Journey to Mastery – What’s in a name? #wordsmatter

I like the word Mastery. The definition (Merriam-Webster) = possession or display of great skill or technique. I love watching Mastery at work, whether it’s a Zamboni driver at an ice rink, a teacher managing a learning space, or an engineer sharing a process created for producing great parts. True Mastery energizes me because of the energy coming from the master.

I like the word so much I named my proven process for individual development Journey to Mastery. Here is why and how.

Mastery: George Leonard wrote a book called Mastery in 1991. I give a copy to every career planning client as the ultimate guide to finding success and fulfillment in life. When a friend challenged me on this book vs a few other more popular books on this topic, I shared my rule – I don’t recommend books where the author’s picture is on the cover. Mastery is work, and while it requires inspiration, it requires a whole lot of perspiration – so I look for people who are going to help create inner strength for the journey.

Journey: This word evokes a trip from one place to another. The special part of this journey is that we don’t know exactly where it ends, but we know what a journey takes: movement, ability to react to change, and endurance.

I outline the basic steps in my publication – Own It! 5 Tips for Managing Your Career and Performance.  This time of year is a good time to return to Step 5.5 – the check-in on your progress and resetting your direction/goals for the coming year. Mastery is not about wandering, and Step 5.5 helps reset the purpose of your journey.

Another great quote from Leonard also reminds us that the Journey to Mastery is inclusive; we just need to focus on reminding ALL people, especially those that need some extra help/support because they don’t believe it is for them.

It’s available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it – regardless of age, sex, or previous experience.

How are you doing on your Journey to Mastery? How are you promoting it and supporting it in your own organization?

2017 is a great year to start.

Wondering HOW to start?

My gift to you: An outline of my proven process, Journey to Mastery – and it comes without a picture of me. 🙂

3 Tips for Getting Your People to Own Their Development

3 Tips for Getting Your People to Own Their Development

It is a choice . . . to buy into the fear and the system or to chart your own path and create value as you do.  It’s your job to figure out how to chart the path, because charting the path is the point.  ~ Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indespensible?

 

The most important part of my development plan template is the last page.  It is where the individual signs it and commits to scheduling the next update meeting with their leader. That is ownership and I ask people to sign it before I end our session.

The key to getting to this point is to only start the process if the individual is ready and willing to own the process and excited about doing the work. This is not about tricking a person or trying to get into their head and guess their motivations, it is simply about providing them an opportunity to show they are ready and willing to own it.  Here are 3 ways I use to test that:

  1. Ask them to read a book before we start (the two I like are Linchpin by Seth Godin and Do The Work by Steven Pressfield).  The books are important, but more important is their capacity to create time to learn for themselves and demonstrate they can follow-thru. This demonstrates ownership.
  2. Gather 360 performance feedback and present it back to them.  Do they listen and graciously accept the gift of feedback and work through it to the point where they start making changes based on it or do they make excuses why it is not accurate? This demonstrates the ability to own their own strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Ask them to email me to setup a meeting and/or invite them to a learning event. Showing up sounds like a low threshold to demonstrate ownership – but you would be surprised how effective this is.

Seem simple? It actually is, because any one of these give you an idea that they are ready.  The ability to fill out the development plan and spend time quarterly to reflect and update it will be the ultimate test.

Remember, not showing ownership does not mean someone is a bad person or an underperformer, it just means at this point in their life they don’t have the capacity to own it.  I remember one time I took on a stretch assignment of design and delivery of some learning for a group of senior leaders at a Fortune 100 company where I worked.  It was challenging, stressful, and happened during the third trimester of our fourth child. I realized that it was too much when I saw myself spending too much time working and no time feeling the baby move and helping with the other 3 kids so my wife could rest a little. I finally asked for help and handed off the duties because it was too much at that time in my life.  I could support the work, I just did not have the capacity to lead it.

Mastery is a journey, and it is a choice. Help people understand the choice, invite them to own it, and then provide an opportunity to show ownership.

 

Career Plans – Your Best People Should Have One; Here is How

I was leading a succession planning process with a group of nursing managers. The goal of the process was to identify future supervisors and managers from the current staff and create a process to develop them, monitoring their progress so they would be ready for a leadership role in 1 to 5 years.

Part way through the process, an epiphany happened for one of the managers. After talking about identifying people who were hungry for learning and taking on more responsibility, she said “I just realized that my most skilled nurses, the ones who have been around the longest, are not the people that will be leaders for me in a few years. They just want to do their job.”

The fact is, everyone should have a career plan – even if it is to stay in place and help solve bigger problems. But if you have limited time as a leader, your first focus has to be on the people who want more and are capable of doing more. Is this fair?  Based on the trUPerformance lens I use, I would say yes. A career plan takes guidance from you as a leader and extra effort/ownership from an individual, so asking that of someone is only fair if they are willing and have the capacity to do it. It is built on a foundation of trust and truth.

These three questions are the foundation of truth for this conversation:

  1. Do you want more responsibility?
  2. Are you willing to take on the work?
  3. Do I believe you have the capacity to grow into the larger role?

The ability to answer these questions with the truth, and face-to-face, requires trust.

I have personally been through at least a half dozen processes, from multiple day assessments to formal outplacement services. When it is all said and done, here are the key pieces of information that any individual needs to document:

  1. Strengths (not just Talents, but what the individual has proven they do well)
  2. Weaknesses
  3. Achievements
  4. Short-term goals (6-12 months)
  5. Long-term goals (1-5 years)
  6. Current job responsibilities/accountabilities
  7. Development areas (1-3) to focus on and action plans

The process to do this is outlined in my whitepaper, Own It! 5 Tips for Managing Your Career and Performance.  The trick for you as a leader? Being confident enough to put some extra work into identifying and engaging your best people in the conversation, and the skill to lead the conversation while delegating most of the work. Here is a link to the form to get you started.

If you need help getting started, it is just one click away – scott@thetrugroup.com.  This is a great time of year to have this conversation – it will feed into a few New Year’s Resolutions that will make your business more successful and help you tackle some of the problems that are making your job harder.

4 Books to Improve Leadership Conversations

4 Books to Improve Leadership Conversations

It is very common for leaders to have difficulty connecting with their people. But effective people-centered leadership relies upon effective conversations.

There are resources that can help; here are my top 4 book recommendations to help improve these leadership conversations, specifically the one-to-one, for you or someone you know.

I also have a library of free resources and templates to help get you started.

3 Questions to Shift Perspective on Performance Gaps

3 Questions to Shift Perspective on Performance Gaps

Too often we see performance gaps as things that should be hidden or apologized for. Our narrative around these events contains adjectives like poor or disappointing, which only makes us want to escape them more. Then you start trying to hide what you see as the truth, which too often results in a series of moves where your ego shows up too much or too little to others. It does not take a Psychology major to spot someone who is not comfortable in their work – we just have to listen to the story they are telling.

Then you find a person or place where gaps are accepted, and more energy is put into talking about them, learning from them, and working together to close them in your business and your personal life. At the Inc 5000 conference last week, I interacted with 5 start-up leaders, and while each story contained big challenges that worried them, it also contained things like pride, resourcefulness, teamwork, hope, and perseverance. They were not trying to cover anything; they were just sharing.

It never ceases to amaze me what energy comes from choosing a more hope-filled narrative. If you are a leader, you can shape this with the questions you ask.

Three I love are:

  • What is energizing you right now?
  • What is frustrating you right now?
  • What are you learning today?

People need a place to vent. We also need to create equal amounts of space to dream and reflect so we can learn and plan. We can use words like failure, and when they are used with words like learning and growth our story is fundamentally changed. People-centered leaders create this space and invite people in – and those that value that involvement #ownit.

To learn more about my philosophy on Performance Gaps – take a look at my new whitepaper.

 

 

Micro-manager or Micro-supporter? One tip for starting the change.

Are you a micro-manager or micro-supporter?

A leader recently admitted that she did not stay close enough to a new leader and let them make decisions that were harmful to the business.  Her thought was that she needed to direct the next person more in the beginning. Expensive lesson, and one that will make her a more effective leader.

Micro-managers . . .

  • Direct the work even if the person has (or should have) the capacity to do it.
  • Sometimes say (and always think) “If I want it done right, I need do it myself.”
  • Consistently lose the people who want to lead and keep the people who want to be told what to do.
  • Are either over-involved or not involved – they have no self-control for meddling.

Micro-supporters . . .

  • Ask for the details of the plan because they either, a) Are building confidence in someone’s decision or, b) Want to see the details so they know how they can help.
  • Frequently meet with their people to brainstorm, problem solve, and delegate.
  • Know when to say “I need to take this,” and don’t do it often.
  • More often say – “Let’s work close on this one because it will be good learning for you and me, and it is important enough that two brains should be working on it.”
  • Have teams of loyal, hard-working, energized people that know they have a great leader and don’t want to leave.

If you are not sure which one you are, just look at your teams and the significance of the problems that get solved when you are not there.

The good news is, you can change.  Pick someone who gets their job, wants their job, and has the capacity to do it and do more.  Tell them what your intent is (support vs do their job) and ask for help.  Then start practicing.

If you don’t get what it looks like, read the New One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard.  Then start practicing.

Powerful Questions

Powerful Questions

Great conversations start with a question.  This is one of my core beliefs.

I spent four days this past month delivering a customized leadership development program to twenty-five leaders – in their final checkout one-third of the leaders shared a commitment to asking more powerful questions.  As leaders, they realized they had limits to what they could accomplish without help.  After being challenged to get their teams more aligned and engaged in the goals for their group, it became clear that asking questions is a critical first step.  It was great to see them own it.

The difference between a question and a powerful question is in what it produces.  Powerful questions produce thinking, feeling, and ultimately sharing that makes the conversation meaningful and helpful to both people who are engaged in it.  Powerful questions reframe our perspective on an event so we see it in a more significant way.  Here are some examples:

  • Question: How was your day?  Powerful question:  What was the best part of your day?
  • Question:  What are you working on right now?   Powerful question:  What are your top 2 priorities to complete this week?
  • Question:  How would you like to spend our time today?    Powerful question:  What 2 things do you want to make sure we cover today?
  • Question:  What did you think of the book?   Powerful question:  What is one thing you plan to do differently based on what you read?
  • Question:  What went wrong?   Powerful question:  What was your role in the outcome?

To achieve mastery at asking powerful questions, it is important to create scripts that help ensure they get asked in the time you devote to your people.  Let’s face it, we get weary sometimes and when we do our conversations become shorter and shallower.  We miss opportunities to really listen as leaders, so scripting helps create more moments where powerful questions get asked.  Here are four that I put into my one-on-one template:

  1. Recent successes and failures (to celebrate)?
  2. What is energizing you right now?
  3. What is frustrating you right now?
  4. What do you want to make sure we cover in our time today?

What meeting do you have in the next 24 hours that needs some powerful questions to be asked?

Remember – Great conversations start with a question . . . . think of how much greater it could be if it started with a powerful question.

If you want to explore some other ways to work questions into your conversations with your people many of my templates have questions included. Here is the link to some free talent management templates.

Time for a Career Check-up?

Time for a Career Check-up?

What is your habit about doing a career check-up and development plan?  I encourage the calendar changing to a new year as a place to step back, take a deep breath, and think about the past year, the current moment in time, and the coming year.  As I mentioned in my whitepaper 5 Tips for Managing Your Career and Performance, a key piece is tip 5.5 where you Hone the Habits of revisiting your plans from the previous year.

Here is an outline of what a personal reflection might look like, in 4 simple, but not so easy steps…

First, remember my 30-30-40 rule on conversations.  A healthy conversation focuses 30% on the past, 30% on the present, and 40% on the future.  With that in mind and the goal being to answer a few questions about you and translate that into tangible goals for next year.

Part 1:  Look back on the past year

  • What were my most significant learnings from the past year?
  • Who were people that I am most thankful for because of the part they played in my year?
  • What did I accomplish?
  • What would I like to forget?

Part 2:  Take inventory of where things are today

  • Fill out a wheel-of-life (see attached).  For each piece of the pie answer the question – How satisfied am I with that part of my life? What do I have to celebrate?  What would make this part of the wheel stronger and more fulfilling for me?
  • Looking back at the entire wheel – What is one area I want to focus on in the coming year?

Part 3:  Look to the future.  I took this exercise from Rich Sheridan’s book Joy, Inc. – How We Built a Workplace People Love (p. 241)

  • Take a quiet hour to sit down with your computer, your tablet, or a pen and paper and describe a good day one year from now.  Pick an exact day.  Write down what is happening in your life on that day.  Here is a start to that letter:  It is December 15th, 2016, and today I . . . .   Then start writing.  The description should be dripping with detail.  It should be both personal and global – it shouldn’t be just about you; it should be about both you and the joyful results you are helping to produce in the world.  It should reflect both your personal goals and your work goals.
  • As you read through it – What part of your story jump out at you?  What are the significant things that you see happening – both personally and professionally?  What are the relationships you are celebrating?  What does it tell you about the things you need to focus on maintaining?  Building?

Part 4:  Read through the things from Part 2 and 3.

  • What do I need to KEEP Doing this year?
  • What do I need to START Doing this year?
  • What do I need to STOP Doing this year?

It is that easy, and not that simple.  Once you create a goal, build in some time monthly to review them and set up some progressive steps for making those goals a reality.  Here is a worksheet to help make your goals SMART-Er.

Let me leave you with one quote that I use with many of my clients and in my own life.  It is an African Proverb that says – If you want to go FAST, go ALONE.  If you want to go FAR, go TOGETHER.  This journey towards mastery is best done TOGETHER – so find some travel partners.

Post #300 – Two Things That Are Critical For Great Development Conversations

(quietly I am celebrating my 300th post.  Thanks to those who continue to include me in their leadership journey.)

I believe the cornerstones of improved performance are honest conversations that lead to thoughtful actions.

Two things to help prime these conversations for leaders and individuals who desire to continue the journey to mastery.

Key Thought #1:  When people are not successful in their roles because of poor performance, what are the reasons?

  1. Lack of knowledge – 6% of the time
  2. Lack of skill – 13% of the time
  3. Lake of motivation – 10% of the time
  4. Lack of a supporting situation (ie. resources and leadership) – 71% of the time

This is the main reason that the first reaction by a leader to poor performance should be to assume #4 and work first to meet their needs by addressing gaps in knowledge, skill, or resources.  Then it is on the individual to work to close the gap.  (See my Own It!  5 Tips for Managing Your Career and Performance whitepaper)

Key Thought #2:  A quote to remind us about the importance of our actions and/or behaviors.

To know and not do is to not yet know ~ Kurt Lewin

Remember, at the core of a great relationship is TRUST and TRUTH.  With those as the foundation, we can have honest conversations that lead to thoughtful actions and improved performance.  It is Monday, which is a good day to start.

Lead well . . . . . .

How to win the Talent War – part 2

Nature abhors a vacuum.  When something is left empty of a critical piece for life something will fill it.

Take performance conversations with your people as an example:

  1. When we tell them nothing – they assume they are doing great.
  2. When we don’t explain why a leadership change happened – the  small talk around the office will create a reason.  It will become the truth, and everyone except the person involved in the change will likely hear it.
  3. When you wait two weeks to talk to someone about unproductive behavior it becomes more difficult because that action has already been filed away as ‘successful’ because the work is done and no feedback indicated it was not perfect.

A gift of leadership is creating a vacuum so something positive can happen:

  1. You share your biggest issue with your team and you create a vacuum by saying I do not know how to fix this, What do you think?
  2. You share a vision with your team that outlines dividing up Sales and Marketing when your growth exceeds $xM in sales in 12-18 months.  People begin to lay the foundation for processes that need to be in place to support that change and the current leader will start thinking about which role they will want to stay in.  People then will start to tell you who they think should be elevated to a leadership role.
  3. Monthly financials are shared, and in it you point out that a $100K gap exists in profitability that needs to be closed.  Anyone have any ideas?  Your top people will bring all the ideas you need.

In my book, People-Centered Performance, I hit this several different ways, and one is my observation that OBN leaders are afraid if they tell the truth, others will leave.  If you make a change. telling the person who received the role Why? is only part of the issue.  Telling the people who did not get the role Why Not? (which creates a vacuum – gap in performance) helps them understand what they need to work on to close the gap.  The right people will appreciate the honesty and work to get better or to shift to an area where they can be more successful and impactful.

Sometimes those conversations are hard, which is why many of your competitors (the other leaders wanting your talent) don’t do them well.  You position yourself to win the war by telling the truth in a way that creates a vacuum for people, and you follow-up to support those who want to fill it.

What vacuums are you creating today?

(for some examples of creating vacuums through performance conversations here are some templates for some of the most critical conversations leaders have with their people)