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Build a Winning Leadership Team

One of the most important things an Entrepreneur or CEO can do is build a strong leadership team.  Even in solo sports, such as professional mountain biking or golf, there are people who help with strategy, skill development, strength training, and the list goes on. No top athlete, Entrepreneur, or CEO can reach peak performance without a winning team.

 

5 Steps to Develop Your Team
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Whether you are putting together your first leadership team or pushing an existing one to a higher level of performance, there are five aspects to get right. If you are going to have a team, ensure it is the BEST team possible.

  1. Decide how many will be on the team. Five plus or minus two is the magic number. Drop below, and you lose the benefit of collective intelligence. Go above, and you lose the ability to ask the really hard questions and really dive deep into strategy.
  2. Commit to a Team #1 mindset. This is hyper-critical for peak company performance. Team #1 means that, for whomever is on the team, the health and well being of the leadership team takes priority over the divisions or teams that the members support. Said another way, Team #1 must be committed to the Full Company Objectives and not just the objectives for their divisions.
  3. Create a Team #1 playbook. Hopefully your company has Core Values and a Core Purpose in place to drive healthy growth. Team #1 needs its own set of rules, agreements, and aspirational values to guide them through People, Strategy, and Execution discussions. Team #1 is still accountable for the full company Core Values, but to hit peak performance or reach a higher level, aspiration to achieve more is required.
  4. Behave your way to Trust. This starts with the CEO. The company leader must be vulnerable, admit to mistakes, and share fears so others can see vulnerability in action. Once the team learns to be vulnerable as well, their guards will come down and real work can get done. This accelerates the team’s ability to separate themselves from what is good for them personally versus what is best for the team and the company. A good rule of thumb is ensuring one quarter to one half of meeting agenda is committed to building team health.
  5. Set the cadence. Establish an annual calendar of Team #1 meetings. These are usually separate from Annual and Quarterly Planning sessions. Annual and Quarterly sessions are focused on Strategy and Execution while Team #1 meetings are focused on organizational health and full company alignment.

 

You have heard it before and you’ll hear it again. The best players don’t win, it’s the best team that wins. Leverage the power of the Team #1 concept and Crush the Competition!

 

 

(Image: Luigi Mengato / flickr)

Your Team Craves Accountability

Your Team Craves Accountability

 

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Accountability is a very interesting topic. When engaged by the CEO, one of the top wish list items for the company to accomplish is the issue of No Accountability. My response to this is, “I bet within one week, your team will be asking for Accountability and they will resort to their own measures.” I usually get a funny look as the CEO nods yes, but in reality they are saying inside their heads: “That is impossible”… “Not my team.” Why is there this disconnect regarding Accountability between the CEO and the rest of the company?

When launching a new client, one of the first things we do is what we call ‘Innerviews.’ We Innerview select employees from the senior team, key players in the company, and anyone in particular that the CEO would like included. These Innerviews allow for the company to be seen through the employees’ lens. We are not simply interviewing the employee, but rather engaging with them on a peer-to-peer level and asking a few simple, yet powerful, questions. These Innerview questions include:

  1. Why did you start working here? Why are you still here?
  2. What frustrates you the most? Drives you crazy? Repetitive things?
  3. How would you rate teamwork from 1 (bad) to 10 (awesome)?
  4. How would you rate the morale/spirit of the company 1 to 10?
  5. How would you rate communication from 1 to 10?
  6. How would you rate leadership from 1 to 10? This is really a self-rating.

NOTE: Whatever the rating is above, I always ask what it would take to get it closer to a 10. This is where the REAL content I’m looking for comes from. Rather than complaining about teamwork, what would actually improve it?

The BIG Innerview questions are:

  1. If you were CEO for 90 days, what three things would you do?
  2. What are the ‘undiscussables?’ What is below the waterline that everyone knows about, but is not safe to talk about?

Notice the one question I did not ask is about Accountability. Accountability is the ‘red thread’ that links everything together during the Innerview. What tends to frustrate team members the most is the lack of Accountability and follow through by other team members. They can’t do their job right because other people are not doing their job right or following through on commitments. Basically, your employees are as frustrated as you are.

How can the issue of Accountability be resolved? You can start by including your team during your strategic and execution planning. Let them help finalize company goals and priorities vs just assigning them out. Let them work through the steps and tasks to make them happen. Let them decide who is accountable for each step. Give your team a chance to volunteer to own the company Race Plan by determining goals, priorities, and tasks… They will.

 

(Image: Unsplash / Pixabay)

Owning Errors Makes You Faster

Owning Errors Makes You Faster

A lot of things can happen in a two-hour mountain bike race. Sometimes it feels like the competition AND the trail are both conspiring against you to keep you off the front. These are the days when you don’t get the result you want, you were not there to help a teammate pull through a tough section, or possibly you disappointed a sponsor.

It’s so easy to blame someone else for your own non-performance. “The person next to me slipped a pedal at the start and hit me.” “I was cut off going into the woods.” “My water bottle was not where it was supposed to be.” And the list goes on…

This happens in business, too, of course. And the REAL problem with this thinking is that nothing is learned when you blame others for your own poor result. This fundamental truth needs to be firmly integrated into everyday life of the business. It’s OK to mess up a call, make an accounting error once in a while. It’s not OK not to own it.

Creating an atmosphere in our business that is focused on learning, really out-learning the competition, is a BreakAway Move – a strategy that enables you to separate from the competition.

How to out-learn the competition

Here are some ways to create more learning opportunities in your business:

  1. Make an award out of it. Give out an award weekly to the person who make the biggest mistake and learned from it. Make sure to share that learning with the full team so they can avoid the same mistake.
  1. Make sure the leadership sets the example of how to acknowledge a mistake and what they learned. Employees need to feel safe in sharing information.
  1. Create an environment where one can share a mistake without being publicly reprimanded.
  1. Practice on yourself! Are you quick to blame others first?
  1. Become hyper-aware of people who have a pattern of blaming others for things not working right. Offer to help them discover the root cause and create a solution.

There is a saying in the mountain bike racing world and other competitive sports as well. You learn more in races where you lose vs. the races where you win. Over time, the racer who learns the most begins to win the most consistently.

(Image: Grace / Flickr)

Stop Reviewing Your Employees

Stop Reviewing Your Employees

employees-936804_1280Performance reviews suck for so many reasons. Entrepreneurs avoid them, because there are way too many other things to do. Managers rarely do them right, and if they do, they don’t prepare properly. Employees hate them because they usually are tied to negative things and money. They usually happen only once a year … if they happen.

Yet, if performed correctly, they are one of the most powerful things a company can do. I speak from experience, having won “Best Places to Work” awards more than 20 times at companies I have founded or coached.

What you need to do instead of a review:

Rather than a typical review, what’s really needed is a formal Alignment Meeting. The overarching purpose is for the manager and employee to walk away with complete clarity and actions that drive the job role: the accountabilities, the goal numbers, etc. Reviewing all the company’s Core Values is a powerful method to make sure the employee is doing the work the right way from a behavioral perspective. For example, do you have a sales superstar who drives your customer service team to tears? This is a great way to address the issue in a collaborative and non-threatening way.

Also missing from most reviews is spending some time discussing the Core Processes and Activities that drive the job function – the ones that have the most impact. Ask what is the most important thing to do and is it on the calendar weekly as a priority item? What processes support the core activities? And what things create busyness but do not really drive results? Simple process with powerful outcomes.

Here are 8 tips to pull off a powerful Alignment Meeting:

  1. Be prepared. Treat this as the number one thing you’ll do as a manager. This is your A-Race. Set an example of preparedness. This is how your employees will do their Alignment Meetings with their employees down the line.
  1. Create a great experience with your employee. This is not a beat-down session. It’s about getting alignment around what is important and agreement on what can be worked on in the next 90 days.
  1. Use the word Together. Work on action plans Together. You’ll be surprised at how many times you’ll walk away from leading an Alignment Meeting with stuff to work on and improve on as well.
  1. Create a safe environment for candor. Not making this a review tied to money is the trick to this.
  1. Tell them why this is important. I’ll say something like, “I care about you and your health and happiness, I care about our relationship and our willingness to work Together, and I care about doing the right things to move our company forward. This conversation is about these three things.”
  1. Pick 2-3 things to work on each 90 days. Look for themes or “red threads” throughout the conversation. Don’t nitpick each line item. Ask what can we work on that would drive the most improvement … create the biggest impact?
  1. Be vulnerable as the manager. This will help you get to the real issues your employee is dealing with at work. You can’t help fix what you don’t know about. Put your ego aside.
  1. Have fun! You both should walk out totally energized! Don’t be surprised if you get an unexpected hug, handshake or even some happy tears.

Never do another review. Stop, please!!! Instead, start Alignment Meetings now!

(Image: Marlon Malabanan / Flickr)

The Most Powerful Word: TOGETHER

The Most Powerful Word: TOGETHER

By Robert Fish

“The Best Team Wins.” It’s a common mantra everyone believes — for good reasons. Whether in business or in sports, the organization with the best team, and not necessarily the best players, wins the most.4431896656_56d2908af7_z

But in business today, what does TEAM really mean? In our roles, how do we really work together? Side by side, virtually, not at all? The answer is … the traditional definition of team and how we work may not be what you think.

In “Managers Can Motivate Employees with One Word,” an article published by the Harvard Business Review, author Heidi Grant Halvorson explored the concepts of teams in the workplace. It’s really the FEELING of working together that has been shown to predict motivation — and the highly coveted employee engagement that brings high performance and results.

Research by Priyanka Carr and Greg Walton of Stanford University has proven that when people FEEL LIKE they are working together on a task, (even when in fact they may not be) they worked 48% longer, solved more problems correctly, and had better recall for what they had seen. They also had more energy after the task. … More fuel left over for other things.

Together It Is

Simply saying the word “TOGETHER” could be the new most powerful word a company leader or team leader can say to create a high-performance work environment. More than team, this one powerful word instantly reminds employees that they are connected, not alone and disconnected.

I’ve put this concept into action. As a coach, I have changed my vocabulary on this. I used to say, “Team, let’s work on the annual goals.” Now I say, “Let’s work on creating our annual goals TOGETHER.”

How can you use this powerful social cue to the brain? Take a moment and envision when and where you can integrate this into your daily habits.

(Image: YassIn Hasan / Flickr)

Be A Surgeon

Be A Surgeon

By Robert Fish

I was in a planning session with an Insight CXO member and friend, Jonathan Ross, two years ago, and we were talking about organizational development and getting the mindset right around key roles in his business.

One of my favorite things about Jonathan is his ability to create great analogies. He said to be most effective in your business, you have to Be a Surgeon.

This is an especially important concept for entrepreneurs to get their heads around when thinking about in their own roles inside the business, especially if they are founders or co-founders of their firm.

Be a Surgeon means imagining yourself as a Brain Surgeon, and it’s surgery day. Think about the end-to-end process and all that happens in the Operating Room:surgery-590536_960_720

  • The O.R. is prepped with the right tools and implements.
  • The patient is wheeled in and is prepped by nurses.
  • The anesthesiologist administers the drugs and intubates the patient.
  • The surgeon washes her hands, and nurses put on her gloves and prep her for the surgery.
  • The surgeon performs the surgery (successfully!) and exits the room.
  • Staff cleans up the room and prepares for the next patient.

If you are an Entrepreneur and have an active role in the business, you must Be a Surgeon! Leverage your staff to handle the things that do not fit within your Unique Ability, or the things that are not High Impact and give you Energy. Create systems and processes and roles to handle the rest. This will also give you more time to work ON the business and not IN it, creating more opportunities for you to grow your business.

This concept can be applied across your staff, and especially among your leadership team. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and to run a business most effectively, you need to leverage each individual’s strengths and help them avoid their weaknesses. Just as you wouldn’t want a nurse doing your brain surgery (or vice versa, really), you don’t want your A-player CFO running warehouse logistics (or your A-player logistics guru handling the financials).

In a less-extreme example, maybe your marketing head is a creative genius, but isn’t so great at providing documentation to accounting; maybe there’s someone on her staff who can keep track of all those details so nothing slips through the cracks. Being a Surgeon means the whole team is playing to their strengths — and avoiding things that increase the risk of inefficiency, errors and dissatisfaction.

If you’re serious about growing your business, Be A Surgeon — and make sure everyone on your team is positioned to do the same.

(Image: Skeeze / Pixabay)

Win With A Coach

Win With A Coach

By Robert Fish and Jeanne Clary

board-784363_1280When I talk to someone about Insight CXO and Gazelles, they often want to know what makes us better than the many other business growth coaches and methodologies out there. Even if they are familiar with Verne Harnish’s books, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up, or the Rockefeller Habits in general, they’re curious about why I, as a successful serial entrepreneur, have fully bought in to the Gazelles approach to growing a business — and why it works.

About a year ago, the owners of Kernersville, N.C., based EFI hired me to help them grow their business. Sometimes when a business owner brings me on as a business coach, the employees get anxious to know what that means for their jobs. Change is tough and the fear of unknown change can be even harder.

That’s one reason why I think the referral letter below from EFI employee Jeanne Clary is so powerful. She didn’t choose me or Insight CXO to come into her office and change their business, and she recognizes that the work to change isn’t easy — but it’s totally worthwhile. Please read what she has to say (below the picture of EFI’s team), and please let me know if you have any comments or questions.

— Robert

We contacted Gazelles and were introduced to Robert as one of their “best.” They provided us a couple of names to contact and interview. We started with Robert, as he was in N.C. He came to our office just about a year ago and spent a few hours with our team, and the rest is history, we never felt the need to interview anyone else. He is now a part of the family. It took us, EFI, several months to get our ducks in a row, prayerfully decide that we were truly ready to make changes, and then clear our calendars, as it would require a lifestyle change for our entire team.

On January 9, 2015, we met with Robert off campus for our very first planning team meeting. To say this was easy would be a fallacy. This meeting was hard, as we truly had to look at ourselves and say “wow, we don’t have real focus and direction, we are not on the same page, nor have we really defined who we are and where do we want to go.” OUCH! Do not get me wrong, Robert did not crack a whip, he just helped open our eyes. The meeting itself was educational, team building and fun, but with a big dose of reality too.

Since those initial meetings, we have meet daily as a team, monthly with Robert, have learned the Gazelle “lingo” (Rocks and BHAG were not part of our daily vocabulary), drawn a clear picture that the entire team looks at and sees the same thing, met opposition and worked through, launched a corporate-wide core values program, hired a quality manager (in less than three months reduced our scrap rate by 25+%), improved productivity and employee involvement considerably … the list goes on.

To say, “this is all a result of “Robert,” you would probably say “that seems like a far stretch,” and I would have to agree with you. BUT it IS a result of Robert coming alongside us, our talents, our values, our experience, etc., and guiding us, encouraging us, holding us accountable, reprimanding us (in his very gentle way when necessary), and being available to talk us through situations, push us back on track when necessary, etc., that we can truly say that is the value we have experienced through hiring Robert as a coach.

EFI is moving on the right path, we are growing with direction and focus, we are changing our lifestyle and way of doing business. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Robert as we continue to grow and take the next steps in increasing the value of our growing company through the Gazelle teachings.

— Jeanne Clary, EFI

How To Stabilize Your Executive Team’s Ship

How To Stabilize Your Executive Team’s Ship

By Robert Fish

Recently, Gazelles founder Verne Harnish highlighted a Fortune magazine article on the CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky. When the author, Leigh Gallagher, asked the CEO about his leadership style, Chesky drew a ship. “As CEO I’m the captain of the ship,” he said, and his primary job is to look for things below the waterline that might sink the ship. Above the waterline, he focuses on two or three things that he’s really passionate about and feels that “they can truly transform the company if they go well.”regatta

Most companies don’t maximize growth due to internal problems – the below-the-waterline issues that are hard to see. I help my clients focus on one Internal risk and one External risk, and the most common thing I see is a dysfunctional Team #1. So, I think the No. 1 concern for a CEO should be the Health of Team #1.

Team #1 is the executive team. As humans, we are all imperfect. We can all communicate poorly, be passive-aggressive, seem agreeable on the outside but non-committal on the inside … and even just a little weird at times. So by default, all teams are dysfunctional. It’s really a question of how dysfunctional.

As Team #1 goes, so goes the rest of the company. If Team #1 can’t synchronize and work together cross-functionally, the teams below them will not work well, either. Is sales not working well with IT at the functional level? Trace it back to leadership.

I think that continuously working to make Team #1 healthier is a sustainable competitive advantage. Is your competition looking below the waterline like you are? Are their teams (especially Team #1) as healthy as yours? Are they working together cross-functionally and getting tons of stuff done drama-free?

How to Get Team #1 Sailing Together 

Here is a starting point to get Team #1 sailing together.

First, have your team read The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. After reading the leadership fable, ask your team if they can identify with any of the characters in the book.

Then do a Team Effectiveness Exercise. Gather your executive team around the table and have each person share two things that the CEO does that ADD to the effectiveness of the team. The CEO can ask clarifying questions, but should otherwise not respond. After all team members have spoken, the CEO can share insights into what he or she heard and learned.

Then, repeat this process for each team member. At the end of this part of the exercise, each member of the executive team will have shared two things each team member does that make the team more effective.

Next, go around the table, again starting with the CEO, and have each person share two behaviors that DETRACT from the team. Personal attacks are off-limits, and the moderator must be watching for potential attacks against a person versus talking about the behavior.

After everyone has shared two ADDITIONS and DETRACTORS for each person, have each person identify and share ONE THING they are going to commit to improving over the next 90 days to increase team health. Write the commitments down, and in 90 days, ask the team how each team member is doing. This drives accountability and action.

Sound scary? For some it is. Don’t cave. You’ll be surprised how many behavioral epiphanies people have. It’s hard to fix what you don’t know about.

A Success Story

A great example of this method in action is an accounting manager at a fast-growing Insight CXO client. She was new to the company and still getting acclimated when we went through this exercise. The Addition feedback was that she was highly trusted and the books were in great hands. This surprised and pleased her – she had put tons of pressure on herself and thought she was not doing a good enough job. But a Detractor theme was that she was not approachable. People were not comfortable walking into her office. This mortified her – she had no idea this was what people thought, and she committed to being more open and inviting. It was a very easy change once she knew what people were thinking.

The below the waterline example here shows an A-player who thought she was performing at a C-level, so she was unintentionally behaving in a way that limited communication.

Remember, the best team wins. Commit and take action to build a healthy Team #1 and unlock your company’s growth potential.

Image: William Cho 

Real Leaders Find A Way

Real Leaders Find A Way

By Robert Fish

Getting Core Values right in a business is the #1 way to build a strong and enduring Culture and is the foundation upon which an enterprise is built. Having a list of cool Core Values on a website – and really integrating them into the daily life of the organization based on intentional actions – are two different things.

EFI, an Insight CXO member with 80+ employees, finally nailed their Core Values and actions plans this week during their Q3 Quarterly Planning Session. We started the process in January, and I thought it would be helpful to share what a process can look like in reality. Month 5 is where this gets powerful.

Month 1 – Learn what a Core Value is and use sticky notes to generate a list of potential values.14485059353_8d009d4eb3_z

Month 2 – Review the list and test it against the following questions.

  • Are the Core Values alive in the company today?
  • Would you fire an offender for repeated violations?
  • Would you take an economic hit to defend them?

Some values are great attributes, but don’t make the Core Values cut.

Month 3 – Finalize the 3-5 final Core Values. We know the right values are identified, but the wording is not perfect.

Month 4 – Get the wording right for the Core Values, and get clarity on the specific behaviors and actions that support or violate each one. Begin thinking about how the values will be integrated into the company.

Month 5 – Roadblock!!! EFI’s planning team was supposed to start implementing the Core Values, but even though the values LOOKED right, they did not FEEL right to the team. The team was concerned the employees would not embrace the values and might even reject them. This is a common FEAR in rolling out Core Values that nobody talks about.

Here’s where EFI knocked it out of the park. Admittedly, the team was a bit discouraged, so they really dug and – with great focus – re-worded the values. They did not change the values, just the labels. Here’s what they came up with:

MAKE A DIFFERENCE – This is their overarching, one-phrase Core Value.

Respect every Individual

Lead with Humility

Focus on the Improvement Process

Assure Quality at the Source

Winning Attitude

To help everyone remember, they turned the first letter of the Core Values into this mnemonic: Real Leaders Find A Way.

Month 6 – Create a list and an action plan to integrate the Core Values into the company with real excitement. I will report back in a follow-up blog post on the cool and innovative ways they implement the Core Values.

EFI’s Core Purpose is To Inspire Through Innovation … I can’t wait to see what they do next!

My “One Word Close” at the end of our Q3 Quarterly meeting was GRATEFUL. I’m grateful to be EFI’s coach and get to witness a team who really cares about their employees and was unwilling to move forward with Core Values that did not 100% meet their standards.

Sometimes as a coach I learn more from my members than they learn from me. And I’m very grateful for that.

Image: Flickr

Stop Gambling On Hiring Decisions

Stop Gambling On Hiring Decisions

By Katie Smoot

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Hiring the right person can seem like one of the most risky things you do. On the most basic level, you’re looking for someone who has the skills for the job, but – especially in a growing company – that person must be motivated, share your Core Values and work well with the other members of your team.

When you hire someone, you’re making a financial, organizational and emotional investment in them and your business. And when you take the risk to invest in a person, you need the best possible likelihood of that investment paying off for your company.

Although building a team of A-players is one of the most important things you do for your business, the typical interview process isn’t the best way to determine whether the person who looks great on paper and shines in a face-to-face will pay off. This is why Behavioral Assessments are an important part of top Talent Management and Organizational Development programs.

Behavioral Assessments allow us to look deeper into what criteria will make a role successful, and which candidates have the highest likelihood of filling that role well. The assessments look at three key areas of a person:

  • their behavior,
  • their motivators and
  • the core skills/competencies they can bring to the job.

Add Power To Your HR Program

Here’s how this can add power to your human resources program. In a typical job interview, you get just one or two hours to get to know someone. By adding Behavioral Assessments, you get an inside view of the whole person. It may also make that 1-2 hour interview even more meaningful, because you can ask questions that will better help determine whether the person is the right fit, particularly whether his or her personality and internal drive is the right fit for the role and your organization.

Behavioral Assessments are also a valuable tool to help current employees thrive in your company. They can help show where a person has opportunity for growth within the position, as well as whether changes can be made to better adapt to their behavioral style and make them better performers.

The information we can gather from Behavioral Assessments can be used in many ways, including increasing personal awareness, determining fit in a role, building development/coaching plans, defining what is needed for a particular role, and identifying the right candidate – someone who will fit the needs of the role and be happy in it over the long term.

Benefits of Behavioral Assessments

Some of the ways Behavioral Assessments can change how you look at hiring and performance planning include:

  • You will be more equipped to make informed decisions that will be best for the company and the candidate.
  • You’ll be able to more easily weed out ineffective candidates.
  • You’ll be better able to find the right person who can hit the road running and be more effective faster.
  • You’ll help your employees understand what is expected of them and enable them to perform at a higher level.
  • You’ll be able to target performance incentives on the things that most motivate individual members of your team.

Behavioral Assessments are an extremely valuable part of your overall Talent Management and Organizational Development strategy. Whether you’re looking at hiring or staff development, consider whether adding Behavioral Assessments might be a Breakaway Move that makes your staff happier, more effective and more valuable to your business.

(Image: Betsy Weber, modified with permission under Creative Commons 4.0)


Katie Smoot joined Insight CXO in 2014 and currently serves as People & Process Consultant, where she guides Insight CXO clients on developing processes and talent to support growth.

Her career in process development began in 2001 when she joined Bank of America, when the bank was introducing the Six Sigma methodology across the organization. This allowed her to be one of the first associates to go through Six Sigma training and become certified as Green Belt and DFSS Black Belt. She also served as a Business Operations Manager for the technology line of business; Senior Vice President in charge of business operations for Global Commercial and Investment banking technology; and lead for one of the bank’s 13 Strategic Risk Initiatives handed down from the Federal Reserve.

Katie holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Communications from Clemson University. She is certified as a Six Sigma Black Belt and Project Manager. In her spare time, she partners with Greater Charlotte SPCA’s dog and cat fostering programs and helps support and build out their administrative routines. She is married and has two children, 11 and 8, who are her passion.