that, and yet it is an important thing to relearn as I live the two values that drive my interactions with clients: Serve First and Kindness Matters. There is no place for arrogance in either value. As we try and reverse some of the polarization that exists between population centers and our more rural cities and towns, everyone – including me – needs a reminder to listen.

Question for you: What are your habits around leaving your main work area to listen to employees/clients in other communities and/or parts of your business?

Next time you talk to a large group, I encourage you to hang around for a while – there is lots of good learning that happens when you do.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

(If you are interested in seeing my presentation, you can find a copy here on my website. Video clips will be available soon.)