Somewhere between Salt Lake City and Grand Junction this January while climbing a scary mountain pass in a four wheel drive it came to us that a way to look at the CEO’s job is as follows:
To determine how much stress the balance sheet of the company and the people that work for it can handle at this time in the company's life.
You may have a different view of it, or a different way to say it that works for you and we would love to hear from you about how you see it, but humor us for a minute.
It appears at times that even at some pretty large companies that the only person who is really thinking about the future of the entire enterprise is the CEO. Everyone else is in their department looking for more resources, and hopefully in the words of Peter Drucker, focused on the next most important task.
What does this mean for you?
It means you need to be relentless in your pursuit of what is true from your direct reports because they may have an inherent bias to keep you on a consistent drip of flattery and fluff. It also means that having a board of directors that can help you think about the company from the outside is vital.
Questions a good board can help you wrestle with are:
• How much debt should we be working with now to grow the business?
• Where are your next threats coming from?
• What innovations are going to allow you to increase your margins?
• Where is your current leadership team in their own personal life cycles?
The rub is that building and maintaining a productive board of directors is a challenge. Too often it is such a hassle that you don’t even have one. CEO’s can often feel like the coach of a professional sports team. The players on the field are your employees, the fans in the stands are the customers, and up in the owner’s box sits the board of directors. Where does the coach stand? Sometimes they stand alone.
Ask yourself the following question: What is the company telling itself right now that we want to be true, that may not actually be true? Many department heads will be talking about growth because they know that is what everyone wants to hear. The challenge is that if the company doesn’t manage its balance sheet and time the growth correctly outside forces can end up owning the business. You may have a growth mandate, but try as we might most of us can’t make water go uphill, so back up your mandate with facts and processes you can trust and measure. This rigor and dialogue can save your business.
We have often been asked to help with this question: How does a company build a winning culture? In pursuing the answer to this question, we have noticed the stark cultural differences between a group and a team. If culture eats strategy for breakfast than a team eats a group’s lunch. What is a group, and what is a team? For definition purposes here are some of the fully researched differences between a group and a team:
Companies hire people from different walks of life, with different strengths and different personalities. These differences can be obvious and group dynamics can take over if the leadership doesn’t take an active role in helping people understand how they are aligned and the things they have in common. A great way to do this is the admiration exercise which takes about 60 minutes for a group of 15.
Don't worry, we have not picked up a new bad habit, a recent trip to the library had me opening up a new book, and the combination of the adhesives and paper gave off a smell that made me smile. If you can imagine that smell right now, then you might really enjoy this edition.
When it comes to reading, word of mouth seems important. We just don’t want to make a book purchase and end up with a dud. With that in mind we suggested for the past summer 12 book ideas for the 12 weeks of summer. We hope you find one of our selections interesting and that you find the time to read (or like many of us listen to the book).
We have divided up the recommendations into five categories:
Most of these books are not new but they all were worth the investment of time, money and enrichment a good book can bring. CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR SELECTIONS
Working with companies, non-profits, and sports teams affords us a wonderful window into the world of effort and outcome. Goals are set, causes are cared for, and games are played. A haunting question lurks in many of the minds, what do I do if I try my hardest and fail?
Seldom do we hear it verbalized, but we notice that much effort is made to sabotage the effort piece of the equation to allow the players a margin to recover their pride when the outcome is below the standard. It's much safer to reserve some effort and hope for success, if it gives you a nice mental pillow to rest your ego on..."well I didn't go all out so next time...."
Our question for leaders is, what is this mindset and handicap doing to the productivity of your team? If you could minimize it and get your team to deal with success and failure with the same attitude, what would that look like? Under pressure we don't rise to the occasion, we fall to the level of our training.
Achieving this outcome is no easy feat. One of the steps in getting there is done by providing a safe area to communicate what trying your hardest looks like, and having a recovery element to reward the effort. If people will risk their best in front of others, then when their limit is met, consider celebrating and providing them sanctuary to recoup and reflect.
The power questions for leading a team to risk more, think more, and do more are: what did we learn, and what does it mean? As the leader facilitates the questions and honors the responses watch the trust on your team soar. We think other things will soon rise as well.
On this topic read our post What's Your Q Rating with more info on Mindset
Billy Graham died on February 21st, and we were struck by the breadth of personalities that weighed in on the impact of his teachings. One particular quote stood out and we decided to email it to a few people under the heading of “everyone needs some encouragement." It had to do with his response to a question he got at a conference later in his life. He was asked, “Who is the next Billy Graham?”
He replied. “You all are the next Billy Graham.”
We received a very high response rate in which people shared their own experiences and passed the encouragement back to us. We are hoping for a similar result in this newsletter.
Encouragement came up around another topic that is timely and has to do with inspiring women and girls to lead. It is speculated that confidence can sometimes be missing from the minds of women and especially pre-teen girls. Encouragement from others appears to be a key ingredient. Katy Kay and Claire Shipman’s recent book called “The Confidence Code” outlines it in detail. We highly recommend either the adult or children’s version. Of course as word geeks we like that in the midst of the EN and the MENT there is something we love…. A huge dollop of COURAGE.
Next read our post Trust Your Spider Sense!
Most will know the Beach Boys song from 1963 as “Be True to Your School,” yet research done by Adam Grant on Facebook has started to show that pride in your company can have a large impact on the amount of work the average employee will produce in a day. It can graphically be represented on an axis of belonging and autonomy.
People love to have choice, and they also love to belong. When they feel their company's purpose aligns with their own values they take more initiative. The new haunting question for leaders may become: are you proud of our team? What a powerful yet challenging question for many work environments. I can just see several of my earlier bosses falling out of their chairs in laughter. Does this mean we need plenty of circle time and not challenge each other? Is the chain of command completely broken and the inmates are running the asylum? Not necessarily. Optimism and pride in your company are part of the fascinating discussion in this article from the May edition of Fast Company.
Consider now reading Is Your Culture a Wow or a Whatever?
It may not be a welcome point of view, but a haunting reality started to appear to us about what happens when a leader laments or complains. It guts the commitment of almost everyone on your team. We identified three of these culture killers and share them in the hopes that you may check yourself in your efforts to improve. The first lament comes in the form of getting off focus. This occurs when you take different courses of action that are in your head and start to leak them to your task-oriented team. Your team wants to know what you need and what is the plan? If you are winging it or juggling multiple strategies and thinking it doesn’t matter because they don’t tell you about it, think again. They are not going to tell you, almost instinctively they will cut their commitment by 30% immediately.
The second lament comes in a moment of frustration when small items are brought back to you by the team. The questions are low level, off topic, and drive you nuts. Your response appears to be a clarifying statement, but it also stops your team in their tracks. “I Don’t Care” about this or that the leader says...
We started to notice that the right human system can build and develop character with a series of commonly held values, that allow all of the members to build daily momentum with good choices. This crystallized for us when visiting the Naval Academy in November with our 12 year old son, Ryan.
We were 90 minutes away from the Academy, and with a free afternoon couldn’t pass up the chance to check it out. The midshipmen have positioned the book store right next to the security gate, so our first step was to pick up a few souvenirs for Ryan's sister and mother. A favorite pastime of ours is to buy a magnet for the fridge to commemorate past travels. Within minutes a coffee cup, exercise shorts, a sweatshirt, and the magnet were easily secured. Navy had just beaten Notre Dame at the football stadium that day, so there was a bit of a line, and we passed the time looking out the windows at the ships bobbing up and down. Soon enough it was our turn and we chatted with our attendant, got our receipt, and were off.
How fast can you tell the mood of a room? How is it that in an instant we can pick up the buzz or the tone? Something in our make-up affords us this capacity, yet for decades managers have dismissed the productivity benefits of person-to-person energy transfer when it comes to getting things done. Often times the grumpiest person seems to be able to reign over all, and decide that smiling might hurt the bottom line. Culture-oriented advocates will run up against the dreaded “it is more about the return on investment” and seldom have any real proof behind their soft skills training.
Recently Wayne Baker of the Michigan School of Business wrote a short piece for the Harvard Business Review titled “The More you energize your coworkers, the better everyone performs.” It proves that attitudes matter and can increase worker productivity. Baker writes about concepts like a reciprocity ring and mapping relational energy, which have been effectively proven to increase the productivity of teams. We encourage everyone to click through the different studies they have completed as you look to develop your own teams.
Colin Powell himself has stated that “perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” If you are trying to get the team across finish line it doesn’t hurt to re-read the Little Engine That Could. Attitudes ARE contagious.
Take your great attitude and read about mentoring in our Allowing Wisdom to Rise post.
One of the benefits of helping companies work on turning groups of people into teams is that you get to visit a wide variety of settings and environments. A recent trip to a professional college had us buzzing and prompted the above title. This team of 125 teachers, administrators, and service staff were on fire from the very beginning of the two-day long all-hands meeting all the way until the end. Every member of the team was making a sacrifice to be present, and the business itself was closed the entire time. Thinking of the total cost to the enterprise would make most owners blink twice, yet like clockwork for years these days are reserved to fill up the tanks of the people that make the company tick. If your current culture is more of a Whatever these days than a Wow, see if implementing a few of these tips we gleaned will help.
An initial idea to consider is having a common way to signal the end of a situation or event. Most companies will have gatherings, and even with the best clock management they can run long. With attention spans waning you increase the chances of having the end of your meeting being a dud, which sends your people scattering and potentially lacking vigor. Consider having something.....
Recent sociological research has started to notice that our ability to perform well in a role as an individual or as a member of a team can be traced back to three quotients. The first relates to your IQ and speaks to your ability to cognitively handle the tasks required. Knowing your strengths and then training to improve on them is vital. There are very few roles in today’s economy for people performing out of their strength. Be sure you can articulate your capabilities and the contribution you can make.
Your performance will be enhanced when you show the ability to understand how your contributions can blend with others for your joint benefit. Central to this concept is acquiring empathetic traits and building your emotional quotient, EQ. The force multiplier of working well with others sky rockets when the team sees the goal through everyone’s eyes and then seeks to achieve for their mutual benefit. Yet being smart and caring, doesn't appear to be enough these days. It turns out that your ability to be resilient and adaptable in the face of change, both as an individual and as a teammate are game changers.
Click on the links for Ted talks from Amanda Lee Duckworth at Penn and Carol Dweck at Stanford, who are both actively researching how to add some grit to your life to help you improve your resiliency quotient, RQ. The next time you hear the phrase “Mind your P’s and Q’s” we hope you will not only remember to say please and thank you, but you will also think about combining your wit, your heart, and your gut to be the most complete contributor possible.
Try our post The RE Exercise For Self-Improvement next!
Sanders, can’t you just give me the three quick steps to take to get my team on point?" This is something we hear quite often from managers who don’t have time for long drawn out explanations and philosophy. Your world is impacted for time and it has to be simple for it to transfer through a human system. With that in mind, here are the three steps you and your team might consider. We call it the “RE” exercise.
You start by REflecting, go back in your mind 18 months and take a look at what has transpired. The key action here is to “ponder.” Get to the side of your life river and look back up stream and ask yourself, “what did I learn, and what does it mean?”
The second step is to REcreate by putting yourself in a fresh environment. Recreation is often associated with long trips away and those trips are very impactful, but watch what happens to you when...
Do you have a team member that is killing your "Swing?"
The book “The Weekly Coaching Conversation” by Brian Souza touched on this very issue. Business schools such as Harvard have shown a real focus in the area of career development and the term “coach” is evolving within corporations. Souza recommends a regular check-in session with your direct report to asses not only their performance, but also review softer metrics as well. We would like to add to this article with some of our own findings and offer a few tools for you to use with your team.
Whether your check-in meeting is quarterly, monthly, or weekly, having a template to work with as you are getting started can be a big in facilitating dialog. It will also allow the direct report to be speaking more than the boss, which is of particular importance if the boss is an extrovert and the direct report is not.
Our experiences have shown that a regular check-in on areas such as your team members Soul, Fuel, Work, Fun, and Community Service will quickly identify the area that is distracting them. A simple listening exercise along with a specific question on what steps they will take to remedy the concern can go a long way. We have been amazed at how well these templates work when it comes to getting what is in a person’s head out in the open, proving once again that “your head is a horrible place for a discussion”. Here is one of our templates from our book The Next Gen Almanac. Let us know how it goes.
You might like next our post "Does Competition Fuel You or Drain You?"
Everywhere you look companies and teams are looking for speed: foot speed, communication speed, and speed of delivery of goods and services. We started to notice a correlation between teamwork challenges and the duration of the team itself. In youth sports the average season is 16 weeks long, an eternity for the player, but a blip on the screen for an adult. In work environments temporary workers are the standard for most Global 1000 companies and they even have different color badges for all to see. The need for speed has created an environment where leaders can fill the room with people, but one layer down all parties are looking around the room to gauge the commitment to the group, and the duration and type of contract.
Regardless of your position on one of these new “iTeams”, factoring in the length of the time the team is to be together should help you work well with all parties. If you are the leader, missing this key dynamic can be costly to your performance especially with the lowest power participants. Often times the lower power groups will never communicate their frustration, rather they will find a way to hit a personal “release” valve that subtly kills the team culture. It can show up in their engagement level. They are present, but not clicked into the team's goal. Often times they vote with their feet, by not showing up at all. Dr. Suess’s “Yertle the Turtle" comes to mind here.
As you build your teams, keep a special eye out for your different groups. Don’t overlook the short duration participants. They often have long duration commitments elsewhere (spouses and children), that if tended to correctly can make a big impact on how they perform on your team. If you don’t, one named “Mack" may burp and like Yertle your team may end up flat on its back.
Susan Fowler has a book, “Why Motivating People Doesn't Work…and What Does” in which she smartly addresses the challenges with using extrinsic motivational systems within groups. We shared a bit about this with our “Tree of Performance” (photo below) and believe all leaders should be well versed in the six levers they can pull to guide a team in this area. Publicly many leaders joke that they expect all members of their team to be “self-motivated”, but privately they understand how to create a culture where people's need for Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competency are being met.
A client assignment had us diving further into this topic and how the topics of “Productivity” and “Engagement” can come into play. Engagement is something that does not....
Erin Meyer released “The Culture Map” in 2014 and it sat in my stack of books for a few months or I would have written about it sooner, for anyone working with an international team this book has the keys to team-building heaven. It turns out that in the midst of the United States trying to make amends for past sins in the “you and I are different” category, the rest of the world has known all along that a French Chef beats a British one, and that Indian executives are much less worried about timeliness than the Germans.
Meyer has created a global relative scale for culture differences in eight different categories ranging from timeliness to persuasion to performance review evaluation styles. The results are
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Drew Sanders Blog
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