Leaders Share about Courage

Leaders Share About Courage: A Frontline Festival

Welcome to the Frontline Festival. As we prepare to launch our new book, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates, we invited thought leaders to share their best writing on courage. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors.

To learn more about our Courageous Cultures research, to download a free chapter of our book, or to sign-up for pre-order bonuses click here.

Courage in CommunicationEmployees lack confidence.

Julie Winkle Giulioni

Julie Winkle Giulioni of JulieWinkleGiulioni.com shares Supervision Means Having to Say... Sometimes being the boss means having the courage to say things like “I was wrong” and “I’m sorry.”  This article features other powerful and courageous statements that define leadership and drive results. Follow Julie.

Paula Kiger of Big Green Pen provides What Leaders Can Do. In these three components of effective leadership, we take a look at being courageous enough to stop relying on digital communication. It contains a message about focusing on what you can do, not what you can’t. Follow Paula.

Courageous Vulnerability

Lisa Kohn from Chatsworth Consulting Group offers this perspective: Vulnerability is not a dirty word, it’s a leadership skill. Follow Lisa.

The Courage to Chart the Course and Try New Things

Dr. Artika Tyner of Planting People Growing Justice Leadership shares a perspective: Courage requires one to venture from the dimensions of what is known to what could be. This is the foundation of innovation by which a leader seeks to look to the future and discover a world full of possibilities. In this journey, the leader comes forth with new thought processes and new paradigms for change. Follow Artika.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership offers 4 C Vitamins for Better Leadership. Here are some C vitamins that will make your leadership better. Be sure to do them every day. Follow Wally.

 

Maria Tanski-Phillips of Patriot Software offers Finding the Courage to Start a Business Once and for All.  If you want to start your own company, you have to have a whole lot of determination and courage. Use these five tips to finally make the big leap and muster up the courage to start a business. Follow Maria.

 

One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest. ~Maya Angelou

The Courage We Need Right Now

David GrossmanDavid Grossman of The Grossman Group shares CEOs Leading with Conviction. As we all sort through the recent events and determine how best to respond, we wanted to share a few CEO statements with you. We think you’ll find them useful and, in some cases, inspiring. Follow David.

David Moser of Decisive Blog shares Why I’d Run an Airline with Zero Planes. The major COVID disruption pushed many businesses into a defensive posture, laying off large portions of their workforce. Bold leaders can take a creative risk with seemingly untouchable assets to prioritize their people and emerge a strengthened organization. This mental model, applied here to the airline industry, maps a workflow for leaders in any setting. Follow David.

Jon Verbeck of Verbeck Associates CFO Services offers Thoughts on Courage. With business significantly changing and the “new reality” completely unknown, courage and trust are so needed. Jon shares his thoughts on the combination of knowledge, faith, and action that make up the definition of courage. Follow Jon.

We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Shelley RowShelley Row of Shelley Row Associates shares Four Anchors to Weather Any Storm, from her participation on the PharmCast podcast.  Thriving through storms of uncertainty takes courage. Here’s help. Follow Shelley

 

Beth BeutlerBeth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited shares: “Our courage is sometimes strengthened through the efforts of others who choose to encourage us. The dictionary defines encourage as ‘give support, confidence or hope to (someone.)’  There are many ways to encourage others. Pay attention to what resonates with your teammates and co-workers and become someone who is known to encourage others.” Follow Beth.

S. Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture provides this Culture Leadership Charge: Rise Up, outlining how leaders can inspire change in their organizations and communities to create justice, equality, and opportunity for every human. Follow Chris.

 

 

Are you a leadership writer? We’d love to have you join us with your articles, videos, podcast episodes, or simply your best thinking on the topic (even if you don’t have additional content to link.) Our topic for July is mentoring. Click here to submit your thoughts and content!

How to help your team manage change

How to Help Your Team Manage Change

Connection is key to help your team manage change.

When you have a clear picture of where you want to go but your team won’t come along as quickly as you want, it can feel like you’re trying to pull a car out of the mud—it’s stuck and everyone’s spinning their wheels. Pull too hard or too fast and you risk a disaster like this:

how to help your team manage change

The internet is full of towing failures like this one. There are a couple of common mistakes that plague well-meaning people trying to tow a friend’s car out of trouble—and these same mistakes can prevent you from helping your team manage change.

Help Your Team Manage Change by Avoiding These 3 Mistakes

Mistake #1: Poor Connection

A good tow depends on a solid connection between the two vehicles. For example, don’t hook your tow cable to the bumper of either vehicle. This is a weak connection. In many of those towing fails, they didn’t attach their cable to the car’s frame, and when they pulled, they tore the car apart.

Just as you want to connect a tow cable to a car’s frame, as a leader, your influence depends on the strength of your connection to your people. Share the meaning and purpose of the work. Know what your people value, and connect those values to their daily tasks.

The most meaningful connections you make are with shared values and clear reasons why activities must happen. Without these connections, you’ve probably asked your team to do something that makes no sense to them (with little chance of success).

You also strengthen your connection to your people when you include their wisdom and perspective in decision-making. Ask what they think the team is capable of, why they do what they do, and how they would improve the results they produce.

Mistake #2: Rapid Direction Change

When you tow, you don’t want to pull the car sideways or you could rip off a tire or an entire axle. Instead, start by pulling the vehicle in the direction it was going or else directly opposite that direction. This minimizes stress on the car and gets the wheels rolling.

Similarly, with your team, you have to know their current capacity, training, and priorities. If you ask something of them they don’t know how to do, or that their current workload can’t accommodate, or something that conflicts with their current priorities, you’ll end up frustrated.

We’ve worked with many User managers who respond to this scenario by pulling harder (they yell, belittle their people, and get upset). This is the equivalent of pulling at the wrong angle and tearing the axle off the car. At best, your people lose respect for you. At worse, they rebel, quit, or sabotage success.

When you need to get your team going a different direction, start by examining the capacity, training, and priorities. What can you remove from their plate? What training can you get for them? How can you help re-prioritize and get them rolling in the new direction? Even a day or two spent in making these adjustments can help your team manage change and transform faster.

Mistake #3: Moving too Fast

When you tow a vehicle, you don’t want to slam on the accelerator. When the road is muddy and you accelerate too quickly, your tires will spin and dig into the mud. When the road is dry and you accelerate too fast, you’ll damage one vehicle or else snap the tow cable.

As a manager, you have a clear picture of where you’re going and what needs to happen to get there. It’s obvious to you. But what’s obvious to you won’t be obvious to your people without significant communication—particularly in times of crisis and change.

We’ve worked with countless frustrated managers who told their team about a change in procedure once, six months ago and are now angry that their team isn’t implementing the change. To pull gently and build momentum, you’ve got to frequently communicate what’s happening, why it’s happening, and the specific tasks each person is responsible for, and then check for understanding. At the end of the discussions, ask team members to share what they understand the expectations to be.

Slow down just a little, and help your people build momentum in the new direction.

Your Turn

The towing metaphor has its limits. In fact, the better connection you build with your team, the more you help them to self-manage and prioritize what matters most, the more rapidly your team can manage change and respond to sudden shifts.

We’ve been so impressed by the leadership and rapid changes we’ve seen many teams make in response to this crisis and we’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and share What is your #1 way to help your team manage change quickly and respond to rapidly shifting circumstances?

4 Ways to Stop Frustrating Misunderstandings

4 Ways to Stop Frustrating Misunderstandings

Frustrating misunderstandings aren’t inevitable.

I was sitting in the car outside our house, waiting for our son to join me on a trip to the grocery store.

After waiting for a while, I called his cell phone. “Are you coming?”

“Where are you?” he asked.

“In the car, waiting for you,” I said. “Where are YOU?”

“I’m at the desk,” he replied. “I thought we’re working on our creative writing project?”

We’d both been in the same conversation, but somehow, each of us had come away with two very different understandings of what was happening.

I thought we were going shopping. Our son thought we were working on a creative writing project.

How could we have interpreted the same words so differently?

What Causes Those Frustrating Misunderstandings

Communication is a funny thing. You’re never as clear as you think you are because several problems get in the way.

Your words make sense to you, but those words can mean something entirely different to another person. You each bring a lifetime of experiences and interpretations to every conversation. Those filters color our understanding – and cause a host of frustrating misunderstandings.

For example, take something as simple as “Let’s take out the trash.” Depending on your team’s experience and interpretation, they could hear:

  • I will take out the trash.
  • You will take out the trash.
  • We’re both going to take out the trash.
  • We’re showing that we’re all in this together.
  • We’re doing work that’s beneath us.
  • No work is beneath anyone.
  • We can’t afford a cleaning service.
  • We’re scrappy and efficient.
  • You don’t value the important work I could be doing instead of taking out the trash.
  • We’ll take the trash to the front door.
  • We’ll take the trash to the dumpster.

And that’s assuming they heard your words correctly. You can imagine how comedies would have someone hear “Let’s check out that rash.”

It turns out that when I said, “Let’s go shop” what our son heard was, “Let’s chop.” Which he interpreted to mean “chop-chop” as in, “Let’s get to it.” Since creative writing had been on his mind, he filtered the encouragement to action through the lens of what had his attention.

In organizations and teams, these kinds of misunderstandings aren’t so funny. They cause endless frustration, headaches, lost productivity, and aggravation.

Close the Loop

Effective leaders work hard to remove the chance of misunderstanding. You do this by the example you set, by understanding who you’re talking to, connecting what to why, and checking for understanding.

Your Example

It’s leadership 101—lead by example. But it’s more than a trust-building boost to your credibility. Your example clarifies your words and helps everyone understand exactly what you mean.

Understand Who You’re Talking To

Get to know your people and you can tailor your communication to reach mutual understanding quickly. For example, if you have a detail-minded person who takes things literally, understanding that will help you avoid theoretical language. They need to know what, specifically, needs to happen.

People are different. How can you give everyone the best chance of understanding and action?

Connect What to Why

In the absence of information, many people fill in their own stories—and they’re usually not pleasant. Nowhere does this happen more than in filling in the “why” behind what’s been asked.

Eg: Why are we taking out the trash? It must be – we’re broke, the boss doesn’t like our work, they don’t know what we do, they don’t know who I am, it’s a punishment.

Eliminate misunderstanding by clarifying the why behind what you ask.

Check for Understanding

There are two ways to check for understanding:  actions and emotions.

Check for Understanding #1:

The action-focused check for understanding ensures a mutually shared understanding of the activity. It looks like this:

“Let’s do a quick check for understanding—what are we doing after lunch?”  “Yes—we’re all taking out the trash.”  “And why are we taking it out?”  “No, it’s not because we’ve done anything wrong—it’s because we’ve got another group in here after us and it’s going to smell awful if we leave it in the trash—and that’s what we’d want them to do for us.”

Check for Understanding #2:

The emotion-focused check for understanding gives your team a chance to process what’s happening and surfaces any issues that might arise. It looks like this:

Leader: “Great meeting. I’m super excited about this strategy. Before we end, I’d like to ask, how is everyone feeling?”

Team member 1: “Well, I’m excited about it too, but I’m also worried about how we will do this considering our other priorities?”

Team member 2: “I’m feeling overwhelmed. These are wonderful ideas and I really want to do them, but I don’t know where to begin.”

Once you know these issues exist, you can help your team move through them, adjust expectations, or remove roadblocks.

Your Turn

In remote work settings, closing the loop and ensuring shared understanding is even more important when we don’t have the visual cues and reinforcement we’re used. As you implement long-term crisis-related health and safety plans, these four steps will help avoid frustrating misunderstandings and keep everyone healthy and safe.

We’d love to hear from you: What are some of your best techniques to ensure you and your team communicate clearly with one another?

build better direct report relationships

An Easy Way to Improve Your Relationships With Your Direct Reports

Even if you have an open door, and are constantly asking your direct reports how you can improve, chances are your employees are holding back.

Particularly if you’re generally a great boss, they figure “Why complain? It could be so much worse.”

Most employees we talk with have ideas for how their boss could be more supportive. And yet, when we ask them if they’ve had that conversation with their manager, most of the time the answer is “no.”

In fact, when Karin was teaching a leadership course in a top MBA program, she asked her students if they had ideas on how to improve the effectiveness of their relationship with their manager. As you can imagine, every hand in the room shot up with a lot of knowing chuckles.

And then when she asked how many of her students had shared at least one of those insights with their managers, only one student raised her hand.

If these fast-track (not shy) millennials, serious about their success, were holding back, it’s probably a good indicator that others are too.

And, if you’re like most managers we talk with, it goes the other way as well. You know your relationship with your direct reports could be better. Perhaps you’re not getting the support you need in a particular area. Or communication is breaking down in some way. Maybe you need more ideas or for them to challenge your thinking.

But it’s hard to carve out the time to have that conversation, so you settle for “good enough.”

An Easy Way to Open Up the Communication With Your Direct Reports

We use this tool with managers in some of our long-term leadership development programs to open up two-way communication between leaders and their direct reports. We thought it might be helpful for you too. If you give it a try, we’d love to hear how it goes. Drop us a line at info@letsgrowleaders.com.

Why the Tool Works

The tool is designed to reinforce the reciprocal nature of the manager-employee relationship.

It’s not just about what the manager is doing well or could do better, or what the direct report is doing well or could improve.

Both the manager and the employee rate the effectiveness of the relationship on the same dimensions.

The tool is designed to encourage both parties to take responsibility for co-creating the relationship and the results they produce.

How to Use The Tool

  1. Explain why you think this is an important exercise. It’s important that your direct reports feel safe and know that you are genuinely open to the dialogue. If the basic trust is not yet there, work on that first. This is an advanced communication tool that requires a foundation of trust.
  2. Ask your direct reports to complete the quick assessment with as much candor as possible before you meet.
  3. Complete the assessment yourself, based on your relationship with each direct report. (Note, it should be different for each person.)
  4. Schedule a one-on-one meeting with each of your direct reports to discuss and celebrate where your relationship is working well, and identify areas for improvement.
  5. Align on one or two specific actions you both agree to do to improve your relationship.
  6. Schedule the finish. Set up a time in the future (a month or so out is probably best) that you will meet to discuss progress.

You can download the pdf of this tool here.

improve your relationship with your direct reports

 

 

Leading through crisis and change

Leading Through Crisis and Change

 

Coronavirus has turned the world upside down. When you’re called on to lead your team through crisis and rapid change, focus on clear, concise, calm communication. In this episode, get a practical example and more ways you can lead your team through crisis and change.

5 Reasons Your Team Just Doesn't Get It

5 Reasons Your Team Just Doesn’t Get It

When your team just doesn’t get it, you’ve got a chance to level up.

It’s a lament we’ve heard from many leaders—usually accompanied by frustrated pacing or a discouraged slouch with their head in their hands: “I don’t know what else to do. My team just doesn’t get it.”

This is one of the most frustrating leadership experiences. You’re working hard, moving fast, and passionate about what you do, but your people seem clueless. They don’t focus on the MITs (Most Important Thing). They seem lackadaisical about the details that matter most, and they don’t seem worried at all about the strategic issues keeping you up at night.

5 Reasons Your Team Just Doesn’t Get It (and what to do about it)

1. They don’t know what you know.

You earned that insight, energy, and wisdom. You know what’s likely to happen because you’ve been there. But your people might not get it because they don’t have your experience or knowledge.

Have you ever tried to describe the taste of an orange to someone who’s never eaten one? It’s challenging. It’s so fundamental that you’ll use it as a baseline for other conversations: “It tastes like an orange, only more bitter.” But someone who’s never tasted an orange won’t get it. You’ve got to start with them tasting an orange and build from there.

If you want your people to be able to think as you do, give them the same information you used to decide. Connect what they do to the strategic reasons for their work. Help them understand how their decisions affect the customers, their team, and themselves.

2. You haven’t said it so they understand it.

We are professional communicators. We speak for a living—and yet, just this week, Karin said to David, “Can you finish one of those sentences? I’m not following you.”

Later that day, David looked at Karin and said, “I understand all the words you just said, but feel like I’m missing something important.” Communication isn’t always easy—even for professionals!

You probably don’t communicate as clearly as you think you do. In fact, we can almost guarantee it.

The words in your head make sense to you, but that doesn’t mean they’ll have the same meaning for another person—if they even hear all of them. Your message winds its way through an obstacle course of competing priorities, distractions, and the filters each person has in their head.

To guarantee that people hear and receive your most critical messages, use 5×5 communication (say it five times, five different ways) and check for understanding (ask people to share what they heard, using their own words).

When you use five different ways of communicating and consistently check for understanding, you will find the communication tools that work most effectively for your people.

3. You hired the wrong person.

There are also times where someone doesn’t get it because their values don’t align with yours or they lack the skills they need to perform well.  One of the most common places this happens is in demanding, stressful jobs. Desperate for bodies, recruiters undersell the challenges and what it takes to thrive in the role.

If you’re regularly hearing exit interviews like “It was way harder than I expected” or “This isn’t what I thought it would be” then it’s time to look at your hiring process.

When a role or culture is demanding, don’t shy away from it. We have both hired for teams that asked more from people than most people would want to give. Don’t hide it; lead with it. Eg: “This role isn’t for most people. It’s demanding and hard. And it will give you an opportunity to make a real difference to our customers, clients, and your career.”

Follow up with behavior-based interview questions that help you identify if your candidates have shown this character, capacity, and values they’ll need to succeed.

4. They get it—and wish you would too.

It’s quite possible that you’re the one who doesn’t get it.

Doug is a senior leader who was frustrated by his team’s performance. He’d done an incredible job training them in the methods and processes that he’d introduced and that had fueled his company’s success over the past twenty years.

The problem was that technology had changed. His customers, and the way they consumed his product, had changed. Doug had been a victim of his own success. His people understood their customer and half-heartedly met Doug’s expectations while trying to fulfill their customer’s expectations.

His team got it. But Doug had to relearn what success looked like and how to lead a team that wanted to succeed but needed to do it differently than Doug had.

5. You don’t ask for what you really want.

Another common cause when your team just doesn’t get it is that your measurements ask for something different from what you really want. People focus on getting a score and forget the game. Common examples include:

  • The target has changed recently, but you haven’t updated your 5×5 communication and measurement strategy. Everyone’s still working toward the old definition of success.
  • People hit their KPIs, but focus on them exclusively and ignore the strategy or experience that the numbers represent.
  • Too many measurements obscure what matters most. Eg: Your customer service checklist has 54 items and people can score well on the rubric without providing a great customer experience.
  • You had a hidden benchmark that you never shared. You likely took this measurement for granted, but then realized that people with different experiences or personalities needed to know it’s important.

The key to solving the measurement problem is to ask clearly for what you want. Help everyone focus on a few meaningful metrics that paint a complete picture of success. Connect those numbers to the strategy and the specific behaviors that make the numbers meaningful.

One way to know that your team gets it is frequently to check for understanding about what truly matters most. Eg “Why do we track these referrals—what does that represent? What should it mean when the numbers are good? What do we do that gets us the numbers we want to see?”

These questions are brief micro-engagements that continually reconnect your people to the strategy and behaviors behind the numbers.

Your Turn

It’s frustrating when your team just doesn’t get it, but it’s also a huge chance to get better and improve your leadership, processes, or communication. We’d love to hear from you: What have you learned when your team just doesn’t get it that made you a better leader?

Stop emailing when you should have a meeting

Stop Emailing When You Should Have a Meeting

Have a meeting for more bandwidth and speed.

Recently we were delivering a leadership development program when Annia, a senior leader in the firm, raised her hand and addressed the room: “I’ve noticed that many of us quickly send an email rather than picking up the phone or when we could have a meeting in person. I know I’ve done it too – you just want to get the issue off your list. Maybe I’m old-school here, but it seems to me that we can’t build relationships or solve problems as quickly by email.”

Some younger leaders in the room smiled sheepishly and admitted that they were very comfortable communicating by text, voice message, and email, but that they felt awkward on the phone. Others pointed out the efficiency or need for written communication. As they talked, Annia asked us for our insights about when to have a meeting or use other forms of communication.

The Communications Matrix

Your goal is to choose the form of communication that is most effective and efficient for the content you need to convey or discuss. The communications matrix can help you choose the format that will work best for your needs.

There are two variables to modern communication: time and location. People can communicate at the same time or at different times. Communication can happen at the same location or at different locations.

Let’s take a quick look at the different types of communication that happen based on time and location:

Same Time—Same Place: Traditional face-to-face meeting.

Same Time—Different Places: This includes phone calls and video conferences.

Different time—Different Places: Email, text messages, podcasts, group chats, and recorded videos.

Different time—Same Place:  Posters, signs, and kiosks.

leaders communication matrix

None of these forms of communication is always good or better than others. For example, it would be foolish to hold a meeting reminding everyone to remove their personal items from the refrigerator by Friday afternoon so it can be cleaned. A sign on the refrigerator door is adequate.

To choose the best form of communication, you’ve got to pay attention to content.

The Best Communication to Get the Job Done

When you’re deciding whether to have a meeting, make a call, or send an email—think about the emotions involved, what’s at stake, and the speed with which you need to act. Emotion, speed, and importance require bandwidth (the amount of information that given and received in an amount of time).

As you start in the upper right with posters and kiosks, those are very low-bandwidth forms of communication. It will take a while before everyone sees it (and some never will).

Move down to emails and text messages and the bandwidth increases. Everyone is likely to see the message and (if you’ve established team norms) and take action. Email is best for short amounts of information that don’t require discussion and have little emotion.

Now, move over to the lower left where phone calls and video conferences increase the bandwidth. You can pick up meaning and emotion text doesn’t allow and make decisions more rapidly.

Finally, as you move to the upper left quadrant with face-to-face meetings, you have the maximum bandwidth. The full spectrum of non-verbals, tone, inflection, and human connection allows you to decide more quickly, engage in higher-emotion conversations, and build relationships.

When to Have a Meeting

Effective leaders choose the best form of communication for their purpose. Like Annia recommended, when you want to build a relationship or talk about a difficult subject, use the highest bandwidth form of communication you can. Face-to-face if possible. If that’s not an option, then video chat, and then a phone call. For a quick meeting recap, background information, or question, email is often perfect.

Leaders who haven’t mastered the communication matrix send emails when they should have a meeting and call a meeting when an email would have sufficed. That wastes everyone’s time and frustrates your people.

Look at your content and purpose, then choose the lowest bandwidth form of communication that will get the job done.

Your Turn

Leave us a comment and share your best suggestion for when to have a meeting vs sending an email.

You might also like:

Three Simple Secrets to Remarkable Meetings

How to Take Charge of Your Remote Meeting

Meetings that Get Results and People Want to Attend (podcast)

Should You Have a Meeting or Send an Email (podcast)

 

 

Missing Leadership Skill to Get Results

The Missing Leadership Skill to Get Results

 

If your team ever says something like “We can talk about this, but nothing is going to change” (or worse, YOU feel that way), then this episode is for you. In this episode, David shares one critical skill to help you get results and make things happen. It’s not hard – and with this one small shift, you’ll gain credibility, energize your team, and achieve results you’d only talked about. 

10 stories great leaders tell interview with paul smith

10 Stories Great Leaders Tell – Interview with Paul Smith

 

One of the most effective leadership communication tools you’ll ever have is a powerful story. Join David and his guest, Paul Smith – an expert in leadership and business storytelling – for a powerful discussion of how to tell a good story, the stories great leaders tell, and where to find your stories. Paul reveals how you can use story to build a better connection with your team and translate your leadership philosophy and values in a way people will not forget. And yes, there are some fantastic stories!

Get Paul’s book: The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell

Get the Workbook companion to 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell

Connect with Paul at his website: LeadwithaStory.com

How to Lead When Your Team Resists Change

How to Lead When Your Team Resists Change

When Your Team Resists Change, It’s an Opportunity for Ownership

You’ve noticed a problem, spent the last four days meeting with finance, strategizing, and building an action plan. You’re energized about what your team will achieve, your boss and peers are on board, and it’s time to meet with your team to roll out the new process. You share the details, all the benefits, and next steps. But it feels like your team resists change.

Your enthusiasm is met with quiet reluctance. Then your team brings up three different operational challenges and two reasons your customers won’t like it. Why can’t they understand the benefit and just move forward?

4 Things to Do When Your Team Resists Change

The resistance to change frustrates many leaders, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, the resistance you feel often means there’s an opportunity to create buy-in and ownership that will help you build a courageous culture (download your free courageous cultures white paper here). Here’s how to do it:

1) Avoid Labels

It’s easy to label people who raise objections. But they’re not necessarily lazy, stuck, negative, or even “resistant” (despite the title of this article).

Rather, they’re normal and human. Resisting change actually makes a lot of sense. After all, if what you did yesterday worked–it got you through the day, alive, fed, and healthy—why spend energy to do something differently? That’s a waste of time—unless there’s a good reason.

2) Start with the Problem

If you’re like most leaders, when you see a problem, you move to solutions as quickly as you can. Then you go to your team with a solution. It’s natural, but when you do this, you deprive your team of the understanding and connection that helped you arrive at the answer you’ve brought them.

Without that same connection, of course they won’t feel the same way you do. One way to solve this challenge is to start the conversation with your team by identifying the problem.

Eg: “I was looking at the numbers and we’re seeing a steady decline in re-enrollment.”

Then pause, let the issue sink in. If you have a team of introverts, give them time to think about the issue.

3) Ask for Their Thoughts

Once you’ve shared the problem and given them a moment to reflect. Ask for their thoughts. This helps anchor the problem in their thinking. They explore the consequences and how it interacts with other issues.

Change always starts with desire or dissatisfaction. By introducing the problem and letting it sink in, you’re creating the same emotional connection that helped you move to action.

When your why is bigger than your won’t, you will.

4) Ask for Their Solutions

As the team discusses the issue, they are likely to start asking about solutions.

When someone says, “What do you think we should do?” Resist the urge to answer. Instead, continue to ask for their ideas. They may come up with ideas you haven’t considered—or they may arrive at the same solution you’ve thought through.

But now there’s a crucial difference: they own it.

And if they can’t come up with any reasonable solutions, your ideas now have a hungry audience.

At this point you can move into decision-making mode: establish what a successful solution will achieve, determine who will make the decision, discuss, decide, and act.

Final Thoughts

It may feel like this process takes extra time—and it does. It’s 15 or 30 minutes of time that prevents days, weeks, and even months of procrastination and foot-dragging. The team owns the problem and the solution. They’ve connected to the why and are ready for action.

This small investment of time overcomes some common reasons people resist change. A few notes:

1) If you suspect an individual is resisting because they will lose something (status, money, comfort) you will need to address that separately. Maybe there is a bigger “why” available that makes the trade-off worth it. Or, it may be an unavoidable consequence of a changing world. Don’t overlook these personal losses – they are real and if left unaddressed, make you look inhuman.

2) Sometimes you need to move quickly. The more you connect with your team and connect them to the why behind the change, the more buy-in you’ll have for the times you need to say “trust me and we’ll discuss it later.”

Your Turn

We’d love to hear from you – what’s your best practice to help teams navigate change?

How to help all your people contribute great ideas

How to Help All Your People Contribute Great Ideas

Don’t Let Assumptions Limit People Who Can Contribute Great Ideas

“I’m looking at my people and I just don’t think they can get there from here.” Vivian was a gung-ho CEO exploring what it would take to build a more Courageous Culture (click to download your free white paper). She loved the idea of eliminating FOSU (fear of speaking up) and encouraging more micro-innovation and problem-solving, but as she mentally inventoried her team, she was concerned that not everyone could contribute great ideas and engage energetically.

Problem-solving and innovation certainly come easier for some than others, but it’s easy to make assumptions and miss people’s energy and potential. There are quieter voices you can amplify and embryonic ideas to nurture. The key is to give them the leadership they need to become effective team members.

How to Help Everyone Contribute Their Great Ideas

As you learn how different people are wired and what energizes them, you can meet them where they are to draw greatness from them. Let’s look at several types of people that present a challenge for leaders who want to build courageous cultures.

Silent Wounded

They don’t trust you—and with good reason. It’s not that you’ve done anything wrong. It’s the three managers who came before you who abused their trust, told them they weren’t hired to think, stole their idea, and then took credit for it. Now you have the same title and, fairly or not, all the negative baggage that comes with it.

Your job is to rebuild their trust. This will take time, but once you’ve built that trust, these team members are often very loyal. Start small. Ask a courageous question and receive the answers graciously and with gratitude. Build up to deeper questions and focus on responding well. Celebrate people, generously give credit, then ask for more problem solving and ideas to better serve your customers.

Silent Ponderous

To draw out the great value silent ponderous people can contribute, start by giving them time to think. For some meetings, this means giving them the main topic a day or two in advance and asking them to think about it. In some settings having everyone write their ideas first will give them time to process.

Another strategy is to clarify that you’re not asking for a 100% accurate answer. When you ask them for their best thinking at the moment or a range of ideas, it gives them permission to explore, rather than commit to something they haven’t thought through yet.

Just Do What I Sayers or Let Me Do My Thingers

You may have team members who are certain of their direction and methods. They’re often successful and just want people to line up behind them and do what they’re told.

When you talk with people in this group, it can help to frame the conversation in terms of their goals. If they want to have more responsibility or more influence, those are easy opportunities to talk about the people-skills they need to practice and demonstrate.

If they want to improve their outcomes, they’ll need people and their ideas. Two points you can emphasize in these conversations are: 1) What success looks like in this organization—is everyone thinking and contributing? 2) You care about their career and want them to succeed–and that’s why you’re having this conversation.

Just Tell Me What to Doers

There are a couple of types of people who consistently just want to be told what to do. The first group is the silent wounded described above. They have a “You won’t fool me again” mantra. As with other silent wounded, take time to rebuild trust with small steps that prove you mean what you say.

The second group of people who want you to “Just tell me what to do” are doing what they know has made them successful in the past. Through much of school and in many organizations, you can get along quite well by just following instructions. The challenge for these people is the same as for organizations everywhere: the world is changing and computers are far more efficient at being told what to do.

First, have a discussion about the changing nature of work and what it will take for your business to thrive. Next, reframe what success looks like for their role. In effect, you are still answering their need to “be told what to do” but in a way that asks them to consider the opportunities and problems facing the organization. Finally, equip them with the ability to contribute great ideas.

Idea Grenadiers

Some people are idea-machines–their brain works overtime to see the possibilities in every situation. Nearly every team is better off with someone who can creatively look at what’s happening and see opportunities to improve or transform. The challenge comes when the idea-person tosses all their ideas in your lap, wants you to do them, but won’t do the work. These are the idea-grenadiers—tossing their ideas like grenades and then running the other direction.

When you’re working with someone like this, it helps to have a direct conversation that calls them back to what matters most and asks them to engage. For example:

“I’ve noticed that in the past month you come to me with four different ideas about how we should improve security, revamp the training program, change our workforce management, and reorganize product management. There is merit in your ideas—and we can’t pursue all of them right now. Which of them do you think would help achieve our #1 strategic priority? Is that a project you’d be willing to help with?”

Schmoozers

Most organizations have a schmoozer—everyone likes them and they talk a great game, but when it comes time to get things done, somehow, they never implement that plan that sounded so amazing when they presented it.

The challenge is that they undermine trust. Ideas they share lack credibility and they’re less likely to be entrusted with good ideas because they won’t implement them.

The best strategy with schmoozers is to ignore the charm and focus on the results. Healthy accountability conversations that help them raise their game will help restore their credibility. When you talk with them, be ready for an elegantly worded explanation for why they didn’t get it done. If it happens again, you need to escalate the conversation.

For example: “This is the third time we’ve had this conversation. Your credibility is at stake. What you said sounded wonderful, but if you can’t implement it, your team can’t rely on you and neither can I. What can we do to get this on track and completed?”

Oxygen Suckers

The final challenging type is the person who sucks all the air out of the room. They often talk so much, so loud, or so vehemently that others don’t contribute. Oxygen suckers can spark drama that derails a healthy conversation and wastes time on tangents. Oxygen suckers often lack self-awareness and don’t recognize how their behavior affects others. It’s up to you to facilitate in a way that allows everyone to contribute great ideas.

To help your oxygen suckers, start with a direct conversation. Privately explain that you will run meetings differently and that your goal is to make sure everyone takes part equitably. Be specific about how you’ll do this. For example: “In some cases, I will time people’s comments to ensure everyone has time to speak. I may ask you to speak after I’ve asked some quieter team members for their perspective.”

With these challenging types, your approach and the conversations give them a chance to take part. Some people will choose not to—and that’s okay.

If someone tells you they can’t perform at the needed level or they don’t want to adjust their style, thank them for their honesty, honor their choice, and help them with their exit strategy. Either way, you’ve energized your team to contribute great ideas and are on your way to a courageous culture.

Your turn. What’s your best strategy for encouraging your team members to contribute their best ideas?

Don’t Let Limited Perspective Destroy Your Team

Don’t Let Limited Perspective Destroy Your Team

Limited perspective traps leaders and drives apart teams.

Recently, I’ve watched an organization of passionate and caring people disintegrate. The limited perspective of leaders and team members has frustrated communication and problem-solving. They’ve devolved into camps of us vs. them. It can happen to any team if you don’t pay attention to how you see the world.

When the World Changes

I grew up in southwest Denver.

Late in the day, as the sun settled toward the mountains west of the city, I loved to see downtown Denver highlighted in the evening light. My favorite version of this view happened after a summer thunderstorm. The crenelated gray, black, and white skyline glowed with hope against the dark purple clouds that had taken their wrath out to the plains.

When I was twelve years old, my friend’s mother invited us to volunteer with her at a shelter for mothers who had escaped abusive relationships. We had to make solemn promises not to reveal the shelter’s location. It was easy for me to promise, because I had no idea where it was.

We drove to the shelter on a cold December morning. We rode in the back of a pickup truck, laying down as flat as we could to stay out of the bitter wind.

When we arrived, I sat up. And the world shifted.

My skyline, the familiar arrangement of glass and steel, had been put into a cloth bag, shaken, and poured out. This was not my downtown.

We were northeast of the city center, directly opposite of where I’d grown up.

The world swayed, but then I was struck by another thought: there were children who grew up in this neighborhood. These alien buildings that disturbed me were their familiar anchor.

I’ve relived that moment hundreds of times as my known world expands. There is always another point of view beyond my limited perspective. And as strange, unsettling, and foreign as it may seem—it is all the normal another person has ever known.

Leading Through Limited Perspective

Have you ever had your perspective shift like that? Has new information, a new experience, or a new person made you look at the world differently?

I hope so. Being able to see the world differently is a vital leadership skill.

Whether it’s the empathy to see how a new system feels to your customers or employees or the ability to ask “What if?” and view your opportunities in a different way, moving beyond your limited perspective will help you have more influence and think more strategically.

The leaders in the organization I mentioned have struggled with a changing world. Both groups deeply believe in the organization’s purpose and values. The challenge is that over time, people have started to interpret those values through a narrowing set of experiences.

As concerned team members raised issues, they were told “There is no problem”—because, seen through leaders’ limited perspective, there truly wasn’t a problem. The organization’s environment changed, but their leaders didn’t change with it – and now they’re bleeding talent.

When you lose your ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes, you get stuck being “right,” but you’re not effective.

How to Not Let Limited Perspective Trap You

None of us are immune to this trap. Staying connected to the people you lead and maintaining a flexible and curious worldview takes work. Here are a few ways to keep yourself from getting stuck.

Listen for their truth—when a team member shares a concern, search for their truth. Not the Truth, but their truth. How are they feeling? What are they seeing? They’re not making it up. What is there for you to learn or keep in mind?

Get curious—when something doesn’t make sense, resist the urge to discount it. Instead, create some space to ask questions. If nothing else, you can say, “Tell me more …” and see what insights emerge.

Focus on what’s right, not who’s right—my friend Bob Tipton wrote a great book on this topic. When you change your perspective from defining who is right or wrong to figuring out what will be healthy and helpful for everyone, you’re on your way to a bigger perspective and greater influence.

Practice being uncomfortable—new perspectives are unsettling. It is strange and troubling to discover that the way you’ve seen things wasn’t entirely accurate. But since that’s where the breakthroughs happen, it’s worth getting used to it. You can practice in small and fun ways. Try something new every week. Ask someone to explain a hobby or passion you don’t understand. Travel – even if it’s just to the next city. Go as far as your resources allow and let it change your perspective.

Ask “What’s next?”—Strategic leaders don’t just focus on the change that happened yesterday. They’re looking ahead at the change that’s coming and intentionally shifting their approach. What has changed and will change in your environment? For your people? For your customers or clients?

Share information  – This one helps you and your team. When your team’s perspective is limited, share more information. Give them the data they need to make more informed decisions. When you do, they are better able to craft solutions that weren’t available to you.

Your Turn

It’s easy to get trapped by a limited perspective that alienates you from your team, but you don’t have to let it happen. Leave a comment and share your best strategy to stay nimble and maintain a flexible perspective.