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:
- Kind of
- Have to
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!
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!
I have developed and coached leaders for a decade now, as well as sitting in the seat as a ‘busy and stressed out executive’. It was in the latter role that I began to see my own relationships with my people deteriorate because I was too busy and distracted by challenges I could only share with a trusted peer, my leader, or (more than likely) my spouse. So I know One-on-Ones are hard. I also know they are critical to leading well in any environment, but especially in a fast paced environment.
One of the key things a leader has to develop is APPROACHABILITY. The Leadership Architect® by Lominger describes Approachability as:
Is easy to approach and talk to; spends extra effort to put others at ease; can be warm, pleasant, and gracious; is sensitive to and patient with the interpersonal anxieties of others; builds rapport well; is a good listener; is an early knower, getting informal and incomplete information in time to do something about it.
First, I get to sit with leaders as an outside expert there to support them. Rarely do I meet with someone that does not fit this – when they are relaxed, maybe having a glass of wine or a coffee, and they are across from someone focused 100% on what they need (my role as a coach). So let’s start with a few reasons why others don’t see you as Approachable. Here are some excuses I have heard from some highly paid/skilled professionals as to why they don’t approach you for One-on-One time.
- She seems so busy, I hate to bother her. Even when her door is open or she is darting from meeting to meeting she seems deep in thought. She is a kind person, but I can’t bring myself to interrupt her.
- It feels weak for me to ask for time. We have had so many layoffs in the last decade, that I somehow feel like if I ask for time I might fall into the ‘needy/hard to manage’ group that ends up being the first on the list that gets generated as soon as we see a soft sales forecast. I need the direction and feedback, but end up talking myself out of asking almost every time. The last time I scheduled a One-on-One I thought about it for almost a year before I asked.
- I don’t see him doing that with his leader or the board. If he does not see the value in it why would he do it with me?
- She mentioned scheduling something once, but that is the last time we heard about it. Our filter with her on work she asks us to do is jump on it when she mentions it the second time, so until we hear it a second time we don’t think she is serious.
- To do it means getting past his assistant, who scares me. One time Jill asked for some time and after the grilling she got from Shannon ‘The Pit Bull’, Jill never went back. Jill still tears up when she tells the story. Nobody messes with The Pit Bull.
Here are three moves you can make to be seen as SKILLED in the area of approachability.
- You own scheduling the first 6 meetings. This gets them past the Pit Bull in your life, shows them you are serious, and takes the burden off of them.
- Always lace your script with questions. Start with – What significant things have happened for you in the past week? Then work in: What are your three priorities this week?, What celebrations have you had since we last met?” and What support will you need over the coming weeks? Being skilled at approachability means you get informal and incomplete information in time to do something about it – – – and the only way you get that is to ask questions and listen for what keeps being mentioned by one person or is a theme across your team.
- Never miss without rescheduling, and never extend the committed time. The reality is you are busy, and if you say 30 minutes stick to it. At least part of your team needs to learn to be brief and focused with the time, and you are not helping it by sitting there for an hour every time. If they need more time schedule it right there, but end with “How can I support you between now and our next One-on-One?”.
This is the beginning of a series around One-on-Ones. I welcome your thoughts and comments on what has worked. I answer all comments on my blog or emails, so send me a note.
Much of leadership is about great conversations. When we have them, good things happen. Step 1 is being more approachable.