Leaders: What their questions will tell you

Leaders: What their questions will tell you

Recently I was invited in to lead an EOS® review session with a group of next level leaders. I believe great conversations start with a question, so every session I lead starts with, “What questions do you want answered today?”

When I asked this group of leaders, here is what they shared. As you read these questions, what themes do you see and what gaps would they reveal if this were your organization?

  1. Data/Scorecards/Measurables/Issues: How do you make things more visible and knock them out forever?
  2. What is the biggest hurdle when companies go to EOS®?
  3. Agile is a software design approach of cross-functional teams. How does EOS® fit into this?
  4. Does EOS® work for all companies/organizations?
  5. What happens when Rocks are not hit?
  6. How did EOS® come about? Why did we decide to use it?
  7. When did our organization start using EOS®?
  8. How challenging should Rocks be?
  9. How many companies have implemented EOS®?
  10. Accountability: Is it dependent on my manager?

As I listened, a few things hit me about this group:

  1. There was a gap in teaching around Rocks and people were still a little uncertain about them. (#5, #8)
  2. When helping adults learn, it is important to connect new concepts/words with something they are already familiar with. This should be part of onboarding, and I wondered if that was happening well? (#1, #3, #10)
  3. It is easy to forget to talk about the ‘Why?’ when teaching and spend too much time focused on the ‘What?’ and ‘How?’. Someone on the leadership team needs to be a storyteller, and in this case not enough time had been spent talking about the journey. (#6, #7)

Empathy is not a talent that all people have, and trying to become an expert in reading behaviors or all the subtle hints that get passed along in conversation is something most of us will fail to master. We can all ask questions, and if we couple that with creating a space where we can listen to the answers, it becomes easier to understand the needs, wants, and barriers of the person sitting across from us.

That is the main belief behind my people-centered leadership motto: Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!


Here are some valuable tips on listening using the Johari Window in a short video.

Here are a couple of tools I use to script questions for leaders:

Key Leadership Skill: Sharpening the Saw or Clarity Breaks – 2 Tips to help you get started

Key Leadership Skill: Sharpening the Saw or Clarity Breaks – 2 Tips to help you get started

We are all too busy.

Do you believe that? I see too many leaders struggling with this feeling, and with the health effects that all too often follow this constant state of being.

At this moment, 20+ leaders from my EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) clients are doing a 6-week challenge to develop or reinforce the habit of taking one hour every week to spend time in what Stephen Covey called ‘sharpening the saw’. Gino Wickman calls it a ‘clarity break’™, and like many of the leaders I coach, I have struggled to establish the habit. I believe it is important, and currently I have two straight weeks of clarity breaks going, so here are two tips that have helped me:

  1. I created a template to make it easy to focus on the most important questions I need to answer each week and the work I need to review.
  2. The place is important. I live near Lake Michigan, and have found that a short drive to the water and sitting in my car helps me detach from my work. The picture you see here is the view that I have. My desk and coffee shops did not work for me.

Clarity breaks don’t fix being too busy, but the impact is to help you see your priorities more clearly so that the time you have will be focused on them. (FYI – check out my LinkedIn article about 3 Things Leaders Should Stop Saying in 2018 – “I don’t have enough time” is one.)

I am thinking of doing a broader Clarity Break Challenge in a few months for all of the readers of this blog and I am open to allowing each of you to invite people from your company. If you have interest in learning more, sign up here; if you would like to explore doing a challenge with leaders/individuals within your company indicate that in the note space. I would be glad to explore the possibility of kicking it off with a webinar or lunch and learn to help jumpstart their success.

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

My Top 5 Leadership TED Talks

My Top 5 Leadership TED Talks

I was recently speaking with a group and asked if they had seen one of my favorite TED Talks. Over 50% of the group had not.

It hit me that there are thousands of great talks and, as a result, some of the classics I share as part of my journey to help develop people-centered leaders have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Here are my top 5:

  1. Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action – One of the most-watched TED Talks ever. The wisdom he shares can be used at many different levels; I have used it in career conversations, strategic planning sessions, and change management training. Watch and share often!
  2. Simon Sinek: Why good leaders make you feel safe – Is trust and safety important? Aspiring and committed people-centered leaders know the answer is ‘Yes’, and this video will help you explore it and identify some actions you can do tomorrow.
  3. Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone? – What is the role of social media in healthy relationships? There is research around this, and Sherry Turkle is an expert.
  4. Susan Cain: The power of introverts – I like this video because it stresses the importance of having introverts on teams, helps understand how common it is to be introverted, and challenges introverts to speak up!
  5. Derek Sivers: How to start a movement (short and funny) – There are not too many funny and short TED Talks. People-centered leaders understand the importance of having people willing to follow them, and this video lays a clear vision for the importance of followers.

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

Scott

The #1 Skill Your People Need

As I reviewed the most popular pages on my website in 2017, I found that the Rock Project Plan was the most visited page. I was surprised at first, but the more I thought about the leaders I had coached, taught, and mentored in 2017 and the challenges they faced, the more it made sense.

The fundamental thing your people need to understand is how to predict and plan how the work of a project will get done. Creating a project plan is a great way to organize this information and break down a goal into actionable steps and accountable owners.

Two things that are driven by a project plan:

  1. The foundation of accountability, i.e. the goal and the specific work that has to happen to complete the task
  2. Multiple moments where “I need help” can be said

All leaders are helped by #1, because it creates conditions that are easier for them to manage.

All individuals are helped by #2, because the hardest words for the leaders I coach to say are “I need help.” This impacts your team’s outlook because if they see you as resistant to asking for help, they interpret that as not being okay. Here is an example – I did a feedback session with a leader and their team where each person had the chance to give and receive feedback to every other person through answering the question: What is one thing [person’s name] could START or STOP doing in 2018 for the greater good of this team? The overwhelming message people told their leader in the feedback – we see you being stressed and busy, and you need to START asking for help because we want to help you! Hidden benefit – a project plan of any type drives teamwork too!

All this from a little old project plan. Practice and teach this skill in 2018 and reap the benefits of performance AND teamwork!


So you understand the following templates, in EOS® we call the most important work for the next 90 days ‘Rocks’. All Rocks need a basic project plan. Here are free templates I share to help you be the most effective leader/manager you can be.

View all of the 25+ FREE templates. I share them to equip aspiring and committed people-centered leaders. Lead well!

What is Leadership: 102 Answers – What’s yours?

What is Leadership: 102 Answers – What’s yours?

The first question I ask leaders in every class I teach is, “What is leadership?” We spend an hour defining and sharing answers BEFORE the learning starts, so that all the learning we do together can either reinforce their core belief or refine it. Have you have tried to answer that question?

To help you along, here is a list of 100 definitions published by Lolly Daskal in Inc. magazine.

Let me add two:

Leadership is the ability to create and successfully manage the closing of gaps. ~ Scott Patchin

Leadership is an influence process. It is working with people to accomplish their goals and the goals of the organization. ~ Ken Blanchard

What is your definition? Creating it could be one of the most important things you do as a leader, because without it you risk spending a lot of energy trying to live into someone else’s belief. We are rarely successful trying to be someone else.

I invite you to share #103.

Listen . . Lead. Repeat often!

More learning: Take a look at my free ebook, Don’t Avoid Gaps, Lead Through Them

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)

 

Present and Listen: 2 Things Leaders Taught Me

Present and Listen: 2 Things Leaders Taught Me

Last week I presented a keynote around strategic planning to a group of business leaders. I have made a habit of presenting and then making myself available for questions and coaching for 6 to 24 hours. While I enjoy talking to groups, I get a very valuable perspective on my topic when I interact with people after my keynote and I get to listen. Remember one of my core beliefs: Great conversations start with a question.

Here is a key message I heard: Great meetings are rare, and leaders want to get better at leading meetings. EOS has a meeting called the Level 10 Meeting™. The goal is to make it so effective and engaging that people rate it a 10 at the end. Of the twelve conversations I had with leaders after my keynote, eight mentioned the Level 10 Meeting™ tool as the one takeaway they wanted to go implement. Their reasons were mainly focused around feeling like they are doing all the talking, with engagement (i.e. voices of others) from the rest of the participants not happening.

Question for you: How do you equip new leaders with tools to run effective meetings?

Here is another key message I heard: People everywhere are knowledgeable and passionate about their work and want to contribute more. For this, you need some background information. This keynote was in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan – a long way from the major population centers of our state (Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids). There are even names used to identify two distinct groups in our state: Trolls (live below the Mackinaw Bridge) and Yoopers (live north of the bridge). When I mentioned I was going to the Upper Peninsula to do a keynote, I heard an arrogance than exists against small town business leaders; comments like “Are there any businesses up there?” The work ethic, common sense, and business sense of the leaders I met was equal to any other area/state that I have worked. I could even make an argument that the basic work ethic and humble approach to success is higher above the bridge. I knew that, and yet it is an important thing to relearn as I live the two values that drive my interactions with clients: Serve First and Kindness Matters. There is no place for arrogance in either value. As we try and reverse some of the polarization that exists between population centers and our more rural cities and towns, everyone – including me – needs a reminder to listen.

Question for you: What are your habits around leaving your main work area to listen to employees/clients in other communities and/or parts of your business?

Next time you talk to a large group, I encourage you to hang around for a while – there is lots of good learning that happens when you do.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often!

(If you are interested in seeing my presentation, you can find a copy here on my website. Video clips will be available soon.)

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!

The Trust Bank: 9 Habits That Make Deposits

The Trust Bank: 9 Habits That Make Deposits

As leaders, we all have moments when decisions must be made that cannot be fully explained to the organization. Sometimes even your team has to be kept in the dark as to the full truth. Some of these moments include:

  • Firing someone for criminal acts at work
  • Reducing your team by 10%, including the two nicest and most liked people in the department
  • Asking an under-performing and extremely good person to resign in 45 days
  • Negotiating a sale of the company
  • Reassigning a leader due to allegations for certain behavior
  • Firing an executive for performance issues

I remember a conversation with a leader about the impact of one of these big decisions, on both his people and the trust within his team. He had just let someone go and nobody could know the truth. It was immediate, and it was explained by a vague email. I shared with him a perspective I learned in watching trust shifts after these BIG events: in my experience, these events did not alter the trust level because it was the thousand decisions we had made up to the event that made forgiveness easier.  Trust was kind of like a bank account. If the deposits had been made along the way, then the effects of the one big withdrawal were minimal.

Leaders make these little deposits when they:

  1. Tell people the real business numbers when sales records are hit and missed
  2. Publicly apologize for a bad decision that made life harder
  3. Show up at potlucks
  4. Go to funerals, weddings, and other big events in people’s lives
  5. Send a note after seeing someone’s child recognized in the paper
  6. Ask questions about family – and remember their names
  7. Have monthly breakfasts with people where any question is answered
  8. Answer emails from employees that send questions
  9. Embrace policies that make a positive impact on the lives of people

The good news? Big events don’t happen that often. The better news? They will pass faster if you spend the time between them being open and honest with your people, and practicing some of the habits mentioned above.

Just remember – focus each day on telling and hearing the TRUth and building/giving TRUst.

For EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System®) leaders, at your next clarity break tally all the ‘deposits’ you made this week and pick one thing you can do tomorrow to make a deposit.

Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often.