fbpx

The Meeting Before the Meeting

meeting with the boss

There’s a subtle yet powerful way to make change happen. It involves doing your homework and some legwork before a big meeting. I call it the ‘meeting before the meeting.’

Larger businesses often rely upon leadership meetings or Board meetings to make big decisions. The person or teams bringing requests for approval have big challenges to get it right. Rather than waiting for the final big meeting to happen, you need to do prep work. You need to work the process.

The Back Story

I learned about this approach in my banking days. My bank was a bit old school. We had Loan Committees that approved big deals coming into the bank. By this, I mean the loan requests from customers. Millions of dollars were at stake.

Businesses needed the bank to help finance operations and growth. The bank had to make sound and solid loan decisions to keep the bank stable and profitable. It was a difficult balancing act. Loan officers worked very hard to build the banking relationships. When a customer decided to ask for help, it was important for the officer to be able to make things happen.

This meant going to loan committee.

The committee prep work was daunting unto itself. Analysts combed through spreadsheets and the customer financials. Proposals were carefully written and justified. But it would be certain death to go into the loan committee without doing something else first.

The Meeting Before the Meeting

This is where this special step became so important. The meeting before the meeting.

It meant a diligent loan officer would walk the proposal to every member of the loan committee for a one on one review and discussion. Basically the LO was having to lobby a vote from each member.

Our ‘big’ committee, where only the largest deals got done, had a single ‘no’ vote rule. One vote ‘no’ meant disapproval. The customer request would be denied and the LO would have to start over.

From a career standpoint, it was also death to an LO. Not literally, but figuratively. You couldn’t loose many and be considered a good credit person. Your career could hit a ceiling real fast.

However, using the meeting before the meeting helped grease the skids, oil the machine, and smooth the glide. LOs learned pretty fast how to get real good at lobbying their deals. They learned which senior officers asked what questions. They carefully crafted the right answer to persuade each committee member to vote yes.

On one hand, we were in the business to make loans, but we thought they needed to be good loans. There were plenty of ways to make sure that happened. By letting the committee members have a shot at the deal without risking the one no vote, LOs could make adjustments to the package. It helped them gain insights that could otherwise be embarrassing in front of the whole committee.

Then, when the big day came to actually present to committee, it was often more a formality rather than a process. Of course there might be group discussions, but usually everyone already knew what the vote would be. There were seldom any surprises.

Use in Your Business

Regardless of the business or industry you may find yourself, if you have these larger organizational meetings to make big decisions, you can take a page from this book.

By investing in the preparation and effort to garner support via the meeting before the meeting, you can greatly improve your chances of success.

I had a client recently who was responsible for a big organizational change that had been mandated by senior leadership. While the overall change was understood, there were strategic decisions that had to be made by a leadership council. These decisions drove P&L results and impacted vertical lines of business.

It was going to be vital that the council agreed to the plans that had been designed. Otherwise the whole change initiative would have to be scrapped and redesigned.

I recommended the meeting before the meeting. My client and her team got busy arranging the sessions. One by one they huddled with the individual members of the council. All of it was done before the big meeting.

When the day arrived for the vote, the presentation was made (with great edits and adjustments suited for exact satisfaction of various members). The vote was unanimous YES!

My client and her team came away victorious. Champions for the cause for change and recognized for great work to get there.

As we talked after the fact, she shared with me how powerful that little extra effort became. It helped galvanize the change effort. It crystallized the clarity and sealed the deal.

You should try this approach the next time you are trying to push through a big initiative at work. Take time to make these meetings before the meeting happen. You’ll be glad you did.

call a coach

Burn the Boats – The Toughest Leadership Command

burn the ships

We all like Plan “B” options that afford us an escape when things don’t work out. In 1519, Captain Hernán Cortés landed in Veracruz to begin his great conquest. Upon arriving, he gave the order to his men to burn the ships. How’s that for bold leadership?

What Cortés did was force himself and his men to either succeed or die. A retreat was not an option.

In order to achieve the highest level of success we each desire, there are times when we need to “burn the boats.”

The obvious question becomes “what are my ships or boats”? For starters, your ship may be anything that you are afraid to let go of.

Read more

The Greatest Growth Lever – Trust

Trust concept with hand pressing social icons on blue world map background.

Part 1 – Why Leverage Trust?

Contributed by Andy Hass and Richard Bents

“Trust is the highest form of motivation. It brings out the very best in people.” Stephen R. Covey

Google conducted a massive research project to study what made their most successful teams and called it Project Aristotle. After studying 180 teams, using 250 variables and 32 statistical models, they found the absolute #1 variable by far in their highest performing teams was trust / psychological safety (we’ll explain similarities and differences in the two – in Part 2) – above intelligence, accountability, responsibility, diversity, strategy, process and everything else.

Neuroscientist / NeuroEconomist Paul Zak found high trust organizations had 50% higher productivity, 50% higher retention, 74% less stress, 76% more engagement, 106%, more energy, 17% more pay. Zak is also a researcher of the brain chemical Oxytocin which is released when we trust.

Professor Amy Edmondson from Harvard has studied and established best practices for effective teaming – across multiple industries, and the critical element of trust and psychological safety for team success.

In MIT’s Executive Education Course on Neuroscience for Leadership, one of the four areas of focus is “Creating the conditions for success in your organization by leading teams and shifting the culture from fear to trust.”

Trust is at the foundation of our own research, consulting, and collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, the University of Wyoming and business partners across Europe. We seek to better understand trust levels over a period of time and the associated impact on organizational performance. We are also in the process of writing our I TRUST book.

grid for high trust v low trust

We like to approach individual, team, and organizational leadership developments like scientists by collecting and interpreting data. In a 360 review of a leader, we look at 22 aspects of management and leadership.

We take a holistic, systems-based approach to leadership, but if we could greatly emphasize just one aspect, we would frequently help a leader develop more trust – self-trust, trustworthiness, and a propensity to trust others. We’ll explain more on this in Part 2 of the Greatest Growth Lever.

Part 2 – What is Trust and How is it Measured?

“Trust is the conduit for influence; it’s the medium through which ideas travel.” Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy

Trust:

A belief in the reliability, goodness, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something; it is that in which we have faith or confidence. In this sense, trust is an emotion. In addition, trusting or placing trustworthiness includes a process of analysis, a cognitive, more objective thought process. Trust typically is earned or developed over time.

Some people like to understand the differences in Trust versus Psychological Safety.

Psychological Safety:

“A shared belief within a team that it is safe for interpersonal risk taking… and that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.” Harvard Professor Amy Edmondson.  It is the instantaneous feeling of safety that someone has to feel free to speak up.

We find it helpful to think about trust in 3 ways to leverage it to its full power. Self-Trust (how you view and trust yourself), trustworthiness (how others view and trust you), and propensity to trust (trusting others, looking for the good in others, seeing their strengths, and giving them autonomy to perform).

It is critical for the leader of a team to exhibit (or develop) sufficient self-trust (having self-confidence, self-esteem and self-acceptance), because without it, it is difficult to be seen as trustworthy by others (show integrity/responsibility, show benevolence/kindness, and show their abilities/competence) and for them to have a propensity to trust others.

In addition, the leader has to show enough benevolence (authentic concern for others) to be seen as trustworthy. “It’s not uncommon for people to overvalue the importance of demonstrating their competence and power, often at the expense of demonstrating their warmth.”  (Amy Cuddy).

Benevolence is critically important in psychological safety and is typically more important than the other two. Finally, your behaviors in your collaborations will influence your collective results with others.

We use a variety of assessments and instruments to measure various aspects of trust in our efforts to accelerate individual, team, and organizational trust and performance. It involves self-evaluation questions and team/group member questions.

We’ll share more about closing the trust gap between the desire for high trust relationships/teams/organizations, and the acceptance of what it takes to get there in Part 3 of the Greatest Growth Lever.

Part 3 – The Trust Gap –

Closing the gap in the Desire for Trust… and the Work it takes to Achieve Trust

We believe there is increasing awareness in the value of trust. We see organizations putting it in corporate Vision, Mission and Values statements.

It feels good to say trust is important in relationships and even with customers – and from Part 1 (Why Leverage Trust), we shared research where high trust organizations had 50% higher productivity, 50% higher retention, 74% less stress, 76% more engagement, 106%, more energy, and 17% more pay.

Unfortunately, awareness of the value of trust, or declaring you or your organization is all about trust, doesn’t always translate to a high-trust organization and the corresponding benefits.

Research Case Study 1:

We conducted a 2-hour awareness training along with measurement assessments on various aspects of trust with the senior executive team of a US-based company. At the time, they were completely aware of the benefits and elements of trust.

With this company, we did not do any coaching/consulting. A year later, when we did a post 1-year measurement assessment, there was no statistically significant change in levels of trust. The takeaway – awareness does not always lead to change and results.

We were later brought in to help the leadership team through a combination of 1:1 executive coaching and team development using our assessments, change process and coaching.

Case Study 2:

Another client, a large European Insurance company, faced a difficult future with declining sales and profitability in a competitive insurance market. In less than a year, they successfully reversed and transformed sales and profitability. 

The top 86 executives were assessed, then went through a 7-month program using our change process involving coaching and training. They exceeded their sales plans.  The post-assessments showed statistically significant increases in all levels of trust. The following year showed increased market share and increased profit.

“I am very confident of the next steps. I already know that management skills development is a long road requiring patience, willingness and determination, and of course measurement. People are understanding what is happening now because they started experiencing that behaving differently is possible and can be a source of success. As a ‘rational’ leader, we just have to admit that time to time it is worth investing much less in IT tools and process …and a bit or much more in human potential.”  – Yann Menetrier, CEO

Our “I TRUST” Change Process

One example of an assessment we use measures the character and emotional intelligence of a person. It has high correlation to how effective individuals and teams are in their ability to create a high-trust, high-performing team.

Our efforts are to move individuals into the transforming, WeGo, quadrant, where they exhibit behaviors, actions and characteristics of self-trust, trustworthiness and trusting others. When the vast majority of people in a team are in this quadrant, we often see breakthrough results (e.g. innovation, productivity, sales and profits).

What will you do to increase self-trust, your trustworthiness, and your trust in others to realize the benefits of the greatest growth lever?

Consider working with a trusted colleague, mentor or coach/advisor to improve:

  • Creating a safe environment for your team to speak up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes
  • Your showing vulnerability and stating you need the entire team for mutual success
  • Self-trust, insecurities, imposter syndrome, being authentic
  • A specific relationship
  • Your benevolence/kindness to others
  • Your solicitation and sincere listening to other points of view and new ideas
  • Results – shore up skills through self-learning/education and pay attention to results

If you want to learn more about building a high-performing team by increasing the trust within the team, learn more here. Visit Doug’s Team Trust Model.

Or if you’d rather just talk about your business, schedule a time with Doug Thorpe www.TalkwithDougT.com

Breaking Through the Invisible Wall

management and leadership

There is an invisible wall in the business world. It’s the wall between management and leadership; being a good manager and becoming a great leader.

People can spend an entire career and never break through that wall. The wall is not about equal opportunity, hiring practices, promotion or selection. Nor is it about gender or age.

No, this wall is about moving from Management to Leadership.

The Entrepreneur’s Conundrum

The easiest way to explain this wall is to start with an entrepreneur. A solo-preneur; the person who thinks he/she has an idea and wants to start a business.

choice vs chance

Let’s say our hero gets some funding and launches the business. In no time, the business starts to make sales and grow.

Pretty soon the owner needs to hire people to help fill all the orders, make more widgets, or whatever they are doing. They need more people.

Now they have a team running. The first experience is to manage the process. The owner has to show everyone how to do or make the things you meant to do in the business.

Your idea as the entrepreneur has to get communicated, trained and shared with others to let the business grow.

As the Manager, you track the numbers, make the deposits and pay for expenses.

Things seem to be going OK. You survived the start-up phase.

New Opportunities

As the business grows, you have to grow with it. More resources, bigger payrolls, larger space, etc.

But the owner seldom thinks about growing their own ability to manage the business. The thinking goes something like this.

“What I did before got us here, I’ll do more of that, and we’ll be fine.”

That works for a little while longer, but the business still keeps growing.

Now it’s become a full-sized enterprise with layers of management, division of teams for specialized skills, and other expanding roles.

The Thirst for Leadership

Somewhere in between that expansion phase and the enterprise phase, the Invisible Wall takes shape. As the company grows, so does the wall.

What used to be decent management starts to have problems. The old ways to push people and materials don’t work anymore.

It’s not the people or the business, it’s the owner’s capacity to lead that is crumbling.

This new entity that is the company is hungry for leadership. Not more management, but bona fide leadership.

Leadership has to step in and take over.

As Monte Pendleton, Silver Fox Advisor, and founding member states “There is no particular time table for these stages. But the ending of Stage 1 usually becomes apparent when the requisite managerial skills begin to change. The very personality, skills, and capabilities that allowed you to succeed as a Stage 1 entrepreneur or start-up owner/operator, now become detrimental to you in the latter stages.”

When the wall becomes apparent, you have some choices to consider.

First, you could decide to quit growing; stay the size you are, and keep doing the same things.

Or, you can choose to modify your management style and press on toward the next phase. Hire a coach or an advisor to guide you through the changes needed to break through the wall.

Lastly, you might choose to replace yourself with someone who has better leadership skills and experience, allowing you to revert to the core talent and gifts/specialties you started with.

If all else fails, sell the business at its then market value and go fishing. (I digress).

Bigger Enterprise

I dedicate my coaching practice to owners and executives who are right at the wall.

There are senior managers everywhere who still need to embrace the reality of the presence of the wall.

Believe it or not, a wall always exists between the stage of the business unit you run and your ability to lead.

a group of young people working in the office

I’ve said it many times before, a good manager can have a long and successful career never being more than a manager. Turn the screws, meet the deadlines, ship those deliverables and do it through strong management skills; these can be a nice career.

However, for the good of the growth of the enterprise, you need to become a leader. If you already know something about leadership, be a better leader.

Monte states “Leadership is the ability to cause others to take action even when the action is outside their comfort zone.”

Dave Guerra in his book “Superperforming” says “Management is about process and leadership is about people.”

I love that explanation. So true.

Think about your situation right now. It doesn’t matter whether you own the business or run a large team/division inside one. Ask yourself, “where is my wall?”

Question: Have you broken through the wall, realizing the need for leadership over management?

hire a coach
Hire a Coach

To Be a Great Leader, You Must Inspect What You Expect

Inspect Expect
Inspect what you expect and article from @dougthorpe_com

Inspect what you expect.

This is an old saying that I learned decades ago.

What does it mean, exactly? And what does it have to do with leadership?

Well…

Have you been guilty of spouting a directive then letting it die a natural death? We’ve all done it at one point or another—whether accidentally or intentionally, we’re all guilty.

When a leader sets out a goal or directive, that goal can only be achieved with good monitoring, or, inspection.

Whether you run a big business, a team, or are working on a small project, in order to achieve any sort of success, you have to be mindful of these simple words: inspect what you expect.

Here’s my story.

The Military Way

Great leadership principles you need to know. Leadership powered by common sense

The “inspect what you expect” principle takes many forms.

During my days as a second lieutenant, we conducted regular health and welfare inspections.

While the military inspects a lot of things, this was unique. Those of you who have served in the military know why.

Those of you who don’t: buckle your seatbelts.

To achieve the best results, you must inspect.

One early morning at 3:30 a.m., the entire cadre (all of the managers and supervisors) of our training unit surrounded a barracks where a portion of our troops lived.

We suspected drug activity coming from this barracks.

This “health and welfare inspection” was actually a search and seizure mission.

We burst into the barracks and surprised all of the soldiers sleeping there. They were ousted from their bunks and told to stand at attention beside their footlockers while we searched the premises.

Sure enough, we found a stash of drugs and some paraphernalia tucked inside one of the footlockers.

Our target was achieved.

We could have preached and threatened the law about drugs, but we had to inspect what we expected.

This principle also applies to the success of most businesses.

Why?

Because even the best strategic planning simply won’t matter without proper execution.

A great leader must push forward to make things happen. They cannot stand still; they must be in constant motion, pushing towards a goal to reach success.

They must be focused.

Every plan and strategy associated with a goal must always be monitored and inspected to ensure proper execution and achievement.

Good project management comes from inspecting what you expect.

Have you heard of Six Sigma or DMAIC?

“Six Sigma”

Six Sigma is a specific set of tools and techniques used to to help businesses improve their processes.

Inspecting what you expect is an integral part of Six Sigma. It is also an integral part of overall good project management.

For process improvement, a concept known as DMAIC is applied.

DMAIC

DMAIC is an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control

…or, simply inspecting what you expect.

With DMAIC, you analyze results as they occur, checking them against expected outcomes.

If you find yourself off the mark, adjust and do it all over again. In other words, you are staying alert—at all times—to the things happening around you that affect your process and your progress.

The devil is in the details.

There is so much more to being a great leader than stating your plans and giving directives.

Great leaders walk the floor.

If you’re not walking the floor, you’re not being a good leader. You’re doing it wrong.

Leaders who don’t walk the floor find that things are not happening as they expect. Always remember: the devil is in the details.

You have to constantly be checking in, seeing what’s going on—walking the floor. You have to constantly ensure the appropriate measures are being put in place to achieve the right outcome.

You have to constantly test and review events and circumstances.

For example: if your business enforces things like safety or regulatory compliance, your role as a leader is to inspect and review events and circumstances. You have to check work every single day to ensure proper compliance.

If you don’t, people could get hurt.

Three easy steps to inspect:

1. Expect

Set expectations; specific expectations.

When issuing a directive, always be clear about your expectations. Be as specific as possible.

Volumes, dollars, incidence rates, hours, cost saves, the list goes on. The expectation you give will determine the outcome.

2. Be Consistent

Constantly inspect, and keep your inspections consistent. Keep communication open and be consistent in everything you do. Be open and don’t beat around the bush. Share your results.

3. Stay Visible

People need to know you are engaged and involved in the review process. Don’t get stuck behind your office door. Show your team you are active in the process. Be around them. Answer their questions. Motivate them.

Remember: you are the leader guiding the vision to the final outcome. Be available to talk it through with those who have questions. Walk the floor.

If your team is spread out geographically, remain visible with the right frequency of check-in calls and team meetings.

Let your team know that part of executing the mission is routine reviews.

So…do you inspect what you expect?

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

If you want to increase your influence as a manager, business owner, or community leader, and learn some valuable life hacks, then subscribe to my private mailing list.

Click here to subscribe right now!

And if you want to learn more about how to be a great leader, read these popular blog posts!

Are You a FAST Leader?

The 5 C’s of a Trusted Leader

Leadership Effectiveness Can Work with Simple Triggers

Why Trust Matters to Leaders; Leaders Build Trust

team trust

For decades, business leaders have been equipping themselves with every book, philosophy, reward, and program the so-called experts have convinced them to buy into, yet companies everywhere continue to struggle with toxic cultures, low performance from teams, and the unhappiness that go with them. Yet how can leaders build trust?

From our earliest days on the playground to modern-day business board rooms, there is one giant factor that makes the difference between success and failure.

That factor is trust.

Companies work long and hard, spending millions of dollars to build brand awareness that shows trust. Consumers have to trust something before they buy. Managers and CEOs spend time and money trying to build better work teams.

Recent studies in several sectors have discovered the biggest contributor to team success is TRUST.

Building Team Performance

Google broke the ice on this topic with their “Aristotle Project.” Following the success of Google’s Project Oxygen research where the People Analytics team studied what makes a great manager, Google researchers applied a similar method to discover the secrets of effective teams at Google.

Code-named Project Aristotle – a tribute to Aristotle’s quote, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” (as the Google researchers believed employees can do more working together than alone) – the goal was to answer the question: “What makes a team effective at Google?”

The runaway winning attribute in highly successful teams was “psychological safety” or simply trust.

The Google study found that this element of trust was the most significant factor in helping teams do more, even among their peers of highly educated, well trained employees.

When trust is broken, relationships of all kinds stop working well.

The Brain Science Behind Trust

Adding to this interesting discussion comes the book “The Trust Factor” by neuroscientist Paul Zak.

In Trust Factor, we are shown that innate brain functions hold the answers we’ve been looking for. Put simply, the key to providing an engaging, encouraging, positive culture that keeps your employees energized is trust.

When someone shows you trust, a feel-good jolt of oxytocin surges through your brain and triggers you to reciprocate. This simple mechanism creates a perpetual trust-building cycle between management and staff, and–voilá!–the end of stubborn workplace patterns.

The book incorporates science-backed insights for building high-trust organizations with successful examples from The Container Store, Zappos, and Herman Miller. The Trust Factor explains:

• How brain chemicals affect behavior

• Why trust gets squashed

• How to stimulate trust within your employees

• And more

What’s a leader to do?

For you who are sitting in the corner office or who are building a small business, you hear these things and wonder. I understand it, but I have no idea where to start. I’ve had so many ‘bad hires’ I can’t imagine getting this thing going. And trust an employee????

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Let’s turn back to the Aristotle results and get the answers. Leaders build trust. Here are five key action areas that leaders can control.

The five key dynamics of effective teams that the Google researchers identified are rooted in the wider world of team performance research. Whether you’re coding at Google, riffing in a writers roompreparing for a trip to Mars, or skating in a hockey rink – teams are essential to the work experience and output.

At Google, now that the Project Aristotle team has identified what makes for an effective team at Google, they’re conducting research to figure out how to take the next steps to create, foster, and empower effective teams.

Whatever it is that makes for effective teams in your organization, and it may be different from what the Google researchers found, consider these steps to share your efforts:

  1. Establish a common vocabulary – Define the team behaviors and norms you want to foster in your organization.
  2. Create a forum to discuss team dynamics – Allow for teams to talk about subtle issues in safe, constructive ways. An HR Business Partner or trained facilitator may help.
  3. Commit leaders to reinforcing and improving – Get leadership onboard to model and seek continuous improvement can help put into practice your vocabulary.

Here are some tips for managers and leaders to support the behaviors the Google researchers found important for effective teams. These are based on external research and Google’s own experience:

Psychological safety:

Dependability:

  • Clarify roles and responsibilities of team members.
  • Develop concrete project plans to provide transparency into every individual’s work.
  • Talk about some of the conscientiousness research.

Structure & Clarity:

  • Regularly communicate team goals and ensure team members understand the plan for achieving them.
  • Ensure your team meetings have a clear agenda and designated leader.
  • Consider adopting Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) to organize the team’s work.

Meaning:

  • Give team members positive feedback on something outstanding they are doing and offer to help them with something they struggle with.
  • Publicly express your gratitude for someone who helped you out.
  • Read the KPMG case study on purpose.

Impact:

  • Co-create a clear vision that reinforces how each team member’s work directly contributes to the team’s and broader organization’s goals.
  • Reflect on the work you’re doing and how it impacts users or clients and the organization.
  • Adopt a user-centered evaluation method and focus on the user.

If after considering these things, you still struggle to get your head around this complex challenge, I can help.

I’ve developed a Team Trust Model that provides a clear, concise framework that teams can embrace. In places where I have introduced this framework, it becomes that vocabulary the team uses to communicate with each other. It allows a structure and process to something that otherwise may feel too vague. With it, leaders build trust.

This model has been used by leaders at corporate giants like ExxonMobil and UPS. But it has also been used by small business owners too.

Anywhere you have three or more people assembled for performing tasks, you need Team Trust.

PS – I realize that the new era of COVID remote workers really impacts your ability to connect with your teams. However, as you study the key elements here, it is easy to see why following these ideas is more critical now than ever before.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

Call To Action

If you want to increase your influence as a manager, business owner, or community leader and learn some valuable life hacks, then subscribe to my private mailing list.

Click here to subscribe right now!


Images provided by Unsplash: vlad-hilitanu-1FI2QAYPa-Y-unsplash

Leadership 2020 and Beyond

What else is left to say about this year, 2020? Regardless of who you talk to, everyone endured something during the past 10 months.

2020 was going to be such an interesting year. It was the start of a new decade and an easy catch phrase for business planners and institutional thinkers. I can recall dozens of programs starting more than 10 years ago that had a title something like “Vision 2020”, an obvious play on words.

Yet once the calendar page flipped, we all encountered weirdness like never before. I actually don’t want to list any examples. You each have your own list. We all do.

The Season

Yet I do feel compelled to do some sort of wrap-up article to begin the process to close out this craziness we called 2020. Because it is Christmas, I want to fold in my seasonal message too.

First, as I often have, let me say “Happy Holidays” to all my readers and followers who do not observe the Christmas event. I respect your beliefs and practices. Whatever I may say here is not intended to insult nor sway you from your faith, beliefs and values.

However, I do want to use the traditional meaning of the Christmas story to relay some thoughts about leadership going forward; advancing into a fresh, new year.

The story I am referring to is that one. Yes, the Babe in the manger. A young husband and his pregnant wife. They each had received special messages from heavenly couriers. They followed the law of the land at that time and the instruction from above which they didn’t understand but knew to be important.

If you follow the whole story, there are odd similarities to the challenges we face today. Governmental authorities were managing peoples’ lives, directing a census. Unrest between tribes of citizens roiled into occasional demonstrations in the streets. There was uncertainty all around.

At the center of the story is a message of hope. A promise. A gift.

hope
Hope for tomorrow

More conventional tradition over the decades has turned that giving spirit into a practice of giving physical gifts, wrapped in beautiful paper and bows. Much like the scene in the manger, those who expect to receive the gifts wait with great anticipation. They wait until the perfect time for the present, the gift to be revealed.

Now We Wait

We are waiting. Waiting for 2020 to be gone. Waiting for long-promised vaccines to ease our fears of the disease. Waiting for things to get back to normal, whatever that was.

man waiting and thinking
Waiting and thinking

We wait simply perhaps for things to be different. Here in the U.S., the recent election has shifted the tide and created a kind of change. A slight majority are happy. A big minority are not. All of us still wait.

Besides the need for cures, fixes and new direction, I believe we are waiting for hope. We are hungry for hope. We new something new to hope for.

However, hope doesn’t simply appear. Hope comes from having a vision. A vision gives direction. It crystallizes a story about the way forward.

Vision that provides hope to a group of people comes from LEADERSHIP.

While hope may be the thing we need, leadership is the action we need. My friends, the world is in dire need of solid, practical leadership. Not a leader with an agenda, propped up by some special interest, but a leader with the good of the people at heart.

We need leadership that does not buckle to political persuasion or popular ideologies. We need leaders who can get things done.

The need for Leadership is everywhere

The leadership gap I see is not just at the political level. It is in homes, in neighborhoods, in communities, churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples. We need leadership in our schools and colleges. It’s also needed in businesses of all sizes.

Small team gathering

You might say, but I know people in those areas who are great leaders. Sure, but are there successors? Is there someone available to keep things going?

You must also be very careful about pointing to a person in a seat of authority and confusing that with leadership.

The power of the position does not define leadership.

Just because someone has been promoted into a position, it doesn’t make them a leader. Leadership comes from intentional effort to grow and learn the skills and principles of solid leadership.

Also, to the small business owners out there, you need to build your leadership tool kit if you want your companies to grow beyond where they are now. Your great idea is not enough to become a big success. You have to build teams and grow the business.

Back to Hope and Leadership

How do we get past 2020? At the center of this whole theme is the need for hope. Leaders need to cast new visions. Clearly we may never return to the old normal. There will be a new normal. Leaders have to create the vision for what those opportunities can be.

Where there is no vision, the people perish

Proverbs 29:18

It’s been written about for centuries. Without a vision, we lose our way. Organizations crumble. Communities suffer. Whole populations struggle.

Real leaders can fix that.

Just as I write this closing, a voice in my head from a mentor friend is saying “but leaders have to execute too.” Yes, they do. Once a vision is established, then the heavy lifting of making that hope become reality is the final test of good leadership.

To my original point…. we need that. We need hope for a brighter tomorrow. Just like the gift given to mankind in the manger over 2,000 years ago. We need true leaders who can help make it happen.

Will you consider being a leader, right where you are? Can you stand up and be counted for guiding and directing your home, your church, your community? Your business?

#HopeFest360

There is a big event happening January 1st. The team of authors at Bizcatalyst360 has joined forces with over 6 dozen voices from around the world to lift you up with their positive messages of hope and healing for the new year. This Epic (free) virtual Event will be broadcast from sunrise to sunset on New Year’s Day 2021. Here’s your opportunity to join our global community as together,  we imagine the possibilities. I am honored to have been invited to be one of the speakers.

Dennis J. Pitocco, BC360° Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, said, “The future holds the promise of a new beginning. Together as a force for good, we are here to make a positive impact as we begin to mold a new earth. We hold the magic — the magic-fairy sparkle-dust — that is so desperately needed right now to move out of transition into transformation. It is time for us all to shine so that others may draw hope, strength, and courage from our light, and learn to let their own light shine as a beacon of hope and healing”

About HOPEFEST 360°
Reserve your free ticket(s) now to join our ultimate wave across the universe as we broadcast on YouTube across all time zones from sunrise to sunset on New Years Day.

VISIT https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/hopefest-360/

For now, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Leaders – Stop Solving Everything!

problem-solving team

If you have responsibility for a business, a company, or a team, STOP solving everything. Please stop solving everybody’s problems.

That sounds like a crazy person talking, right?

Here’s what I mean. It is likely you climbed the business ladder by solving problems. As a sole-contributor on a team, you helped make things happen. Whether it was customer service, design engineering or framing a house, you did it well. You made things happen; you solved problems.

Small transactional events or separate work moments were completed because you knew how to do that. Then one day, you got promoted.

Yes face picture
Person getting promoted

Either your old boss left or there was an opening somewhere else in the company for a supervisor, so you got the job. Why? Because your performance was appreciated and recognized. But it was still based on solving problems.

Then, as a new manager, you realized you could solve other people’s problems. Perhaps it started within your own team, but people came to you with their problems and you “fixed” them. It came naturally. So you did it more and more.

Now you’ve gotten several more promotions and you’re still solving everyone’s problems.

It’s time to start leading and stop solving problems.

Lead People, Don’t Solve Their Problems

Still sound crazy? Let me break it down a little further.

Real leaders do many things. One big thing they do is develop their people. They help people grow. Growth can be professional, technical, or personal, but there is growth.

Solving everyone’s problems cuts short the opportunity to help people grow by learning how to solve their own problems. It’s like the old saying:

“Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

Solve someone’s problems, you helped them for a day. Teach them to solve problems and you set them up for life.

If you, as a leader, are not helping people learn to think critically or work their way through their own problems, you are just enabling a weak version of what your people could otherwise be. Please stop doing that.

It Applies to Entrepreneurs Too

Even in a smaller business, if the owner does all the problem solving, your business will stay small and stuck solving problems. But if you teach your people why and how you solve problems, you can grow your company.

I talk to too many business owners who feel stuck in the day to day. Usually, it comes down to having to make every decision and solve every problem.

On one hand, there is a period of time in the life of a new company when that situation makes sense. Yet if the business has any growth at all, the owner must give up some of that constant hands-on approach. There is a need to have others on the team capable of solving transactional problems.

Save the big picture thinking and key strategies for the owner, yes. While doing that, teach and mentor your staff to make their own decisions.

Doesn’t that take more time?

You may be saying “I don’t have time to do that sort of detailed effort. We need stuff done.” I get that. And yes, I’ll agree, certain moments in the heat of battle just have to get done.

“FIRE!” When someone in the office yells that, you have to move quickly to get out. There’s no time for teaching. Hopefully, your teaching was done during a fire drill for your building.

As the leader, you have to use problem-solving in the moment as the focus for teaching and learning during one-on-ones, or small group meetings. Don’t just do a post-mortem on a situation, but walk people through how and why you would do what you would do to solve the problem.

As you do that though, don’t just talk it down to them. Make it interactive. Tease it out of them with questions. Questions like:

What else could be a factor here?

Have you thought about anything else?

What do we know about x, y, and z?

If X happens, what will Y do?

The list is endless.

The questions are the natural way your brain thinks about solving the problem. By using questions to reframe the matter at hand, you help your people see how you process the problem. You’re modeling the problem-solving behavior so they can absorb and adapt to it.

Back to the time issue. Hiding behind time constraints is a convenient excuse for not helping your people grow. You are no different from the great leaders you may have known.

You both have 86,400 seconds in the day. It’s how that time gets used that makes the difference between good and great leaders.

business coach, consulting, executive coaching, headwayexec, executive coach houston
call a coach

Coaching and Mentoring – Diving Deeper

mentoring

It’s been said that leaders who radically impact their teams are themselves good coaches. Taking on the mentoring and coaching role often does not come naturally to someone in a leadership position.

One technique at the center of executive coaching is the art of asking good questions and/or reframing the response the coachee gives.

If you want to up your game coaching your team, here are three very important phrases to use.

professional business mentor looking at papers and working with young colleagues in office
professional business mentor looking at papers and working with young colleagues in office

3 Big Questions and Observations

They come by way of a referral found on LinkedIn. The source is John Bethel. Here are 3 of John’s coaching questions/phrases I have borrowed to regularly use while coaching leadership teams, friends, and family;

1. It occurs to me that…am I close?

When feeding back your perspective on the information they’ve shared with you. “It occurs to me that you see the value in following up with the prospective client but you are concerned that you’ll come across as too aggressive. Am I close?”

2. That’s one option…have you thought about others?

When the coachee has offered only one solution to a challenge they are facing, you can say, “Ok, that’s one option…” (then pause and wait). On the receiving end, this meant that I needed to think through other options before committing to only one.

3. Could this be a convenient story you are telling yourself?

This was often used by John to challenge me on why I was avoiding acting on something critical. “That may be true or that may be a convenient story you’re telling yourself. Think about this for a few minutes before responding. How does this story benefit you?”

The Power of Questions

By asking questions, you, as the coach/mentor demonstrate many things. First, if the question extends the discussion, you assist your mentee with exploring more. It promotes critical thinking in your mentee.

Supervisor mentoring a direct report

If you simply hear a situation and quickly give an answer, you are cutting off the mentee’s ability for self-discovery. Self-discovery is far more enduring than quick problem-solving.

I’ve often observed my leadership clients in action with their teams. As team members pose questions to the boss, I watch for my clients jumping straight into problem-solving mode rather than coaching mode.

My question to them at that moment is “Are you leading or problem-solving?” By leading the staff member through the thought process to find their own answer, the team leader/executive is helping to nurture growth in the subject.

On one hand, problem solving is usually what got someone promoted into a role. But if they truly want to build stronger teams, they must agree with taking on a more developmental role, coaching and mentoring their direct reports rather than continuing to merely solve problems.

What is Trust Anyway?

You and I share many different things. As leaders, we share common needs, goals, and attributes. Depending on who you talk to, you and I score at different levels depending on the topic we choose to ask about. However, there is one key area frequently cited as a critical factor in determining whether a leader is effective or not. That factor is TRUST.

Business leaders don’t consciously go about their day specifically trying to build trust. This would be like having ‘building trust’ on your to-do list. Let’s see, go to the bank, check; wash the car, check; build trust, wait, what? No, that’s silly.

They will let their decisions and their actions impact the level of trust bestowed on them by others. Age-old wisdom says trust is earned. Children are taught at an early age. Leaders know it too.

A Manager’s Challenge

Anyone who has ever assumed management duties understands how critical trust can be in persuading a team to perform. The collective efforts of the team can be hurt if individuals on that team have doubts about the boss.

There is usually some kind of default mindset at work between employees and the employer. Workers often start out not trusting the boss. Sadly, too many bosses start out not trusting their teams either. It truly is a two-way street.

Experts found that trust, social connectivity, and a general sense of well-being are all intertwined. There are scientific studies revealing that two sections of the brain involved in sensing trust.

Based on perceptions of trust, the participants (in the study) reported positive interactions with the “close friend” to be more rewarding than interactions with a stranger—and were more likely to interact with this player. This illustrates our innate human desire to connect with others and create close-knit bonds even if these ties are based on blind trust or lead to [other bad outcomes].

Brain imaging of the participants showed that two specific brain regions were actively engaged when someone thought they were trusting a close friend. Increased activity of the ventral striatum and medial prefrontal cortex were correlated with positive social value signals when participants made decisions based on a belief they were playing with a good friend.

But science aside, what makes trust so hard to build? Think about all of your own experiences with friends, co-workers, bosses, and leaders. You likely watched three levels of interaction that factored into how deeply you felt you could trust the other person.

Technical Ability

In a work setting, the team leader must demonstrate a certain level of technical ability to begin earning trust from the team. New, first-time managers struggle with this because they might have been promoted in recognition of their skills in one area, but they lack comprehensive knowledge of the whole team’s scope of responsibility.

Lacking that technical knowledge, they are deemed incapable of performing as team lead, so trust is denied.

New bosses moved in from outside the department suffer this same kind of gap. Until they can prove they know their stuff, the team will be reluctant to give the trust that might be needed for respecting the ‘new guy’.

I once was a department head of a large administrative group supporting a $5 billion asset portfolio at a large regional bank. I had several teams reporting to me, responsible for 5 different lines of business. One day, while walking through the department, one of the administrators stopped me and asked a fairly technical question. I paused and began coaching him on the topic, explaining the process and the calculations he needed for the problem he presented. He seemed shocked. I asked why? He said, “I didn’t think the Big Dog would know this stuff.” To which I grinned and replied, “How’d you think I got to be the Big Dog?”

Cultural

The next level is what I will call cultural trust. After technical trust is established there is still a void at the cultural or corporate level. The key question here is whether you demonstrate consistent, reliable actions and behaviors.

No one can trust someone or something that acts inconsistently. Roger Ferguson, founder of ISI HR Consulting and creator of “Big Five Performance” talks about this corporate trust as whether a leader is known to be trustworthy, delivers as promised, and is generally known to be a person of character.

Being consistent in the way you act and interact creates a level of trust that grows with each passing day. As soon as you make a serious deviation from the pattern you start, trust takes a step backward. This is why it is so critical for leaders to be mindful of the direction they want to go, centered on core principles, and committed to consistent behavior as a leader.

Personal

This is the most intimate of trust levels. This is the deep, one-on-one trust. This kind of trust with individual employees has people thinking “I don’t care what others say, I know what I believe about this boss, and I am very good with it.” Further “I will follow them wherever they want me to go.”

Why would someone be willing to say that? Because the other two levels have been satisfied and now opportunities to deal personally with the person have proven to be reliable and solid. The pattern is there, the details are there, and, even more importantly, the experience is there.

Complexity

This is why trust cannot be won overnight. It has to be earned. All three levels have to be engaged. You cannot make it to the gold ribbon level of personal trust without first achieving the other two levels.

Think about personal relationships. These same three levels are at work. Anyone who starts dating someone runs the same sequence of steps trying to test for trust. When you are the person wanting to earn someone’s trust, you have to be faithful to build these stages, carefully and thoughtfully.

More relationships crater over breakdowns in trust at one of these three levels. Repeated disappointment is the reason for the eventual failure of any relationship.

We just don’t want to be around people we cannot trust. Certainly not for any meaningful reason.

Leadership Lessons

For team leaders and executives at all levels, I teach a program called Team Trust. In it, we explore ways that teams and their leaders can use a proven, reliable, and repeatable process to build trust, eliminate unneeded distractions, and improve performance.

There are core disciplines that can be deployed to improve team performance by building trust at all levels of the organization.

call a coach