How will you Lead? From a talk at MarsDD in Toronto April 2016
A few of my coaching clients have recently had to take on new teams or hire new people and grow their teams rapidly.
Here are some great questions to get to know your new folks in your 1:1's. Remember to answer the questions yourselves as well - this relationship is about reciprocity - Enjoy :)!
PS Don't use them all at once ;) take your time getting to know each other and working together
I have often been asked to share some common situations new team leads face and that come up in my coaching practice. Here are a few that I hope to be instructive but not definitely not comprehensive. (It's an excerpt from my talk at 'Software Team Meet up'. There are many wonderful and much longer guides to being an effective first-time manager; my favourite book on the topic is ‘First Break All the Rules”.
In my humble opinion, the primary purpose of your role as manager is to keep your people engaged, productive and growing. Here are the ways I think that can be done effectively:
Ensure your folks are challenged, engaged and highly productive
It’s an opportunity for mutual feedback
Creates deeper and clearer mutual understanding of motivation
No surprises at formal checkpoints (performance reviews)
It’s investing time for them and you
Keep regular and consistent meeting times and agenda - it’s an important indicator of your commitment to them
Agenda - powerful questions:
• How do you think you are doing?
• How do I think you are doing?*
• How will you know? what information do you need? then what/what’s next?
• How is the team doing?
• What was the highlight of your week?
• What could have gone better?
• Is there anything blocking you, or that you need from me?
• How am I doing?
• How are you doing?
• Is there anything else I haven’t asked about that I should have
For more depth behind this model check out Fred Kaufman’s “Conscious Business” model for Communication: Listening, Ask Questions, Validating, Summarize, Express, Negotiate, Commit(ments)
Setting stretch goals to achieve your organizations Objectives & Key Results
A good number is 3-5 goals at any one time. Structure your direct reports’ goals so that they support your goals, which in turn support your company’s goals. The best goals are a balance of personal development/learning and outcome-based goals that line up to your team's Vision and Organizations’ Vision/Goals.
These goals must be within your and your staff’s control. It’s a collaborative process where you provide the context and you want to give them lots of room to define how they plan to accomplish them. Goals are best when they are specific, reasonable and have a timeline associated with them.
Examples of personal development goals you might pick are: improve my Python coding skills so that I get faster and better and the number of bugs in my code are significantly reduced, find 5 creative ways to acquire customers that result in x more customers over y period of time etc.
Most successful folks focus on breaking down large goals into mini-goals or milestones both because it's easier to manage and because it feels good to see your progress over time.
There are a great many resources around goal setting
• Chapter 2 of Becoming the Evidence-Based Manager
How to course correct poor performers
When people are experiencing a performance struggle e.g. they are not meeting your expectations or missing clear goals/deadlines, here's what I recommend:
• 1:1 verbal discussion (you and the employee) about issue, and
• use this guide:
Put them at ease
Ask permission to give feedback
Choose a suitable moment
Provide feedback in private
Be specific and observable
• Stick to observable facts
• Avoid judgment, opinions and comments
• Avoid absolutes (e.g., never, always, constantly)
Explain the impact
•Describe specifically how the behavior promotes or hinders desired results
Work together on next steps
• Confirm - you may not have the whole story
•Understand– simple confusion is common
•Help -involve other person in identifying options
If issue issues persists please continue to Step 2
Step 2) Involve HR and/or create a Performance Improvement Plan
By this point the person is no longer surprised by the issue. In my experience people generally choose to either try and improve or acknowledge this isn’t a good fit for them and negotiate a departure.
Step 3) A performance plan sets clear expectations of items needing resolving/repairing and the ultimatum clear-- with a hard date set. For example: 30 days to do X and Y, if not met, then termination. Signature or some other form of clear accountability on part of employee
Step 4) Success — a new skills is built and level of achievement is possible or negotiate their termination - transition to leaving e.g. will they have time to wrap up, do you want them to go, what will fair compensation be (consider how you would want to be treated in the same situation).
Know that many folks in this same situation have turned things around and are now highly successful as a result of this practice. Sometimes the sting of direct feedback is what we need to find focus and performance.
Delegating to continuously build your next team leads
The main principle behind this approach requires that you allow for failure. It will feel incredibly difficult to let go - to feel the sting of watching someone on your team potentially fail. It’s probably among the hardest things to do. This is a four step approach:
Phase 1: requires that you offer support and guidance
Phase 2: tactical instruction, describing the how and why
Phase 3: support and guidance, encouraging and championing their success thus far and course correcting
Phase 4: let them go - celebrate success
A word or few, on adding new team members
1 - hold a 1:1 meeting and cover the following:
a - share the vision of the team,
b- relevant history of your team in the context of your organization
c- discuss a preliminary set of SMART goals for the person e.g., get up to speed on, focus on, etc.
d- set frequency for check-ins on progress and time to get to know each other e.g., weekly or bi-weekly and time of day
2 - Have a fun (whatever fun means for you) team type session to welcome them. in that session you can share with each other this:
a - strengths and what that means to each person e.g., i'm an activator and in this job that = ...
b - learning e.g., I can contribute this great stuff/skills/experience to team and would really like to learn x, y, or z (you could also add dislikes e.g., i hate filing but will do it in a pinch)
c - logistics/style e.g., never call me before 10am cause i'm a late riser; I like direct and timely feedback
Please ask me to provide more insights for you in whatever situation you may find yourself. email me :)
Many of my coaching clients are in varying stages of career transition and growth - particularly defining ‘What’s next?!’. I like the metaphor of mountain climbing as we consider a career choice(s) going forward. Are you climbing the next peak? Are you resting as you reassess the next climb? Are you at the top surveying what you’ve accomplished? Figuring out where my client is in their climb can help us work together to determine where they should go next.
Personally, I’m at the top of a recent peak, having taken a good rest and reflected on what I’ve just accomplished. Now I’m assessing where I’m going next and what I’ll need to be successful. It’s from this lovely perspective that I’ve been able to articulate six key elements into a Framework I need to evaluate my path and my ‘Stake’ for my next significant climb: Vision, Values, Commitment, Structure, Health and Financials.
What do I mean by a ‘Stake’? A Stake is a statement that represents your rallying cry, your motto, a notion that will sustain and propel you forward. It is also something you are tethered to (much like a stake in the ground) that you can return to over and over again to be reminded and re-energized. A Stake typically takes the form “I will be ___ so that I can do ___.” It’s important to capture both elements of being and action. How you are or how you aspire to be in order to achieve whatever great action you intend to undertake. (The concept of ‘Stake’ is based on the co-active leadership model).
When I was on the plateau resting and rejuvenating, my Stake was “with laughter and steadfast focus I open the door to my new way” (I wrote more about this in a previous blog post). That gave me the way to be able to process my recent experiences and get myself ready for my next climb. Now that I’m ready to climb my next mountain, I don’t yet know what’s at the top of this next mountain except that I know enough to know it when I’ll see it. So for now my stake is “grounded confidence so that I can bend (be flexible) while I climb”. That’s all I need now to start climbing.
This is where my framework comes in, when we climb mountains we know where we’re heading - up - but the path there isn’t always straight. Sometimes you need to handle switchbacks, sharp right or left angles, etc. In the software or startup world - we call those pivots. In a career landscape, these are milestones and data points. As I climb I may find that a working assumption is validated or denied which requires a course correction etc.
Leveraging the book Change Anything, which is based on research in human psychology to help people create new habits to support lasting change, I defined key elements in my framework I could use to evaluate where I want to go next. My next step or stage or climb in my career is likely to span a minimum of 5 and more likely 10 years. I want to be sure that I am choosing the mountain carefully and am as prepared as possible to tackle it. Here’s my framework for that assessment.
Vision: how does this opportunity line up to your big ass Vision for your life? or this stage of your life?
Values: how does this opportunity align with your values?
Commitment: does this opportunity give you a sense of commitment, purpose, motivation? Will it stand through the tough and the easy times ahead?
People/Team: who will you be surrounded with? do they inspire you? will you learn from them? what do you like about them?
Economics/Financials: how do the economics of the opportunity line up to your needs over the time period proposed e.g. if you’re joining a startup do you get equity and salary, what’s the risk of the equity, does the salary cover your cost of living, etc
Environment e.g. geographic location, office, What is the physical environment and how does that support what you need e.g. working from home or an office, is it in the same city you live or will you be commuting, is there travel, is that good? etc
Health: how will this career move support your ability to maintain overall health, physical, mental and spiritual?
Many career paths are straightforward, there is a role, title, or position you aspire to within your company or industry. What is not typically as clear is what it will take to get there - your path. That’s where the climbing comes in. What do you need to climb? what knowledge? who can you rely on as allies for your climb? what will serve as data points to let you know you’re on the right path?
I hope your Stake and this Framework strengthens your capability to grow in your career and helps you have fun climbing :)!
I recently gave a presentation at MarsDD on how to use your values as a founder or CEO to build your organization to last. I cover what values are and which key processes must incorporate your values to ensure you can build great teams, enable decision making at your organizations edges ie next layers down from founders and leadership teams, retain and engage great talent, and scale to meet your growth.
here it is :)
How much space do you have in your life? How much of it is filled with obligations you’ve accepted for others? What percentage do you give to yourself for pursuits that are just for you? Could you stand to make a little more space in your life just for you? Could less commitments mean more quality time to focus on your Vision for your life?
I asked myself these questions recently and discovered that my life was almost entirely filled with obligations, guilt and hardly any room to pursue my own passions, or time to rejuvenate. One of my core values is to be of service to people - I love being helpful, creating value, offering support and transformation as a coach. Because of this, I felt obligated to serve my clients whenever they needed, whether it cut in to personal commitments or not . I would feel guilty if I wasn’t able to be available for them. It became that I was always putting everyone else first, and I was way at the bottom of the list —or sometimes I never made it on to the list at all.
When I noticed how busyness had taken over, I devised what I call “the Mason Jar Exercise”. I needed to create space and reconnect with Vision and Purpose and, have time to contemplate what’s next so that I can choose actions that support my next big chapter.
Many of the folks I coach have similar challenges. They feel overwhelmed, have no time for themselves and feel so busy in their lives they’ve lost their way, lost their deep connection to their vision and purpose.Do you find that any of what I’m talking about applies to you?? Can you check in with how your life is resonating with you, how much you feel in tune with your values in all of your pursuits, supporting roles and actions?
If you find, like so many of us, you could use more space and time in your life, try out the Mason Jar exercise for yourself. Here’s how:
The Mason Jar Exercise for Spaciousness, Choice and Resonance
1. Take a Mason Jar and fill it with gravel (or any other small rocks) in proportion to how full you feel your life is out of integrity with your values. It’s a great way to visualize the things taking up space in your life, I was at about 85%.
2. Fill the remaining space with some of your favourite things e.g. momentoes, shells, etc.
3. As you stare at this now full, or even over full jar, contemplate what you want for your life and write out your ‘stake’—the mantra or statement that propels you forward in integrity. For me it was “with laughter and steadfast focus I open the door to my new way”.
4. Each day choose a stone to ‘throw back into nature’. In my case, I would declare my stake, open my front door and toss it into our forest. Then you must challenge yourself in the day to let go of or get rid of an obligation or choice you’ve made that’s out of line with your values until the jar is empty save for your few favourite things. For example, ‘Today I am ridding myself of the obligation to ___ and this is making room for me to embrace ___". Now you can begin a study of the space, the singular beauty and significance of the items that remain. Notice what you want more of and where the draw is to fill it back up again.
This was a powerful and transformative exercise for me. It took me about a month to complete. I noticed how full my life was in activity and distraction and that I felt out of integrity with my values and that I wasn’t making resonant choices. The result was a beautiful appreciation for my life and a deep acknowledgement of how I want to live. Less has become more. Stillness has expanded my perspectives. Now I feel like I can take on my next mountain.
What are you noticing?
Being discerning about my influences and experiences - I choose the people, experiences and beauty to influence my life. I find people aren’t always choosy about who or what they allow in their lives - they tend to revert to a default based on who they’ve known forever or do so without thought. I am more discerning now - and decide who I will give my time to, when I might read email, pay attention to my phone, and certainly who I will listen to, take advice from and experiences I want.
On Friday nights I’ve begun turning my phone off from dinner until Saturday night and sometimes Sunday morning - it gives me the opportunity to not be distracted by anyone and fully present in how I design my weekend to maximize rejuvenation and reflection.
I have found several friends that are smarter than me in key areas I love to learn about and so I soak up their thoughts, we share our challenges and learn from each other, we push each other to be even better and stronger than we know and acknowledge where we’re at or how we’re feeling without judgement.
For a complete shift in perspective and experience, I love growing our organic market-garden farm, it’s a venture that gives me solace, grounding, joy on a spiritual and physical plane that is entirely unique - to grow my own food and share this bounty with those that appreciate what it takes is beyond joyful. Particularly when I also then learn what can be done with e.g. ground cherry tomato’s and chocolate or wild leeks and miso :)
And I choose to include some element of beauty in my daily life and surroundings. That might mean picking a simple bouquet of wild flowers to infuse a team meeting room in the fresh scent of lilac’s. Or it could be appreciating fine art in painting or sculpture and the profound and thought-provoking impact the artist intends.
One of my core values is discipline and doing what I say. This for me is how I show up with integrity both for myself and the commitments I make to others. Keeping focused on what's most important helps me feel productive and be sure that whatever I've promised the people I work with, I get done. To support this value and way of working, I've created a daily practice that keeps me focused on the most important people and projects.
Each day I meditate, as close to waking and certainly before my first meeting. I get clear on what is coming up that day and how I want to show up for myself and the people I’m spending time with. I decide how I want to be, for example, is being joyful and listening to my intuition the most important way for today, or curiosity, humour?
I use mindful breathing many times in a day - particularly when I’m feeling strong emotions, maybe because I’ve just come from a fierce conversation or a situation that warrants some deep empathy - simply breath gets me grounded and clear before my next meeting or activity.
Exercise - feeling my body, connecting to my physical being and what’s going on for me. Maybe I’m relying too much on a coffee buzz and wanting an energy boost - listening to my cues and taking care throughout the day. How much water have I had? etc As well as honouring my value around fitness and health.
I also write - my daily journal and always moving a blog post or article forward. And most importantly - mindfulness, being fully present in each activity. Several years ago I broke my right foot and ‘lost’ my ability to multi-task in the healing process. It was a huge gift ultimately - choosing to only do one thing at a time. To have all of my mind and body focused on the thing I am doing or person i am talking with and nothing else. What a beautiful way to be, to honour those around me and the purpose or agenda of the company I’m working for. Weekly, I enjoy a mindful Friday night dinner with my family and turn off all technology to Saturday night and on Sunday's I reflect on my past week and prepare for my next - what worked, what didn't, what's important, what's not. etc.
Joy to you in finding a practice that works :)
There are many wiser than me that have offered knowing yourself as a valuable pursuit that brings great rewards.
Here are a few of my favourite quotes on why to do this:
“I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want.” – Mark Twain
“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.” – Lucille Ball
“The searching-out and thorough investigation of truth ought to be the primary study of man.” – Cicero
This is how I invest in knowing myself - I hope it inspires you to create your own practice
The leaders I coach drive themselves and their teams to great achievements, are engaged in what they do, love their work and have passion and compassion in how they work for their teams and customers. They face tough situations - impossible-seeming deadlines or goals, difficult conversations, constant re-balancing of work-life priorities, and crazy business scenarios we’ve never faced before.
Their days can be both energizing and completely draining. And each day they face those choices and predicaments at times with full grace and others with total foolishness.
Along the way I hear and offer the questions - how are you taking care of yourself? how will you rejuvenate? how will you maintain balance? so you I ask these questions of the leaders I work with so that they can keep driving their goals, over-achieving each day and showing up for the important people in your life :)
I focus on three ways to do this myself.
Knowing myself - spending time to understand and check in with my values, triggers, and motivations.
Doing a daily practice - i’ve created a daily and weekly practice that touches on my mind, body and spirit. this discipline and evolving practice keeps me learning, present and ‘in balance’
Being discerning about my influences - choose the people, experiences and beauty that influence my life and what’s important about that today, this week or month or year.