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.)

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!

EOS Partner Gift: Learn how FBA = Change Management

EOS Partner Gift: Learn how FBA = Change Management

One of my favorite quotes from Seth Godin (Tribes) is:

Leaders have followers. Managers have employees.

Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.

Leading effectively through the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS) requires you to become good at implementing changes until they become part of the day-to-day work of the organization. How many of you have committed to a rock and the end point was sending the email to everyone? That might get you to SBA (Shared By All), but it will not even get you close to FBA (Followed By All).

I sent each of my EOS partner companies a copy of Bottom-Line Change by Ari Weinszweig. I am sharing this with you because I believe each EOS team needs one person that is great at helping the team think through changes so that the plan to get to FBA (Followed By All) is clear. It does not have to be the Integrator, so maybe it should be you? If you have a passion to be that person for your team, know that some of you have a copy of that book floating around your organization which is likely generating guilt or some other kind of burden for one of your teammates. 🙂

This pamphlet (named that because it is less than 80 pages) outlines a proven process Zingerman’s uses at all levels of their organization to manage change. Also, if you like food, most of the examples in the book are related to food so it will be easy reading. Here is a link to purchase your own if you do not have one.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

Note: I also shared some guidelines with your Integrator about some specific things I do, or could do, to provide ongoing support for my EOS clients.  Here is a link to that document if you are interested.

The Trust Bank: 9 Habits That Make Deposits

The Trust Bank: 9 Habits That Make Deposits

As leaders, we all have moments when decisions must be made that cannot be fully explained to the organization. Sometimes even your team has to be kept in the dark as to the full truth. Some of these moments include:

  • Firing someone for criminal acts at work
  • Reducing your team by 10%, including the two nicest and most liked people in the department
  • Asking an under-performing and extremely good person to resign in 45 days
  • Negotiating a sale of the company
  • Reassigning a leader due to allegations for certain behavior
  • Firing an executive for performance issues

I remember a conversation with a leader about the impact of one of these big decisions, on both his people and the trust within his team. He had just let someone go and nobody could know the truth. It was immediate, and it was explained by a vague email. I shared with him a perspective I learned in watching trust shifts after these BIG events: in my experience, these events did not alter the trust level because it was the thousand decisions we had made up to the event that made forgiveness easier.  Trust was kind of like a bank account. If the deposits had been made along the way, then the effects of the one big withdrawal were minimal.

Leaders make these little deposits when they:

  1. Tell people the real business numbers when sales records are hit and missed
  2. Publicly apologize for a bad decision that made life harder
  3. Show up at potlucks
  4. Go to funerals, weddings, and other big events in people’s lives
  5. Send a note after seeing someone’s child recognized in the paper
  6. Ask questions about family – and remember their names
  7. Have monthly breakfasts with people where any question is answered
  8. Answer emails from employees that send questions
  9. Embrace policies that make a positive impact on the lives of people

The good news? Big events don’t happen that often. The better news? They will pass faster if you spend the time between them being open and honest with your people, and practicing some of the habits mentioned above.

Just remember – focus each day on telling and hearing the TRUth and building/giving TRUst.

For EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) leaders, at your next clarity break tally all the ‘deposits’ you made this week and pick one thing you can do tomorrow to make a deposit.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often.

What The Heck is EOS? ~ A book review and 1 tip on how to use it

What The Heck is EOS? ~ A book review and 1 tip on how to use it

This is part book review and part ‘here is how you could use it’. Value #4 of The trU Group is learning + doing = growth, so learning is always accompanied with support to move to action! If you are not a company that uses EOS, check-out the EOS Journey page to get some context on what it is.

I need to say up front that I was a little skeptical of this book because I felt the previous book from EOS Worldwide, How to Be a Great Boss, was more repackaging old content to sell a book. After I read this book, I was skeptical no longer. It is formatted to be an effective learning tool, and I feel that any EOS company could and should integrate it into the development of EOS throughout their organization. It also follows my core belief #1:

Great conversations start with a question.

At the end of each chapter, they have included questions that an employee should ask their leader.  I guarantee these questions will drive some powerful conversations.

The book is written with a tone and language that speaks directly to people in your organization who are not on the leadership team. This is evident by looking at the table of contents; notice how it speaks directly to your people and drives their ownership in using EOS to help them work toward their own personal goals and the goals of the organization:

  • Chapter 1: What the Heck Is EOS?
  • Chapter 2: How Does EOS Work? (The EOS Model)
  • Chapter 3: Do You See What They Are Saying? (The Vision/Traction Organizer)
  • Chapter 4: Who’s Doing What? (The Accountability Chart)
  • Chapter 5: What Is Most Important Right Now? (Rocks)
  • Chapter 6: Why Do We Have to Have Meetings? (The Weekly Meeting Pulse)
  • Chapter 7: What’s My Number? (Scorecard and Measurables)
  • Chapter 8: How Am I Doing? (People Analyzer)
  • Chapter 9: What Do I Do Next? (Conclusion)
  • Appendix A: Your Role
  • Appendix B: Questions to Ask Your Manager

Here are the core sections I flagged with post-it notes as I read the book:

  1. IDS, p. 104: Teaches the IDS methodology and provides an example of how a leader might facilitate an IDS topic with two teammates. The example falls into the category of simple but not easy, yet as an implementer many of you have probably seen me be this direct. I have witnessed truths like this shared and issues resolved.
  2. Chapter 7: What’s My Number (Scorecard & Measurables), p. 114: Metrics to help teams and individuals see progress or issues more clearly in their work are critical for growth-focused organizations. This is also the topic I see organizations struggle with the most. The title pulled me in, and the content will drive great conversations with your team.
  3. Chapter 8: How Am I Doing? (People Analyzer), p. 129: This chapter is something that will scare leaders because a portion of your team will ask for feedback, and if you don’t do quarterly conversations around performance then get ready. The part I love about this chapter is that it teaches the People Analyzer method and encourages them to schedule a conversation with their leader.
  4. Great questions for self-evaluation and preparation for quarterly conversation, p. 139-140: Let me say it again, great conversations start with a question. The two questions presented that should guide the quarterly performance conversation are: “What’s working?” and “What’s not working?” This might be my favorite part of the book, and I am looking forward to your stories about the conversations that result from these questions.

There is lots of value in this book if you use it effectively. For some tips on how to do this, here is a book study template. I highly recommend this as an addition to your library. Here is a link to the book.

For my EOS partners, remember that I pledge 2-4 hours between quarterlies to more actively support your effective use of EOS. If it would help, I would be glad to help you construct and maybe even facilitate a portion of the roll-out of this book to your team. Just call me if you want to explore that option.

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)