They’ll Love Your Questions – by my friend/mentor Mary Jo Asmus

They’ll Love Your Questions – by my friend/mentor Mary Jo Asmus

Today’s guest blogger is Mary Jo Asmus. Mary Jo is a friend and mentor, and I invited her to be part of this series because she is a highly skilled coach and has a gift for asking powerful questions. She has been a great influence on my own coaching approach and practice, and I am excited to connect you with her. For leaders committed to people-centered leadership, you need Mary Jo on the journey with you.

The following content is the property of Mary Jo Asmus and Aspire Collaborative Services LLC and is shared on this blog with her full approval. Any reproduction or use of this material without her consent is not lawful. If you like it and want to use it somewhere else, just ask her directly using the link at the bottom of the post.

They’ll love your questions

Someone who reports to you has a problem they want to solve, and they say they need your help solving it. A little bit of adrenaline kicks into your brain because you love to solve problems, and you can’t wait to hear more.

Stop and think deeply now. How will solving their problem help THEM over the long haul?

You might notice that the really smart and talented people who report to you don’t want your advice, even when they ask for it. How many times have you given your solutions and watched them walk away and actually use the recommendations you gave them? Ok, maybe they have, but they do so with little enthusiasm.

They really don’t want your advice. Even if they accept it, they do so begrudgingly. If they use it, they will use it reluctantly.

Do you really want those talented people who are brimming with oodles of untapped potential to go about their days doing what you tell them because you’re the boss (and they feel like they have to)?

Consider this: If you ask the right questions in the right way, they can figure out what they need to figure out for themselves. They’ll like their own solutions so much more than yours. Their creativity and intuition will kick in. They’ll become motivated. They’ll learn.

They’ll love your questions. If they are driven, smart, talented and want to learn, give them questions instead of solutions.

If you see the sense in this, you’ll need to exercise that question-asking part of your brain because you’ve been solving everyone’s problems all these years.

The way to start is to keep a few questions handy that seem to work to get people’s thinking juices started. Here are some you can start with.

To help them brainstorm solutions:

  • What will that look like when you’re done?
  • Where are you at with that right now?
  • What’s the gap between where you are at right now and where you want this to be?
  • How will you fill that gap?

To get them thinking about taking action:

  • What’s the first step you will take?
  • What’s your next step?
  • What are you willing to try?
  • What will keep you from doing that?
  • When can you start?
  • If you were courageous, what would you do?

To get them to commit:

  • What are you committing to over the next (hour, day, week, etc.)?
  • When can you do that?
  • What will keep you from doing that?
  • How can I help?
  • When should we assess your progress?

When they are really stuck:

  • What’s stopping you?
  • What does your (head or heart) tell you to do?
  • What assumptions are you making about that?

When they did what they said they’d do with great success:

  • What did you do well?
  • What surprised you about what you did?
  • What did you learn from that experience?
  • What’s your next step?

When you don’t have enough information to even ask a question:

  • Can you say more about that?

Try questions in place of problem solving and watch how smart and driven your employees (and you) become!

Did Mary Jo’s words resonate with you? Here is how you can continue to benefit from her wisdom on your leadership journey. Learn more about her executive coaching and leadership development services at www.aspire-cs.com and when you sign-up for her leadership blog/newsletter you receive a copy of her free ebook, Working with Your Executive Coach. Mary Jo is an award-winning blogger and a Professional Certified Coach.

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?

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!

My Leadership 7: What’s on your list?

My Leadership 7: What’s on your list?

I was recently asked to define people-centered leadership. This question came on the heels of 2 days with 13 leaders, as part of a leadership development program I designed and deliver once a year for a Michigan-based company. The timing was perfect, because the first task I give them is to finish the sentence, ‘Leadership is . . .’

So when the teacher (me) became the student, here are the 7 books that came to mind as having shaped my thinking on leading in all areas of my life:

  1. The Servant by James C. Hunter
  2. One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
  3. Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx
  4. Good to Great by Jim Collins
  5. First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
  6. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Don Clifton
  7. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

Why Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx? As a parent and a leadership coach, I am often reminded of how both roles require the same skills and focus. I love this book because of the message and the wisdom it shares. It helped me define my own belief that I share in my book: I believe fear motivates for the short term and love motivates for the long term. I guess you could say I teach leaders how to love in the workplace. If that sounds risky, read my book – Chapter 1: ‘I Believe…’, point 4.

Why Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom? I coach leaders who are amazingly successful, but all the money and power in the world won’t make their sacrifices worthwhile. This book helped me seek a more balanced state before my death bed and is a constant reminder of the value of relationships.

What books on your list helped you define – Leadership is . . ? I would love to hear them.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often! (This is at the core of people-centered leadership.)

People-Centered Leaders – Read this article!

People-Centered Leaders – Read this article!

I have come to believe that there are two key sources of learning for leaders that will have the greatest impact on their performance: Harvard Business Review and TED Talks. There are certainly many places to learn, but the two of these provide quality, depth, and breadth that will ground you in key fundamentals of being a good person and stretch you in productive ways.

Here is a summary of an HBR article that grounded me in some timeless truths – The Neuroscience of Trust: Management behaviors that foster employee engagement by Paul Zak.

Key points:

  • Leaders know low engagement hurts the bottom line of their business (Gallup and others proved that) but don’t know how to fix it.
  • There are eight behaviors that stimulate the generation of oxytocin, which is a brain chemical that facilitates teamwork. (I will have to trust the author on this one – I missed that class in college. 🙂 )

Be ready to NOT be blown away by these behaviors:

  • Recognize excellence – When you see someone doing great work, tell them!
  • Induce “challenge stress” – Provide people with challenging assignments and/or invite them to help you solve a significant problem.
  • Give people discretion on how to do their work – Focus on defining the outcome of the project and give people space to get there (for my EOS® clients, this is when I ask “What does success look like for this rock?”)
  • Enable job crafting – Allow people to volunteer for work, or add an accountability to their job that the organization needs if they have a passion for it; also allow them to delegate work they don’t like and depend on the team to do it.
  • Share information broadly – Have a defined weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual rhythm of meetings where you talk to and listen to people beyond your immediate team.  Protect that time like it is sacred, and especially don’t allow the customer to cause you to cancel it.
  • Intentionally build relationships – See my Team Member Fact Sheet post . . . .
  • Facilitate whole person growth – See my Development Plan post . . .
  • Show vulnerability – See my Vulnerability post . . .

I appreciate the article because it provides the why behind all of the actions I promote as part of being a People-Centered Leader. The last chapter in my book is devoted to actions that hit most of these directly. I also recognize that teaching leaders the why – in this case, the science – behind trust-building leadership creates a higher level of commitment to the right behaviors.

If you are looking for a summer leadership book study, start here – and if you add my book to the second half of it, I would be glad to talk about showing up one or two times to help enhance your learning. The reason I say add my book is because leaders will all immediately agree these are the right actions to take, and yet we don’t do them – that is where my book kicks in.

This points out that leadership is that simple, and yet not that easy. Leadership is a journey that is best taken with company.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

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!

The key to a long journey? Focus on the next town. (Thanks, Gary.)

Yesterday on my daily run with my golden-doodle, I ended up walking with a guy named Gary. We have passed each other on the trail for two years and never really spoken. Sometimes I realize it is time to walk and listen, and this was one of those moments.

As Gary told me about his journey across the 2000+ mile Appalachian Trail in 2008, I asked him this question (remember – great conversations start with a question):

“What is the trick to successfully completing the Appalachian Trail?”

Without much thought he answered,

“You just have to focus on the next town and not think about how far away Maine is.”

I thought of my EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System™) clients and how creating a vision for a company is critical, but establishing smaller goals and the disciplined execution of those goals is most critical.

Successful leaders learn to help their teams understand and stay focused on the next town. People-centered leaders invite their people into the process vs just sharing the goals.

Sometimes you just have to slow down and talk to the Gary’s you run into – they have a lot to share.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often.

Documize: 1 Tip for creating and leading a safe environment for your team

Documize: 1 Tip for creating and leading a safe environment for your team

Documize.

Last week, I was leading an EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) session and this word came out of my mouth. I did not know I did it. Within a minute, one of the leaders I was working with said “Scott, what is documize? You just said it.” As I paused, another leader spoke up and said he heard it too.

Have you ever said something stupid, or uttered words that in hindsight did not accurately represent what you really meant?

That’s exactly where I was. One of the desired outcomes of my work with teams is to help them become healthy and smart together, which requires a high degree of trust. Since I teach it, I challenge myself to model the things that are the big contributors to trust and safety.

So, I held back the urge to say “I did not say that . . ” or “Yeah, but . . . . ” and just smiled and thanked them for making me aware of that. I then made up a fictitious definition that conjoined ‘document’ and ‘systemize’, and asked the team for the intellectual property rights. Then we moved on to a productive day of learning and planning.

In a world where people are increasingly attacked for what they say, and less emphasis is put on conversations around “What did you mean?” or “Just clarify and apologize and move on….” – safety is a gift. This leadership team provided it for me, and I accepted it.

How safe is the environment in your leadership team? Creating it takes some diligence, but the open debate and unmeasured/unedited comments that people share could be the difference between a successful year and a cash or quality emergency that takes months to fix.

Documize – It is my constant reminder that I get to work in special, safe places. Are you creating such spaces with your actions?

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!