3 Reasons Culture Matters

3 Reasons Culture Matters

Lots has been written about the value of a defined and healthy culture in an organization.

In Good to Great, Jim Collins’ research showed great companies had values, everyone knew them, and they were built into everything they did. He also coined the phrase right people in the right seats, which connected the concept of getting people that fit a particular culture (right people) doing the work that fit their natural strengths and passions (right seat). More recently, in their book The Purpose Revolution, John Izzo and Jeff Vanderwielen made the business case that companies having a strong purpose are retaining people, more profitable than their peers, and are making a visible difference in the communities in which they operate. A purpose, cause, or passion can be a key part of defining culture.

My goal in this post is not to debate if culture matters, but to start a conversation about how it can solve some of your challenges and invite you to listen to 5 experts I have lined up to share their wisdom. I hope the outcome is a plan for your business in 2019 to be more intentional about growing the culture.

Here are the three reasons culture matters, based on my time working with successful entrepreneurial leaders and leadership teams:

  1. A defined culture is the only way to attract and retain the right people.  In a yearly survey of leaders using EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®), the number one issue identified that keeps leaders up at night is people. As an EOS Implementer™, I have seen organizations struggle with hiring smart people that take a lot of management time because they treat others so poorly. I have also witnessed the relief that happens – and the amount of great work that starts getting done – when the focus changes to hiring people that align with the values of an organization. A focus on culture makes this happen.
  2. A strong culture is an ethical balance to a ‘profit first’ message.  The lure of more profit takes organizations down a dangerous path. The irony is that most leaders don’t intend that message to be the only thing people hear, but it happens too often. The recent struggles at Wells Fargo and Uber are public examples of this. We all have local businesses that we loved, and then something changed. Over time our experience changes because the people are not excited about working there anymore; how they treat us and the quality of the product/service we receive reflects that shift in culture. Have you had that experience? I have, and when I’ve been in a position to learn more, there was always a leader change who thought the choice was profit or culture, not profit and culture.
  3. It provides a constant reminder to love your neighbor.  A big topic in the United States is coming together, despite our differences, to solve big problems facing us. In my book, People-Centered Performance, I share my belief in more love and less fear in our work relationships because love takes you farther. I don’t mean the sexual version of love that is represented by the Latin word for love, eros. The unconditional love of family (agape) or friendship (philia) are the bonds that get created when we treat each other in a way that places value on how we treat our neighbor/teammate at work. A defined culture enables this.

Do any of these reasons resonate with you? As you look to 2019, where do people and culture fit into your goals?  What is your plan to get there?

The goal of my upcoming culture series is to present the concept of culture in a way that any one of you can identify some actions to do tomorrow to cultivate and build a stronger culture in your organization. Now is the time to start thinking about this, before the holiday hits and the personal resolutions cloud our minds. If you have not signed up to receive the series, join the mailing list here. I adhere to international standards related to personal information and spam, so at any point I make unsubscribe as easy as subscribe.

If you care about the culture of your team and organization, I guarantee the conversations with our panel of experts (Rich Sheridan, Jeff Disher, Matt Jung, Mandy Brower, and Amy Kraal) will help you become more of a Chief Culture Officer than just whatever title you have today.

The first post comes out on November 13th – Sign-up here to receive the blog post in your inbox!

3 Questions to Test for Trust

3 Questions to Test for Trust

I believe that great conversations start with a question. One of the questions I ask all leadership teams during our EOS® annual planning is:

What role do you want in this organization in 3 years?

I can see the discomfort right away, and I let it stay there. This is part of the process of building transparency within the leadership team about how they want to contribute in the future.

I can vividly remember the faces of one leadership team as they shared their answers. It was clear they were being at least 80% honest because they all mentioned different roles than they were in today, but clearly aligned with what they were interested in doing. They smiled as soon as the words came out of their mouths, as if some sort of internal pressure had been released.

People-centered leaders work hard at finding powerful questions to ask that will reveal truth and test for trust. These leaders mine for feedback and view this feedback as an action item for themselves – and a measure of how much their team trusts them. Here are three powerful, people-centered questions:

  1. How have I made your job harder in the last 30 days?
  2. What role would you like to be doing in 3 years?
  3. What questions do you have for me?

People stay safe and vague when they are afraid. The first question focuses on telling you which feeling is winning – fear or trust.

Maturity and safety allows people to be honest for the second question. One answer I love is the same role. My follow-up question for them is: If you stayed in this role, tell me a little more about the challenges you would like to help fix or how you want to be challenged?  Staying in the same role is okay. Lack of interest in changing or improving is not if I am a leader challenged with accomplishing more. When you invite people to help in a more significant way, most will respond. Questions invite them to help.

Finally, the last question helps judge the depth of their thinking about your work and how much they are willing to challenge your decisions. Both are indicators of how much passion they have for your work, and whether they will help you make better decisions. It takes courage to come back with challenging questions, and this creates space for that.

I work with a leader who has become a mentor for me. He has become a mentor because he is so grateful when I challenge his thinking or bring a new idea. My idea does not always win, but he listens. I trust him enough to tell him I am having a busy day or a terrible day. I learn something every time I am around him and it feels so good to be able to be transparent with him. I have found that it takes so much energy to pretend.

Trust is about not having to pretend.

Create space for authentic conversations by using powerful questions and listening.

Lead well . . .

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 . . .

 

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.

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!

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.

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)

 

The talent shortage – and 4 tips for what you can do today

I saw an economist yesterday describe a perfect storm around talent with numbers.  These are for my immediate area:

  • Unemployment under 5.5%
  • Job listings outpacing job seekers
  • Flat wages for 3 straight years

The good news:

  • People are coming back into the workforce that were not in it a year ago
  • People are leaving organizations for new roles (see wages info above – seems to be the only way to get a raise)

So what does that all mean to you as an employer?

My observation – if you are not skilled at looking for talent, you will likely live into the headlines and feel the shortage.  Let me explain:

I do a couple of hiring projects a year for some of my partner organizations that are struggling finding people.  Here are the two things that I always see when I start a project.  (Always is a risky word – but these have been true for all of the roles I have helped with):

  • A posting that lacks a compelling reason to work for you.  Example:  I helped a charter school hire an HR leader.  They were struggling finding the right person and I noticed in their listing no mention of kids, the market they served (urban / high poverty), and their mission (every child deserves a quality education).  We made some of those critical changes, re-posted, and found a young and energetic candidate that was from the area and reflected the racial makeup of the district.  Recruiting is always a challenge – but step 1 is this simple.
  • A process that focuses on an external listing and does not leverage the greatest organizational sales team in the world – which is the people that come to work everyday.  LinkedIn is just another tool, but if it is used correctly it can be a way to leverage the networks some of your people have to get word out to their groups/networks to generate leads that helps you find people that might not be looking.  LinkedIn also gives candidates a way to rigorously check you out.  The question I got one time was “What if they ask a few ex-employees and they get scared away?”  My only thought is “What if they accept the job and get an earful at the next soccer game after it is too late?”

Here are four tips that build trust from Day 1:

  1. Spend time in the process.  Phone screen, initial in-person, 3-4 hours on-site, and a final conversation where they get to ask all the questions as you hand them an offer.  I use topgrading for all full interviews – no cat and mouse interviewing to test their skills at interviewing.  Candidate – You tell me your story that includes ups, downs, frustrations, and what your old bosses will tell me when I call them (and I will call all of them).  I don’t care if you were fired from a role, and it would be helpful to know why and what you learned from it.  My promise – Open access to anyone you want to talk to, plenty of time to ask questions, and  encouragement to contact anyone they know that is connected with the organization to vet what they are getting.  When candidates start commenting on how thorough your process is and how it stands out for them versus some of the other experiences they have had you know you are doing it well.
  2. As soon as there is personal contact – all communications happen with a phone call.  This  includes the “Sorry, we are not going to ask you back for a next round of interviews.  Do you have any questions for me about the process or feedback?”  There is always the time argument, especially the hiring managers.  I don’t argue, because the more people that think that the better chance I have of taking your best people.
  3. All of my time commitments are hit – no excuses.  Note to hiring managers – if you get busy and two weeks pass without you being active in your selection process you send a very strong message to candidates – my time is more important than yours and I will likely lead that way.  Most people will choose NOT to work for leaders like that, except the desperate ones.  If I commit to a call by Thursday, even if the process is going slow, I call Thursday.  I am amazed at the positive feedback from people for just using the manners I was taught as a child.
  4. The admin/receptionist is part of the interview – through observing and interacting.  I want to know how they treat people that they think are not part of the decision making process.  That is why they always come through the front door several times and I ask the admin to watch and give me their opinion.  This is the same reason senior leaders go to dinner with the CEO and spouses are included.  If the vibe from the spouse is not positive, then the candidate is not hired.

Here is a link to the role summary and focus sheet I use to either build or boil down a job description to something that can be used.  I also offer other templates around talent and performance if you are interested.

Talent is tight, and yet there are still things you can do to stand out because too many companies still don’t get it.

 

Inviting the Voice of Ownership

I remember the conversation vividly.  His call came two weeks after my Situational Leadership class and his frustration was evident.

I am asking all the questions you gave us in the training, but they are not giving me any answers.   The How can I support you? question is just creating awkward silence, when I know they are buried and complaining.  I feel like that training was a waste of time.

That conversation was over a decade ago, and started me on a quest to better support leaders and those they lead in having more meaningful conversations.

So here is my response after years of working with other leaders and individuals in this space.

1.  Be patient – The lens of a leader is generally one where they see themselves as nice and approachable, so not answering questions confuses them.  Too often, people do not see them as approachable.  I can think back to an extremely approachable leader I was working with, and the feedback from her team was She is so busy, I hate to bother her with my problems.  Her approachability was impacted by people liking her too much and not wanting to bother her.

Her fault?  No.

Her problem?  Yes.

Creating the space and continuing to share WHY you believe this time is important is the step to focus on.

2.  Look for opportunities to DO support – Talking about support is one thing, but people need proof.  Your best people will only need a little proof.  Your lowest performers will need a lot of proof.  Focus your time and energy on your best people, and continue to provide evidence of your commitment and INVITE your other team members to join the performance conversation.

Notice I did not say try to convince them of your commitment.  People have to make their own choices, and you need to focus on what you control which is your actions and keeping what you are thinking in the OPEN part of the Johari Window.  (see my video to hear about the JoHari Window)

3.  Be patient, and celebrate your successes.

Summer can be a good time to re-start relationships because people are relaxed and have lots of things to talk about.  Use this time to build relationships and invite people into more meaningful conversations about their future and the future of your business.

Just don’t get bogged down by the people that do not want to go there.

If you are interested – here is a presentation I created to support individuals in managing their own career and performance.  A full whitepaper is available on request – just ask.

Rule 2 – Individual (not leader) owns the agenda

(This is the second blog in a series outlining the key rules for making one on ones work.  Here is a link to the first:  Rule 1 – Be in the same room together)

I stood in front of a group of human resource professionals and asked them Whats the #1 reason leaders would resist a regular one on one schedule? Their answer – Time.  It is a reality that another commitment, especially one that takes preparation, is going to be an issue.  This is one of the key reasons that Rule #2 exists.  While this time together requires presence from the leader, it requires only minimal preparation because the agenda is 100% driven by the individual.  Here are two reasons why.

First, the number one need for people at work is knowing what is expected of them. Gallup created a twelve question survey they could use to assess employee engagement at work.  They called it the Q12, and the very first and most important question was I know what is expected of me at work. Each day, new problems or opportunities arise in a business, and with each comes an event that could change the nature of the work that someone has to do. The key to a one on one is doing the five R’s around work duties:  refine, revise, reorder, reinforce, or remove.  Since it is a fundamental need for every person to have some level of focus in their work, they will have the strongest desire to own any activity that helps them achieve that.  The one on one is that activity.

Secondly, it addresses one of the top issues with any leader, the ability to effectively delegate work. The #2 best-selling Harvard Business Review article of all time is Management Time:  Who’s Got the Monkey? Leaders have long struggled with taking on too much work from their people.  The inherent question from the leader in the one on one conversation is –What do you need from me? There are four basic needs a leader has to be ready to address.  The need for . . .

  • A listening year
  • Encouragement to overcome a frustration
  • Coaching to see/define other options for getting through a barrier
  • Help prioritizing/re-framing an overbooked to do list

Notice your work is not on the list.  There will likely be some commitments for a leader after a one on one, but most should revolve around working with other leaders to deal with competing organizational priorities.  There is a natural need for leaders to take on the work of their people (for that perspective read the article).  The one on one all about helping the individual achieve a state of 3 Mores/1 less:  MORE focused, MORE autonomous, MORE  successful, and LESS stressed.  In that state, everybody wins, especially the leader.

More to come on one on ones.  If you are interested, here is a sample template for getting started.