10 Daily Questions to Assess and Reset Your WORK as a Leader

10 Daily Questions to Assess and Reset Your WORK as a Leader

Today’s guest blogger is Paul Doyle. Paul is an accomplished CEO and has a great passion for developing leaders. I asked Paul to contribute to this series because his advice is both practical and powerful. His focus is equipping leaders with skills they can use tomorrow. The ten powerful questions he shares are connected to the LeaderWork 10, and are the foundation of a ten-month leadership program that I collaborate with Paul to deliver. We just celebrated our third cohort graduation, and I have seen firsthand the impact these questions have on leaders that use them. Paul shares the habit that has enabled him to lead large, small, and medium-sized growing businesses and keep his actions and beliefs aligned amidst the chaos so his team could be successful.

The following content is the property of Paul Doyle and Leaderwork LLC and is shared on this blog with his full approval. Any reproduction or use of this material without his consent is not lawful. If you like it and want to use it somewhere else, just ask him directly using the link at the bottom of the post.

I’ve always viewed my responsibility as a leader is to create the environment in which others can achieve. Over the years, I have developed a list of questions that I ask myself at the end of each day (or at least I try to).  In working through the daily set of challenges, changes, and chaos that is the life of every leader, this list has served as a check list to remind me of the work I should be doing as a leader.

Q1:  Does my team know I am here for them? It is my responsibility to serve; know them, listen, support, coach, and help them.

Q2:  Is my team inspired by a vision for their work? A cool and challenging purpose will pull effort from people. Clarity about the finish line will allow them to self-manage to a great extent.

Q3:  Do the team members care about each other’s success?  Do they have a shared fate? Are they working as a true team, not just a group of people reporting to me?

Q4:  Is the work and the methods of working bringing out my team’s best effort?  I can’t motivate anyone, that comes from inside, fear can come from outside, but it doesn’t last. Is every member of the team doing work they know and feel is important and are they clear they have the opportunity and freedom to affect how the work is done?

Q5:  Does every member of the team know, all the time, if they are winning or losing?  A scoreboard is a powerful tool. People want to be successful and when performance data is available most people use it to make things better.

Q6: Is the work organized such that it is easier for the team to succeed than to fail? My team needs the work to be structured and supported in ways that help them be productive. They want good tools, good information, a good plan, and good support.

Q7: Does each member of my team know their priorities?  People prefer to be goal directed not just busy.  People like the comfort from knowing they are working on the right things. It is my responsibility to provide a plan and communicate a set of priorities, so team members can get after it and feel confident that their work matters.

Q8: Is my team well informed? Communication, both inside the team and in the company, is critical for people to make a connection. People are more loyal, productive, and creative when they know what is going on.  I need to connect team mates to one another and connect each team member to the company overall.

Q9: Have I challenged each team member to grow and learn more?  People must continue to learn more every day so they can do a better job and most people want to continue to learn so they can get a better job. I am responsible to guide both questions for all team members.

Q10: Does every team member feel the creative tension to do better? Continuous improvement is not an option. Whatever we are doing today will be done better tomorrow by someone.  If it is us – we win. If it is not us, we could be out of work.  My team needs to feel that stretch.

Thinking through the list at the end of each day usually results in me realizing that some individual needs help in an area, and sometimes it reminds me that there is a big omission.  Either way, a daily run through these questions helps me break out of the chaos and stay on top of what is my most significant responsibility – that is the work of leading.

 

Did Paul’s words and the questions he asks himself daily resonate with you? Learn more about the LeaderWork leadership development program by visiting the LeaderWork website or emailing Paul directly at paul.doyle@leader-work.com.

Let’s call it Trust Building, not Team Building

Let’s call it Trust Building, not Team Building

When I say team building, how many of you roll your eyes or audibly groan? It is a common response. I once had a leader refuse to participate. His displeasure included the statement, “I have done a ton of these and they are a waste of time.” I used to get mad and secretly dreaded the response after I introduced our next team building activity. I have grown to appreciate the transparency, which has allowed me to step back from the situation and ask the question, “What can I do as a facilitator to set up this team building time so it is a productive conversation for all involved?”

I see my role as a facilitator to create the conditions in which teams can have a productive conversation. Recently, I received an answer to the above question which challenged me to make team building time productive and inclusive.

As part of my strategic planning process (Entrepreneurial Operating System®), we spend 2-3 hours on team health during annual planning. We start with a conversation centered on the pyramid from Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni. We end with time for team members to share some information about themselves and give/receive feedback on observed strengths as well as one thing they could do differently to increase the effectiveness and health of the team. (Here is the form I use.) We frame all the activities that the teams do together as trust building time focused on team health.

My answer came during the wrap-up, when leaders offered feedback by answering the question: “What was the highlight for me?” The answer that created a sacred moment for me was, “Every year I look forward to that exercise and the feedback that I receive from it.”

Imagine, an activity where we receive feedback and love it!

As I wrapped it up, the thought hit me that I call the time together trust building time focused on team health, not team building.  A simple change in name paved the way for an amazing experience for leaders who had done similar activities dozens of times in their careers. 

What if you became more intentional about trust building time focused on building team health? It could be as simple as creating time at your next planning session. What if you provided a list to the team titled Trust Building Activities and included things like a meal together, taking an assessment as a team, meeting regularly as a team, or a ninety-minute escape from work for a little fun? If all agree team health is important, make it a priority to do something monthly from the list.

Based on my experience, eye rolls go away and even the often-cynical 50+ year old white male dives in.

Team health:  Let’s call it what it’s intended to be and challenge people to own their part of it by diving in and helping to build and maintain it. Words matter, and the response I see from leaders is proof that a simple change creates conditions where all engage.

Lead well.

Some next steps:

  1. Email me at scott@thetrugroup.com if you want a list of team health exercises
  2. Watch my Johari Window video for some trust building tips you can do daily with your team
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 . . .

 

Facilitating Commitment: 5 Words to Listen for and 2 Powerful Questions to Use

Facilitating Commitment: 5 Words to Listen for and 2 Powerful Questions to Use

We were at the end of an EOS® quarterly, and as we went around matching owners to each rock one leader was reluctant to take on a rock that seemed to align with her talents and accountabilities. As the team asked her to own the rock she reluctantly agreed by saying “If you want to assign me that rock, I guess I will take it.” I stopped the session and said – “the words assign and guess are not words that make me believe want to take on this rock.  Leadership of a rock takes commitment, so let’s spend some time talking this through before we move ahead.”

Powerful Question™ #1: What is making this rock an assignment for you?

Powerful Question™ #2: On a scale of 1(none) to 10(extremely strong) – what is your commitment to this rock? If you are at x, what would it take to get to an 8, 9, or 10? (note: The answer probably becomes a to do, because the answer is likely more thought or a chance to review it with their team)

As a facilitator, especially around goal setting, language is critical.  I listen for the words, and call the ones out that reveal feelings that indicate conditions are present that will get in the way of successful completion of the work. The key is to name the words and the assumptions I make around commitment, and allow space for people to confirm how they are feeling and get the team to talk about it.  My trigger words are:

  1. Kind of
  2. Assigned
  3. Have to
  4. Hope
  5. Try

hint: For the action oriented leaders their language will always be positive, so watch for body language with these leaders.

Great conversations start with a question, and the question I always ask is Do you commit to owning this rock?

Whether you are in a quarterly pulsing session, a leadership team meeting, or any other situation where actions have to be owned, develop the leadership skill of listening and calling out the language that tells you “we need to keep discussing this”.

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

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?

Two questions to assess mindset; One question to invite a shift

Two questions to assess mindset; One question to invite a shift

We were ending our day, and I used a tool from the Entrepreneurial Operating System® to get feedback about our time together and actions to improve it for the next group. The simple question was:

How would you rate our time together from 1 (not valuable) to 10 (extremely valuable)?

When we got to Eric, he said 7.5.  My follow-up question is standard, “Thanks for the feedback Eric. What could be done to make it an 8.5?” His response was quick, “I have been to a lot of these types of sessions and they can never be above a 7.5.”

In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, author Carol Dweck shares her research that has identified fixed and growth mindsets. A fixed-mindset person is focused on looking good and proving their worth with effort. They excel at protecting and criticizing. A growth-mindset person is someone who sees potential as something that continues to be stretched and grown through challenges, learning through the difficult journey of delivering on a commitment. This person perceives a negative outcome as the first step to doing it better next time.

If you want to grow as an organization, fixed-mindset thinkers will be like an anchor to your ideas. It is a key leadership skill to accurately assess the mindset of your team. I use these two questions on the back of my team member fact sheet to help provide a glimpse into their mindset:

  1. What is the biggest behavioral change you ever made?
  2. What is the biggest mistake you have ever made and what did it teach you?

These are hard questions, but a growth-mindset person will appreciate the challenge. In my experience, a fixed-mindset person will either not answer or create a  diversion through sarcasm or anger/frustration to allow the question to move on without providing a thoughtful answer.

The next key leadership skill is inviting a shift (fixed-mindset) or increasing the wisdom within the team (growth-mindset). Here is the question to invite that shift and increase the team wisdom:

  1. What wisdom would you be willing to share from that experience to help all of us get a little wiser?

Fixed-mindset people focus on protecting and proving, which ends up making them largely inward focused in their work. It is especially important in EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) companies to limit or eliminate fixed-mindset thinkers. Traction requires a growth-mindset.

Do you have any on your team?

What is your mindset?

My final point is that fixed-mindset is not equal to bad/mean person. Eric and I had a great conversation after the day together because we shared some professional experiences, and I found him easy to talk with. But if I am charged with growing or improving an organization, it is critical to have people who get excited about continuously improving work and creating stretch goals. The teams will be more successful without the Eric’s of the world.

What questions would you ask?

Tip: Read trUTips #8 to read about how to handle B players (or in this case, a B-player)

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:

Trust and Leadership: A FREE learning activity for your leaders this summer

Trust and Leadership: A FREE learning activity for your leaders this summer

Almost 8 years ago I was trying to decide on a name for my new company. After several thousand hours working with leaders, it hit me that if I were going to tell leaders two things that they should focus on everyday it would be this: Always be building TRUST with the people around you and leverage that to get the TRUTH on the table. TrU in the name of my company is a daily reminder of what I believe and how I want to impact the leaders I work with.

Fast forward – When Harvard Business Review offered a free download of a new article, The Neuroscience of Trust: Management behaviors that foster employee engagement by Paul J. Zak, I immediately got it and read it. I posted about it, and this week I sent purchased copies to all of my EOS® partner companies and asked them to do a leadership study around it this summer. I want to share it with you because I believe everyone should understand how the brain works and how they can influence the FEELINGS that get generated by the brain each day. The feeling that I care about most because I believe in people-centered leadership is TRUST.

Here is the FREE study guide, and I believe it is $8 well spent to get a copy of the article.  If you want me to help facilitate the learning at your company this summer I have special rate for my trUTips readers to do that – just drop me a note and mention you are on my trUTips mailing list. My guarantee is that if you don’t find the article helpful let me know and I will refund your $8 – personally.

The power of PAUSE: Two tips for practicing it today

The power of PAUSE: Two tips for practicing it today

The summary of our coaching work told a powerful, yet simple, story. “Scott, the biggest impact our time had was to take a deep breath when things got heated and keep my emotions more level so the conversation could continue towards a mutually agreed upon solution.”  Breath = Pause. What situations do you get in where your emotion takes over and the pause button is needed for you to effectively manage your contribution to the conversation?

  • Parenting?
  • Home improvement project with your spouse?
  • Summer canoe trip where you are NOT in the back steering?
  • Riding a tandem bicycle where you ARE in the back and not steering?

The brain is actually wired to react first and think secondly; it is called the amygdala, which is at the base of the brain and controls the fight/flight response. It is supposed to kick in to keep you alive. When humans lived in caves and were outnumbered by animals big enough to eat them, it was critical for survival. Since we have moved into dwellings with locks and walls and work in offices, it is not as critical, but it is still there.

Seth Godin calls the amygdala the lizard brain, and says this in his book Linchpin:

The lizard brain is here to keep you alive, the rest of your brain merely makes you a happy, successful, connected member of society.

People-centered leaders still speak up and disagree, and the reason for having meetings with agendas and frequent one-on-ones with their people is to create space where disagreements can happen and be managed.

Here are two tips for practicing the pause:

  1. Bring water to the meeting and drink when you get irritated or feel the need to offer a quick rebuttle to a comment.
  2. Commit to using the comment “Tell me a little more about that?” at least once in your next meeting.

Where can you practice the pause today? When you practice the pause, how effective are you at restarting the conversation and channeling that emotion into a better solution to the issue you are addressing? When you fail at the pause, how quickly do you apologize and restart?

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

People-Centered Leaders – Read this article!

People-Centered Leaders – Read this article!

I have come to believe that there are two key sources of learning for leaders that will have the greatest impact on their performance: Harvard Business Review and TED Talks. There are certainly many places to learn, but the two of these provide quality, depth, and breadth that will ground you in key fundamentals of being a good person and stretch you in productive ways.

Here is a summary of an HBR article that grounded me in some timeless truths – The Neuroscience of Trust: Management behaviors that foster employee engagement by Paul Zak.

Key points:

  • Leaders know low engagement hurts the bottom line of their business (Gallup and others proved that) but don’t know how to fix it.
  • There are eight behaviors that stimulate the generation of oxytocin, which is a brain chemical that facilitates teamwork. (I will have to trust the author on this one – I missed that class in college. 🙂 )

Be ready to NOT be blown away by these behaviors:

  • Recognize excellence – When you see someone doing great work, tell them!
  • Induce “challenge stress” – Provide people with challenging assignments and/or invite them to help you solve a significant problem.
  • Give people discretion on how to do their work – Focus on defining the outcome of the project and give people space to get there (for my EOS® clients, this is when I ask “What does success look like for this rock?”)
  • Enable job crafting – Allow people to volunteer for work, or add an accountability to their job that the organization needs if they have a passion for it; also allow them to delegate work they don’t like and depend on the team to do it.
  • Share information broadly – Have a defined weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual rhythm of meetings where you talk to and listen to people beyond your immediate team.  Protect that time like it is sacred, and especially don’t allow the customer to cause you to cancel it.
  • Intentionally build relationships – See my Team Member Fact Sheet post . . . .
  • Facilitate whole person growth – See my Development Plan post . . .
  • Show vulnerability – See my Vulnerability post . . .

I appreciate the article because it provides the why behind all of the actions I promote as part of being a People-Centered Leader. The last chapter in my book is devoted to actions that hit most of these directly. I also recognize that teaching leaders the why – in this case, the science – behind trust-building leadership creates a higher level of commitment to the right behaviors.

If you are looking for a summer leadership book study, start here – and if you add my book to the second half of it, I would be glad to talk about showing up one or two times to help enhance your learning. The reason I say add my book is because leaders will all immediately agree these are the right actions to take, and yet we don’t do them – that is where my book kicks in.

This points out that leadership is that simple, and yet not that easy. Leadership is a journey that is best taken with company.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!