Avoiding Failure At The Top: The Key To Successful CEO Succession

When a CEO begins to plan for retirement, typically the focus is on the organization they have led. Is the organization prepared? Who will be ready to move into new roles? Are the finances and systems in good working order? How is the profit margin?

As a leader prepares to hand off to a successor, they want their house to be in order, and the house they are thinking about is the organization.

With all the focus on external needs, it often leads to a key mistake seen in many successions: The leader misses their off-ramp, the opportunity to transition the company to new leadership and leave on their own terms. They miss leaving at the right moment, robbing themselves of what would have been a happy ending. According to one recent analysis by Exechange, 52% of CEOs from the Russell 3000 Index were asked to leave their roles, and that is just in the past two years. These leaders missed their off-ramp.

How does this happen?

This article was originally published on Forbes.com. To continue reading, please follow this link.

STRATEGIC THINKING 101: CRAFT THE RIGHT QUESTION

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This week we are revisiting Part 2 of an older but helpful blog for strategic planning.


In my last blog article, I indicated that planning to meet was the One Step Action Plan for Strategy. I hope you are working to add thinking time with your teams to the calendar this year! In that article I also talked about 2 types of thinking rhythms: strategic and tactical.

Today I want to walk you through an important design element for successful meetings: Asking the right questions.

Effective meetings have an essential common element: the right question is asked at the right time.

When people are asked the right question in a meeting they have to stop and think.  What is the key sign that people are thinking? They stop talking.

The pause in a meeting is a sign you are asking a thoughtful question and that the people around the table are actually doing the most productive thing then can do: they are thinking. [Note: a long pause can also mean that people are terribly confused. You can usually tell by looking around the table and seeing if people are silently looking at YOU with, “What do you mean?” questions written on their faces, or if they are looking off into the distance. Looking up and off into the distance usually means they are thinking about the question. Looking at you means they don’t understand your question.]

The biggest asset any company has is the thinking power of its people.

Do you intentionally prepare for a meeting to harness the thinking of your team?

When was the last time you sat down and prepared a set of questions to intentionally shape the direction of the thinking in your team meeting?

To have a meeting actually pause while people think requires the right questions.

Here are some tips for Crafting Effective Questions for your next meeting:

First, a guiding principle: Different thinking environments call for different questions. Is your thinking environment strategic or tactical? These environments require different types of questions to be effective.

Tactical time is a monthly, weekly and daily event. These meetings are more swift and action-execution driven. Strategic time is best pursued in annual, quarterly and regular one-on-one meetings.

The monthly meeting tethers the strategic and tactical thinking of an organization. 

Strategic Meeting Tip #1:

The questions to craft in strategic sessions are Why, Who, and What questions.

  • Why is it important that this business exist and persist?

  • Who do we serve?

  • What do they need?

  • What is our value proposition?

Strategic Meeting Tip #2:

Limit How, Where and When questions in strategy sessions. These questions are more tactical in nature.

If you pose them, keep How, Where and When questions focused on vision, values and strategy. There are, of course, exceptions. When How, Where and When questions relate to the core values of the organization they are strategically significant. (ex: How shall we reflect our values in this year’s Winning Moves? How does this goal meet the mission and fulfill the vision of the organization? Where are our customers moving in their needs and thinking?) For the most part, How, Where and When questions are more appropriate for Monthly, Weekly or Daily meetings.

Tactical Meeting Tip #1:

Asking the right outcome-oriented questions keeps these meetings moving. What, Where, When questions are the ones to ask. Be intentional with How questions.

Tactical Meeting Tip #2:

Do not pose Why questions. Move them to when you have the appropriate amount of time to address them like a Monthly or Quarterly meeting.

Tactical Meeting Tip #3:

Limit How questions. How is the question you are paying people to answer, and when posed frequently by a leader is a sign of micro-managing. Use How questions sparingly and with intention.

Next Steps to get your meetings revved up in 2020:

  • Craft an intentional set of questions to pose during each segment of the agenda.

  • Plan out your agenda well ahead of time. For annual and quarterly meetings send the agenda 48-72 hours ahead of time; for monthly meetings send the agenda 24 hours ahead.

  • Include your questions with the agenda you send to your participants.

Warning: Mixing strategic thinking with tactical thinking gets you into the weeds quickly.

As you plan and review your agenda, think through which questions need to be asked as you move through the meeting, and then craft those questions with intention.

You will find that, with the right questions, you advance the thinking of the group and create a climate of purposeful, relevant and timely conversations. Happy Meeting! 


How are you planning on implementing these tips and strategies into your 2020 organizational plan?

Approaching 2020: THE ONE STEP STRATEGIC PLAN

While on the topic of strategic planning, let’s revisit an old but good 2- part blog from 2017 that you can use for executing your 2020 plan:


I have a leader who has come to me wanting a different outcome for his business. He is looking to have a transformational year. I asked for the date and time he meets with his team. He did not have an answer. He does not like meetings. He has gone so far as to delegate the weekly team meeting to an associate. He does not even attend. There are no monthly or annual meetings. There are only team meetings regarding projects. There is not one meeting that is focused on the business itself.

Until this changes, he will not realize the success he is looking for, and until he is willing to commit to that meeting, I suspect he will continue to be frustrated by getting the same results. Change is hard, but it is worth it: new habits deliver new results.

Most clients who come to us looking for support with their strategy need help with one thing: organizing the process. Strategic planning today requires that a leader overcome an internal obstacle: their own resistance.  

Here is my one step plan that will deliver any organization, business segment, or team to greater success in 2017:

Plan to meet.

I know. Meetings are not what you wanted to hear me call for right out of the gate. But it is essential.

Great leaders schedule their planning time a year in advance and prioritize and protect that time.

Here is what to schedule:

Meet annually for 2-3 days of vision-casting and strategic thinking.

Meet quarterly for a half or full day of strategic problem solving.  Begin by celebrating successes! This ensures outcome accountability and maintains momentum.

Senior leaders will have 2 meetings, 1 in which they lead their direct reports, and another in which they participate with their peers.

Meet monthly, for 90 minutes or a half day depending on leadership level. An important shift takes place here: a move from strategy to tactics.

This monthly meeting is a tactical problem-solving and obstacle-removing meeting. It is a time to gather all key decision makers in the room to cut through red tape quickly. Everyone who needs to be consulted is present, and decisions can be made quickly. This is a decision-making, permission-giving meeting that clears obstacles. Attempt to schedule these on the same day and move from front-lines to senior leaders, so that issues that need to reach the highest level decision maker can be resolved the same day.

Leaders will have 2 meetings, 1 they lead and one they present issues that need to be escalated to the next level of decision maker.

Meet weekly for status updates and next steps. Thinking a week out allows for communication and collaboration across segments to identify obstacles and resolve them. 30 to 60 minutes.

Meet daily for a stand-up huddle (yes, literally stand up!) with you team. Allow a minute per person. These meetings address issues that need to be addressed in the next 24 hours.

When you plan these meetings, put them on the calendar, and communicate the schedule and purpose of these meetings an important shift begins to take place on your team: people know what kind of thinking belongs in each meeting.

Daily and weekly meetings are for tactical execution. Monthly meetings are for tactical problem solving, strategic alignment and accountability.

Quarterly and annual meetings are for strategic thinking, and shape organizational focus, momentum and engagement.

This year, sit down with your calendar and map out your year. It isn’t sexy, but it works.

How you spend your time is the most critical element of your success. Planning to be strategic, relevant and successful means putting the dates and times you need to think, collaborate, plan, and communicate on the calendar before you begin. That way you know in advance you are planning for success.

If you find yourself frustrated with the status quo and wanting a different year in 2017 than you had last year, do something different.

Unsure where to begin?

Retain a skilled outside facilitator who can lead an offsite to begin to shape your organizational thinking rhythm. A good facilitator should be able to create a 2 day process that both maps out the thinking rhythm for the year and facilitates the strategic thinking process of the team.

In 2017: Plan to meet. Then be smart about what you do when you are together. It is that simple. 


As you change gears to focus on and implement your 2020 plan, think about how to keep your team and processes aligned. Stay tuned next week for Part 2.

Strategic Planning, Part 2

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Welcome to Part 2 of our strategic planning conversation. Principal, Director of Leadership and Strategy, Jennifer Owen-O’Quill and CEO, Jeff Smith will discuss one factor of running a successful strategic planning meeting, including:

  • Team meeting: setting boundaries and guardrails

  • Team Pace

Tune in to learn more.

Strategic Planning, Part 1

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It’s that time of the year when organizations will usually hold forward looking strategy sessions to plan for the coming year. We have provided a unique opportunity for our clients and colleagues to listen in as we share our thought processes around strategic planning, i.e What is working well with your current strategic planning process? Where are you struggling in your current strategic planning process? What are the biggest successes so far in the current year and why? What are the biggest obstacles anticipated during the coming year? What would “Winning Moves” look like for the coming year? If your organization is in Strategic planning mode,(or about to be), you won’t want to miss!

[Click here for transcripts and radio show]

Council Post: Is your Company Toxic?

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Great culture begins with a positive attitude and is spread by how we speak to and about others. It is important to know the signs when culture is moving in the wrong direction.

Voltage is excited to announce that Director of Leadership and Strategy, Jennifer Owen-O'Quill has been invited to be a trusted adviser on the Forbes Council. In honor of her new role, we would like to share the first article that she's being featured in along with other members of the Forbes Council.


Click on to learn about toxicity in your company and how we counter a toxic environment.

Director of Leadership and Strategy, Jennifer Owen-O’Quill accepted into Forbes Coaches Council

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Forbes Coaches Council Is an Invitation-Only Community for Leading Business and Career Coaches

Voltage Leadership Consulting’s Principal, Director of Leadership and Strategy, Jennifer Owen-O’Quill has been accepted into Forbes Coaches Council, an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches.

Owen-O’Quill was vetted and selected by a review committee based on the depth and diversity of her experience. Criteria for acceptance include a track record of successfully impacting business growth metrics, as well as personal and professional achievements and honors. 

“We are honored to welcome Jennifer Owen-O’Quill into the community,” said Scott Gerber, founder of Forbes Councils, the collective that includes Forbes Coaches Council. “Our mission with Forbes Councils is to bring together proven leaders from every industry, creating a curated, social capital-driven network that helps every member grow professionally and make an even greater impact on the business world.”

As an accepted member of the Council, Jennifer has access to a variety of exclusive opportunities designed to help her reach peak professional influence. She will connect and collaborate with other respected local leaders in a private forum. Jennifer will also be invited to work with a professional editorial team to share her expert insights in original business articles on Forbes.com, and to contribute to published Q&A panels alongside other experts. 

Jennifer Owen-O’Quill says of her new relationship with Forbes, “I am passionate about impacting thought leadership in organizational change, executive team development, and coaching for strategic execution. Breathing life into organizational leadership is the focus of my work, and I look forward to sharing this approach on the Forbes platform”.

ABOUT FORBES COUNCILS

Forbes Councils is a collective of invitation-only communities created in partnership with Forbes and the expert community builders who founded Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC). In Forbes Councils, exceptional business owners and leaders come together with the people and resources that can help them thrive.

For more information about Forbes Coaches Council, visit forbescoachescouncil.com. To learn more about Forbes Councils, visit forbescouncils.com.

For more information about Voltage Leadership Consulting, visit www.voltageleadership.com.

A Matter Of Perspective

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It’s hard to remember a time when things have seemed more divided. The perspectives of good friends, co-workers and family members are being challenged almost on a daily basis. Sadly, relationships have even resulted in separation of company due to serious disagreement.  At times it seems nearly impossible to have an honest disagreement with some people. We all can be very passionate about our beliefs.  

So how do we navigate this stuff without going crazy?

I have been working with teams, who have had these types of conflicts, to help minimize potential damage to relationships.  The picture above was shown at a recent off-site. Participants were asked, “How many logs do you see?”

Some said three. Others said four.

Then somebody said, “It depends on how you look at. If I look at it from the left, I see four. But when I look at it from the right, I see three! So, it depends on your point of view.”

Bravo!

As spouses, partners, customers, colleagues, leaders, subordinates, and peers, we have the opportunity to choose to see a different perspective. Choosing to try to see something from another point of view does not mean that we must agree with it, or even like it, but it does mean that we are invested in the relationship enough to seek understanding.

Appreciating another perspective doesn’t always come easy or without training.  Take a look at the picture below. There is an image of a young woman and an older woman.  Do you see them both?  Did you see one immediately, but had to work at it to see the other?  Still not seeing both?  Maybe you see my point!  Check out the hint below:

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Hint: The young woman’s face is looking away, ie the nose and the chin (I saw this first). But I had to work at it to see the older woman’s face, ie the young woman’s ear is the eye and the neck decoration the older woman’s mouth. (I was actually getting irritated this wasn’t obvious)

So, let’s not just react to seeing part of the picture and instead, seek to understand the whole picture.  Let’s invest more in important relationships by choosing to seek out the other perspective and being willing to work at seeing if needed.

Retention & Recruitment: A Young Professional’s Deliberate Choice

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A hot topic in the job market right now is recruiting a great workforce and retaining them. We have a market where potential hires have more options to choose their next job and career path.  Such is the case that some organizations have even experienced potential hires ‘ghosting’ interviews or even showing up for the first day of work and promptly leaving during their lunch break, never to be heard from again.

 

“Ghosting -- Ceasing all communication in hopes that the ghostee will get the hint and leave the subject alone. This is opposed to communicating that the subject is no longer interested.”

Previously an informal slang term used in the dating world, the term is now a reality within the business world as well. 

Voltage has published blogs on retention and recruitment before, but today I’m taking the time to share from the perspective of a young professional who can say that the value of growth opportunities is certainly invaluable. 

Two years ago I felt immense pressure to move to a sprawling city with plenty of other young millennials in order to fill this linear life gap that I had made up for myself. A bigger city meant more opportunities for growth, more fun, and more connections. Around the same timeframe, I had received a job offer in both Northern Virginia and Roanoke, VA. I accepted the position in Roanoke at Voltage Leadership Consulting over a bigger business, in a bigger city that I had originally thought that I wanted. Ultimately, I am grateful for my deliberate choice and the gut feeling that told me to choose Voltage over the allure of the other position.

Why did I stay and why am I still grateful for that choice?

My interview at Voltage was with CEO, Jeff Smith, and Leadership Consultant, Lee Hubert. They covered an array of topics, but I was able to gather important characteristics about the firm that stuck out to me and stuck with me.

The bigger company in Northern Virginia seemed fun (i.e. they had a ping pong table) but man! The Voltage Team had some charisma, values, and really wanted to know how they could help me in the long run.

I understood from the beginning that accepting this job offer meant that I would have easier access to growth opportunities, such as leadership development, and be able to sit at the metaphorical tables that I wanted to sit at. Not to say that I wouldn’t have received these opportunities in Northern Virginia, but these experiences would have been harder to come by. Jeff and Lee did not just want to know me as an employee but they wanted to know me as an overall person. They wanted to know if I had passion and curiosity because at the end of the day, skills are teachable, but only if the person is open and has the drive to learn. I accepted the job because I saw the potential to grow myself professionally and personally.

Fast forward two years:

-        I have become significantly better at networking.

-        I have a better understanding of the complexities of organizational growth.

-        I have become much more involved within my community through different leadership programs and community programs recommended by my organization.

-        I understand my own leadership style and can navigate and confidently lead diverse teams as well as have the confidence to lead more crucial conversations. 

The culture behind Voltage is one where we celebrate our differing passions. There is not a week that goes by that someone on my team does not call to say, ‘Have you seen this program/event/class that you may be interested in?’ And because of that, I have a true appreciation for where I work and the values that it holds.

Organizations are struggling with finding individuals who will thrive in their company. There are always people who will work, but what you want are employees who truly care, have loyalty, and a thirst for learning and growing. As you make room in your culture for opportunities to grow with your employees, that workforce talent will come and they will stay. Retaining and recruiting talent can be a set of 10 quick tips, but at the end of the day, it’s about fostering a growth environment for your employees, and as your employees stay and grow, so will your company.

 

How Does Your Team Celebrate?

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Pop Quiz:

What was the last success each of your team members had?

If you can’t answer the question, then I recommend spending more time inquiring about and recognizing the progress of your team members.

Why? Because leaders who focus on wins build resilience on their teams.

Curiosity, Recognition and Celebration

Focusing on wins begins with curiosity, so ask about what successes your team has had. This will help you learn what is working well. I encourage leaders to take their curiosity a step further, asking about their team members’ recent successes in weekly or monthly team meetings. When you ask about successes in team meetings people hear from their peers, get new ideas, and learn from each other.

But it isn’t enough just to be curious. You also need to recognize and celebrate their successes:

·        Thank people for their effort, commitment and creativity;

·        Draw connections between one individual’s success and the organization’s success;

·        Celebrate those wins as a team.

Some teams have rituals around celebrating. I have one group that has a giant metal gong hanging in their common room. When a really big achievement is made, they hit that gong with the mallet and celebrate their success. What are your habits around celebrating and how do you make sure that the way you celebrate matches the way your team wants to celebrate?

Tip: From time to time be sure to ask your team how they want to celebrate, both as a group and individually, so that you are creating celebrations that your team members appreciate.

Celebrating wins creates an essential ingredient needed for long term success: momentum.

Resilience and Momentum

The habit of regularly asking about what is going right, sharing the team’s best practices, and calling out the team members’ little victories, incremental achievements and big wins helps build both resilience and momentum.

When I facilitate a team of leaders I typically begin our time together asking about what is working, what has been successful, what they achieved – together and individually – since we last met. That short time at the beginning of the meeting has an important purpose: it reminds people they have solved tough problems successfully before. They remember what they have achieved and they bring that vision of success and the energy of achievement to the meeting.

Recognizing progress and celebrating success provides a key ingredient: momentum. People keep moving the ball down the field when they are recognized as they make progress.

So take the time in your next 1:1 and team meeting to be curious and ask about your team members’ successes. Prepare for your meeting by coming prepared with a list of achievements and successes you want to highlight.

And don’t forget to celebrate!

When you miss celebrating, your team’s momentum will flag, the chance of burnout increases, and you are more likely to lose talent as people get frustrated that they are making such an effort with seemingly no recognition or reward.

So take the time to enjoy the moment when you reach the summits of your success. Help your team see that they are working toward a common goal, that their effort is noticed, and that they make a difference.

I hope it can be said of your organization that it’s a place where the work of your talent is recognized and rewarded!

Your Best Day

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When do you feel like you had your best day at work?

When was the last time this happened?

What did you notice about the day?

I work with many leaders who feel like they running from meeting to meeting, day after day. The only thing different about the days are the clothes they wear based on the season. I call this the Zombie Zone. You have Manic Mondays, Terrible Tuesdays, Hopeful Hump Days, Trying Thursdays and Thank Gosh It’s Friday. Of course, with Smart Phones there are Sneak A Peek at the email Saturdays and Sad Sundays—almost time to go back to work. Wow, this does not sound like much fun. It also makes it hard to really disconnect from work and relax.

I wanted to share a few best practices that I see in my clients that have led to much better days, weeks and years. Additionally, it has led to better relationships with co-workers and families.

Some ideas on how achieve your best day—

1.     Plan—ideally before you leave work the day before, what are the top 2-3 things you want to accomplish tomorrow. This can also be done on the drive in or before you log into your email.

2.     Put the most important items on your calendar. These are the things that you must be involved in. Ex. Presentation Prep, Operations Quarterly Review. Include key personal things as well. Ex. Run, Attend daughter’s play, etc.

3.     Block Your Calendar—try not to do slack or email all day. Pick a few times. Put thinking time or working on a project on the calendar so you can focus on this task.

4.     Match Your Energy to the task—I am a morning person so I do a lot of my coaching and presentations in the morning. I try to get a run in the afternoon to boost my energy and come to do a few wrap activities and plan for the next day. I try to avoid heavy thinking right after lunch. I like to use this time for administrative tasks.

5.     Create Guardrails and Boundaries—This is a great concept I learned by Scott Eblin. What are some “rules” that you can put in place to help you have your best day. Here some examples from clients—

a.     No phones or open computer in meetings

b.     No meetings on Fridays

c.      Stand-up meetings first thing (limit of 15 minutes)

d.     No meetings past 4 pm

e.     No emails or texting on the weekend (unless an emergency)

This concept has helped me better integrate my work life and personal life. I try not to have any meetings past 4pm so I can do some administrative work, plan for the next day and get to my family at a reasonable hour. This has allowed me to close out my day well and to connect with my family better.

 

What about you? What can you do to have a better day tomorrow? Try one or two of these tips and see if they help you. If you get out of your habit, it is okay. Just think back to you best days and put those habits back into your schedule.

If you want some more information and tips on this topic, I highly recommend Scott Eblin’s book Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative  Scott does a great job of outlining the challenges leaders are facing today and providing solutions to common challenges.

Good luck and let us know how you are doing!

Walking Home in a Blackout: 5 Lessons from New York City’s Blackout of 2019

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A Post in Honor of Jennifer Lopez’s 50th Birthday:

The second week in July I was in New York City for a concert. Not just any concert, mind you. It was JLo’s ‘It’s My Party’ concert celebrating her 50th birthday! It was a Saturday night in NYC, and I was at Madison Square Garden. My friend and colleague Erin Love, our Client Engagement Specialist, decided to get us tickets on a whim a few months back. It was a great weekend: there were beautiful, sunny New York City summer days, a good friend, and a fun time on tap for Saturday night: JLo’s concert!

The concert started off with signature JLo energy and action. World of Dance winners from a variety of seasons took the stage, with a DJ spinning tunes as the dancers lit up the stage for an incredible opening set of dancing.

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Then came JLo. She brings it when she performs, and dazzled with her opening act right up until….

the lights went out,

the speakers went silent,

and the theater went dark.

After a few moments in darkness the house lights came up, and the Building Engineer’s voice came over the loudspeaker: “Remain seated.” Then, JLo came onstage, spoke, and waved to her fans, but without a mic, no one could hear her.

There was a power outage across midtown Manhattan, and when the Engineer’s voice came across the loudspeakers for a second time, we were told to evacuate the building.

That is when 19,000 fans began to make their way from the arena and into a darkened mid-town Manhattan teeming with pedestrians, gridlock, honking cars, emergency vehicles with light and sirens, and a bit of tension.

Thousands of people were making their way back home through a blackout.

These boots were made for walking (2.5 miles in NYC’s blackout).

These boots were made for walking (2.5 miles in NYC’s blackout).

In our case that meant our hotel in Times Square, so we joined the throng heading in that direction.  

I noticed some things that night, as I hiked the two and a half miles back to my hotel (in black stiletto boots no less), pausing periodically to stop and direct traffic so that emergency vehicles could pass through the clogged roadways.

Here are my 5 Lessons from NYC’s Blackout 2019:

1.      Remain Calm.

This one was key all night long. People did not panic. To stay safe and help others in an emergency it is important to remain calm so you can think clearly, but more importantly so you don’t panic others. Fear spreads quickly. Remain calm.

 

2.      Watch for people moving “upstream.”

People follow the people in front of them, unless they don’t. Pretty much universally people were calm evacuating the building. But getting down the escalators was a bit of a challenge.  People quickly clogged the exits and no one was moving anywhere… except a few people who were coming back through the crowd and into the arena. I asked why as they passed by. (We had stayed back from the initial wave of people leaving so we didn’t get caught up in any panic.) “Because the crowd isn’t moving,” was the reply.

 

Those individuals who came back into the arena were looking for a different option. They asked staff about other exits. The people moving upstream didn’t let themselves get stuck.

 

3.      Find another way out.

Options are important. Just because you get sent in 1 directions does not mean that is the only direction. I have not been to Madison Square Garden before, so I was not familiar with the entrances and exits, but it was clear we were being directed out the way we initially came in. That is, until a few wise Garden staffers recognized the problem: with no power to the escalators people were not exiting the building quickly enough. They understood that this was an emergency evacuation, and began opening the emergency exit doors for us to use to walk down to the street.

 

4.      Help Out.

Traffic was, of course, a mess. At one point there were emergency vehicles trying to pass through an intersection, and a tour bus was the obstacle in the way. I am not someone to sit on the sidelines, so into the traffic I plunged. With the help of another passerby we directed traffic, navigating the cars to come as close together as they could so that the tour bus could move aside. Neither of us were trained professionals, but we did know how to help in the situation.

 

What you do to help out in a situation doesn’t need to be a big deal, but finding a way to positively contribute matters. Better still, now my NYC story isn’t just about the Blackout of 2019, it is: “The Day I Directed Traffic in NYC!”

 

5.      Make new friends. Meet people. Have some fun together!

Citizen M Hotel, Lobby Bar

Citizen M Hotel, Lobby Bar

Finally we were back at our hotel! But the adventure wasn’t over. While the power downstairs was on, they were still testing the elevators and bringing the AC back online. So Citizen M hotel staff ushered all their guests into the lobby bar and threw a giant party for us while we waited. I got to spend a few hours making new friends, learning where everyone was from, what their initial Saturday night in NYC plans had been, and what the next day, week, and in 1 case stage of life, looked like. It was a great time.

 

When you share an experience with others, reaching out to connect builds an instant sense of community. We had the whole patio talking before long.

So thanks, NYC, JLo, NYFD and NYPD, and especially the Citizen M staff for the great memories! It was a fantastic weekend, with great hospitality and resilient New Yorkers being themselves.

Happy Birthday, JLo!

A great weekend full of lessons learned with a phenomenal friend and coworker.

A great weekend full of lessons learned with a phenomenal friend and coworker.

Meditation as a Leadership Practice

I recently posted an article about the importance of sleep for leaders and was reminded by a reader that meditation is also a critical practice for the mind of a leader. This week I wanted to take up this topic to encourage you to begin or take back up your meditation practice.

In my work as an Executive Coach I have found a correlation between professional and personal success and happiness, and the ability to metabolize anxiety. Leaders who are able to move through anxiety-provoking events with less reactivity, who demonstrate greater calm and ease in tough situations, move forward to increasingly high levels of leadership. Those who react poorly to bad news, crises, and anxiety provoking events in the workplace tend to stay in their current role, some get demoted, and some get coached to new roles.

Numerous studies have shown the positive impact of meditation. For our purposes I’ll relate those benefits to some desirable and undesirable leadership behaviors:

Angry or Emotional Reactions

Are you a leader who has a tough time controlling your emotions? Do you react with anger in the moment when you are frustrated by the performance of your team?

Meditation can calm that response. A 2012 study builds off a number of other’s to show that meditation can reduce the amygdala’s reactivity to stimuli.[i]

Want to be less reactive the next time you get bad news? Try meditation.  People who do react less quickly and negatively to difficult situations.

Stressed or Worried at Work

Feeling overworked or stressed out at work? A meditation practice can help.  Meditation can expand an individual’s ability to withstand discomfort, like the anxiety of waiting for a meeting with an upset colleague or coping with the results of a negative review. Best of all the impact of meditation lasts. Those who meditate daily experienced increased coping ability well beyond the time of their meditation practice. 

Finding Your Best Self

If you are looking to have a better experience with your current role: less stress and more enjoyment, less anxiety and more calm, then introducing a meditation practice to your daily life is a great first step to get there.

It seems that meditation allows a person the ability to grow a new skill: a greater ability to pause and reflect on emotions. While the mind races through a meditation practice, the practitioner is learning to attend and simply notice the noise. This practice of noticing changes the brain’s typical reaction response. Best of all, the new, longer response meditators gain during their practice lasts beyond their quiet time. Something different happens in their bodies all day.

Noticing the Difference

How a leader prepares themselves for the day matters, and when meditation and quiet time is a part of the leader’s routine, people notice.

Typically when a client begins to meditate and then misses a day, they will comment in our next coaching session:

“Well, other people may not notice when I skip my meditation time, but I sure do!”

Trust me, if you notice, they notice.

And the data supports people’s experience: fMRI imaging of meditators and non-meditators is different. The amygdalas of meditators take longer to light up with reactivity than non-meditators.

In my experience, this gives these leaders the priceless gift of time. Time to think. Time to pause. Time to decide how to react and what is wise before the reaction actually begins.

A centered leader is a priceless gift for an organization. A regular meditation practice gives you a edge: the edge of self-control.

How to Get Started

There are many schools of meditation, and worldwide there are countless different approaches: from Centering Prayer, Yoga and Meditation to name a few. You have a wide variety to choose from if you are considering incorporating meditation into your daily life.

I encourage you to simply pick one that intrigues you and stick with it for 8 weeks. In that time you will learn the practice well enough to feel more natural and at ease with your chosen approach.

A simple place to begin:

1.      Rest your hands just under your ribcage on your belly.

2.      Close your eyes (or keep them open!).

3.      Simply breathe deeply, feeling your abdomen expand and contract.

4.      Count backward from 10 with each exhale.

5.      Repeat that for 2 minutes.

If you take the time to pause and breathe throughout your day things will begin to shift.

Want significant impact?

Option 1: Increase the time. In the study referenced, participants meditated 20 minutes a day for 8 weeks.

Option 2: Meditate on compassion. Those who practiced compassion meditation, in the study, found significant change in just a few minutes of meditation. 

*(see link in footnote to read about the different meditation practices studied)

Namaste.

[i] “Effects of mindful-attention and Compassion Meditation Training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in ordinary non-meditative state,” Desbrodos, Nehi, Pace, Wallace, Raison, Schwartz, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, November, 2012.  https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00292/full

 

Building Your 2025 Team

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I have been thinking a good bit about 2025 recently. I have a couple of teams that are doing Vision 2025. I also just went to my 2nd Daughter’s College Orientation at James Madison University and she will be in her first job in 2025. Also, watching the US Women’s soccer team win the World Cup and seeing how different the team was in 2019 vs. 2015 has me thinking a lot about developing our future leaders.

Sometimes it helps to go backwards first. What were you thinking about in the summer of 2013? (same distance from the 2025.) A few of the most popular fads included—

Word of the Year-Selfie

Media Site of the Year-Vine (where did they go?)

Co-working spaces were becoming a thing

We were waiting for Prince George to be born

We were listening to Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke and others

 

Wow, a lot has changed since 2013. Now, look around your workplace. What has changed?

Voltage has added superstars to our team, lost some strong team players, added an office, wrote 2 books, did a radio show, brought on many great clients, etc.

Do you still have the same team members? Are they in the same seat? What skills do you have now? What skills are missing?

Okay, what do you expect your team to look like in 2025? What skills will you need? Will you need new leaders? Do you plan to still be in your company? These are important questions to ask yourself as you start to think about the future success of your team and your organization.

A few trends to consider. The number of baby boomers is shrinking in the workplace daily. The newest generation-Gen Z or Digital Natives—will be joining the workplace in droves. The oldest are about 25 now. The Millennials will be moving into senior management roles and Gen Xers will in many of the C-Suite Roles. Other trends to think about—more people are moving to the biggest cities when they move. However, fewer and fewer people are willing to move for work. Thus, you will probably be managing virtual workers and trying to build a team that might be located in multiple locations. The speed of information and technology will only increase with 5G, more data analytics, and quicker processes. Life will get faster as the info comes to us more quickly, so staying ahead of this quickening pace will only help you!

So, what are you going to do about your 2025 team today? Start the conversation with your teams. What skills and talents will be critical in the future? Ask how your leadership will need to change to grow the team (learn about the multiple generations, collaborate more, get comfortable with virtual teams, teams may form and disband quicker, etc.) Also, what characteristics will your new hires need to be successful? Think learning agility vs. being an expert, adaptability and a willingness to always be learning.

The final thing is to do is get started now. Start by putting some of your team members in stretch assignments so they can be great by 2025. Ask key high potentials how they would like to be developed and provide them the time and resources to grow. Start on a book club and invite interesting people to the discussion to stretch everyone’s thinking. Have fun and embrace that the team will change and your team in 2025 could be your best one ever if you focus on it now!!! Good luck and let us know how your team development is going!

 

 

Manage New Employee Expectations

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It’s hard to remember a time when we have seen more ‘help wanted’ signs. It seems like they are everywhere. And behind every sign is a story. As more jobs chase fewer candidates, wages and incentives increase (not necessarily a bad thing for workers).

I have been working with teams who seem to have a few things in common due to our tight labor market. They all need to source, hire, train and retain good people. By the time they find them, tell them, sell them, start them and ramp them to productivity, they have small fortune invested in each new hire.

These employers are typically very proficient with the technical part of their jobs. Frequently we have opportunities to manage up, to mitigate potential communication disconnects with upper management or to set and manage new employee expectations.

For some employees, it is as basic as reinforcing

a) show up on time

b) show up ready to work

c) show up with a ‘can-do’ attitude.

This requires leaders to allocate and spend time with new hires to ensure they get off on the right foot.  To know what is expected of you as an employee increases retention.

Focus your new employees on the results you want by encouraging their hearts. According
to Raidah al-Baradie, King Fahd Hospital-Dammam, Saudi Arabia, there are seven main components to the management practice of encouraging the heart that helps to increase productivity.

1. Set clear performance standards - Create clear goals and allow employees to provide input  about their goals. Give consistent feedback that allows employees to know if they are meeting their goals and that guides them to correct their course. Encouragement is feedback. Successful managers help their employees understand how their values align with the organizations goals.

2. Expect the best from all - There is a saying, “We get what we expect.” When leaders
expect they are surrounded by incompetence, that is what they will find. Conversely, when    leaders expect their subordinates are highly skilled, that will dominate the environment.
In other words, people have a tendency to live up or down to expectations of their leader.

3. Pay close attention – Put your new employees first. Support them and ensure that they have the tools they need to be successful in their new roles. Pay close attention. Listen with both your ears and your eyes. Being attentive shows, you care and that leads to trust and retention. Spend time with your employees and schedule recurring 1:1 time.

4. Personalize recognition - It is important to structure recognition according to the employee’s needs because impersonal recognition may have the adverse effect of demotivating employees. Offer the recognition in the way that the person wants to
receive it and do not hesitate to ask them. Make the recognition; timely, specific,
sincere, proportional, positive and memorable.

5. Tell the winning story – Utilize well the theater of the mind. Story telling is one of the languages of leadership. Use positive stories to teach, inspire, and motivate. Stories will also help to clarify expectations. Telling great stories includes identifying the people, giving the context, outlining the situation, highlighting the actions and the analogous desired outcomes.

6. Celebrate incremental wins - Celebrating success builds momentum and commitment and energizes people to do well. Furthermore, celebrating success provides a forum for iterating standards and values, while also providing employees an opportunity to come together and establish closer bonds.

7. Be the example - Leaders must model expected behavior. To create a culture of celebration, the leader must celebrate the actions and behaviors of his employees. Be genuine and connect on a personal level. Solicit, gracefully receive, and act on feedback from your staff.

So, to encourage the heart, take action. One of the most important characteristics of a supportive leader is objectivity or open-mindedness. A good leader should also wear a smile.

A smile helps to put subordinates at ease and communicates that their leader cares about them as individuals.

It is highly recommended that leaders who want to improve productivity provide regular feedback and be responsive to their employees because nothing is more demotivating than
silence, or not receiving any feedback at all.

How can you implement some of these strategies to encourage your newest employees today?

The Future of Leadership

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This week my 16-year-old daughter, Natalie, completed the 11th grade.  She is busily working on college scholarship applications because she has her sights set on the University of Notre Dame.  Following is an essay she wrote for the B. Davis Scholarship regarding what she views as the 3 most important characteristics of a leader.  Let’s learn what is important to our future leader:

 

Views on Leadership

 Working in groups is a constant activity in my life: I live with my mom and four sisters at home, and I work with people at school and in theatre.  I have been under the instruction of fantastic leaders as well as not-so great ones; I have even had a few leadership opportunities of my own.  My observations and experiences have helped shape what I believe are the three most important characteristics of a leader: communication, respect, and passion.

Communication is the primary responsibility of a leader.  In order to reach success, every member on a team must be on the same page.  A clear purpose or goal and simple instructions are ways to center a team’s focus.  First, the leader must spend time thinking about what needs to be accomplished then list and prioritize the actions needed to reach accomplishment.  Following brainstorming and planning comes assigning and explaining; the leader presents his or her plan to the team and gives each member a role with instructions.  Then, the leader supervises and helps the team meet the goal by further explaining instructions so members understand what needs to be done, working alongside members if necessary, and checking in frequently to witness team progress.  My choreographer/dance teacher is someone who has provided me this example of great communication; when there is a show to be done, she creates the dances, prioritizes them by the time needed to teach and clean, and schedules rehearsals.  The rehearsal schedule is given out in several different ways - verbal, internet, and paper - and she also explains to each of us our role and what is expected.  This skill takes a great deal of trial and error as a good leader consistently finds better ways to direct their team.  A good way this skill is developed is having a thinking partner: someone that can feed ideas, motivate, and help create clearer instructions.  Whenever I am about to send an important message, my mom acts as my thinking partner to make sure I communicate clearly. 

When a leader communicates with respect, they can be more confident that their instructions will be completely understood.  Everyone has grown up hearing this lesson, and it is forever rooted in our souls: treat others the way you want to be treated.  Humans want and deserve respect, and it is a general virtue that everyone should have.  Teams usually are inefficient and unmotivated when their leader is disrespectful.  Leaders should not hoard or pridefully use their power but rather divvy it out and create opportunities for colleagues to lead and work to higher skill levels.  How else did the leader end up in their current position?  It is more than likely because their leader was kind and thoughtful and gave them a chance.  Leaders should get to know their colleagues on a personal level.  Mutual understanding between the leader and team members regarding their individual duties and life activities is an important aspect of respect.  To best develop this quality of respect, the exercise of putting oneself in another person’s shoes will allow the leader to see what their team members experience and can best communicate and work with them.  I am in a performing arts program that has multiple instructors with one instructor considered the head.  The head of the program is technically in charge of everything, however, this individual does a poor job of allowing the other instructors to make decisions and take charge of some aspects of the program which highlights a lack of respect to those instructors as well as the students working with them.  It is unfortunate that pride can cause people in leadership positions to behave disrespectfully; however, it provides a great example of what not to do.  Respect is developed in every choice an individual makes, and the best teams are run by a respectful leader.

Lastly, but certainly not least, is passion.  The best leaders are usually developed by their passion; for example, I tend to be a natural leader in theatre because I care so much about a production and how it looks and runs.  Team members are encouraged by the devotion of their leader to the project and feel the need to get on their level, hence, a team motivated to get work done.  Passion is contagious, and it is more fun to work when one is inspired.  To lead a team with fervor, a leader should find something about the project that is super important to them and use that aspect to fuel their work.  Tracing back to the skill of communication, the leader should explain their passion to the team and encourage them to find their own.  I was cast as the star in a dance piece that depicted my choreographer/director’s life.  She was so passionate about what she created and wanted to make sure her vision was executed perfectly.  Many of my rehearsals were spent conversing with her about who my character was, what type of movement she wanted, and the expressions she wanted to see.  The piece ended up being absolutely amazing, and that is because my director’s passion inspired us cast members to do our very best.  A team bonded together by passion and determination is, without a doubt, the vehicle that drives to success.

 

Group projects will be a constant activity in our lives, and it is important to recognize what skills provide success whether you are the leader or being led.  These three characteristics - communication, respect, and passion - are most effective when they are combined.  Without respect, communication will not be accepted well among team members.  Without passion, team members might find it difficult to respect their leader’s vision if they feel they are working in vain.  Without communication, team members lose any respect and/or passion they might have for a project.  All three qualities are things that are continuously developed and improved.  Personally, I will strive to continue to learn from the leaders I follow and better myself in these skills as I earn leadership positions of my own.

Natalie Love

May 24, 2019

A great reminder to all of us that a younger generation is watching and learning from our leadership.  How will you communicate your passion with respect to your team today?

Lessons from Little League

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My son just finished his first season of Little League. After years of watching the kids learn how to throw, catch, hit, and pitch, this is the year they are really starting to play competitively, and his coach was competitive in the best sense of the word.

·        He set high expectations for behavior, effort and attitude.

·        He taught fundamentals, did the drills, and broke down plays and strategy for the kids.

But most important of all,

·        He was motivating.

He was so motivating, that when the team was celebrating after their last game, I took him aside to thank him specifically for the way he spoke to those kids. He preached a mindset into those kids with all of his chatter on their field. If they were paying attention, what he was saying will help them go far in life and baseball.

Lessons from the Chatter on the Field

Here are some of the things I heard from on the field that are particularly relevant for leaders:

·        “Hustle!”

We need to be reminded to keep moving through the transitions in our lives, between projects, and throughout the day.

·        “Where is the next play?” (and sometimes the directive: “The play is at First!”)

#1. When a leader is specific with a question, team members learn to think for themselves.

#2. It is also important for the leader to be aware of what is happening on the field. If there has been a lot of action, it is often helpful to remind the players where their next move is.

·        “Shake it off.”

Yes, things go wrong. But a punishing, punitive leader does not help a player move on when they are already filled with regret. Shake it off.

·        “You are alright. Focus on the next play.”

When things are not going as we plan or hope, we can get distracted by our frustration and review of past experiences. There is always a play in front of us. Let team members (and ourselves!) know “you are alright,” and where the focus should be: on the play that is coming our way now. A great leader refocuses the team so they don’t miss the play that is in the present because we are so busy thinking about what just happened. Move on. Focus on the next play. Apply what you learned and go!

·        “I want everyone on the fence cheering for your team mates!”

Yes please! Can we have more cheering of teammates out there? Your people want to be recognized and appreciated not just by you, but by their peers. Are you teaching everyone on your team how to praise, encourage and motivate their peers? Do you set this as a behavior expectation on your team?

It will do wonders for your culture if you do. 

And when in the outfield:

·        “Let’s hear some chatter out there. Talk to your pitcher!”

·        “Call the ball. Let your teammates know you’ve got it.”

When a leader is aware of the action on the field, they are able to offer time-sensitive, relevant, specific coaching to their teams. The key: coach, you have to be paying attention! And then you need something clear and succinct to say.

As I sat behind the fence watching the kids on the field, I started to imagine what it would be like if I had this team’s coaching crew in my daily life:

·        “Ok Jennifer, get up and get going! Hustle to the plate!”

·        “Be ready for your 3 o’clock, Jennifer! He can really swing the bat.”

·        “Shake if off! Focus on the next play.”

·        “Don’t worry about the runner. The play is at 1st.” 

Our Own Coaching Crew

As I thought about it, I realized I do have a set of coaches in my life.

They are the voices inside my head that constantly offer up their chatter.

They are the people in my life that I spend time with, ask advice of, and listen to.

And, of course, there are the people that I am coaching myself, intentionally and unintentionally, with what I am saying, verbally and non-verbally.

Coaching Ourselves: the Inner Chatter

I constantly talk to myself as I move through my day. But what am I saying? My goal is to have the voice inside my head sound more like my kid’s Little League coaches and less like the Inner Critic that seems to have the microphone in my head far too much of the time.

What do you need to do to move from Critic to Coach in your own mind? With your team? Maybe even at home with your family?

Coaching our Teams: Leading the Chatter on the Field

How can you help the people you lead shake it off and focus on the next play?

When a player would strike out and head back to the dugout, usually Coach would speak directly them. He’d stop them in their tracks, look them in the eye, and have a quick, private conversation. These were intended to shift the energy from what just happened to what was next. In those few moments:

·        He told them what they got right.

·        Reminded them of what they learned.

·        Focused them on what was next. And,

·        Reset a clear expectation about the attitude he expected everyone to bring to the field.

The direct coaching, modeling of behavior, and the continual, clear resetting of expectations proved magical on the ball field. It was a winning season in more ways than one. They learned to be kind, competitive, and how to coach and cheer for one another.

How can you teach your team to be a group that is standing up at the fence of the field, offering a lot of encouraging chatter to their colleagues? No one wants to work in a negative environment. So fire the Inner Critic if you have one, and set an example for your teammates about how to play to win.

How we talk to our teams matters. What is the chatter on your field?

Looking for Talent Here is a Great Talent Source!

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How are we encouraging intelligent, middle aged women to reenter the workforce?

In my office there has been a lot of talk about employee recruitment and retention lately.  Something that I have personal experience with is trying to gain employment when there is a 10+ year gap in work history due to staying home to raise children.  Women who do this are some of the brightest, most caring, hardworking, and loyal people I know.  Sounds like what I might look for in an employee.  So how can we get employers to look beyond the empty traditional resume and application to the incredible person entering a new phase of life?

During my years as a stay-at-home mom, I learned more about leadership and problem solving than anywhere I have worked outside the home.  I also assisted the startup of a lawn and land maintenance business and ran an independent distributorship of healthcare products.  I learned to network like a champ through these experiences, as well as through learning to setup successful playdates!  The constant multitasking and scheduling involved in running a six-person household is impressive.  Women like me have to rely on these networking skills to even get an employer to notice what she might offer because rarely will an empty work history get a second glance.  (I originally met the person I currently work for at a local restaurant bar where we were both on date nights with our husbands.)

In my mid-twenties I moved to a different part of the country where I knew no one who could give me a referral yet I got at least one interview with every resume I submitted.  Apparently, on paper, I had work experience, skills, and an education that warranted another look.  Fast forward 20-ish years, after staying home for 10 years with my children, I sent resumes out to at least a dozen businesses.  Most of those resumes were accompanied by a personal referral from someone who knew a leader at the hiring company.  I got 1 informal phone interview … that’s it!  Yes, there would be a learning curve with all the technology changes that have taken place in the last fifteen years; and, yes, I would be looking for flexibility to continue to be available to my children because I am still a mom.  However, this 45-year-old woman can offer SO much more that contributes to the success of businesses in today’s world than my 25-year-old self, with all the opportunities, could offer.

How are you making accommodations for women (or men) who have stayed at home with children for a number of years?  What makes you hesitant about interviewing or hiring them?  What if you recruited this demographic specifically?  More than likely you will find more than you had hoped for.  The experience and dedication that it takes to run a household well and raise children should be the most sought after qualifications when searching for candidates.  Consider what questions you could ask to find the true life experience that correlates to the leadership you want for your company.

The Key to Great Culture

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There is a lot of talk about great culture going on out there. The labor market is tight and employers are doing everything they can to attract talent. But there is one key ingredient that is essential for great culture, and if you have it you will retain your best talent, attract great candidates, and foster the thriving work environments that truly engage employees.

The Key Ingredient

That key ingredient is great refereeing: to have a great culture you need to be a great ref.

Here is what good refereeing looks like:

Someone says something in a meeting that is disrespectful of a colleague. A good referee asks for the group to pause, and says, “I want to be able to hear your concern so that we can resolve the issues that we face as a team, and when you frame your concerns in a way that belittles your colleague it makes it hard to hear. I’d like you to restate your question in a way that is respectful of your colleague.”

What happens when someone speaks up?

·        The group learns to be accountable to one another.

·        The person who was disrespected hears that there is a distinction between the tone of how something was raised and the problem or issue that is the pain point at hand.

·        The person who spoke disrespectfully discovers a boundary for their behavior. They have to work in the moment to reframe how they present their concerns, and learn to raise issues respectfully.  It should be an expectation that concerns need to be brought forward respectfully in order to be addressed – if respect is missing the disrespect gets addressed instead of the issue that was raised.

Refs Know the Rule Book

To be a great ref, you need to know the Rule Book. To get and preserve a great culture the team needs to decide what behaviors they want and don’t want. Those behaviors need to be named and commonly understood. “Respect” is not a good Rule. It is too vague. Respect means a lot of different things to people. Defining these words with specific behaviors help teams become good referees. When respect is better defined people know what, specifically, to do:

We demonstrate respect by:

·        listening without interrupting

·        Speaking directly to someone when we have a conflict or concern to address

·        Coming prepared to meetings – having reviewed materials

·        Meeting deadlines that were agreed upon

·        Communicating regularly with colleagues who need to be informed about changes in our work…

You get the idea. When I sit down with a team to work on Ground Rules we get down to the specifics. What exactly does this look like in real time? People need to know what success looks like before they can strive to achieve it.

Creating Ground Rules with your team is not complicated. Check my blog on this topic here.

On the Best Teams, Everyone Referees the Game

A final word about great refereeing: it is a Team Activity. Having a team talk through how they will hold one another accountable for their missteps helps people learn to referee, and sets the expectation that colleagues don’t need to wait for a leader to call the foul. They are empowered to speak up and help referee the game.

There is never one referee on the field in professional sports. When a game is being played it takes a lot of eyes to help ensure the game is played well.

That maxim we learned as kids still applies: When you see something, say something.

Now, let’s Play Ball!

Ground Rules Keep Teams Healthy

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I frequently am asked to work with leadership teams to either launch a new initiative, prepare for succession, or build a new team dynamic for teams who have stagnated or where trust has broken down.

When we begin we always start by setting Ground Rules. These are the rules that this group co-creates and agrees to be accountable for as they do their work together.

Setting Ground Rules

To establish Ground Rules I ask 3 key questions:

1.      What do you need from this team/your colleagues in order to perform at your best?

2.      What does this team need to focus on as a whole in order to perform at our best right now?

3.      How do we want to hold one another accountable for the Ground Rules we establish?

Revisiting Ground Rules

Ground Rules should be revisited regularly. I have had leaders take the Ground Rules they’ve set with their colleagues back to their own teams and share them. People write them on their white boards, include them at the tops of their agendas, and check in about Ground Rules at the opening of every meeting to be sure that the pain points between team members have a place to be addressed in healthy, open ways. They make space and a plan to maintain the healthy functioning of their team.

A Fact about Ground Rules

The hard truth is that Ground Rules will be broken. Frequently. At some point every team member steps across the line with one Ground Rule or another. The strength of a team is defined by how it responds when Ground Rules get broken. Do you say anything? How is the subject broached? Do people leave the conversation with new ideas and tools about what to do differently? Do team members “call fouls” and bring up a misstep of their own or their colleague? Are apologies offered?

Ground Rules determine the rules of the team. They help name and make explicit the boundaries of how we will treat one another. But, just like in baseball, if no one knows the rules or plays by them, they are meaningless.  For more on how to referee see my next blog – “The Key to Great Culture”.

The Rewards

The best moments I have had with my team have been times when they have called me out for stepping close to or across the line with Ground Rules. (On all my teams I have included “Work at a Sustainable Pace” because I know I need help with this one. I will exhaust the team with the pace I want to keep!)  I have learned so much from my colleagues when they have called my attention to the behaviors and habits that lead me to break our Ground Rules. That learning has paid off dividends in every area of my life. I am a better mom, wife and friend because of the time and attention my colleagues have paid to how we are together. What I learned at work applied at home. I needed to change my habits there too! Give Ground Rules a try on your team. You’ll be surprised how much of an impact something as simple as defining the boundaries of behavior can have on your workplace.