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?

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:

2 Free Resources to Learn and Grow as a leader

2 Free Resources to Learn and Grow as a leader

As many of my US readers head into the Fourth of July weekend, I am hoping there will be time to relax and reflect. I have a goal to increase the learning material available around people-centered leadership, and wanted to let you know of my two whitepapers that are now available as a free download on Amazon/kindle, iBooks, and most other popular formats.  I also made them FREE. Here are the links to the first two volumes of my People-Centered Leadership Series:

Volume 1: Don’t Avoid the Gaps, Lead Through Them: A view on leadership as creating gaps and managing through their closure – Includes a self-assessment at the end to help you assess your habits and your own gaps. Master these three gaps and good things will happen with your team.

Volume 2: Demystifying Strategic Planning: How to create one and effectively lead through the gap – Includes tips, techniques, and resources to help you become an effective strategic leader regardless of where you sit in an organization.

One of my core values is Learning + Doing = Growth. If you have leaders you work with that are looking to develop their own effectiveness as a leader, please forward this on to them and, even better, read one of the whitepapers together and support each other in the action plans that result. Would you also be willing to help others understand the value of the articles by leaving a review? I would appreciate it if you did.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often! . . . . and for those of you in the northern hemisphere – enjoy the summer!

EXTRAS:

If you are looking for a good read this summer, here are past lists that include some of my favorites:

fyi – If you are part of the Kindleunlimited program my book, People-Centered Performance: Bringing Out Our Best Through Honest Conversation is free.

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.

Getting beyond the superficial as leaders: 2 Tips

Getting beyond the superficial as leaders: 2 Tips

Doug Fields, a blogger I follow, recently shared the statement, “Superficial relationships tend to focus on the obvious and inspire nothing new.” Recently a coachee shared some appreciation of our time together when he said, “It is nice to have a place where I can be myself and feel safe to share the things that are weighing on me.”

Leadership can be lonely. Leadership can also be a series of superficial relationships because we are busy, and going from meeting to meeting tends to keep us focused on the work while the relationships stay superficial. In leading and working with leaders, getting beyond the superficial requires the sharing of feelings. These cannot be seen as readily and are too often assumed or misinterpreted. Here are two techniques for doing this safely and effectively as a leader:

Tip #1: Getting beyond the superficial with others – One-on-one form

Great conversations start with a question. In my one-on-one form, I start and end with questions that invite people to share what is working and not working. The key to using this is to let people answer the questions they want and keep asking them so that, over time, people will get used to sharing what they are feeling. One leader confided that it took 3 months to get someone to start sharing their frustrations and giving the leader honest feedback about how the leader was making their job harder. For a deeper dive into this conversation, watch my JoHari Window video.

Tip #2: Getting beyond the superficial with ourselves – The Wheel of Life

This tool is designed for leaders to do some self-reflection on the balance in their own lives and what they can do to reset their priorities for areas that are important to them. Balance is a moving target, and doing this exercise and sharing it with someone else moves way beyond the superficial and into what really matters to us – and what is not working so well.

Superficial relationships tend to focus on the obvious and inspire nothing new. 

Make some opportunities to move beyond the superficial this week.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

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!

Making Succession Planning LESS Scary – 3 Reflections from my Key Note

Making Succession Planning LESS Scary – 3 Reflections from my Key Note

Last week, I led a key note workshop on succession planning with 100+ community leaders from one of the premier counties in our state – Kent County. In the 90 minutes, we spent about 45 minutes learning and 45 minutes practicing the core skills needed to do it well.

What are the core skills?
Asking questions, listening, and creating a safe place for people to answer with the truth.

To practice, they were asked to do two conversations: one using the Team Member Fact Sheet, and one asking the 5 questions at the top of the Individual Development Plan (strengths, weakness, successes, short-term goals, long-term goals). For the latter conversation, I actually did a live, unrehearsed demonstration with a volunteer so they could see how I did things like create safety, gather information, and make it a simple conversation. It was powerful for me because it was so real.

Here are 3 reflections from learning with these leaders:

  1. Too often, succession planning = retirement. In a pre-conference survey, I asked what one word comes to mind when they hear ‘succession planning’. The top 3 answers were retirement, future, and replacement. One of the solutions I push is to stop referring to ‘succession planning’ and start calling your work a ‘strategic talent review’ – which is the focus of my solution.
  2. The fear barrier around the legality of the conversation can be overcome. At the end of the keynote workshop, the general counsel for the group told me, “You nailed your addressing of the legal issues and how to address it effectively.” It was high praise, because I preach a talent/people-centered approach to leadership and I believe in treating people with equality and truth. That endorsement was huge for me.
  3. ‘Listen, observe, do’ can be done with 100+ people! The fact that I went first, so people could see me doing it, helped the learning immensely. This was clear from the questions and observations people made about how to make things safe, how to ask follow-up questions, and what to say to invite openness and feelings of safety.

My bottom-line message was to approach the topic as a talent(i.e., people)-focused conversation and then use that information to understand plans for key roles and key people in your group.

My passion statement (from my own Entrepreneurial Operating System® VTO™) is maximizing individual growth and eliminating needless pain – moving to and past the tipping point of success. As I reflected on the day and how energized I was by my time with these leaders, it was clear what the reason was: I could see the hunger for learning in the group and feel the relief in hearing an approach many could see themselves leading effectively. I could also see several leaders moving toward that tipping point.

If you would like to learn more, here are links to the presentation and some of the free templates I shared:

  1. Presentation (on slideshare)
  2. Development Plan (used top 5 questions)
  3. Key Person / Key Role Worksheet
  4. And here are my top 4 blog posts addressing succession planning:
The Ultimate Team-Building Tool + 3 Tips for Using it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

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

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

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

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

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

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

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

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

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

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

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

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

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

Are you a Giver or a Taker?

Are you a Giver or a Taker?

Great conversations start with a question, so here is one:

In approaching relationships with others, are you more of a Giver or a Taker?

I look forward to asking a group this question; I imagine a room full of leaders, and my prediction is 70% would identify themselves as givers. After all the talk of servant leadership – and Jim Collins’ research shared in Good to Great that connects an organization’s success with the presence of a level 5 leader (his term for servant leader) – a majority of leaders would put their hands up because we all know what we ought to do.

I’ve just finished Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. He shares two lists of values that he uses in his research to help identify a primary style. He considers how an individual rates the importance of each of the following:

List 1

  • Wealth (money, material possessions)
  • Power (dominance, control over others)
  • Pleasure (enjoying life)
  • Winning (doing better than others)

List 2

  • Helpfulness (working for the well-being of others)
  • Responsibility (being dependable)
  • Social justice (caring for the disadvantaged)
  • Compassion (responding to the needs of others)

As you look at these lists, does it change how you would answer this question? In the last evaluation where you received feedback, which list did it point to?

The two books that stand out for me on this topic are The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership by James C. Hunter and The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea by Bob Burg and John David Mann. While I loved both of these, the Adam Grant book I just finished stands out because of the academic approach the author takes in sharing the research behind givers and takers and, in the end, how he uses research to answer the question – Who achieves a higher level of performance and/or impact?

Of course he includes an assessment, with the option to get input from others. I scored a 66% Giver and 33% Taker on my self-assessment (Whew!). Now the hard-er part: asking others for their input. If you have seen my JoHari Window tutorial, this is the part where we ask for feedback to reveal blindspots. Look for that in another post . . .

So, are you a Giver or a Taker? Take 5 minutes to take the self-assessment.

People-centered leaders are not perfect, but they are purposeful about creating space where ‘List 2’ needs are mentioned and met.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

Final thought for EOS leaders – Look for a future post focused on the habits that are part of the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) and how leaders can make certain behaviors habits.