business development

Lessons I Learned in 2017

It’s the last blog of 2017 for me.  It was a fantastic year, filled with many huge changes (to be discussed in a future blog post), and some valuable lessons for my team and me. At the end of a year, we take time to reflect on what has worked well, where there is room to grow, and what lessons we hope to carry over into the new year. Here are four valuable lessons from 2017: 1. Ask what your team expects of you regularly.

This year we’ve grown to a team of six (part-time and full-time) and are probably going to add a seventh in the next couple of months.  The growth has felt organic, more focused on the relationship than revenue.  We genuinely like being around each other and working together.

Recently, we outlined ways in which our work relationship would go.  We defined in a general way what the expectation for each member’s role is.  However, I wished I had asked each of them what they expected of me.

The team has shown great appreciation for what I have given, but I also learned that some of how I was trying to help were not as useful.  It was incredibly freeing to hear that I did not have to do as much.

I also saw that as time went on and we engaged different projects, I needed consistently to ask, “What do you expect from me as you engage this project?” I had tended to assume (and you know what happens when you ass-u-me), and I needed a clear understanding of expectations.

2. Sharpen the interpersonal dynamics as you go.

Another lesson learned is to actively clear any issues in interpersonal team dynamics as you go.  Since our team gets along so well with each other, what we needed to clear were tweaks, not major issues.  But even these tweaks were valuable.

Talking about how we experience one another has helped us to make personal shifts.  Capturing things in the moment helped us to notice that the dynamic of what was happening in ourselves was at play.  That awareness created great personal growth for us.

Also, it has been helpful to share what things, when we do them, really foster better relational dynamics.  So saying “When you did X, I felt engaged and alive” is the kind of statement that helped us understand what to do more for each other.

3. Diversify client base sooner.

Our largest client had crept up to 35% of revenue.  While we love working with them, 35% felt uncomfortable.  This year we took more active strides to diversify the client base than we ever had.  Carving out time to get out there and network has helped us to grow and to learn things from companies that have benefited all our clients.  I wish I had not sacrificed business development as much as I have for the immediate work that was presented.  Moreover, I wish I had hired faster so that I could spend more time developing the business.

4. Allow myself to be me, sooner, and not try to do it like everyone else.

Typically, coaching meetings are 1 hour long.  Early in 2017, a client had only 30 minutes, but we found that we did as much work in that 30min meeting as we had done in 60mins.  So I started experimenting with other clients and found the same thing.  Consistently they told me that they loved the “laser coaching” better than the 60min meetings.

There are plenty of coaches who use the laser coaching style.  I am built for it. I am more focused, think faster, ask better questions, and am not afraid to say hard things.  My clients are also more focused, come in prepared, can process what’s going on, and are much quicker to develop great plans for the issues they came to the meeting to resolve. They leave empowered, engaged, and eager to implement.  Moreover, the cost of laser sessions is less to them.  Win-Win all the way around.

As more and more clients chose the laser style of coaching, I wondered what had stopped me from doing this sooner?  Then it hit me: without realizing it, I had been following the example of some coaches whom I greatly admired.  They would never even consider having 30min meetings rather than 60min meetings.

They are great at what they do, but I needed to set myself up to do my best work, even if it is not in their style.

How about you?  What were the lessons you learned in 2017? I encourage you to sit with your team and explore these questions:

  • What has worked in 2017?
  • What are growth areas for 2018?
  • How will you measure this growth?
  • What are specific goals for each member within your team?
  • How can you help each other in reaching those goals?

I would love to hear from you and compare.

Have a fantastic holiday season! Looking forward to connecting in the new year.

Chew On This:

  • How can you perform your role in a way that is most you?
  • How can your team learn from this year and encourage each other in the new year?

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company that supports leaders in developing in-demand high performing teams.

How to Hold A High Standard While Being Gracious

how-to-hold-a-high-standard-while-being-graciousHigh performing teams will draw out the best in their team members. However, it’s impossible to do that without holding them to a high standard. Upholding a high standard requires tact and skill. You need to be careful how you explain the standard, and how you enforce it.

If you come on too strong, you run the risk of intimidating the team, making them afraid to take risks, or forcing them to hide their mistakes.

If you come on too weak, the team may not get your message full-strength or respect you.

Here are six ways to approach your team with a standard and grace:

1. If you present the high standard in an attitude of belief in your direct reports (you know they can achieve and maintain it), you are more apt to win their confidence and avoid creating a fear of failure.

2. Be clear in defining and explaining the standard, and confident that it is achievable, then solicit your direct report’s input on how they want the team to achieve it.  What is excellent to you may not be excellent to each member of your team. Your team wants to know your definition. Please be sure to make it as tangible as possible so that everyone knows when it is achieved. Some examples may include the percentage you want sales to increase, or how much you want to see their engagement score increase by.  Once it is clear what the standard is, it is time to see their ingenuity at work. How do they want to achieve it?  By listening carefully to their response, you will not only learn a lot about them but also about how to improve your style of achieving excellence.

3. Implement a flexible leadership style. It is time to adjust your style to your team according to their personality type. How do they work best?  What helps them be successful?  What energizes them?  What frustrates them?  What stresses them out?  How do they want to be held accountable to the work?  (You should not be the accountability partner here; instead, encourage them to own the project. Instead of checking in with them half way through the project, they could let you know halfway through.) Where are they likely to fall short and how can they best overcome those shortfalls? How do you want to be updated?  These are all questions to consider. When you use a flexible leadership style, you set them up for success.

4. Be clear on what the priorities are and share the reason why, so they gain more of a strategic mindset.

5. Review review review. Have a review time with your direct report. What's working great?  Can it be systematized?  For some ideas on that, look at the book, E-Myth Revisited. If you can get it into best practice form, that will pay dividends for you and your team. What's not working well?  How could it be improved? Some go with a “top 3 things going well” and then a “top 3 things to improve” review.

6. Now the key to maintaining the high standard is what happens when the team falls short of the high standard. It is important not to lower the standard to mediocrity, or else your team will become mediocre. Instead, move towards showing grace.  This is a time to show a high degree of empathy and to lead with appropriate vulnerability. This is a great time for both you and your direct report to look for ways to improve. Since you made sure the standard was achievable, you want to move towards a solid debrief. I would encourage the direct report to write how they should have done things differently, and you can refine their thoughts so that you both have principles for the future

Holding a high standard is essential. So is showing grace when the standard is not met. The key is to keep believing in your direct report until they show they cannot perform their role or are unwilling to grow in their role.

Chew On This:

  • What would your team be like if they were fighting for the higher standard while knowing that they would be met with grace if they came up short?

Ryan Bailey is an Executive Coach who specializes advancing excellence in leadership and across business teams.