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!

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.

5 Powerful Questions for New Leaders & 1 Habit to Maintain Traction: Guest Post by David C. Baker

5 Powerful Questions for New Leaders & 1 Habit to Maintain Traction: Guest Post by David C. Baker

Today’s guest blogger is David C. Baker. I met David when I first started my business, through a contact from his publisher during the launch of his book, Managing (Right) for the First Time. I was drawn to his book because I believe managing leadership transitions is one of the keys to success. I read his book cover to cover and helped distribute 24 signed copies to many of you. Of all the books I have shared with clients (over 200 to date), David’s is by far the one I get the most comments back from people about being helpful because it is so practical.

The following content is the property of David C. Baker 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.

You haven’t noticed yet, but there are several little red light points on your chest. And no, it’s not because the neighbor kid is playing with the slide presentation pointer that fell out of your briefcase last night when you stumbled home, finally, after a hard day at work. It’s more that you’re in the cross hairs of one or more people who are watching very carefully how you react in the next few weeks.

You’ve crossed a threshold, see, by either managing people for the first time, or trying to do it right for the first time. This is your chance. You’ve experienced a seminal event in your life by entering the “management” room that you’ve only heard of in the past. You’ve criticized the people who have occupied this room without ever knowing what it was really like to be in their shoes.

Now you get to find out, and you get to do it better. Are you ready? Have you been paying attention? Do you understand the minuses that will come with the pluses? It’s a wonderful journey, but it’s not without difficulty.

I can’t remember much about the first time I managed people. Maybe for you it was like my experience, a more gradual transition in that I was managing them in reality long before I was managing them officially, and being promoted was more about recognizing what was already taking place. That’s probably the best way for it to happen.

But I probably don’t remember that first time simply because our culture doesn’t value management all that highly. You don’t read about great managers like you read about great athletes, and so we aren’t accustomed to thinking of the entry to management as some sort of anniversary.

It is, though, because it changes your life. It may not change your life to the same extent that childbirth, marriage, divorce, or death will change your life, but it certainly sets a course with all sorts of implications for your life.

This is a change, and how you react to it will affect your happiness, relationships, health, and wealth. It will also have a strong impact on the people you manage.

You do realize that, right? Twenty years from now, let me sit down with one of your current clients and ask them about you, your impact, and what they learned. Chances are they won’t even be able to dredge a name out of their murky memories. The same is true of your vendors.

But let me do that with one of your current employees in twenty years and they’ll remember you for sure. Hopefully it’ll be for the right reasons, and that’s the opportunity that is in front of you.

Seeing the opportunity is the first step. The next is step back to think about the situation you are stepping into and setting your sights on the impact you want to have. Here are 5 key questions every new leader should ask:

  1. What were the reasons you were chosen for this role?
  2. What are the expectations for you for the first 6 months?
  3. What does your team believe are your key responsibilities?
  4. In 20 years, what do you want others to be saying about you as a leader?
  5. For each item in #4, write 1 or 2 things you commit to doing that will be your first steps towards your leadership legacy?

Key action to maintain momentum: Over your first 6 months, look back at your answers to the previous five questions weekly and think about your progress. If you are brave, get feedback on #2 and #3 from your leader or team. Then weekly ask yourself the questions:

  1. What do I commit to KEEP doing in the next week?
  2. What do I commit to START or STOP doing to improve my effectiveness as a leader?

Did David’s words and wisdom resonate with your leadership role? Visit David’s website or email David directly at Here are some additional links to his books:

The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Experts Convert Insight to Impact + Wealth

Financial Management of a Marketing Firm

Managing (Right) for the First Time: A Field Guide For Doing It Well

Guest Post: Blue Collar Scholar, Jim Bohn – What is our Organizational Level Engagement?

Guest Post: Blue Collar Scholar, Jim Bohn – What is our Organizational Level Engagement?

Today’s guest blogger is Jim Bohn. Jim spent a career helping leaders and organizations do the work of successful change. I was connected to Jim when he stepped out of his corporate role and was answering the question, “What is the next journey for me?” I have followed his journey through his powerful articles on LinkedIn and have been impressed with the wisdom he continues to share around change and helping organizations build and sustain a healthy culture. Jim also calls himself the ‘Blue Collar Scholar’, which captures the essence of his wisdom for me. Leaders need to think about what they need to accomplish, and then they must roll-up their sleeves and do the work. I am grateful to Jim for sharing his wisdom today.

The following content is the property of Jim Bohn 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. Also included at the end are some free resources for those of you that want to learn more.

Key question for leaders to answer: What is our Organizational Level Engagement?

Employee engagement has been around for over 20 years.  If we are honest with ourselves, we know employee engagement is now part of the routine and does not hold the prestige and impact it once held. So, as an executive, have you thought beyond employee engagement to organizational level engagement?  If your water coolers could talk, what would they tell you about the conversations your employees have when they talk about your organization?

 Key question: What is Organizational Level Engagement?

Organizations high in engagement demonstrate many of the following characteristics:

  1. A high degree of morale, specifically a desire to be at work and a desire to do work on behalf of the organization.
  2. Enthusiastic workers who want to be part of an organization.
  3. Workers willing to take on complex challenges.
  4. Workers who believe they are stronger than their competition.
  5. A track record of accomplishments.
  6. Evidence of innovation.
  7. Data and knowledge sharing.
  8. Increased speed and quality of decision-making.
  9. Effective conflict management.

It focuses on “We” not “Me”

While acknowledging that the individual is important, organizational level engagement focuses at the organizational level.  It does not dismiss the value of the individual, but acknowledges the critical nature of organizational level performance.  It focuses on how people work together across an organization to accomplish outcomes.

As an executive, you’re likely to respond: “Well, we have our financial performance metrics to tell us how we’re doing as an organization.”  True – – – but that answer is not sufficient.  Financial metrics only tell one part of the tale.  Organization Level Engagement is about how the organization is performing from a people perspective.

For example, all organizations have ‘silos’, groups of people who do not work together.  Organizational level engagement discovers pockets of silos allowing managers and leaders to improve how groups work together, sharing data and improving decision making processes.

Do your people know the mission of your organization?  Merely repeating the mission by rote does not mean they have integrated the mission of your organization with their daily work behavior.  Do your people work together?  Do they make effective decisions by considering others who may be impacted by new strategies?

The following chart describes the differences between employee engagement and organizational level engagement.

Employee Engagement Organization Level Engagement
Focused exclusively on what employees derive from the organization Focused on what the organization derives from all employees working together
Focused on individual motivation – what’s in it for me? Focused on organizational level motivation – what’s in it for us?
Focused on ‘local’ issues such as environment, pay and benefits Focused on organizational level outputs such as customer satisfaction, data quality, and leader effectiveness across groups.
Focused on the leader the individual works with each day Focused on how all leaders work together each day and throughout the year
Focused on “Me” Focused on “We”

 Senior executives should ask, at the beginning of every fiscal year, during a fresh start:

  • How well do we work together as an organization?
  • Do our people truly know the goals of this organization?
  • Are we (leadership team) setting an example of decision making and cooperation at the top?
  • How sharply are we focusing our efforts on things that really matter and jettisoning things that are a waste of time?

Senior HR people should ask:

  • What are we doing to help people across our organization work together better?
  • How are we training our people to share data and make better, high quality decisions with the organization in mind?
  • What are we doing to help our teams become more resilient in the face of project setbacks?

Employee survey or in a small group conversation, leaders should ask (and record to evaluate trends across the organization):

  • What prevents our teams from working together?
  • How can we help our employees understand where they fit into the overall mission of the organization?
  • What one thing do we need to improve at the organizational level to perform at a higher level? (Expect some to say, “pay increases” but look for other trends such as restructuring to improve communication pathways.)

*Jim has published his research in this area and his Bohn Organizational Efficacy Scale is part of that research. If you want to learn more about his research and survey please contact him directly.

By taking this important step and investigating organizational level engagement, you will improve the effectiveness of your organization, leading to increased profitability and improved employee satisfaction.

Did Jim’s words and wisdom resonate with some of the challenges you are feeling in your organization? As you come up on your yearly planning, would you like your leadership team to spend some time on some of these critical questions, and use the answers to listen and act differently in 2018? Visit Jim’s website or email Jim directly at Here are some other resources to take a deeper dive into this topic:

Architects of Change: Practical Tools to Build, Lead and Sustain Organizational Initiatives by Jim Bohn, Ph.D.

The Nuts and Bolts of Leadership: Getting the Job Done by Jim Bohn, Ph.D.

LinkedIn: What makes an organization tick? Employee engagement is not the answer (1 of 173 articles Jim has shared on LinkedIn)


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

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)



TGIM – Thank God It’s Monday!

A friend shared with me this saying that they credit with starting their week well. They say it every week and now others at work have adopted the habit. The team’s energy has increased and it has been noticed by their peers. Proof that culture starts with the people who lead with attitude.

It will most certainly never be the name of a restaurant, but TGIM has one team energized for the most underappreciated day of the week.

Try it this summer!

Listen . . . Lead.  Repeat often!

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!


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.

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!

Hidden leadership secret? Showing Up

Hidden leadership secret? Showing Up

I spent a day with a group of leaders last week, and one of our topics in management was walking around. Each person was given an assignment to go do it daily for a week and journal about it. Only a third of the class did it, but those who did had some great stories of what they heard and observed.

The rest missed an opportunity. If you believe in people-centered leadership and the basic belief that people work harder when they feel cared for/listened to (and when they care about/listen to the people around them), then showing up is what you do – always. Do any of these statements reflect your commitment to show up?

  • You show up for potlucks or any event organized by your team around food
  • You show up at wakes and funerals
  • You send hand-written notes when there is a birth, death, or marriage
  • You walk around the office routinely, with the single goal to listen to and learn what your people are thinking about
  • You tell people what you are thinking about – both celebration and sorrows
  • You show up at the fundraisers your people care deeply for
  • You show up in the lunch room/break room and talk
  • You complete evaluations on-time
  • You show up for one-on-ones, or reschedule quickly

Showing up always starts as a physical presence. When it is done well, at some point it moves to a more emotional presence. This is where agape love kicks in. What is agape love? Read about it in People-Centered Performance.

I lost my father a couple of weeks ago after 90 years of life. As I thought about what I admired about him as a father, the top on the list was he showed up. Once I was challenged by a coach that showing up was not enough. I believe he was wrong, because when we show up consistently relationships are changed. When I look around at broken friendships, failed leaders, dysfunctional teams, and lonely people – it always seemed to start when someone stopped showing up.

I hope somebody writes the same thing about me someday. What about you?

Why don’t you try management by walking around for a week or so. Be part of the 33% that get it.

When you are ready – why don’t you try parenting by walking around and marriage by walking around?

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!