Creating a high-performing culture requires quality leadership. Our businesses and cultures reflect us. What does your culture say about who you are and what you are?
Below are a few items that typically come up in our coaching conversations with business owners on improving their culture, leadership, or the leadership of their leaders.
Can people change?
The quality of our questions determines the quality of our answers. Ask better questions, and we get better answers.
Asking a question in a way that leads us to define the problem in terms of solving it is key to success. We must remember that change is automatic; progress is not. Our ways and emotions often change from one feeling to another. For example, Congress may pass a tax law that regulates a change, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is getting any better or less complex.
A way to shift this question into solvable terms is to ask, can people learn and grow? The answer to that is yes. The question then becomes, what is needed to learn and grow? How can we support growth in traits and skills? What is the best way to approach feedback with them?
Whether they choose to learn and grow is a distinct question. What matters is if they are committed to their growth and learning and have the hunger to do so. Then, the possibility for new traits and skills can exist from commitment and coaching.
What are some ways I can support their growth, learning, and development?
One of the best ways to help people learn and grow is specific praise, feedback, and coaching. In areas where people are weak, they will believe “they are not good at it.” Providing positive feedback after catching them doing it right or improving is key. One of my mentors always said, “Never miss the chance to give someone a compliment.” Simple feedback of “you’re good at this” can help them shift their identity and beliefs from it being a weakness of theirs into a strength.
We must never forget when people are learning that we want to reward approximate behavior at first. When we are helping our children grow and become potty trained, for example, we get excited even if they are heading to the bathroom but don’t get all the way there. While this may be a silly example, it is important to remember this when helping the members of our team grow. In time with praise, instead of criticism, we can grow into the skills and who we desire to be.
The following exercise is a powerful place to start.
For the next week or month, I challenge you to do nothing but provide positive praise to your team or an individual you have struggled with. Stephen Covey talks about our emotional bank account of rapport. This builds the relationship and trust as it provides the most important thing to growth: specific acknowledgment. For example, do not say “great job with the meeting.” Instead, state, “I love how you projected your voice, made eye contact with the group, and your presentation well laid out and easy to follow.” Consistent praise or recognition over time allows them to build on their successes.
People are like plants; they need light and nourishment. By praising them on specific aspects of their work, they can identify their strengths and work to elevate other areas to achieve the desired results.
Values and Standards: Doing Your Part
In your feedback and coaching conversations, it is important to instill the importance of people doing their part and showing up for each other. For example, if two people are having a challenge, often it takes two to tango, or there is a reason the communication is stressed on both sides. Rarely is trust broken on one side. This doesn’t mean the breaking of trust was done intentionally, but we all at times unintentionally impact others in ways that are less than desirable. Both team members need to own their communication, behavior, and performance. While at times, the challenge is with a difficult employee, both parties need to see their role in the communication and how they can contribute to what happened. Both have a responsibility to learn, grow and forgive when needed. The conversation needs to be about what we can do and stay focused on within ourselves. Blaming others, throwing off anchors to prevent progress from moving forward, digging up fossils, reliving past disagreements, and dropping the ball can only cause problems. A great question to ask yourself is, “What could I have done differently, instead of, or better?” When all team members can come from this place, it allows each team member to own their behavior and take responsibility for their role.
This concept is key because it helps avoid the trap of triangulation, keeps you out the middle of it, and keeps everyone focused on themselves and what they can control; instead of blaming someone else or focusing on what they cannot control.
How do I successfully take someone that is great in a technical role and develop them into a leader?
In building a great team, I am often asked, can you take someone who is good at a technical or sales role, for example, and make them a good manager or leader? To grow from a technical role to a manager/leader role, one of the most important factors above all else is the ability of the person to go from a “by me” mindset to a “through me” mindset. What is that?
By me: By me is when you believe you must do everything yourself. With your own time, energy, emotion, and labor. You believe no one can do it better than you, and you must do it directly and have complete control. For example, if you are a golfer, you swing the club. You can control your swing.
Through me: Through me is when you no longer can directly do it yourself; you must now accomplish it through others. You must learn how to coach, lead, delegate, give feedback and inspire others. So here you are, the coach, you are not the one swinging, and you have no control over their swing.
This is different in terms of skill set and psychology. We must learn to accept responsibility for the team, whether it was you or not. We must give up control and trade it in for influence. But the buck stops with you still. This shift in thinking, behavior, and focus is not a shift all eventually make. Insight into this question is one of the most important factors in making that transition successful or not.