Friday Thought: Finding Your Growth Mindset – Is it there?

I work with high growth companies and growth focused leaders.  Daily I get to experience people that, in spite of setbacks, inspire me with their resiliency.  There is a name for it this – growth mindset.  In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck shares her research and belief that there are growth and fixed mindset individuals.

We all know these people:

  • Growth mindset people believe in their ability to learn and figure out almost anything.
  • Fixed mindset people are quick to point out ‘why not’ when faced with a challenge – and keep that voice throughout the work.
  • Growth mindset people have a mechanism to adapt when situations require them to make a personal change.
  • Fixed mindset people lead and/or end with That is the way I am.
  • Growth mindset people are quick to set aside their EGO, and ask a question.
  • Fixed mindset people are quick to protect their EGO, and make a statement.
  • Growth mindset people have feelings and get butterflies, they just don’t hide behind them or allow them to define their next step.

Which one do you see or hear in yourself?  Which do you see most prominently on your team?

Entrepreneurial spirit is a trait that is desired by both Fortune 100 and Inc. 5000 companies.  The powerful thing about this distinction is that it’s quickly displayed when the work starts.

It is one reason why a company in Ann Arbor called Menlo Innovations does a test in an interview where two people have to solve a problem with on pencil and one piece of paper.  It is why a strategic planning process I use (EOS) has direct feedback from your teammates in day 1 around whether you Get It, Want It, and have the Capacity to do the job the organization needs you to do.  It is the reason selection for a growth company first asks the question  – Right Person?  The Right Seat will show up eventually if it is not there already.

I have a formula in my book that urges people in the midst of change to manage their mental state so Hope > Fear + Anger + Frustration + Worry + Hunger + Weariness + ______ + _______.  NOBODY is always in balance – but I have watched growth mindset people bounce back time after time from tough situations where they were clearly in a Hope < Fear + Anger + etc. situation.

As you end your week – how is your formula looking?  Which label are you living into?  How can you support a shift in someone around you?

If you want to go fast, go alone . . .

If you want to go fast, go alone . . .

If you want to go FAST, go Alone.

If you want to go FAR, go Together.

go fast go far image

As a leader, have you ever wondered “Why can’t people do what I tell them?” or made the statement “I will just do it myself.”  I once wrote a trUTips to talk about moving past that to become a more effective and healthy person/leader.  Alone in leadership is not ‘without’ people, it is more just about leveraging the talent/resources around me to just do my work in the way I want it done.  From the outside, it looks more like dependence and less like a true team or relationship.

Going alone as a leader means adopting a method of leading where your ideas always trump others.

Going alone as a leader means having meetings where information is exchanged but nobody solves any problems together – after all, working alone as a leader means creating a culture where that is the norm.

Going alone means running into an invisible barrier repeatedly that serves as a cap to your business.

Alone is one way to do it, but it becomes just that – Lonely.

In a tool I use to help leaders and teams move past Alone towards really working together.

The fundamentals are simple, and yet hard.

  1. Start with asking the fundamental questions – “What are the roles we need to grow?” and “Who is willing, able, and capable of doing those roles?”
  2. The second piece is creating a vision for the next 90 days by establishing the BIG priorities for the organization – or ROCKS.
  3. Finally, commit to meeting weekly to connect, prioritize the work, solve problems together, and support each other in the work.

That is together, and to go FAR past where you want it is about learning to work together first (gain Traction) then defining FAR together (Strategic Plan) and learning to lead towards that point.

Leaders can go alone if they want, but that is not really leadership.  Look around – which part of this quote describes your team?

Writing More Effective Goals – Some tools that will help

The most important part of professional development is writing the goals.  We can talk about it, we can get excited about attending a great class or program, but in the end what we do with what we have learned is the ROI!  Sure it takes support, maybe some coaching, but it has to start with defining a target we can focus on.  The goals and action plan are critical.

I was leading a book study with a group of entrepreneurial leaders, and as usual one of the conversations we had inspired me.  Also, as usual I had about 15 minutes to share some tips I have learned around writing goals and it was not enough.  So I wrote an article on LinkedIn titled Leaders – Write Better Goals for Yourself: 3 Critical Mistakes And How to Fix Them.   If you are at or near evaluation time for yourself or delivering evaluations for others, take a look.  My goal, as always, is to equip leaders with the tools they need to have more impactful conversations around growth and development.

Could you share it with your LinkedIn community?  Thanks for the help in starting a conversation around this.

Also – Here is a worksheet I use with clients to help them write better goals as they go through their own evaluation/development

 

Passion and Art: Why does it matter?

Passion – I am torn on this topic by people that come up to me for advice on starting their own business and realizing the independence they long for.  I have learned to listen closely for their why, and if they start with the outcome of entrepreneurism and not the work, they have it backwards.  I challenge those people (and myself) to keep the focus on the gifts you have and the work that excites you.  Seth Godin shifts our perspective on our gifts by challenging each of us to think of ourselves as Artists – and makes the comment Art is the intentional act of using your humanity to create change in another person.   He goes on to share that most artists can’t draw.

Hidden in the whole conversation of performance is passion.  Here are three things I have learned about passion of the artist:

  1. Passion is the hidden ingredient in performance:  In my book People-Centered Performance I share my belief that Performance = Talent + Passion + Work
  2. Passion does not have to reside in just the work, it could be the team, or the cause, or even the need to eat.
  3. Passion is without complaint, so if we can do the work with excitement and ownership, and without complaint, we are close.
  4. It is impossible to be an artist and not have passion.

A great summary of passion came from a recent book I read called The Boys in the Boat.  In it, the master shell builder George Pocock talks about his work and what drove his choices:

My ambition has always been to be the greatest shell buiilder in the world; and without false modesty I believe I have attained that goal.  If I were to sell the stock, I fear I would lose my incentive and become a wealthy man, but a second-rate artisan.  I prefer to remain a first-class artisan.

I like watching for passion in others, and instead of starting with a pen and paper to write your statement of passion, start by observing and talking to others.  There is energy in watching the artist work, and they can be found all around us.

Remember, most artists can’t draw, and most artists aren’t entrepreneurs.

Good Question – Great Question

What if we asked more questions?

I am reading a book by Warren Berger called A More Beautiful Question.  In it he shares a study from the Right Question Institute tracking kids use of questions over time that identified a trend of students using questions less as reading and writing skills increased.  The use of questions peaks at around the age of 3, and by the age of 18 it is only used 1/3 as often as reading or writing.

From 2009 A Nation's Report Card.
From 2009 A Nation’s Report Card.

For parents, you are probably not surprised because you have lived through the WHY stage of three year olds and the grunting teenager.

This fascinates me, because I see this in adults as I work with leaders in their development and those that have gone through a career transition.  Too often EGO gets in the way of building the relationships needed to be successful in their next role.  One sign of EGO is the need to tell vs ask.  Think of that – I can read/write/Google (i.e. Figure it out) = EGO response to not knowing something.  As leaders, we battle our EGO overtaking us by leveraging the knowledge of our team to solve problems.  I believe one of the most important skills to battle EGO for adults/leaders is to learn is the ability to ask questions AND listen for the answer.  We do that by mastering the use of GREAT Questions over GOOD Questions.  Here are some examples:

GOOD Question:  Have you considered x and y as solutions?   GREAT Question:  What other solutions did you explore?

GOOD Question:  Why did this happen?   GREAT Question:  What has to happen next to make this problem go away?

GOOD Question:  How was your weekend?    GREAT Question:  What one word would you use to describe your weekend?  (What is the story behind that word?)

GOOD Question:  What do you want to share with the group before we start our meeting?       GREAT Question:  What is one personal best and one professional best you have to share with us?

My basic rule is to always start questions with What or How – that does not always make you perfect, but it makes you closer to perfect.  It is also important to be ready with – tell me a little more about that? or Tell me a little bit more about what options you considered?  Then listen.  The metric for you is to have a ratio of questions to statements of 5 to 1.

Hopefully you have already answered the question What if we asked more questions? 🙂

Relationships or Performance?

When relationships matter, process trumps outcome

As leaders, we are measured largely by outcomes.  Did the work get done?  Was the margin there?  Yet there is a process that helps us achieve those outcomes that does call into question what we believe is most important?

In my work with growing companies I have learned to ask the question “What is your funding source – debt/cash flow, private equity, or venture capital?”  I can usually feel the difference, but ask just to make sure. When speed and growth/returns are so critical (latter two), then generally outcome trumps process.

Your talent strategy should reflect your belief in what is most important in your business.  This is also not about a good and bad labeling exercise.  Those words tend to stop a conversation and start an argument.  I use effective and not-effective, because it forces us to remember the outcomes we wanted in the beginning.  If our goal is 30% EBITDA growth and a few leaders get burned out and leave, maybe that is okay.  Fast growing companies need to be great at bringing in leaders/personalities that will figure it out and be successful.  That needs to be there #1 focus.

You see, the other edge to this sword is building trust.  Peter Drucker once said “The existence of trust does not necessarily mean they like one another, it means they understand one another.”  As a leader, just be clear with your beliefs and lead accordingly.  Actions need to align with beliefs, so people can see consistency in your approach.  You also need to continue to ask yourself “Are the results in my business and my team are proving my methods effective or not effective?”

I love having this conversation with leaders, because is revealing and it matters.  It also helps people define their own path to increasing their own capacity to lead.  That is a process I can get excited about.

When relationships matter, process trumps outcome

**If you want to dive into this topic a little deeper, chapter 2 in my book outlines what I call the OBN (Ought But Not) Leader.  On Amazon.

Do What You Love

Do What You Love

When I am bored with TV and having hundreds of channels with nothing to watch, I fire up the AppleTV and go to Vimeo.  That habit has given me  two videos that I think about often – one for a guy now called Slomo and another chronicling the challenges of Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi.  I can remember watching each and just smiling.  It was a smile not based on something being funny (although Slomo reminded me of a friend of mine), but more on the fact that two individuals made a choice to chart a different future – one on their own and one because circumstances forced a change.  It was a smile celebrating a choice made and the inspirational story that resulted.

A foundation of professional development at any level is based on a similar choice.  It is hard to see that choice when we dislike our boss, worry about the debt that needs a paycheck to support it, or are scared of not having a keycard to enter the building you have been going to for a decade.  It is also hard when like our team or the praise that comes from having the same customers that know us and love us.  I preach the lines great conversations start with a question and when we have honest conversations that lead to thoughtful actions, the result is improved performance.  Three questions that come to mind when I think of these videos are:

  • What are my choices?
  • How do I want to be remembered?
  • What matters to me?

Here is a link to my 5 Tips for Managing Your Career and Performance – and the number one is Own It.  If you know someone (or maybe someone that works for you) struggling with their next step, please pass this on.  The caveat I am adding is that most Own It outcomes don’t mean rollerblades on the strand in LA.  More often it means some different projects, a bigger smile at work, or finding more balance between work and life outside of work.  I call these pivots, and whether big or small, they all start at the same point – ownership.

Living into choice is simple, but rarely easy.

Do What You Love.

 

When we don’t react, and Listen

Great conversations start with a question.  As a regular reader, you probably are tiring of hearing this statement from me.

A friend reminded me yesterday of a lesson she was re-learning with her kids.  They were testing her with statements meant to shock her, and while her impulse was to react, her intuition told her to take a deep breath and simply say “Tell me a little bit more about that?”  Then keep breathing and listen.

She also reminded me that I taught her that through watching me facilitate a group.  I was flattered, and also secretly glad she did not follow me around as a parent. 🙂

The goal is never to mask what you are thinking and be seen as a Teflon person who is never rattled.  The real goal (and my intent when I do it as a facilitator)  is to delay reaction until more is learned.

Here are two methods I have designed this kind of listening into key conversations I encourage leaders to have:

  1. Performance conversations:  What are 3 things you want to accomplish with this review?
  2. One-on-ones:  What is energizing you right now?  What is frustrating you right now? What do you want to make sure we cover today?

It is important for you, as a leader, to remain calm and focus on understanding before reacting.  Certainly, there is a case to be made that the words Fire or a gunshot going off demands a quick response.  Yet those who are professionals in responding to such events are trained to assess even as they react.  Leaders need to learn that – and it begins with having the discipline to ask a couple of questions to lead them past the emotion to the core reasons they are making that statement.  Behind a reason is a need, and leading with their needs in mind is what leaders do when they actually care.

Put another way, to care is to listen.

Great conversations start with a question.  Questions put us, as leaders, in the position of listening.  Listening is good, and remember to breathe.

 

Why I Hate Job Descriptions, and 3 Things to Fix Them

Recently I was handed a job description for a not-for-profit volunteer role.  What hit me was the length (2 pages) and the line that said Reports to.  I know everyone reports to someone, but if I am looking for volunteer work would I look for another boss or somewhere I could have fun and be significant?  By the way, this organization is struggling to get volunteers, and when they do people are confused with their roles.  This happened because someone from outside their organization handed them a template for defining roles and they just copied it.  As we have formed organizations and worked hard to help align work through multiple levels of management and different functional areas, the job description has become a barrier to work, not something that supports it.

Here are my three frustrations in job descriptions:

  1. They lack passion:  Depending on who you listen to, the percentage of people that are disengaged or only moderately engaged in their work is somewhere between 40% and 75% of the workforce.  When we hand a traditional job description to someone it is an invitation to be mediocre and uninspired.  It is almost as if people need to work hard to get excited about their work (and luckily 20-30% of them do) because too often we don’t give them a lot to work with.
  2. They are long on detail and short on performance:  Where are the top 5 priorities in this role and how we will measure success?  Remember leadership is not how people perform when you are standing there it is about how they run the business when you walk away. 15 – 20 responsibilities with no metrics for success is not a performance focused approach to work.
  3. They don’t invite people to think about What more could I contribute?:  Seen this line before – Additional projects as assigned.  Message – As your leader I reserve the right to give you any other kind of work and you need to do it.  Wait here while I go lead and be ready to go when I get back.  (sorry for the Dilbert moment – but am I right?)  When we list 15-20 things we take away space for people to dream or choose to jump into an area of need and make a difference.  What if we just listed the additional projects you were thinking about that would help move your business forward and make this role more significant?

Three fixes:

  1. Share the significance of the job:  Instead of focusing on 4-5 sentences of General Responsibilities, create a section called Job Purpose, and use it to define why this role exists in an organization.  Not fluffy language like create traction or cultural beacon, but significant action works like owns, leads, builds, creates, or guarantees.
  2. Only list 5-7 items and each one gets a measure:    There are 4-5 things that every job does on a daily basis and there is a way to measure success.  Focus on sharing that.
  3. Include HOW work is accomplished SEPARATE from what they do.  99.9% of companies are less than 500 people, and most companies are not going to create values statements that stick to the walls.  However, every business has a culture and expectations for how people should work together.  Those are values, and need to be spelled out.  When we do that a couple of things happen.  First, we can hire the type of person we want because there are specific things we look for in people and we can tell them.  Secondly, your company will stand out in the hiring process because nobody talks about this.  NOBODY!

I publish a variety of templates to help people do the little things of managing talent that will make a big difference.  Take a look, and under Onboarding is the Role Summary and Focus form.  As always, yours to use and if you make improvements I would love to see them so I can share with others.

We inspire people when we invite them into something more significant.   Rewriting the job description gives people space to do things that matter, whatever the job.  This is not everything to managing talent well and building a great culture, but it is a start.  Go start well!

Ignorant vs Stupid vs Agile

Ignorance is defined (Merriam-Webster.com) as lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.  In contrast, the definition of stupid (Merriam-Webster.com) is having or showing a lack of ability to learn and understand things.  The fine line between being ignorant and stupid is the ability to learn.

Taking that one step further, in research done by Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger they identified one competency common to all people that became successful leaders – learning agility.  It is defined as the ability and willingness to learn from experience, and subsequently apply that learning to perform successfully under new or first-time conditions.  People with this quality fail, but don’t normally fail multiple times on the same issue and find a way to apply learning from the past to new situations so they can find success.

I also recognize that some lack the ability to learn certain things, and yet I have dozens of examples from clients who work with people with disabilities or special needs that have seen learning happen because they raised their expectations of those individuals and stopped treating them like the labels that had been put on them were permanent.

There is not test for learning agility, but there are some practices that allow people to share their capacity and willingness to learn.  You know my mantra – Great conversations start with a question.  When we have honest conversations that lead to thoughtful actions, the outcome is improved performance.  That is learning agility in action.   Here are some questions that test for it:

For yourself:

  • What do I want to learn this year?
  • What did I learn this past week / month / year?   Did I do it  the easy way (someone helped me) or the hard way?

For individuals:

In One-on-One:

  • What were recent successes and failures?
  • What do you need to learn faster?  What support do you need?

In Performance Conversation:

  • What did you do well this past year?
  • What could you do better?
  • What do you need to learn?

In the end, there is no difference to a leader from those who don’t have the ability and those who do not want to demonstrate the ability.  All organizations have these individuals, and hopefully do not have too many of them.  The latter reason is the most prevalent from my experience.

Sometimes I wonder if removing labels from our politically correct society soften feedback to the point that it is hard to hear.  Maybe we should use the words ignorant and stupid more to help people see their options more clearly.  People with learning agility will see the challenge in the direct feedback.  People without it will be offended – at least we would know who is who.