team growth

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 Can You Hold Effective One-On-One Meetings with Direct Reports?

As a leader, your time is tight. If you have more than 4 or 5 direct reports, then time is even more crunched. One-on-one meetings may feel counter-productive when you have limited time and the option to meet virtually. However, these meetings are a key opportunity you have to develop each of those direct reports.

Elizabeth Grace Saunders, the author of How to Invest Your Time Like Money, says "One-on-ones are one of the most important productivity tools you have as a manager."

These are times when they can learn from you what it takes to get to the next level, and you can learn from them what is happening closer to the front-line and gain more practice developing a flexible management style.

Do your directs look forward to their one-on-one times with you?  Do you look forward to them?

The higher up you are, the more structure you will need to have since you will have fewer one-on-one times per month.

Here are a few tips that should help in establishing effective one-on-ones:

1. Come prepared.

One of the first one-on-one conversations you should have with your directs is how to have a one-on-one.

Is there a structure that you want to follow?  How about them?  What would make that time most valuable to them?

There is probably going to be a lot of overlap between the two of you but for clarity’s sake, encourage them to share their expectations, and you share yours.

After you’ve established what one-on-one’s are going to look like, you will know how to prepare for those meetings (see below).

Send an agenda for the one-on-one a couple of days in advance.  Be sure you have learned what it is they most want to talk about during their one-on-one.  Ideally, agenda items should be phrased as questions since questions get people thinking about answers.

This will help you both to prepare or at least start thinking about the topics.

2. Determine how often you will have one-on-ones and where.

Some direct reports may need more time than others, especially those who are newer to their role.  It is important to determine the pace of the meetings and stick to it.

3. Create an environment of focus.

One of the keys to effective one-on-one's is to create an environment where both of you can be fully present and focused.

Silencing or turning off phones completely helps.  But so does making sure there are no interruptions.

Another way to create a high level of focus is to shorten the meetings.  This forces both of you to be sharp.

4. Create a dialogue.

One-on-one meetings should feel more like a dialogue and less like a monologue.  One way to accomplish this is to start personally (see below).  Another is by starting with what the direct wants to talk about.  A third is by asking open-ended questions.  This limits the amount you speak and encourages your directs to say a lot more.

5. Start personally.

What is meaningful to them in life in general?  For many, it is going to be their families or another significant relationship.  For some, it is going to be favorite hobbies, restaurants, or adventures.  Show them that you care by remembering what matters to them.

Moving this way helps both you and your direct to be positive, open and vulnerable, ready to engage the meeting in a spirit of trust and collaboration.

Use your humor.  Laughing bonds people together.  Having a team that is tight with one another and with you will go far in developing the high performing team you’ve always wanted.

6. Start with a Win.

If each of you can share a win that you’ve had since the last time you met, that will go a long way in making the conversation positive.

7. Move to the core - discover what your report is doing in the most important area of their role.

Since time is usually tight, many clients have found it helpful to start with the most important area of their direct report’s role.  This is the point where you especially want to have influence.  It can help set them up for success.  Moreover, their best results will come by focusing on what is essential (cue Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism).

As part of your preparation, know what you want to know about the core.  Brainstorm here so that they can see how you process.  Also, they can sense how much you believe in them through this collaboration.

8. Update on project.

There is probably a project that you especially want to keep an eye on.  Typically, you do that by receiving email updates ahead of the meeting, then the update during your one-on-one is more about moving the project further.

This could also be a brainstorming time.  It could be an opportunity to discover the obstacles that your direct is facing, which you could help them remove.

Here is where you want to know how you could be of most value to them as they work on this key project.

9. Find ways to increase engagement.

You want to get a feel for what their overall engagement is like.  Do they love their role? Company? Their team? You?  What would help increase their engagement?

Getting a pulse on engagement is really important with your higher-performing directs.  Throughout the meeting find ways to increase their engagement by giving them opportunities to do the things that generate engagement for that specific direct report.

10. Feedback.

Feedback doesn’t need to be limited to formal reviews.  Start by sharing something you are grateful for concerning their performance since the last meeting.  Then give them some positive affirmations about their work, and one thing to focus on improving.  This kind of interaction can go a long way.

Hopefully, the more this becomes part of the dynamic between you and them, the more you will see how to help them grow and build upon their strengths.

11. Ask, “What can I do better?”

Asking for feedback is your chance to grow further.  You might not be able to accomplish everything all your directs want, but it is likely that gaining their feedback and modeling change and growth will go far for everyone on the team.

12. Both sides should send an email to one another with next steps

At the end of the meeting, it would be helpful to talk through next steps for each of you.  Get buy-in, and then each of you should send an email with those next steps to each other to make sure that you both are on the same page and know what each of you is empowered to do.

Chew On This:

  • What has been your experience with effective one-on-one meetings?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company.

 

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

A Path To Real Clarity for Your Business

Chris Kisley, President and CEO of Life Long Leadership, recently came to my office and sat with me as we answered the Six Core Questions for Organizational Clarity from Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage for my company.

  1. Why do we exist? (Core purpose)
  2. How do we behave? (What are our values?)
  3. What do we do? (Business definition)
  4. How will we succeed? (A collection of intentional, purposeful and unique decisions a company or team makes to give itself the best chance to maximize success)
  5.    What is most important right now? (Thematic Goal – every organization, if it wants to create a sense of alignment and focus, must have a single top priority within a given period of time.)
  6. Who must do what?

Mind you, we’ve been working on these for several weeks, but now it was time to nail the answers down.

I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate Chris and her incredible gifts for combining the core of who I am with corporate business wisdom in order to help me steer my company in the right direction.

Whether you are running a company or a department in a company, answering the six questions will bring a level of clarity that you and your team have not seen yet.

I’d like to share some of the general takeaways from my time with her that I think might be valuable for you.

  1. Really understand who you are, using insights from those who are discerning and can articulate their perceptions of you.

Turning the windows in my office into writing boards, the first thing she wrote was my Myers-Briggs type (ENFJ) and my top five strengths from StrengthsFinder (1. Communication 2. Strategy 3. Empathy 4. Achiever 5. Developer).

She then turned to me and said, “As I have experienced you, you are a strong J.”  I was floored.  I had not seen myself that way at all.  As she explained the ways in which I come across as a strong J, I gained invaluable insight and understanding as to how I am coming across to others.

More than that, I started realizing that I was “trying to be” a low J because I love some of the qualities of P’s.

Feedback can feel intimadating and exposing, but when it comes from a trusted source who knows you and is for you, it can be paramount to your success.

  1. Know how you work best and get rid of the last vestiges of who you think you “should” be.

The insight from that first point above, coupled with my answers to Lencioni’s first three questions, showed her that I try to super-specialize.  “You keep trying to box yourself in,” she said.  “You need to be broader so you can have multiple avenues to get to what you want to do most. It makes sense that you want to box yourself in because, as a J, you want to know what box you fit in.”  Man, those words rang so, so true.

My mom is a strong P.  I admire her so much.  The way things come together for her, with her ability to put out fires quickly, and seamlessly adjust to change is almost magical.  It’s part of what makes her a top surgeon.

Growing up, I wanted to be like that.  However, that’s not how I was wired.  Consequently, like many of you, several years ago I had to make concerted efforts to be who I am and stop trying to be someone I wasn’t.  I had to embrace the fact that unless I am discussing something I am very familiar with, things just don’t fall in place for me like they do for her.

I kept holding on to being a low J.  But a shift has occurred.  I may not be as strong of a J as Chris shared with me, but her words have helped me to just be, and enjoy my own wiring.

How can you start to operate out of your more authentic self?

  1. Lead with your desires.

I am really fortunate in that I absolutely love what I do.  I love coaching individuals, groups and teams, but even more, I love delivering trainings.

When we were coming up with a list of the conferences where I should do my trainings, Chris asked me what I am passionate about.  “I’ve always loved innovation and technology,” I replied. “I might not know how the latest gadgets work, but I do love using them so much that usually I am an early adopter.”

Consequently, it turns out that my passion for innovation and for the leadership development trainings that I do are a natural fit for technology conferences.  Our new intern, Megan Koh, is already at work applying on my behalf to different tech conferences where I can train leaders.

What are your desires and how can you see them come to fruition in your business? What topic or problem stirs you the most? Begin brainstorming ways you can lead from your desires.

  1. Understand how your industry and target audience works.

In the leadership development industry, who I hire will influence my target audience.  I’ve dreamed of increasing the amount of trainings (or facilitations) I do to about 50% of my practice, then spending the rest of the time with individuals, groups and teams, and growing and developing my own team.

I thought I should hire more coaches to cover for the time I want to spend facilitating or training, but I learned from Chris that if I do that, I will get more coaching work.  Instead, I should be hiring more people who can train or facilitate.  Then I will get more training and facilitation work.

Make your hiring intentional to the audience you want to reach and the goals you want to pursue within your company.

  1. Know what you will not do.

When we got to the question, “How will we succeed?” we started off by making a list of what we will not do.  Seeing that list confirmed that I need to stay in my strike zone, and not take on things for which I am not best-suited, just to please my clients.

I was already saying, “No” a lot, but I believe I have the clarity now to say “No” to more.

You can start by making a list of “things you do” and “things you do not do” within your company. Talk with your team as you determine what is most essential for your overall productivity.

  1. Know that you will adjust your answers to the six core questions as you get deeper into your work.

When we finished, I felt incredibly clear on who my company is and, more specifically, how I was going to pursue what I want to pursue.  It was so comforting and relieving.  My stress levels dropped.

I felt like one of my twins in a playpen.  When my twin boys were crawling but not yet walking, they would often cry if they were on the floor.  But if my wife or I would put them in the playpen, they would be immediately comforted and begin having fun.

I now have clear direction, focus, and know how to utilize my time and resources.

One last thing Chris mentioned was that I need to remember that the clarity I have now will become even sharper as I get farther into fulfilling the plan.  In other words, I will be further tweaking my responses to the six core questions as I go.

I am really good with that insight.  Even though I prefer routine, I love having options to plug into the routine, especially when the routine starts feeling a little old.

Chew On This:

  • How can you begin walking through Lencioni’s six core questions for organizational clarity with a trusted source?
  • What question feels most challenging to answer and why?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of a company that catalyzes the transformation of leaders’ lives.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

How to Lead Your Team Through Personal Change

A client, let’s call her Liz, made a huge transformation.  Putting it mildly, she used to have an anger management issue.  She was the executive that you never wanted as a boss.  At times, she would be super nice and seem like she was your best friend, but if you crossed her or screwed something up that embarrassed her, she could be brutal. After we worked together for about a year, everyone began noticing a remarkable change.  Frankly, it was a change that happened faster than most.  To be clear, she made the change. She took the change process very seriously. She had great desire and she really embraced the coaching process.

After the year was up, she noticed that some people with whom she had not had much contact were still walking on eggshells around her.  They were unaware of her change.

Here is what I saw her do that helped others to trust the change:

1. Explain the change.

When she saw people were walking on eggshells with her, she would explain that she had gone through a change because she had worked on the anger issue.  She would not go into a lot of details, but a simple acknowledgement went far.

2. Apologize for the previous behaviors.

She then apologized for the role she had played in leading the person to walk on eggshells.  She said things like, “At times I was out of control, overly brutal, and completely unempathetic.  I was like a bull seeing red.  I am sorry for the impact I had on you.”

3. Be patient as they speak while they are still on guard.

As she noticed that people were still on edge, even after her explanation and apology, she showed a great deal of patience.  She shared with me, “Eventually they will know that the change is real.  In the meantime, I just need to stay the course.”

4. Slightly soften tone to convey that you are going to be calm.

When she noticed that they were getting on edge, especially if they made a mistake, she softened up more by adjusting her tone and body language.

When you soften your tone and relax, people start to reflect that posture. That helps them to lose the edge.  She also did a great job assuring them that she would remain calm and that they were going to fix the problem together.

5. Take them out to lunch or coffee so they can experience the new you.

She took a few key people out to lunch or coffee outside of the office.  This helped them to experience her in a different setting.  It was really important for them to see that she was authentic.  If something happened that she felt angry about, she expressed it; but she also shared what she does with the anger to bring it down.

What is hard to remember when you make a real transformation is that other people have to adjust to your change.

Unfortunately, when you make a real change, others can become uncomfortable around you, especially when the change is a positive one.

Positive change can bring about a level of conviction in others, if they are not growing.  It can also bring doubt that the change is real which impacts the level of trust.

It is important to stay the course. It's also important to have people around you who will encourage you to stay the course, and even grow more.

Eventually people will adjust and, hopefully, enjoy the new you.

Chew On This:

  • If you are working towards transforming yourself, how can you prepare your team for the change?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams. *This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

12 Steps to Lead Effective Meetings

12 steps to lead effective meetings Meetings are inevitable.  They are important to get the team members aligned and leverage their talents.  

But do there have to be so many?  Some business leaders look at their calendar and realize that most of their week is spent in meetings.  There is nothing worse than going to a meeting and wondering why you are there or thinking that your time could have been better spent elsewhere.  

As the lead for your team, it is important that you train those who report to you on how to run effective meetings.  

Like it or not, an unacknowledged recommendation for promotion is the ability to lead meetings effectively.  Those who run meetings well are viewed as credible, capable and respectable.  Those who don’t are typically viewed as incapable, uncaring, disorganized, or incompetent.  

Here are some on how to lead meetings well:

  • Structure the meeting.

Everyone needs to get on the same page. It is important that participants know why they are attending the meeting and how to focus their contributions.  A simple structure that is effective for getting the team aligned includes:

      • What is the purpose of the meeting?
      • What are the objectives and goals?
      • What are we going to walk away from the meeting with?
  • Send out Request for Input.

Once you have the structure, send it out to the participants at least one day ahead and ask for any agenda items that are relevant, given the structure.  Let them know that they have until X day and time to get those agenda items in, so you can evaluate which ones to go with and send out the agenda to the entire team.

This Request for Input will help the participants to start thinking about the meeting.  It will clue them in on how to prepare.

It will help you to gain insights on what is brewing in each individual’s mind and in their various departments.  

  • Determine the agenda, time allotments and attendees.

Few agenda items should be focused on the desired action that will be taken. (Don’t use meeting time to review or share information.  That should happen in the pre-read.)

Make sure that the agenda flows according to your priority.  Don’t try to please everyone.  It is not going to happen.  Go with the best that you received for the greater good of the company and team.  (Show each participant that they are valuable even if others are given more time or accolades.)

For each item:

  • Determine start and stop time.
  • State the goal for that agenda item.
  • List who is the Presenter/Owner.

Make sure the Presenter/Owner is clear on what they are presenting.

Be sure to get their goals and objectives for their section so that you can send it out in the official agenda.

Leave time in each section for open discussion.

  • Prep the meeting locale.

If possible, change up the meeting locale just to give the team different experiences.  

(For shorter meetings, try doing stand-up meetings where all participants are standing.)

Make sure the room is equipped with what you need (whiteboard, markers, whiteboard eraser, projectors, screens).

On your calendar, set an appointment for yourself before the meeting to make sure that the room is set up as desired.

  • Disseminate pre-meeting prep.

Determine what pre-reads are absolutely necessary to make decisions.  This can include any supporting documents such as reports, surveys, etc.  If helpful, highlight the key points to make it easier for participants to scan those documents, in case they haven’t had time to do a thorough pre-read.

Also, have in mind which participants would be best for key roles, such as:

      • The Note taker- They are responsible for:
        • Action items, noting who is responsible and by when it will be accomplished.
        • Key decisions.
        • Issues that came up.
        • What needs to be discussed in the future.
        • Preparing all of the above in a template.
        • (Note: They are not to take notes on the discussion itself, only the decisions.)
      • The Time Tracker- They:
        • Have permission to interrupt, with countdowns of when that topic is to be completed.
        • If the leader says that more time is necessary, the time tracker needs to know how many more minutes is worth giving to that section.
      • The Option Generator:
        • This person is responsible for ensuring that at least three options for resolving a decision are generated (even if quickly dismissed).
  • Set up rules for meeting success.

As the facilitator of the meeting, it’s your call if a tangent is useful or not.  Keep in mind that tangents that generate ideas, or suggest solutions are typically valuable, but tangents that involve complaining, blame-shifting, minimizing responsibility, or rationalizing a mistake, typically are not.

Let the team know that you are going to risk hurting feelings for the sake of the team, and in the future there should be fewer negative tangents.

Let the team know that if one member starts to discuss a topic that is not germane to the goals of this meeting, you will ask the note taker to write that topic down for a future meeting.

Encourage everyone to speak, because even “dumb things can spark ideas in someone else’s mind, which the team would not have heard otherwise.

Also, let them know that in the interests of respecting everyone’s time, and to encourage each person to grow in their ability to contribute meaningfully, you will be ending the meeting on time (see below for exception).

  • Once starting the meeting:
    • Thank everyone for participating in the meeting.
    • Share what is going to happen in the meeting.
    • Share the desired outcomes.
  • Facilitate keeping the structure while still allowing for flexibility:
    • Know what stage you are in:
      • When it is time to brainstorm, let others know and make sure to stress that there is to be no judgment during this phase.
      • When it is time to evaluate options, let the others know that brainstorming has ended.
      • When it is time to make decisions, let them know that the evaluation of options has ended.

Spell out key action items framed in SMART format, decisions made, steps to follow-up, and future issues to consider so that the Note Taker has them

Use humor effectively to make meetings more fun

Make sure to add a flexible portion to the meeting towards the end.  It is important to give some open-ended time.

Don’t be afraid to chuck a part of the agenda if it is clear that the flow of the meeting is going in a different direction.

  • Radical idea- Always end the meeting on time.

Some participants can get really detailed.  Sometimes the details are important, but in order to help them and the others to be sharper and more focused, end the meeting on time, regardless of where you are.

At first, this may frustrate some people, but you as the agenda setter will learn how much time a meeting actually needs, and the participants will learn to be sharper and more succinct when they need to be.

If you let them know at the beginning of the meeting, that will help them as they go through the meeting.

The exception: if it looks like something major is about to happen, then just ask for 10mins to complete it, but the idea is to get the team used to working within a specific time frame, and no longer.

  • Close the meeting with action steps.

Summarize what was accomplished.

Ask the Note Taker to read the action items:

  • Make sure it is clear
  • Frame as much as possible in a SMART format
  • This creates team accountability

State that notes will be disseminated within 24 hours.

Ask for progress emails to be sent at critical intervals.

  • Do not hold meetings to discuss progress; that is expensive.
  • Only request follow up meetings if there are more decisions that need to be made.
  • Send out thank you’s with the meeting minutes within 24 hours of the meeting
  • Thank the participants for their contribution and time.
  • Clearly list action items, who is responsible for them, and the deadlines.
  • If not clear from the action items list, state what other things were decided.
  • Do not share what was discussed.
  • Refine, refine, refine.

Leave time after the meeting to ask yourself:

      • What were the highlights of the meeting?
      • What should I keep doing?
      • If I could wave a magic wand, what would I do differently?
      • What should I start doing?

Following a template like the one above will simplify facilitation and will give your team a routine to follow that everyone can get in to.  Be sure to refine the template as you go.  

Chew On This:

  • What would it be like if everyone on your team could run effective meetings?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.