Episode 6: Coaching for Peak Performance

Jennifer Owen-O'Quill Web (2).jpg

How do we develop and retain high performing talent? By paying attention to our people. But how? This week Jeff and Jennifer will discuss ways to develop your skill at developing others so that you have successful employees and a winning team. From defining roles and setting expectations, to spotting success and sharing appreciation, they will share best practices for communicating, coaching, encouraging and correcting your team. Learn about the High Potential Zone, a playing field where, with the right moves our teams can cross home plate again and again by hitting the bases of Roles, Recognition, Review and Refine. This week, Jeff and Jennifer take you from the pitcher’s mound and around all 4 bases, with the tips and tools to get your people off the bench, and from hitting the first pitch to rounding home plate. It is our people that win the game for us, and for our businesses to grow and thrive our people need to be growing too.


Jennifer Owen-O’Quill, Leadership Director for Voltage Leadership Consulting, is an executive coach, facilitator, organizational consultant and leadership guru. With 25 years of leadership experience across a broad range of industries, she has coached leaders and their teams to execute institutional culture change through effective organizational management and leadership development. Some of Jennifer’s clients include: Carilion Clinic, WDBJ-7, Fenway Sports Group, Novozymes Biologicals, Yokohama Tires, Canatal Steel, Polymer Solutions, Interactive Achievement, Corvesta and the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. Not-for-profit clients include Washington and Lee University, Goodwill Industries, Habitat for Humanity, New Horizon’s Healthcare, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwestern VA, and CMR Institute. Jennifer coaches professionals in firms in the Southeast and across the country, including Abbott Laboratories, Baker McKenzie, and Kirkland & Ellis.


Jeff: Welcome, so happy you could join us today. You are listening to Voltcast Illuminating Leadership. I’m your host, Jeff Smith and it is a beautiful day in Virginia. I hope wherever you are it’s a beautiful day and if not, maybe by the time we’re spending our hour together it will be a little bit more beautiful for you. I’ve got Jennifer Owen-O’Quill with me today in the studio.

We will be talking about coaching for peak performance. I am so happy to say the folks in China, Iran, UAE, India, so happy you could join us and obviously lots and lots of friends from across the United States. Since you guys take the time to reach out and join us, I want to tell you how to connect with us in the best way possible. You can email me at Jeff@VoltageLeadership.com.

Our website www.VoltageLeadership.com. You can like me on Facebook at Voltage Leadership. You can connect with me on LinkedIn at Jeff Smith Voltage Leadership Consulting or follow me on Twitter @VoltageLeaders. Again what a great week it’s been, lots of really interesting coaching cases, discussions with our clients.

Jennifer as you may recall, she’s been on the show before. Jennifer is the leadership director at Voltage Leadership Consulting. She works with folks to help grow their leadership skills, their strategy, and really has a passion for helping leaders reach their full potential. Jennifer has been with Voltage for a couple of years now. She’s married and has a son and I’m sure there’s going to be some coaching examples from those if nothing else. You know and from my four kids, who knows. We may just all have coaching assignments from the kids. Right Jennifer?

Jennifer: They’re the best teachers.

Jeff: Absolutely so our topic today was coaching for peak performance. I guess you know maybe where to start is you know why is that important? Why is coaching for peak performance even important? Like this whole coaching thing? Why is that important?

Jennifer: Well I think to start with from my point of view, people love to be able to do their best and they don’t know how to do their best if they don’t have feedback. If they don’t a sense from their leader how they’re doing, what they’re performance is like and it starts with knowing your role then it goes on to am I doing my role right? What are the goals of the role right and just to be able to circle back around and say okay, “How much progress am I making and what course corrections do I need to make to keep being successful in the role that I have.” I think just—it’s an ongoing process. When people get stuck and they stop learning, they stop thriving, and they stop growing and so does your success as leader.

Jeff: Interesting so for the audience today what we’re going to do is we’re going to hit a couple of models on the front end. We’ll sort of set up the scenario and then we’re going to go through a bunch of real practical cases today. You know that kind of hard person to coach, maybe the person that’s kind of stuck in the status quo so again the first part of the show will introduce some of our thinking at Voltage around how to work with high potential leaders, how to work with employees, but then also what do we do? You know so real some practical, tactical in the back half.

Well like what I’ve always said, sometimes we think about coaching as it is just sports and this is really coaching for peak performance. What we’re trying to do in the workplace is help people’s potential really match up to their performance, often some interference gets in the way. The type of coaching we’re talking about is not just executive coaching like, okay what does our career look like, how to redesign our organization. Additionally it’s not mentoring. Like here’s how to do this. It’s really on the job, being able to say how do you get as effective as possible? That’s the kind of coaching that we’re talking about. Does that make sense Jennifer?

Jennifer: It does. That’s what people need to hear more of.

Jeff: Well you know what I guess I’m curious about you know you’ve got tons and tons of experience. What do you hear about in the workplace? Why do people coach and why do people maybe never coach? What is your thinking there?

Jennifer: I think people that coach do it because they see the results. Well sometimes they’re natural teachers.

They just like to show people how to do what they do or occasionally you get a control freak who let you do it exactly the way you want it done.

Jeff: Why are you looking at me? What?

Jennifer: People that don’t coach. Sometimes they do that for the right reasons too. They want people to be able to run on their own and see what they do. They’re just curious about what that person will do without a lot of guidance and there’s a place for that I think.

If you’re always in that lane, then there’s just not enough information for people to be guided in the best direction so with coaching sometimes, is people are too busy. They don’t have time. They don’t think it’s important. I find that that is the where most people are at.

They don’t understand the benefit of the care and attention that they pay to their people and the dividend that they’ll get when they invest the time. That’s really the—that’s like why we’re trying to gain some ground is in that last section where you just giving it the time you need, but I can see and you can see in our work how much would we gain from people would do that.

Jeff: Yes, so I think if we’re playing Family Feud on TV, you know their number one answer was time. Ding, ding, ding, ding, but there were others. You know some of it’s—‘I don’t know how to coach. If I coach you know will they think negative of me?’

Maybe we’ll micromanaging. You know and so today we’ll kind of address some of those, but at the outset what I would say from Jennifer and I’s point of view is it—yes coaching as the leader, absolutely critical. You know one of the ways is the best coaching that you will ever see and so just think about it. Some people say, ‘well I was never coached.’

Well get over yourself, is what I say. You know because here’s the deal. Yes, I wished that you’ve been coached too, but you didn’t. Someone’s got to change that cycle and in today’s knowledge workplace, the best sort of folks—the most engaged workplaces are ones where people are coaching them and helping people get feedback and move up. Right does that make sense?

Jennifer: Yes and I think it goes in both directions too because if you’re a careful listener, when you’re coaching someone else, you’ll also hear some thoughts and insights that can help you make changes about how you’re doing what you’re doing too. Is it really is a two way street?

Jeff: Let’s dive into one of our models here. So we’re in United States here going through the baseball playoffs and so we’re about one round away from the next World Series and I know Jennifer is a fan of the Chicago Cubs.

I’ve got some friends out there from Cleveland and the Indians won their third game last night, so to all my Cleveland clinic friends. You know good luck to the Indians. I hope they keep it alive and they may meet the Cubs in the finals there, but we’ve got this leadership model that has an image of a baseball diamond. Why don’t you walk the listeners through the diamond and then we’ll sort of build off that.

Jennifer: I was so happy that we had this right at this time when we were pulling up today to talk about the high potential zone. I want you to imagine a baseball diamond and the high potential zone is how you get your players up from they’re at to bat all the way back through the four bases and across home plate to score. We start when your player comes up to the plate. They need to know what their role is.

They need to know what it is that they’re trying to accomplish. They need to know what the job is so throws and goals. The next, first base is recognition so to get there and you got to congratulate them for getting that far. When you get—your employee, your player to second base then you need this time to review and let them know how they’ve done so far and what’s coming next in the game. Right and then third base is refining—that’s where we do coaching. It’s right in the moment, getting along sights of the lawn and telling him how to finish and score and then boom, you cross the finish line and you get to go rest.

Jeff: Sure.

Jennifer: And refresh before you hit the bases again so it’s roles, recognition, review, and refine.

Jeff: Is there some celebration maybe because I did a good job? Is that good?

Jennifer: Absolutely, absolutely that’s the congratulations. You crossed the home plate and you get your high fives and get to go have your time in the dugout. I think it’s also important that rest and refresh because this is important for the cycle before you hit it again.  We often don’t take enough time in that space and we don’t—or I am not a very good celebrator. I have been accused of not stopping to celebrate my own successes. Let alone that of others so it’s important to stop and celebrate.

Jeff: Yes, we had Scott Eblin on the program about two weeks ago and we were talking about everyone being stacked, racked and stacked and meeting after meeting and we kind of talked about rest and digest. What did just happen here? It’s also though as a leader what you hear is it’s really important to be able to have the chance to celebrate, to recognize HR, but you know I think it’s the first step is the hardest.

It’s set in that sort of role clarity and they don’t want to get clear expectations. I know that you know I’m just picturing one client right now where they’re moving fast and they’re growing and expanding so quickly. It is really hard to just slow down and figure out the roles because what the role was last week is different than it is this week, and it will be different in two more weeks and they’ll probably add six more people. How do I handle that because it makes sense that that will help me get better performance, but what happens when I’m growing and move fast.

Jeff: Right and that’s where a constant conversation doesn’t have to take time. The constant conversation is important and that conversation can be walking along the hallway just getting clear with each other and it’s also pausing to communicate around to the whole group where people are at in a regular rhythm. It might be a five minutes stand up that you do depending on what your timeline is at the beginning of the week or at the end to let people know where everybody stands and what the roles are. That role clarity, both for overall organization role and in this particular project, this is my part, both of those things are important because it’s roles tied to goals. This is my role and this how I’m executing that role in this particular scope of work that I have and just getting clear about that and giving people a chance to talk it through is important.

Jeff: Yes and I want to pick up on something that you mentioned earlier that I think is absolutely critical and this is the thing I love—recognition and appreciation. Right and so one of our studies suggests that 93% of employees feel underappreciated and feeling underappreciated keeps you from doing their best work. I think as we move along through the segment I’d love to hear more about how do we recognize? How do we reward people, but you know just at the outset. Is there a sort of a ratio maybe of sort of a number of positive comments and negative and positive appreciation that we should be thinking about?

Jennifer: There is a number and it’s a number that’s from data both in relationships, but also it’s proven itself in the workplace. That’s number’s five to one so five positive comments to one course correction creates the environment for people to be able to drive change and that’s ultimately what we want. Those moments where we recognize someone along the way get them to be able to keep running. That’s why recognition is first base.

Jeff: Recognition is base.

Well Jennifer we’ll have to have a running start. We’re at first base here. You know and so when we come back from the break we’ll maybe hit it on first base just to touch more and we’ll move over to second and hear a little bit more about what’s next in our baseball diamond. Again you’re with Voltage Leadership Consulting here on VoltCast and when we come back from a two- minute break we’ll pick up with our model. Thanks and see you in two.


Jeff: Welcome back, so glad you could be with us today. I’m here today with Jennifer Owen-O’Quill and we’re talking about coaching for peak performance. Before the break we had been talking about recognition and so just to recap, recognition is the critical first base. You’ve got to recognize people for their performance.

We suggest a five to one ratio—five positive comments for every course correction, opportunity for development, etcetera. You can go too far. If you get to 13 to one we’re probably in Kumbaya Land and that’s probably you know we’re not pulling people accountable enough, but in general most people are somewhere around a one to one ratio. That’s one positive for one negative.

Let’s go continue this journey around the base paths and talk about a little more. One of the things that I know that we hear a lot is people get confused about their roles and where their goals are and gosh that can cause some mass confusion. When we’ve got folks that are coming to us and saying, “Jennifer, I’m confused. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t understand my role, unclear goals.” You know, what advice do you give to those folks?

Jennifer: I hear on that side—I usually say go back and ask. But there’s so much resistance to that. It feels so scary to say, “I don’t get it. I’m not clear. I don’t understand and you won’t get that unless you go and ask.” The same is true in the other direction, right? If I’m so frustrated because I’ve told them five times exactly what I need them to do and it’s not coming back to me. Why aren’t they going and doing the things that we need done, and to that I would say have you asked for what they’ve understood? Also if you repeat the same thing in the same way, you’re going to get the same results.

Jeff: Right.

Jennifer: Think about how you’re delivering your message and how that person hears. There’s the other piece of it. Asking in both directions what’s been heard, but also for someone to repeat what they’ve said so that you can really understand.

Jeff: Yes, I think that it’s often just not very specific either. You know, so it’s sort of an unclear goal with maybe lacking a deadline or a timeline. Where are the resources? Who can I be involved with? And so, I think the more specific you can be, the better. But I guess I’m curious. Can you go too far? Does that become micromanaging?

Jennifer: It can be and I think back of when you and I first started working together. We both have things that we love to do and things that we’re good at, but when you’re learning on a new team, you do need to be more specific about what the expectations are. You do need to be more clear—crystal clear and sometimes about what exactly the other person is allowed to do in terms of making decisions.

What are you asking for a recommendation or are you asking for a result? Those are very different things, so being really clear about what the outcome is as well as the steps that’s someone’s allowed to take to get there is helpful.

Jeff: I find that most people fall into camps. They’re either very vague, and they think that they have given this grand vision and they think that people are going to somehow figure it out. They have unclear expectations. Well quite honestly they tell, it’s the blue pen on page seven and you know it’s spreadsheet A through Z right and so I find—I think find that balance. I think what you’re suggesting has worked with my clients as well. It’s a back and forth and early on you probably do want to give more specificity.

Then later on when we’re getting to these goals you know and roles, being able—okay tell me what you’re hearing and maybe giving them a little bit more room to see what they’re thinking about right?

Jennifer: That’s exactly right.

Jeff: I fall into the more vague category, so I know that and so that’s something we’re always working on. I think that for us as leaders, it’s also about trying to seek the feedback. So we’ve got this formula that we use from time to time that I think you’d like. I’ll just hit on it for a second. This is from Tim Galloway. It originally came from The Inner Game of Tennis and it is performance equals potential minus interference.

Let me repeat that. Performance equals potential minus interference and so what happens is that what we’re trying to go for is peak performance. It’s the title of our show. It’s our aim. What happens though is folks have this great potential, but interference really gets in the way.

When we’re trying to coach, what we’re trying to do is figure out what is that big piece of interference that’s getting in the way. For some people, it’s time management, it could an inability to say no. Maybe they can’t prioritize. Well I’ve also got another person that is really arrogant, and so they think that they’re the smartest in the room. Honestly, many times that person is the smartest person in the room. The downside is that he tells everybody he is and so that arrogance is getting in the way.

That’s keeping them from being as successful as possible. As a leader it’s our job to get some feedback and clear those obstacles out of the way. Does that make sense?

Jennifer: Yes people end up with beliefs about themselves or about the world around them that don’t serve them. I’m often asking the question when someone comes to me with the mindset of, ‘well I shouldn’t have to explain or how to do this to this new person because I had to figure it out for myself’. That’s fine that you believe that, but is that belief serving you? What’s going to show your abstinence about this to the rest of the organization? You don’t own the information that actually belongs to the company.

How we figure out how to blow past our own sets of beliefs so that we can really engage with the work. That’s a challenge too.

Jeff: Yes and so I think it’s a—being honest, identifying your interference and then getting—seeking feedback so that you can be coached up, but also as a leader. This is a great tip that Jennifer does that I want to shout out. Jennifer always says she’s gotten feedback or she’s working with leaders. What’s the last 10%? You know because a lot of times that last 10% is really the key to the interference, but sometimes we soft pedal the feedback or maybe we were afraid that they’re not going to be able to hear. Jennifer challenges me to say, “Jeff tell me the last 10%.” She also just challenges the leaders she works with to give them the last 10% right.

Jennifer: I think it’s important to create the conditions for that to be heard so when I ask my people for the last 10% I’ll say do you have the last 10% is there anything more? Are you sure? Then I’ll say if you think of something when you put your head on the pillow at the night, I want you to pick up the phone tomorrow or come in in my office and give me the last 1% that you didn’t share today because it really shows that I mean it. I’ve had that phone call the next day.

You know I have one percent for you and we have a language to talk about it so some of it is if you repeat things that show what you want from people. It gives them a direction to go in and again that’s setting expectations and being clear about what you want. Then when they do it, thank them. Right that’s where we get the recognition piece.

People do not repeat what they do not get thanked for. You can know that if you thank somebody for doing something, they will repeat the experience. It’s not just roles and expectations, but it’s moving on to recognizing people for the work that they’re doing. You know usually the obstacle is communication and it’s—either how we talk to ourselves about ourselves or it’s how we talk about the language that other people are using. It’s not just in our own heads the way we talk to ourselves about ourselves and sometimes it’s the language that are going on around us.

That can get in our way. Have you ever found that to be the case Jeff where you see a leader and it’s the conversation that they’re having inside their head or the way that they’re communicating out in the group that’s getting in their way.

Jeff: Well let’s start with that. We call that multiple things. It’s the gremlin. It’s monkey mind. It’s the chattering monkey.

You know it can be lots of different things so first and foremost—the yes, we have to have self-talk, so some of it is self-talk. Start there. A quick tool there is what I call gap analysis. Think about something you’re grateful for, something that you appreciate and something you’re proud of. That will help dim the self-talk, grateful, appreciation, proud of.

It’s not all there though and so Dan and Shapeet have a great model that really hits—it comes from the book called Switch. It’s about an elephant, a rider, and a path. The rider is logic. We have to explain. If we’re trying to get people to go on a new direction and help them be as successful as possible, they have to know the path that we’re on.

Next is the elephant and so it’s fine. Logic’s great, but we all know that we’re supposed to eat like you know eight fruits and vegetables everyday and 476 gallons of water and all of that kind of stuff. Okay, maybe not that, but that doesn’t mean that we do it everyday. You know so just for the show, you know Jennifer and I were there. I grabbed so many M and Ms.

That’s not in the food pyramid, but the motion said, “Oh I just would like a little chocolate and so we’ve got to figure out how do we put the rider, the logic, the motion, and then create a path. When you’re trying to lead someone, you have to appeal to the data, facts, and figures why do we need change. Then you have to hit the elephant with the motion saying that change is not that big. We’re just asking for maybe a 5% tweak and then here’s the path. Here’s the first step for two that I want you to do. That’s a great way to get people to start to improve their performance and be able to seek peak performance.

Jennifer: Then those cases, Jeff I find that it’s people’s emotions get in the way, their feelings. They kick up against something that happened or it’s a why. They don’t know why they’re being asked to do what they’re being asked to do if you are getting resistance to be curious about the why and to wonder about the feeling. Why does this person know what they’re doing? Why are they not doing what they’re doing?

Jeff: Yes, great Jennifer it’s a two points from that. Resistance is often just a lack of clarity. I’m going to repeat that. Resistance is often just a lack of clarity so if you’re seeing some resistance I would check myself in the mirror first and say how well did I get—do at laying out the expectations? Did I provide clear expectations have I reinforced the right behaviors?

Next it’s also often a situation problem and so what I mean by that is maybe the person wants to change, but what happens when they go back to their coworkers and all the coworkers are saying, “No, we don’t need to do that. Let’s just kind of wait and let’s see if this is really going to happen.” I try not look at so much as it’s an individual resisting as is the leader—am I as a leader providing good clarity. Then am I helping them to address some of the emotions?

I can hear some of you out there right now as leader saying, “Oh I got to address emotions?” Well you know what? Emotions are there week in and week out and stay tuned the next week. Lee’s going to be on, Lee Hubert is going to be with us next week and we’re going to deal with the dreaded drama triangle so we’ll do a much deeper dive into emotions next week. What I would say is yes as a leader. It’s our job to hit the emotions, but to be able to empathize, understand, and be able to say, “Okay, how can we get through this?” Be able to do some baby steps to plot the course.

Jennifer: Yes just this week I had someone in a conversation. We were talking and there was resistance and I heard the resistance and just did curious why, why and underneath it all she wanted to be given and opportunity that she hadn’t been given and so I said, “You got to go tell.” You have to go just say, “I wish that I’d been given this opportunity. I’m good.” I’m going to do my best, but I just wanted you to know because that will just show that this person has growth potential and they’re enthusiastic about their work. If they go and tell and they share that, they’ll get rid of the resistance and they’ll be able to run. You set that down. Go share.

Jeff: Go share.

Jennifer: That’s god for you.

Jeff: Well Jennifer we got about one minute left in this segment. You want to just recap the model so we can get to a new place after the break here.

Jennifer: Absolutely so high potential zone begins with a clarity of roles, getting the roles and goals right, moving on to recognition that’s first base, giving people good things and appreciation. Reviewing what they’ve done as their continuing on the way and then third base is refine. That’s when you’re up close and coaching right along side them so that they can cross that home plate and score.

Jeff: Then we recognize, go back to first base and recognize again, right so.

Jennifer: That’s right.

Jeff: Great, great insights so what we’ll do is when we come back from break, we’re going to start digging into some of the challenging cases that we face, that we lead through so thanks for being with us and we’ll be back in two minutes to talk about some of our tougher cases.


Jeff: Welcome back. I’m so glad you could be with us today. This is Jeff Smith I’m here today with Jennifer Owen-O’Quill and we’ve been having a fantastic conversation about coaching for peak performance. Now what we’re going to do is we’re just going to have a conversation about some of the challenging situations we see. We try to coach our leaders on.

We work with the individuals to help them figure out their career, what they’re doing and how to reach peak performance. Jennifer let’s just start out. I’ll throw one to you and we’ll just kind of go back and forth, but first one that we really struggle with a lot is that person has status quo right. They’re doing okay, but they seem to be pretty pleased with status quo, but as I always say you know we need to people move probably about 10% per year.

You know high potentials maybe go up 20% in their performance per year, but if they do status quo for two years-three years, they’re now 20%-30% below the average employer—employee or performance right. What do you do when someone comes to you and says, “Hey I got the status quo employee.” What’s your advice?

Jennifer: Well I’m always curious about what that person really wants. I mean there’s something about finding what those aspirations in that individual. Maybe it is that they have something they noticed and seen so if you’re paying attention and asking them what they’re doing, they’re not going to be motivated to actually do something different or new. Some of it is not being afraid to go and review their performance and give them a real clear runway about what they should be doing next. That’s one of the things I’ve noticed. What about you Jeff?

Jeff: I think that the first thing is stop being so nice.

Jennifer: Right.

Jeff: Lean into it and have a real honest conversation. Hey this is just what I’m noticing. These are my impressions. This is what I see and I know you’re capable of more and so help me understand.

You know I like what you’re saying what’s your desire outcome. What are you hoping to achieve? I’ll also appeal and say, “Look, I know that you’re capable of more. What is that you want to do?”

Let me be clear. I’m not asking that people to move up and they want be—get a promotion. This is—they need to be doing their current better and more effectively to reach peak performance and for a lot of these organizations, you guys run really lean now. There’s not nearly as much scalability and bandwidth to be able to like okay I can afford to have two people stuck over there not performing a 100%.

That’s not the case today and so you know I really have that conversation. I start honest then I would say, “You know what is it you hope to achieve?” How can we help you get there, but I’m also—I’m not going to let it go. I’m going to be following up with them probably every 30 days until I see that I’ve seen change.

Jennifer: I think that’s important to get alongside people and keep the conversation going. I actually think sometimes in the beginning more than 30 days is important.

I want someone to come back alongside their poor performer of their mediocre performer or their status quo and say so what are you doing? If you set something at a performance review and it’s a year out, they’re not going to hit that target. It’s too far away.

Jeff: Right.

Jennifer: If you break it up quarterly, monthly, weekly even and say, but that’s what I—what are you going to do this week to get to where you need to be by the end of the month? That is helpful. You got to check the work of the people around you.

Jeff: Yes, you got anything for me.

Jennifer: Do I have anything for you? I don’t know I’m good right now. Let me think about what do we do when the chemistry is off? Let’s talk about that.

Jeff: We’ll switch to biology.

Jennifer: Clever. Life sciences.

Jeff: Yes, we move out of life sciences, no. When the chemistry is off, you know that’s an interesting one. Here’s what I’d say first and foremost is don’t pass them around your organization. Deal with it inside your organization.

Hey you know what? There is a possibility that chemistry really is off and the person could be more successful in another part of the company. What I find most of the time though is that they’re not successful where they are today, they’re probably not going to be successful some place else. I go back to do we have clear expectations?

Have I as a leader done a good enough job of providing recognition? I am giving them a chance to have some ownership. Quite honestly can I look in the mirror and say I’ve given them really good feedback. That being said we’ve all worked for bosses where it really clicked and there’s been some other bosses where it just hasn’t worked quite as well.

What I look for there is when I’m looking for leaders I try to say, “Go back and reassess.” What was the reason that you hired them? What was it that made them so great and if you thought about that again maybe you and now again so you used each other. It’s a bit like a marriage.

You know and you’re kind of, you’re in it day in and day out. How do you sort of get the passion back? Well you go back to very beginning and reset an expectation, then say this is what the person brought to me and what can I do to find the best. I’d also maybe go somewhere else so a peer, maybe another manager that’s interacted with my person or one of the stars in my team and say, “Hey what do you know about this person.”

Jennifer: I find also that going back to resetting those ground rules, it might be that your needs have changed that you chose the person and you chose them for good reasons and that time is over.

Jeff: Yes.

Jennifer: You haven’t gone back to restate what your new needs are so that they can decide again if they’re going to meet that target and so that it’s transparent and clear. You keep the conversation going. To hire someone to a job description I think is not particularly fruitful because I don’t know about you, but the job description changes daily. I don’t mean that in—I don’t mean that like that, but the pace of business is different.

What you get when you’re—when you sign for a role. Yes there’s a scope of work that you have, but the specifics of what you need to do day in and day out that might change in order to be successful.

Jeff: Well I was just working with someone with their job description two days ago and all other duties is assigned.

Jennifer: Right.

Jeff: You know and so literally it’s true. I think that you’re right on that as well as what I’m always curious about is it is a two way conversation and so I’m curious whether it’s going about me. I feel the chemistry is off name it. It feels like we’re just not in synch with each other right now. Let’s talk about that. When we’re in our best, what’s going on?

What do we see in each other? When we’re probably not our best today and so the current reality is we’re not there and so let’s talk about that. What are the baby steps to get us back to that place? You know so lean into it and just being honest and having that conversation.

Jennifer: Sometimes it’s a simple thing like sharing what your real frustration is like do you keep that secret because it feels it might be, it’s petty, but it isn’t petty.

Jeff: Right.

Jennifer: If someone’s overusing the grace that’s available.

You’ve run out. It’s not good so being honest about what you see and how you’re feeling. That’s important.

Jeff: Yes you know we’ve got all size customers that we work with, but one of the challenges that they have some maybe in small to midsize firms a little bit is you got superstar and they’ve got nowhere to go.

Jennifer: Yes.

Jeff: You know they look up and they’re just—there isn’t a space yet to have maybe a vice president or maybe in a director or the owner is there and you know they’re not going to give a role those responsibilities. You know truthfully though, you know I work with big companies, 25,000-40,000 person companies, you can still get sort of a—you know a log roled in front of you where there’s a—you know someone that’s basically the same age as you and they’re in the role and you’re three to five years off.

How do you deal with that superstar that right now has got nowhere to go and you know you don’t want to loose them to the competition?

Jennifer: I think there are two approaches that I take. One is for that person to communicate to that person that I know that they’re there that they’re getting recognized and that I am reviewing them just as intently really as anybody else because those are the people that really do want to grow. You can still make investments in someone’s professional success even if they’re your superstar it’s okay for them to get better in their role.

There are lots of places they can perform. There are opportunities for them to show what you do outside of the organization and represent your reputation in that way so there’s more than one way to allow that person to shine. Yes, there might be people who are hemmed in by current role, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t have the enjoyment of having a reputation grow and flourish while they’re waiting or to maybe they’re—maybe they can have the role expanded to where they stay happy in the role. They don’t necessarily need the title, but what they do what to be is engaged. I think keeping engagement—that’s the key to allowing yourself to continue to invest even if they are jumping up that ladder.

Jeff: Yes, so this is one where it’s probably more ladder related than some of the other scenarios that we’re dealing with. It doesn’t have to be, but I do think that there’s the possibility of saying is there another part of the business that you go learn and grow yourself so horizontally if vertical is not available. I think that’s a good suggestion. I like the suggestion too.

I’ve used this one often. Something outside the organization so I’ll give you an example. I was working with someone just recently that knew they wanted to move up just toward director level and they knew that budgeting experience would be required, but they weren’t getting any budgeting experience in a current job superstar. They went to a volunteer organization and were able to get onto the board and learn how to budget. They’re going to be able when they have the chance to interview and be able to go in there.

I love the initiative that’s also volunteering, going outside your department. I’d also say this one of those look at things like certifications. Is there something that you can give that’s portable to this person that gets them to be able to keep their learning going and they see that you’re investing in them.

You know so it doesn’t have to be a full blown NBA, but it could be a certification in some content or you know in an IT you know certificate or you know maybe in your case a coaching certificate. Make sure that they’re getting the recognition that you’re investing in them.

Jennifer: That is so important. People every time when they get invested in and every time we’re engaged, we’re on the receiving end of lots of people that are coming to us because the companies made a decision to invest in their growth, in their professional development. They just shine and you can walk through the organization and those people are radiating the next level of performance and that really is what the company is after. I would say continue to invest and give them your time and attention and resources.

Jeff: Yes when and yes to all that and as a leader I would challenge you too to sort of say, “What else can I be doing? Is there some stuff that maybe I’ve hoarded on plate?” A few things where I’m not taking them to meetings or I’m letting them represent my voice so really you start to challenge yourself.

Here’s why I’m asking you to go in my behalf. Here’s why I’m asking you to take home this project. Here’s what I want you to learn during this and that’s going to be a critical skill so the more you make that link, the better I think you’re going to be okay. Here’s one that I’ll maybe I’ll start on this one.

I’ve got a scenario where an older employee is just coasting and so you know they’re just a few years from retirement and don’t hear this as age discrimination. This is just someone that is you know he used to be really strong and used to do a great job. In this particular scenario they’re even telling people that they’re coasting. It’s like wow, really honest. One of the things that we’ve done, we’ve actually sort of said, “Hey you know what we think you’re fantastic. You’ve been great for us for a good while. You know tell us what it is that would take you to get excited and engaged again.”

Again it’s a two-way conversation so part of what you’re going to hear over and over is that it’s a conversation. You know it’s not just guessing what’s going on in someone’s head, but you’re having the conversation. The next thing that we did are things that would be interesting to you? Are there some things that we could sort of make you the master because in most cases the upward flight path of their career is done.

You know it doesn’t have to be, but often it is and so it’s a matter what do you want your legacy to be? Would you like to mentor? Would you like to become subject matter expert? Could you be the voice of us out in the community about what we’re doing? I generally find that if you ask a few of those questions, that enough to get them excited about one of those and it’s amazing then what happens. If they’re excited about something, generally the coasting stops. What about you?

Jennifer: Yes, I got to chime in on that mentoring and support. There is—it’s an identity shift and that’s what the conversation is about. The conversation is about helping that person see themselves in a new way. They’re not finished. They have a new role to take on and that new role as mentor, that new role is actually also coach. What does that mean then for the younger employee? What does that mean for the next generation?

Jeff: Oh that’s great so some interesting situations that we tackle. I think that there’s going to be one or two more after break that we’ll take on and you know really appreciate everyone being here. I hope you’re getting a lot of value out of this and we will see you in two minutes.



Jeff: Welcome back. I’m here with Jennifer Owen-O’Quill today. We’ve been talking about coaching for peak performance. It has been a fun conversation. We’ve run around bases. We’ve talked about some challenging situations and in this last segment what we’re going to do is wrap up on or two of our challenging situations, do a recap, and then highlight next week.

Jennifer, just for the break we’ve been talking about some of those older employees and I saw rolling of the eyes in our listener audience because they’re like that’s not it. It’s the millennials. It’s done gone young people on the entitlement mentality and okay. Just pile it on. You know I give a speech called Imagine the Multiple Generations in the Workplace Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Oh My. You know what suggestions and best practices do you have about dealing with some those young people in our workplace?

Jennifer: Well it is true that there are generational differences. It is true that there have always been generational differences so you’re feeling that these folks are different. That’s true and the generation before you felt that way about you. We all have different set of experiences right that are creating our behaviors and driving how we—what we believe about the world that’s getting us to show up and act the way we do. Here’s what I would say.

Every single person is an individual. They’re not part of a group. They have, yes, we all belong to a generation. You and I are Gen Xers right. Be curious about their talents.

Everyone wants their talents used and how to line up their talents. They think differently. Enjoy how they think differently and as an older leader, we have some wisdom, you have some wisdom about what you might share with the younger generation in a way that doesn’t say you’re wrong, but says, “Hey and let me teach you a little bit about organizational strategy and how to look at the whole thing or how to figure out how to pace these ideas that you have.”

Because they’ll come in and they’ll want to—they’ll see the better way to do the whole thing and they’ll want to do the thing that they’re good at. I love that. I love that about their enthusiasm. What do I do? I’ve got this engaged person. What advice Jeff do you give when you hear that from a leader who’s got a fired.

Jeff: Young leader.

Jennifer: Excited young leader.

Jeff: Yes, at first I think my Uncle Jim—so a little shout out to Uncle Jim, he calls it generation Y as in they ask the question why, why, why, why, why. Think about it, they don’t have as much experience and so this is not about them trying to be annoying. This is really about what we started about. If you’re trying to get to that peak performance, I have to know my role and the goals and so what they’re asking for is when I’m asking a lot of why questions what I’m looking to figure out is why do you want me to do this so that I can hit your mark. I can hit that homerun around this high potential baseball diamond we were talking about it earlier. For me, it’s about slowing it down and being—getting curious.

Remember too that they don’t need the hour sit down conversation. This is in micro bites so when I’m working with the younger leaders often what it is is more like a five-ten conversation. Multiple times a week because they just need bite sized pieces so they can move to the next thing. Remember they are thinking in Twitter, 140 characters.

You know Jennifer you and I might be somewhere in between. Maybe we’re thinking 20-minute phone call and maybe the Baby Boomers is an hour once a month that we sit down. That’s enough so it’s really trying to flex to what that younger worker might need and remember to your point, each person is an individual so remember that you know I’m a first-born child. I’m from a small town. I’m all of those things too.

I’m not just an Gen Ex-er so get curious, ask them how they can perform best, and then my final thought on that is grow them. Just challenge them. Let them do it because they’d love to do it and just remember when you were young, you once tried to ask these questions. You want to do these things, but maybe you weren’t allowed or maybe it was frowned upon and so if we’re really being truthful, these are—the questions are asking them things that they want to do. Probably are the same things we wanted to do and the best workers, they’ll still rise up and do a great job for you.

Jennifer: It is true and I would—just add on to that, yes they like to know why, but they also love that question what do you see? They want to know why and that’s their question, but what do you see—I love asking a—really anybody at any generation in the workforce, but particularly someone who’s new to company, new to the organization, or young and work. What are the strengths and weaknesses that you see? What are the opportunities and threats that you see? What steps would you take to correct them? I’m curious.

Jeff: Yes.

Jennifer: Because that pushes the thinking of not just assessment, but think about a plan and what the impact would be. Okay now you’ve got your plan, what now?

Jeff: Yes, I’d love to do that with people that are new or new to a project that I’m working with. 30 days in, “Hey just give me your quick assessment.” You know like what is it because after a little while they’re going to lose those new eyes and then you get 90 days because then now they know a little bit more because you know even in our like—our small firm, you know we can start to excuse a way maybe why we can’t do you know marketing database. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right question to ask.

Be really curious and ask these questions. One last one that I want to hit and then I’d like you to maybe just do a little recap of the model right here at the end. The one that I get often asked is, “Okay Jeff, we don’t have any money for development.” What are we supposed to do?

You know I want to coach, but there’s no chance for me to go get some improvement on my skills. I can’t really give people like training. We don’t have the training budget, things like that. Here’s what I recommend is there are other leaders in the organization that you go learn from. Go find somebody that’s good at developing people and go ask them some questions.

If you can’t find one there, find someone in your circle of friends. Someone is good at this. Sometimes it could be someone from my church. It can be a sports team. There is someone there that is good at developing people and knows how to connect and build relationships so go ask, okay.

Next a lot of the development we’re talking about is on the job. Being able to stretch them—maybe they can get a book from the library. You can do a group study and a discussion to help coach people up from a conversation and that can be fantastic. It doesn’t have to have a lot of money.

Again it can also happen volunteer time encourage it. These are the skillsets that you need. I’m not going to be able to give you that assignment in the workplace for a year or two, maybe you can find something in your volunteer space don’t let money get in the way. The greater one is time, but please make time for it. A dollar invested here is probably worth five dollars and just think about if you had to replace that superstar or that high potential. Jennifer, maybe a little recap from your end and then I’ll close out the show today.

Jennifer: I appreciate the conversation, Jeff. We think about coaching people and the model is the high potential zone, baseball diamond. Imagine that you’re at bat and that’s your role is understanding what your roles and goals are and having them well defined by both you as the performer and the leader who’s asking you to do it so that everybody’s clear and double checking asking. Recognition is first base what is going right. You got here and you’re on base and you’re running the bases.

Let’s recognize people for taking the first step so that they can repeat the behavior. What do you want this person to keep doing? Then review. It is always important to let people know whether they are hitting your targets and if you skip the review you rob people of information they need to be successful so don’t do it. Spend the time you need in order to give your people an accurate snapshot of what it is that they need to do.

Finally, refine that is where we coach in the moment. Right in the moment when the experience is fresh, don’t wait. Pause and do an after action right when we’re at the event. Right when we’re in the hallway, when we’re done, whenever it is. When something goes wrong or something goes right, be sure and coach in the moment. The more direct application of learning happens there so it’s roles, recognition, review, and refine and that’s the high potential zone, Jeff.

Jeff: Awesome so if you’re only going to do one or two things. What I would say is recognize people. Think five to one and set some clear expectations. Jennifer, fantastic thank you for being here today. Next week, we’re going to have Lee Hubert and we’re going to be talking about the dreaded drama triangle and how do we get out of it and get into empowerment zone.

We’ll be giving you some tools and tips on helping the lead people through conversations and hopefully helping them be as successful as possible. In two weeks we’re going to have John Hagmaier on the show and we’ll be talking to him about the success of his company. Thank you so much for joining us today. You can reach me at area 547—try that again, 540-798-1963 or Jeff@VoltageLeadership.com.

Our website is www.VoltageLeadership.com. You can like me on Facebook at Voltage Leadership. You can connect with me at LinkedIn on Jeff Smith Voltage Solution Consulting. Follow me at Twitter @VoltageLeaders.

You’ve been listening to VoltCaast, Illuminating Leadership. Thank you so much for being with us today from all around the world. We hope you have a fantastic week. Go out and recognize someone and help develop them. Until next week, have a fantastic time. Look forward to seeing you next week.