Episode 51: Strategic Planning Part 2


Part 2 of Strategic Planning with Jennifer Owen- O'Quill

Jeff: Welcome, so glad you could be with us today. It is a much nicer day here in Virginia. Beautiful and sun shiny so we must have Jennifer in the house.

Jennifer Owen-O’Quill is here today. Our topic today is something we’re calling Boundaries in the Fast Lane. So we’re going to talk about what the boundaries are in the workplace? How do you set up an environment where by having the right discussions you can lead to innovation and better productivity and better performance?

So Jennifer will be with us all day. During the week if you want to come out and find us or if you’d like to work with us we’re at www.voltageleadership.com. You can like us on Facebook at Voltage Leadership. You can connect with me at Jeff Smith, Voltage Leadership Consulting or Jennifer Owen-O’Quill at Voltage Leadership Consulting. And you can follow us on Twitter @Voltageleaders. So Jennifer glad to have you here today.

Jennifer: It’s great to be here.

Jeff: Jennifer and I have been here the last hour and a half or so, last week we were together doing strategic planning so today we’re more kind of continuing that conversation truthfully about a market we might be interested in and just showing that it’s important to not just do the strategic plan one time. It really is about coming back. That was sort of our core message last week -- don’t let that happen one time.  So Jennifer and I spent the last hour and twenty or thirty minutes really talking about key clients and where do we want to expand our business. I think it’s important that we live that out and you guys get to see that.

Jennifer: And it was a great location too. The back porch was lovely, sunshiny beautiful day and it makes for a good conversation so I’d also add to that get out of your environment to do some different thinking. You get the same results sometimes when you’re in the habit of your own place. Get out of your environment to have a different kind of conversation.

Jeff: I like it. So Jennifer, Boundaries in the Fast Lane? What did you have in mind? Maybe give us an overview of the topic and get us started on the path today.

Jennifer: This is a theme that’s been coming up in my work in the last couple of months, how to set boundaries. Different than performance bench- marks, that’s where I want you to go. More boundaries, of this is what’s allowed and this is what’s not allowed, this is the kind of thing we do, this is the kind of thing we don’t do. How do you set good boundaries both around the kind of work that’s done and the way that you do the work. So both tasks and relationships and I thought that’d be a great way for us to begin after Labor Day. How do we work together well to be the most productive teams?

Jeff: I’m always curious.  These boundaries -- what do we allow? So even around time management, so that’s one of the boundaries we’ll probably explore somewhere along the line, and I found myself, even yesterday, I did do some work yesterday to get ready, finish out some billing things like that, and it was intriguing … One of the kids was like, “Why are you working today?” and I was like, “Well the first two days this week are really busy and right now we just got home from a trip,” and I said, “I’d much rather work now and be able to go to your soccer game tomorrow night than saying oh I’m not going to work at all on Labor Day Monday.”

And what boundaries do we sometimes put that keep us from being as successful as possible? So I’m curious to explore both.

Jennifer: Right, yes I am too. Hopefully we’ll find out.

Jeff: Well good.

Jennifer: Where do you want to start?

Jeff: Let’s go with some of the boundaries that you see maybe, let’s maybe start at the team level, I’m kind of curious. Walk us through some of the boundaries that you work with on teams to help them maximize their performance. And then we’ll kind of work our way to individuals.

Jennifer: So a couple of things. One is making things crystal clear is helpful and preferably in advance of a problem. That’s the first thing I would say. How you set up your ground rules so people know what’s yes and what’s no and have a real conversation about that and to keep having that conversation as you go along regularly. I encourage folks to repeat and reframe those boundary conversations around what the ground rules are for the team. About how they want to show up with each other and then to check in about how they did it. It doesn’t have to take long but it’s a helpful tool to keep before people. How we should be being.

Jeff: Yeah I can see an example, I can hear some people you know we’ve got folks from all over the world and so this is one of those that we’re using is probably pretty US centric. So as we’re describing boundaries for some of our friends in the UAE or Belgium or China they might be, I don’t understand boundaries? That’s in between our countries? What is that? So can you give us an example of a boundary that you see in a team?

Jennifer: Yeah absolutely so one of the boundaries that a team may set for itself is to listen first before interjecting, so letting a person finish.

Jeff: Are you done talking? Can I start talking now?

Jennifer: We go back and forth in this setting. It makes it more interesting and allowing all the ideas to be heard before we start cutting them down or mixing them up.

 I think back to you coming back from an engagement with a client and a new person was entering a team, a really healthy team but a dynamic team and by that I mean a lot of heat and laughter around the table and I remember you saying “I had to sit alongside him and say you’ll get used to it.” The person was really excited and a little intimidated. How am I going to get in here? So the group can set the boundaries but the intentional choosing of them delivers you a different outcome.

Jeff: For instance you hear often about ground rules. Ground rules and boundaries? Alike? Different? Same? How would you?

Jennifer: I think a ground rule is a tool to let you define a boundary. Another boundary to play on that ground rules is there a good referee? Who’s refereeing? You need to practice with your team in advance of the time that you’ll have to do the same with your own direct reports because you just get a chance to practice. What’s allowed? What’s not allowed? How do you help each other bring your best self to the occasion?

Jeff: Okay let’s peel another layer, boundaries and values. I like that ground rules help us stay in or watch our boundaries. Where do values and boundaries intersect?

Jennifer: I think that the kind of boundaries you set will convict you of your values.

Jeff: Convict you?

Jennifer: I always think interesting language. The kind of ways, what you say yes to and what you say no to says something about you.

And you’re also okay with silence, we heard a little bit of quiet between those two.

Jeff: How do you go about leading a team? I’m one of the listeners here and that could be something that’s interesting to me. How do I go about setting the boundaries for my team? And as we roll through the show we’ll get more and more into us as individuals and what do we do? But what do we as the leader of the team do to help start to establish the boundaries?

Jennifer: This is where it gets tricky because there is the pace of the leader, there’s the pace of the team so there is something about how you roll and what you bring to the game that you were chosen to bring to the table as the leader. And the organization likely wants some of that. The trick is to figure out what the organization wants and which part of the organization wants it? And then how to navigate, how to do that, how to execute all of those desired outcomes that the organization has for you and your role successfully with the people who may or may not want those same things.

How does it play out? I think it’s about being curious, asking some questions to help find out where people are. To see how foreign your set of values, your boundaries, your ground rules might land in this group and then figure out from those conversations how to build something together. That you can all agree on and you might have a bunch of stuff over here that’s not happening that doesn’t end up in the agreement.

So now you have an aspiration about where you’re going to go. A starting place for boundaries is people must agree or you won’t have a lot of success holding folks accountable for that. It’s a starting point. You can hold out your aspirations I’m not saying you can’t. Say I’d like us to get here and this is where we’ll start.

Jeff: I was working with a leader from Cleveland Clinic earlier this year and you know it’s interesting. This guy is known for his ability to get results. He had a preconceived notion that there was a boundary you never talk about – personal life in work. The challenge was, does that really match up with the value system where we’re trying to take care of all these patients? They call themselves caregivers.

As a leader if you’re not caring and giving to your employees, that is going to be really hard and so he wants to keep everything neutral and in business language and his folks on the team though we’re saying. I want to know you, I want you to know me so that you can draw the best from me. He really had to learn to cross a boundary that he had artificially put up. That he got taught early on in his career that you don’t talk about personal stuff at work. But the organization’s saying no these people live with patients and they’re caregivers we do talk about that. So he had to learn to change his own personal boundary and what people in his team really needed.

Jennifer: That is true in so many leadership roles, particularly as you elevate in leadership. The kinds of things that you share might seem out of synch with what’s normal public discourse.

So it’s a tool of inspiration? It’s a way that you connect with your audience. These folks they work for an organization but they also work for you. They want a gut check on their leader. By having a good way of relating and telling a story about yourself that allows you to confess a little bit of who you are is helpful.

Jeff: Oh boy, so what you’re telling me is, after break, Jennifer’s going to come back with some convictions, some confessions. We are smoking today. Please join us. Jennifer will be with us throughout and come back to us after two minutes and we’ll tell you some confessions apparently. Talk to you in two.


Jeff: Welcome back. I’ve got Jennifer Owen-O’Quill with me today and apparently she’s been convicted of a few things. She’s got some confessions to make. She’s just had a conviction and then we were like and we have to confess to some things and I was like oh this is just fun. She’s blushing a little so I’ll stop focusing on Jennifer.

Thanks for being with us and what we’re trying to do is help you understand, what are some of those conversations that need to happen in a team? As well as for individuals that really are not always easy to talk about, know how to address and how do you take them on? Jennifer’s got a bit of a roadmap that she’s created that I thought might help us navigate this. Jennifer you want to start us on your roadmap and tell us how do we address boundaries?

Jennifer: You want good boundaries in the workplace. You want relationships to be clean, people not making each other mad, creating a lot of drama in the workplace. Pause at the intersections. When you are going through change you know, you need to slow down and look both ways at an intersection so think of the changes that you are asking people to make or the changes that are being asked of you as stop signs on the intersection. How do you take a moment, look both ways and bring your whole team with you across that intersection safely? Pause at the intersections and look both ways.

Jeff: Stop there for one second. As you talk about change, we had this the other week with one of our clients. That I didn’t really think about it in these terms but we were asking someone to go report on somebody else and one of the things we were really clear about was the start and stop and who should they reference and who should they not reference.

And the reason we were doing that is that this was going to be a pretty controversial change in the organization and we thought that if we didn’t set up the boundaries in our language for today, what was going to happen was this person was still going to get tapped into to do their old job. And the change would not have happened so what we were trying to do is signal to the organization to say here’s how we’re going to interact in the new way. And pause, like you were saying, look both ways and what we’re asking you to do is different from that intersection that you just came from. We’re actually asking you to do something completely different so we sort of did the, start to do this, don’t do that. So that folks understood how to practically go and do it. So if it was after August 15th you contact this person for this. You now for this piece of work, you contact this person.

So that it was really clear, so that that person could have success but also the team could have success. If we weren’t clear it would have felt like the person had two jobs for the next six months. I think that’s one example of as you’re navigating change about what do you do -- pause at an intersection. What’s next?

Jennifer: This is my favorite. Don’t rubberneck.

To talk about it, think about it, look at it. I know that that’s going to happen, things are going to explode in your local area. But they’re not your problems or your solutions to come up with. So all you need to do is notice it, name it and if your team needs it framed, needs to understand the meaning you’re going to assign to what happened over there then that’s the frame you put around it. So notice it, name it, frame it if you need to and move on.

So that there’s just quick lessons learned and let’s keep going. It allows for a space for learning but mitigates gossip. So you’re giving some ground rules as you talk about something else that’s happening somewhere else as a learning opportunity and also frames it in a way that’s respectful to the rest of the organization.

Jeff: Do you have an example for us of something that you’ve seen?

Jennifer: Yes, so if a rollout goes poorly, an IT rollout let’s say. And there are problems but you’re not in the IT department. Well just to be able to say, hey let’s notice what went right and thank those folks for doing those things. And let’s notice what went wrong, what’s our part and if we’re rolling something out do we want to not do. So that it’s framed as a learning opportunity and it probably needs support right now so you’d frame a “we” in the organizational structure right? We’re part of this. We’re with them.

So they probably need some support right now and some extra grace. If there’s some things we can wait on let’s do that. But then you move on, you don’t focus on something that you do not have control over. You are not going to solve it but you can help the solution by spending less time asking questions you might be able to answer with each other. Thanking them for the things that went right and focusing on those things. And saving any feedback that you have for one time later when they’re able to handle it.

Jeff: Yeah you know, I agree and that one’s hard. Because it is medium to larger organizations when you really get into those big departments, once you’ve probably hit 100 employees often you have pretty significant departments and sometimes there can be real rivalries between departments. So you can sometimes feel like that department they were kind of a jerk to us last year and now when it didn’t go so well for them huh. What’s wrong with that thinking? Isn’t that gosh it’s finally my turn to feel good about something else not going good for somebody else?

Jennifer: Check your character is what I would say.

Jeff: Check my character?

Jennifer: Conviction, confession, character, we’re getting it all today.

Jeff: So tell me about the character? I’m not saying I disagree but help me understand.

Jennifer: The way that we respond to someone else’s…. There is that karmic thing too. But the way that we respond to someone else’s challenge says a lot about who we are and how we are going to be treated. So you are basically calling forth the things that your people will expect of you when it’s them. So be very careful. I think it’s a vision casting moment about who we want to be.

And that again it’s “we”, it’s very important as organizations grow in size to maintain that sense of we’re in this together and we’re working for a common cause and to call that out. How do we look at that? And you were talking about healthcare earlier, how do we contribute to the wellness of the community with this and these folks need help with the wellness right now. So that brings in my last point.

Jeff: I’ll stop there because it could sound like I’m the one that did that. I will tell you earlier in my career I probably did do some of that. I can remember working at Capital One and one floor was collections and another floor was customer service and they did not get along. It was obvious. We all worked at Capital One, we were all attached to the same dollar, all to the same stock price.

But sometimes we would forget that you worked for Capital One and it was more like you worked for third floor, fourth floor, collections, customer service and it really took leaders coming and saying “let’s go take a moment and walk in their shoes. Let’s see what it’s like to take collection calls.” and then we bought a few collections folks down to customer service and let them hear wow it’s not as easy as we thought. There are a lot more challenging calls than we realized. So there was some good leadership who said I’m not going to let the boundary of floors get in the way of us being good partners to our sister departments. So they started to use family in a positive way, we should be one organization; we’re all working together to help our card-holders instead of working against each other. But before that it was a blood sport quite honestly.

“Do you believe that other department didn’t do it?” It can feel like, this is especially for younger leaders, it can feel like that’s a way to connect with folks that work for your team, you can say, “look at them”. Better at that point to say “Hey what can we learn? How can we help support them? How do we help challenge them?” Now you can go behind the scenes and really push that sister department and say “Hey you’ve got to get going and do that.” But publically you really need to watch. Otherwise the next time when something goes wrong you won’t have anybody there to support you.

Jennifer: Right I would also say to hit on the competition piece. Healthy competition. Competition is great, it’s fun, some people don’t like it and it’s fun. Pitting people against each other in a pitched battle of fear and mistrust? That’s not fun. So I was thinking back to when we added Lee to the group and we were all at an event together and this was fun, I like to play so hey let’s play and let’s have this competitive thing where we see how many new people we can meet in this conversation and that’s fun more than mean spirited. What’s the intent behind it? Are you sure that the intent that you have was communicated?

Jeff: Now you were saying we’re using our roadmap. We’ve had a pause in intersections. What else is in your roadmap?

Jennifer: When something bad happens be a good Samaritan.

Jeff: What’s that mean be a good Samaritan?

Jennifer: Well back to the IT rollout that went terribly off the rails earlier. How can you stop and see if there’s something that you can do yourself that will alleviate their workload? And is there another point person you can have internally that can solve some things you might normally send them? And then how can you communicate that to them so that they know that you’re helping so that there’s some good boundaries around that.

Other ways that you can, just when something goes wrong, it’s just really I’m glad that wasn’t me. The silence in a meeting when something goes wrong is not helpful. What do you need from us to help you get through this time? Just that, probably isn’t very much but simply being asked that is helpful, energizing. The other thing is being a good Samaritan is also speaking up when something bothers you. Being silent when you’re mad, when someone crosses a boundary of yours does not serve you. And figuring out how to do that well and having a plan in advance is helpful.

Jeff: We’ll do that after, we’re coming up to a break. We’ll do that in the next section. How do we address that? Do you think that it’s important about speak up when something bothers you. I also think it’s just speaking up period. About what’s the right thing. One of the boundaries that we’ve instituted in several teams I’ve been in is something called no triangularization. Which basically means that I can’t talk about another teammate if that team mate’s not there.

If someone is doing that, you have to have the courage as that other person when they start to talk say “Hey, Jennifer’s not here, we can’t talk about Jennifer.” And that’s part of stopping and speaking up. That’s being a good Samaritan, that’s living up to the boundary that you agreed to as a team, and it’s hard and it’s challenging and probably when you are first starting your career that’s one of the hardest things to do but as you get to be a leader you’re always going to be pitted against another leader. And like “Hey did you hear what they said?” and you have to really take that step back and we’ll talk more about doing it deeper but feeling comfortable saying “You know that’s interesting, not really something I need to worry about right now.”

So no great true confessions in this segment, we left them hanging. We’ll have to figure that out for later. I did last week break out a rap so that confession was that I’ve done a rap in front of a thousand people at my high school. We won’t have anything else big like that today but we will give you some ideas on how to help you be able to set the boundaries when we come back from break in two minutes.


Jeff: Welcome back we’re so glad you could be with us today, thanks for taking a little part of your week to spend time with us and hopefully we’re giving you some ideas to help and grow your own career. I’m here with Jennifer Owen-O’Quill from Voltage Leadership Consulting. Jennifer launched a new program last week with Amp Up your Influence. It’s about executive presence and being able to really help folks understand what they’re doing and how they’re being successful which I think is really linked to this. She also has classes like strategy and leadership that help you in any phase so if these topics interest you reach out to either me or Jennifer and we’ll make sure we get you some contact information.

Jennifer: Absolutely.

Jeff: Congratulations on the successful launch.

So we were talking a little bit before the break. We were going through your roadmap of pause at intersections, so look both ways when navigating change. Don’t rubberneck, you know that means when there’s something happening in another area don’t bypass it, notice it, frame it up, but don’t stress over it, especially when it’s not in your area. When something happens, be a good Samaritan, stop, help, speak up when something is bothering you.

Knowing the rules of the road, make sure that you’ve got really clearly established ground rules and things like that. What I’m curious about is if I’m a leader and I want to get better at this. I can attend your Amp Up your Influence. What else can I do to help myself get better at recognizing boundaries?

Jennifer: I would start with a question and it’s a lofty question because that’s where we started. What reputation do you want to earn? What do you want people to say about you? Behind your back what do you want to be convicted of? That matters. At some point a decision will be made and you’ll be called to account for that.

I’ve had an experience in my life, it was a hard experience but I got accused of being a leader and I was happy to be accused of being a leader but the organization did not want one. That was my times of you’ve absolutely convicted me of exactly who I want to be. So if that is not what you’re interested in then this is not my organization so it’s helpful to know who you are and why it matters to you. Being clear about what you value, what matters to you and how you want to go about it.

What approach are you going to have and what do they need? There’s also the boundary of navigating a new team, this is what I am and what I’m good at. This is where I shine and they might not be ready for your brilliance at the moment, they may need some moments to get there and you may have a different level of brilliance based on what they’re capable of than you ever thought possible.

But you have to have a beginning place. So when you’re entering a new team. Who am I and how am I my most brilliant? Where are they? And how are they being brilliant right now? And where do I see with a one degree change it could be that much more brilliant? And begin there.

Don’t be frustrated that it isn’t what you wanted. Celebrate that now you have a piece of information that’s going to send you into a group and a team environment that you have the opportunity to shape and maintain.

Jeff: This is a great question Jennifer. If you only take one thing, listener, from today, that’s this question. What reputation do you want to earn? I think that’s a great question. I was just reflecting back on earlier in my career I was called a nice guy, strong integrity, really good at developing people, really good at maintaining work life balance and a good builder of teams.

But there is also this little bit of reputation of, was I too nice? And was I able to handle conflict. In some ways I didn’t mind being called too nice. But it also helped me understand that I probably didn’t stand up for my team enough. And there were times where I probably didn’t understand that I was avoiding a conflict that could’ve made my team even stronger. So I had to grow into that, still not my greatest strength.

But it helped me understand, this is the reputation I’m earning. How do I get better at something? So being curious, I’m curious too. Let’s say I’m in a staff meeting now and someone crosses a boundary. You’re the leader of the meeting and all of a sudden they cross one of those boundaries. Maybe they’re attacking a sister department. Maybe they’re attacking someone on the team. Maybe they’re attacking you. What do I do practically? Holy cow, I mean it happens.

Jennifer and I we still take lots of meetings. And we’re often in uncomfortable spots where something is happening and we have to facilitate the way out of it. And often we’re hired and asked to do it. That doesn’t mean it’s easy but one thing you can do is if you know there is going to be hard conversations is you have a facilitator.

Jennifer: What I would ask you to think about in this is your fire drill. If you do not now have an answer to what you do when Jeff asked that question. You have not done the fire drill because we are all going to have this experience sometime in the next month where something is going to be said in a public setting and we need to be able to respond. You need to be able to figure out what reputation you want to earn with that response.

Here’s what I’ve decided about that. So what I’ve decided about that is, you matter, what you have to say matters and your behavior matters. So I’m interested in what you have to say and your point of view. And the way that you said it is not a way that I can hear so we’re going to stop right now and sometimes the whole meeting needs to be redirected if someone is trying to take over a piece of the meeting. So that’s if you’re leading the meeting.

So you can stop if you get caught off guard and you’re seeing red that is not the time to lean in and try and solve that. And it isn’t the time to pull them out in a private situation because they brought it in a public setting it needs to be navigated in a public setting so that the whole group sees what the rules are. The referees are on the field in a ball game and they have public discussions about what needs to happen next. So that’s the model in my mind. We have to be able to be good referees as leaders.

And as peers and as people we also need to be able to signal what’s not okay. Even if we’re in a meeting and someone else is leading it. I just want to signal that I am not comfortable with what’s being said right now or more with how it’s being said. You don’t necessarily need to continue to lean in. Simply the act of signaling that this is very difficult for me and I’m not in this with all of you is helpful.

Jeff: So what happens then? Are you saying no conflict then in meetings? What are you saying?

Jennifer: Conflict in meetings is fine and when you become enraged that is not a level of conflict that is going to be successfully navigated so I would also say just check your temperature. If that’s the level of heat then you’re able to think through that next thing. So you need to be able to have several different responses to several different scenarios.

So what’s a level one conflict? How do you handle it? Level two? Then when it’s level 5 and someone really confronts you aggressively or the organization aggressively in a meeting. How do you pause and know what your move is? And actually physically practice saying it out loud to yourself. So that you feel confident when that experience comes that you can go to that piece of your memory and just say that thing that you memorized and it’ll give you a moment to collect yourself. Then you can decide what to do.

Jeff: I call that clearing. To your point if it happened in a team environment it needs to be cleared up in a team environment. You and I can be having a go at it and we’re with five other people, we can go off line and clear it up but there’s still those other five people. They didn’t see that we’re okay. So you’ve got to come back to it. Great if you can clear it up that day. Not always possible.

Jennifer: Not always possible.

Jeff: But you’ve got to come back to that setting and say. Here’s what happened, here’s how we’re going to address it going forward. It actually makes the team much stronger. We had a scenario last week were it was a larger audience, someone was being inappropriate in a Q & A forum. And so tough, you’re the leader and you’ve got someone who doesn’t like the change, they’ve got the floor, they’re actually getting some support from people on the floor. But inappropriate, overly aggressive, holy crap what do I do now Jennifer?

Jennifer: Well here’s my advice and you might have different advice Jeff but as a leader who if you’re the one who’s initiating change or if something has gone wrong inside the organization to me I’m the owner. And I need to own the anger too. So I find if you take that on and I learned this from one of my favorite leaders. Shout out to Lee Barker. He said Jennifer just have a public meeting, listen and take it all on. Even though the decision or the specific might not be yours own every last bit of it. Because that grace will convey to the rest of the audience you’re not in that moment talking to that individual. You’re talking to the room. And so how you show up in that moment and being able to hear and really engage and name. Is there anything more? I find that to be a very helpful tool. What do you do in situations like that?

Jeff: I’ve been involved in almost thirty mergers and acquisitions. And that’s a time period where there’s a lot of heat. I’ve been standing there and I’ve announced myself, I’ve been there with the CEO. So I’ve been in those tricky spots and I can remember one where our benefits package wasn’t going to be as good as what they had previously.

To your point, similar, let me know all of the things that you’re thinking about and naming it, saying gosh you seem really upset. I’m wondering what else you’ve got for us so that we can get to the root cause. Because I want to make sure that I’ve answered all of your questions. Now if they’re dominating I might start to say “Hey I’ve got time for one more question but I will stay and be happy to answer them offline but I also want to get to other people.”

Because the rest of the audience at times is squirming, like how long is this going to go? So there’s also an element of how you manage the whole room. But I’m not trying to make that person feel invalidated. I think this is a pretty big boundary. Hopefully not everyone gets thrown into this first hand. But we’ve got several companies that are in the midst of mergers and acquisitions, thinking about an IPO. So you should, I would say the thing that I would advise the most is get ready.

What are the top ten hardest questions? Practice it. Just like Jennifer talked about having the fire drill ready. I would think about folks that go through debates. They get thrown the hardest questions and they practice that.

What I say is that we’re up against a break here so don’t forget that whatever happened, needs to be cleared in the room. So if it was in a team meeting, clear it there. If it was a one on one come back next time and clear it there. But have practiced your responses. So when we come back we’ll give you some of our best tips and tools for the week and we’ll be back in two minutes.


Jeff: Welcome back so glad you could be with us. Jennifer Owen-O’Quill has been with us today. Jennifer thanks for being here.

We’re wrapping up Boundaries in the Fast Lane. Examples of what do you do? How do you address it? We’ll close this segment around some of our best tips and tools to understand how do you go live this out. I really like this roadmap, I want to come back to it. Pause in intersections, don’t rubberneck, be a good Samaritan and know the rules of the road before you hit the road. What are your ground rules? Our last segment we talked about, when something is going to happen, know what’s going to happen so have something prepared.

I guess for you, Jennifer, let’s move over to you, I know you’ve got a lot of case studies. Anything that’s coming to mind that you’ve worked with recently that is an example of some do’s and don’ts?

Jennifer: I got a message just this morning asking about pace. And a leader recognizes that I run at a different pace than my team. Am I doing this the right way? So it gets back to the question what reputation are you earning? Sometimes we have a blind spot because we’re being who we are and so often that’s how we think, so if you’re not curious about how other people work, when you do discover that people might be working differently than you do then how do you need to pivot and change what you’re doing to get the best out of them. People need different things than just the things that work for you. So be curious, be curious.

Jeff: Let’s stick with that for one second. How engaged are you going to be? Are you all weekend pinging on people and is that the boundary that you want? Are you giving them space to be their best selves?

Do you really need something by Tuesday or could it be Friday? But you don’t trust the other department so instead of crossing the boundary and saying here’s the feedback that I have for you. What’s the feedback you have for us? What’s it like working with us? Too often, then, we throw each other into this competition that doesn’t need to be there.

Jennifer: Absolutely, absolutely and I would say that if you are the leader and you are making the request, you have authority and you’re people feel the pressure of that no matter what you say. Manage your time better than sending messages to people in the middle of the night because they will feel that they need to do something with them. And that’s a note for myself.

Jeff: Well I was just thinking we work with a client up at NYU and this leader, kids are out of the house and she says it often “Hey don’t feel like you have to respond. It’s better for me to work on Friday night or Saturday. I don’t have kids anymore so it’s okay.” But the problem is to your point. There’s just this implied pressure now all weekend that people are feeling and we had to say to her, we hear you, but let’s send that email Monday morning.

Instead of having it be there for her families, she wants them to be with families but I can promise you I’ve been in both spots. I’ve been there where I’ve gotten that email and then it just chews up your whole weekend digesting it. She didn’t feel like she was crossing a boundary but it was clear by talking to her people, they were, we know she doesn’t expect us to do it on the weekend but it’s in our brain all weekend.

Jennifer: Well, also, what you put out is when you’re going to get back. So if you push out a bunch of material to people you’re going to get all that back and it might be at a very inconvenient time for everyone so be intentional about that. The other thing, I’ve got another one, you ready for this.

Jeff: I’m ready, go for it.

Jennifer: The other thing that comes to mind is how do you process your thinking? And as you move levels or as the organization changes the way it looks around you are you continuing to have appropriate conversations with the people that you work with? So maintaining that boundary of confidentiality and consequence. Your words, as you change roles, weigh more heavily on people and you feel the same. But trust me, it went from being a tennis ball to a bowling ball. And it feels different, it has a different weight and that just continues to happen as organizations shape and change. So be careful what you say and who your thinking partner is.

It is not okay to talk with your people about their colleagues. That always is bad unless you’re saying wonderful things and then why not celebrate that in public? If you find yourself saying well I would say this to him if he was here. They’re not there so don’t say it. It doesn’t sound nice.

Jeff: People say that they want transparency and they do in general but when we’re doing something like a reorganization or we’re trying to decide exactly how to move people around. That can be really, you have to watch that conversation and why would you be having that conversation.

We’ve seen with some of our clients where folks have grown from being peers to now they’re the boss and now they can’t have the ability to have the same conversation that they used to have. So they feel like everyone should be able to get along. No you’ve moved up in the organization and so you can’t have the same set of conversations. You need a thinking partner. It can be the boss. It can be an outside resource, it can be a sister department. But you can’t have that same set of conversations so to Jennifer’s point.

That used to be a little tennis ball conversation that maybe was or maybe was not appropriate. Now when you’re having it, it gets reflected everywhere and is that the reputation that you want to earn?

Jennifer: I want to stroll on this just a moment. It isn’t just if you ascend in leadership. That was a peer or somebody in another department but now they’re a leader and they might be leading the organization at a high level. Intentionally recontract with that person about the nature of your relationship. You must stop the work part of the relationship if you’re going to maintain the friendship.

So to name it and to let people know that you’ve had that conversation, because when people gain authority some of those private relationships need to be cleaned up publically. Otherwise it breaks the trust inside the organization. So sometimes just pausing and saying something I need to say here, so and so and I have been friends and now they’re in this role and so we’ve had a conversation and you’re not going to see or hear about it from either one of us. Or we’ve decided that we don’t want to do that. To just reset every ones expectations but be clear about it.

Jeff: We’ve got a situation like that right now where one of our clients got promoted and is still using an old friendship to get things accomplished and there’s a repetition of this happening with this person. It’s not good or bad that it has happened, long term though it is bad. It’s one of those, said person wasn’t necessarily wrong and nobodies wrong except it’s what the reputation is starting to be.

Jennifer: It might seem expedient in the moment but let’s take the long view. Sometimes it’s a blind spot and it’s not intentional. You have relationship and of course you talk it over with this person that you’ve always talked things over with, that’s human.

Jeff: Jennifer, thanks for being here.

Jennifer: That’s great.

Jeff: Yeah absolutely. We’ll be back again next week, we’ll be on 1 o’clock Eastern Time. If you’re trying to reach us during the week please shoot us an email at jennifer@voltageleadership.com or jeff@volatageleadership.com. You can find us at voltageleadership.com. We put our previous shows there if there’s a show you want to go back and listen too. We put a blog out every Monday where we reinforce. Jennifer’s right in the midst of a series of blogs on Creativity Inc. I’d highly encourage you to go out to voltageleadership.com and read up on those, she’s done a great job with it.

If you want to track us during the week we also put things out on Facebook as well as on Twitter to just give you some ideas and try to touch base and keep working on your leadership. So we’ve got some really great folks coming up in the next couple of weeks, authors. We also have public speakers, so some really good tips and tools coming up. So we hope that you join us again next week at 1o’clock. In the meantime have a great week and thanks for being with us.