Leaders – Are you avoiding the hard stuff?

Leaders – Are you avoiding the hard stuff?

A key barrier to being a People-Centered Leader is avoiding the hard stuff.

Recent data from my four-week People-Centered Leadership journey indicates we love to watch YouTube videos and download forms that might help us, but when we are asked to share information about ourselves with a team member using the Team Member Fact Sheet™, we skip that part – 100% of the time.

My intent in offering this People-Centered Leadership journey was to help people practice the habits that are foundational behaviors of People-Centered Leaders. The barriers to those key habits are familiar, and yet I have witnessed leaders that – with a little support – break through the barriers that go up when we interact differently with our people.

Here are a couple of quotes I will remember forever:

  1. “When I started asking them questions about themselves, they asked me – Why are you asking me this? The tone clearly communicated they were skeptical of my motives. I realized that as a leader I never get to know my people, so they are surprised when I show interest. It is going to take me some time to fix it, and I am committed to fixing it.”
  2. “We work right next to each other and have been doing it for five years, and yet some of the most basic information about them I do not know. Once I got past that initial feeling of shame, I was able to start the conversation. It was a great conversation.”

As the year end approaches, it’s a great time to focus on connecting with the people around you.

I think we can have some fun with this, so watch this space for more details about the People-Centered Leadership Challenge. It will be a chance to explore your own strengths, try some time-tested  techniques, and qualify to win some great prizes. More to come. If you want to learn more about People-Centered Leadership, here is an explanation.

People-Centered Leaders: Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

The Book of Joy: The 20 thoughts that stayed with me

The Book of Joy: The 20 thoughts that stayed with me

One question I ask on the Team Member Fact Sheet is: If you could have dinner with anyone, past or present, who would you select and what question would you ask them? When I answer this, George Washington comes to mind and the thing I would ask him is: What part of what you put in place when this country was formed do you hope is still there in 200 years?

When I was handed The Book of Joy, it was not on my personal bucket list to go into a room with Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama to ask questions and listen to them share their stories and collective wisdom for a week. As I read the last page, I felt like I had been part of a very special event – and I had a book with pages dog-eared around all the thoughts I collected during the journey. I liked this book, and as you head into a gift-giving time of year, it is worth putting on your list.

Instead of writing a review, let me just share some of the thoughts I highlighted from those dog-eared pages and let the thoughts and wisdom stand on their own for a little while:

  1. So when you look at the same event from a wider perspective, we will reduce the worrying and our own suffering. ~ Dalai Lama (p. 37)
  2. A study (by Brickman, Coates, Janoff-Bulman) found that lottery winners were not significantly happier than those paralyzed by an accident.
  3. Courage: Is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. ~ Nelson Mandela (p. 94)
  4. Courage: Is not the absence of fear, but the ability to act despite it. ~ Desmond Tutu (p. 94)
  5. Studies have shown that sadness lasts longer than fear or anger. Fear lasts 30 minutes, sadness 120 hours. (p. 110)
  6. Sadness seems to cause us to reach out to others. We don’t get really close to others if our relationship is made up of unending hunkydory-ness. It is the hard times, the painful times, the sadness and grief that knit us more closely together. (p. 110)
  7. Without love, there is not grief . . . when we feel our grief, uncomfortable and aching as it might be, it is actually a reminder of the beauty of that love, now lost. ~ Gordon Wheeler (psychologist) (p. 113)
  8. Hope requires faith – even if that faith is in nothing more than human nature or the very persistence of life to find a way. Hope is nurtured by relationships, by community. Despair sends us inward. Hope sends us into the arms of others. (p. 123)
  9. Mudita is the Buddhist concept often translated as “sympathetic joy” and described as the antidote to envy. It is considered one of the Four Immeasurables, qualities we can cultivate infinitely. The other three are loving-kindness, compassion, and equanimity. (p. 140)
  10. A quote from a Tibetan imprisoned by the Chinese (and tortured) for 18 years. He told me he was in danger of losing his compassion for his Chinese guards. ~ Dalai Lama (p. 156)
  11. The real secret of freedom may simply be extending this brief space between stimulus and response. Meditation seems to elongate this pause and help expand our ability to choose our response. (p. 180)
  12. Marriages, even the best ones – perhaps especially the best ones – are an ongoing process of spoken and unspoken forgiveness. (p. 181)
  13. Research has identified key influences on happiness. One being our perspective towards life, or our ability to reframe our situation more positively. (p. 199)
  14. So many people seem to struggle with being kind to themselves ~ Dalai Lama (p.212)
  15. Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied? And what is the use of being unhappy if it cannot be remedied? ~ Dalai Lama
  16. Forgiveness is the only way to heal ourselves and to be free from the past. ~ Desmond Tutu (p. 230)
  17. We stand firm against the wrong not only to protect those who are being harmed but also to protect the person who is harming others, because eventually they too will suffer. ~ Dalai Lama (p. 234)
  18. Exile has really brought me closer to reality. When you are in difficult situations, there is not room for pretense. In adversity or tragedy, you must confront reality as it is. ~ Dalai Lama (p. 243)
  19. Joy is the happiness that does not depend on what happens. It is the grateful response to the opportunity that life offers you at this moment. ~ Brother Steindl-Rast (p. 245)
  20. Unforgiveness robs us of our ability to enjoy and appreciate our life, because we are trapped in the past, filled with anger and bitterness. (p. 245)

 

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!

Social Media and Relationships: 3 headlines you will never see (for Leaders AND Parents)

Social Media and Relationships: 3 headlines you will never see (for Leaders AND Parents)

When I begin EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) with a client, we talk about how being an effective leader is like being a good parent. The key is having a few rules, repeating them often, and being consistent (i.e., demonstrating them through your actions). We do this because most leaders are also parents/aunts/uncles/etc., and the powerful correlation helps make it easier to remember this critical message.

Those of you who have spent time with me in keynotes or classes know that I bring in parenting stories often because I believe the skills we use to lead at work are the same ones we use to lead at home.

So here is my story . . .

We have a rule in our house that you don’t get a cell phone until you are going into ninth grade. This summer, our youngest child received her first phone. My wife is very good about starting intentional conversations around important topics for all of us to learn and talk about as a family. She does not dictate the family reading list often, so when the book The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch showed up, our summer conversation was clear. Then, when a printed copy of the The Atlantic’s article, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?, showed up the conversation went up a notch.

A note to parent leaders: The Atlantic article provides some powerful statistics around children and time with parents, timing of driver’s license, # of hours of sleep, dating activity, sexual activity, and rate of depression/feeling lonely since the introduction of the iPhone. At the very least, go to the article and review the graphs. It is a must-read.

For business leaders: I believe we do not have to wait for a study to come out and tell us the impact of social media on our key relationships as leaders. Do you honestly believe any of the following will ever appear as a headline that is backed by credible research?

  • Facebook Credited With Decreasing Divorce Rate
  • 24/7 Access to Email = Increased Employee Engagement
  • Instagram Rebuilding Families Around The Globe

Don’t wait for the data. Healthy relationships at home mirror healthy relationships at work. Time together talking, listening, laughing, and sometimes crying is how relationships are built. I will not offer web-friendly “5 Habits To  . . . ” or “3 Things To Do . . .” lists. Each of us has to figure that out, and the resources I linked to above are a good place to start.

Remember the mantra about being an effective leader = being an effective parent:

  • Have a few rules
  • Repeat them often
  • Be consistent (Walk the Talk)

Lead well – at home and at work . . .

 

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)

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!

3 Skills To Become a More Powerful Giver

3 Skills To Become a More Powerful Giver

Powerful Giver? As I wrote it, the word oxymoron came to mind…

In my last post, I introduced you to Give and Take by Adam Grant and his presentation of the styles of giver, matcher, and taker. To conclude that givers will find more success is not accurate, because like any strength overused, it can become a weakness and negatively impact effectiveness. Here are the three traps for the giver style:

  • Too trusting
  • Too empathetic
  • Too timid

One of my favorite parts of Adam Grant’s book was his section on the learnings that will make givers more effective, based on the outcomes they and their businesses achieve.

Here they are:

  1. Sincerity screening: Givers need to keep trusting most of the people most of the time, and become skilled at recognizing fakers and takers. I am always looking for collaborators, and once I was connected with an individual with an idea and decided to partner with him to make the idea a reality. After four meetings a pattern emerged – we left every meeting with assignments, and every time we got back together he presented his work without ever asking for my input. Finally, after about 40 hours of work, I stopped following up with him and stepped away. He was a taker. I have learned to watch closely for someone to accept the ideas of others, as a test for recognizing fakers and takers. This is a key skill for givers, and I have learned it.
  2. Generous tit for tat: Givers do so without expecting anything back, and yet the strong empathy they possess can create a forgiving nature that gets in the way of accountability conversations. In this case, creating an environment where their roles and deliverables are clear is essential. This allows empathy (forgiveness) to be present, but it is balanced by clear expectations. Having clear deliverables helps temper the desire for endless second chances. It is one reason I love the EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) as a tool for leadership teams, because expectations stay clear.
  3. Learn to negotiate (assertiveness and advocacy paradox): Both this book and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg share research that concludes women are less effective at negotiating than men, and this contributes to salary discrepancies with male counterparts. When you equip a giver with this skill, outcomes change. I am a giver, and recently two friends mentored me on my ability to negotiate project rates with clients. The simple skill we practiced together? State my normal rate – and stop talking. Seems simple, but I found myself trying to justify it or soften it because it felt awkward. The outcome? I am more assertive, and it increased my ability to get what I am worth. I still serve, and I do it more strategically and intentionally, instead of by accident.

Are you a giver? If you are (based on the assessment), which of these skills would make you more effective as a people-centered leader?

I believe that Learning + Doing  = Growth. Give and Take is a great book because it makes my value come alive, and this is a leadership lesson that will make you a more powerful giver.

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!

Why learning TOGETHER is best – the data!

Why learning TOGETHER is best – the data!

I recently shared My 7 Favorite Books for a Leadership Book Study Group – and something great happened. A conversation started with a leader who wanted to help me (and you) get smarter faster.
An organization called the NTL Institute published their findings on the average retention rate of different teaching methods.
Here is the data:
  • Lecture – 5%
  • Reading – 10%
  • Audio/Visual – 20%
  • Discussion Group – 50%
  • Practice by Doing – 75%
  • Teaching Others – 90%

In other words – you will only remember about 5% of what you learn by lecture, while a full 90% of information will be retained when you are teaching others!

Read my tips for making a book group a very effective learning method, and you will see the tie to discussion/practice/teaching that will move you quickly from 10% to 50%+.

Recently, a CEO I work with to deliver a learning program (Paul Doyle – Leaderwork) shared some information he read: the annual spend in the United States on leadership training is between $14 and $50 billion each year – and there are approximately 15 million people in leadership roles in the US. How many of you have been to programs that largely focus on reading and lecture? I have spent two decades in companies of various sizes/industries and my experience is that lecture/reading is the norm.

I know many of my readers are leaders looking for tips to develop themselves and their teams. Make it a goal in 2017 to push for more conversations, practice, and learning in groups – even if it means slowing down the process to practice and reflect.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

Empathy 2.0: The power of leaders becoming students

Empathy 2.0: The power of leaders becoming students

I just ended a vacation where our four children were around a lot. One of my goals was to listen, and I also found myself reading one book they all recommended (Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff) and starting a second book recommended by my oldest daughter (Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam M. Grant). The reading focus was in-line with my listening strategy.  Let me explain . . .

Last month I published my 7 favorite books for a leadership book study. The last book was The CEO’s favorite book. I did that because picking someone else’s favorite books automatically puts you in a listening mode because they love it and `will want to talk about it. For leaders, when you hear someone talking about a book, especially one that is motivational or work related, it is your opportunity to listen.

Walking by the opportunity could be an indicator of what I call intellectual arrogance, which is simply defined as possessed intelligence to a level that blinds us from entertaining another truth.

Walking by the opportunity could also be an indicator of OBN leadership (defined in my book as the Ought, But Not leadership). I believe in the developing of my people, but when given the opportunity to join in their learning I chose not to. People-centered leaders see that an opportunity to listen and

Don’t walk by too many of these opportunities, whether you are leading at home or at work

When the student is ready the teacher will appear.

It is a powerful statement by a leader to become the student. Powerful things will happen in that space. Remember that I titled this post Empathy 2.0. People-centered leaders are committed to finding time to see the world through the eyes of their people.

As you think about development goals for 2017, what about adding Ask each person on my team to teach me something. Here is your goal for being taught:  Success is learning it and applying that learning successfully – and my teacher will judge ‘successfully’.

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often.