As leaders, we trust our instincts. We have experience. We’ve been successful. Our instincts are a big part of our success. But our intuition is sometimes off. When should you be counterintuitive instead? When you absolutely know you’re right, ask questions first. No one plays with a full deck. Instead of obsessing over weaknesses, build on strengths. Don’t dwell on shortcomings. You’ll get more productivity from motivating. Break a bad cycle. Under stress, we counterpunch. Unfortunately, we encourage bad behavior by engaging in it ourselves. Break the cycle. Do a reality check when you’re stuck. Overused skills become weaknesses. For example, decisive devolves to controlling; excessive fact-finding delays decisions. Don’t sacrifice the important for the urgent. Catch yourself when your instincts say “I don’t have time to take a Clarity Break, to complete my Rocks, to build relationships, to coach, to delegate…” Remember the objectives behind your checklists. It’s about being effective, not just efficient. Our instincts are powerful. Know how to ignore... read more

Just in Case

We all accumulate things. Many of them reflect what I call the “Just in Case” syndrome. I’ll keep these old files just in case I need them later. That pile of books to read “one day.” Implementing some new productivity software. Those things we wish we could get done, but somehow never do. You have your own examples. They’re usually “important” but not “urgent” (Steven Covey’s distinction in Seven Habits). We make lists, collect documents, and stack them on the corner of our desk. When the stack gets too big, we put it in a box. Then we add another box. Eventually we throw them all out. The reality is “Just in Case” never happens. So how do we stop the cycle? Have the discipline to say “no” to those things that are only “nice to do,” i.e., not important. Manage an iron-clad “Issues List,” which you consistently monitor, prioritize, and weed out. Schedule time for important but not urgent activities Often that appointment is just with yourself. The key is to treat it like any other important meeting – don’t blow it off. Have a disciplined approach to dealing with issues. In EOS, we call this IDS. I just threw away three boxes. It was painful for a second, then energizing. Try... read more

Simple Wins

Simple Wins We live in a complex world. As leaders, we’ve learned to live with chaos, ambiguity, and uncertainty. Our challenge is to reduce complexity, break down everything to its simplest form. In EOS, it’s one of the five attributes of leaders needed to break through ceilings. In her book, Why Simple Wins, Lisa Bodell offers practical approaches on driving simplicity. She also points out some uncomfortable tendencies many of us have. We resist the need to simplify, because it’s easier not to.More importantly, we have an emotional need to keep things complex. I think she’s right. In my experience, we hide behind complexity to protect ourselves. We “Reply All” just to be safe or to let everyone know we’ve responded. We attend unnecessary meetings to be sure we’re not left out. We form committees vs. taking ownership of a problem and simply making the decision. All of these things add unnecessary complexity. When we simplify things, our lives get easier. It’s good for our companies and good for... read more

Easy to Do. Easier Not To.

Last summer someone introduced me to a different time management system. It was straightforward and made a lot of sense. Months later, I haven’t done anything with it. “Easy to do. Easier not to.” So says Weldon Long. Most change has 3 components: vision, action and pain. In EOS, the vision is for a company to achieve 80% success in all Six Key Components. The action is the EOS Proven Process™ and tools. But what drives leaders to action is the pain. It’s always easier to NOT do anything. Like the frog in a pan of water, we tolerate pain until it’s too late. The key is to anticipate future consequences rather than simply tolerate current pain. Do you anticipate consequences and act now — or do you tolerate current pain and delay action? It’s always easier to do nothing, but hope is not a strategy. By the way, if you say you don’t know how to act now, EOS delivers the... read more

Don’t Take this Personally

Don’t Take This Personally Makes you want to cringe, right? Nothing could be further from the truth. Whatever follows that opening, you’re going to take it personally. No exceptions. That’s human nature. We are, after all, “persons.” A hallmark of EOS is clear, honest communication, especially between boss and subordinate. For many leaders and managers, that’s easier said than done. It’s also critical to a healthy relationship. Three suggestions to help: Never say, “Don’t take this personally.” It is personal, and it should be. Nothing is wrong with that. Simply be aware that it is. Annual reviews are painful for everyone, and research proves they’re not effective.Quit doing them. Have quarterly conversations about important topics instead. Expect to get feedback you don’t want to hear. If you want your subordinates to be open to feedback, you must be as well. This is also your opportunity to hear the secrets that you otherwise would not. There are two must-read books on this topic: How to be a Great Boss by Wickman and Boer. It’s a roadmap on how to be exactly that. Thanks for the Feedback by Stone and Heen. It’s “The science and art of receiving feedback well, even when it’s off-base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood.” Happy... read more

The Bottleneck is at the Top of the Bottle

Bottlenecks drive us crazy. They frustrate employees, antagonize customers, and erode profits. As leaders, we tend to blame weak communication, poor teamwork, inefficient production processes and a myriad of other parts of the organization. Best to remember that the bottleneck is at the top of the bottle (courtesy of fellow EOS Implementer Robin Osborn). Leadership teams are famous for delayed decisions, inconsistent decisions, and even no decisions, causing interruptions and delays in the departments under them. Worse than being bottlenecks, leadership teams also cause bottlenecks by not providing clarity, discipline and a healthy environment in the first place. Can your leadership team members say “yes” to three foundational questions in EOS? Are you: 100% on the same page about where the company is going and how it’s going to get there? Accountable to each other and disciplined in your execution of that vision? Working effectively as a healthy team? As the leadership team goes, so goes the rest of the company. Bottlenecks start at the top. The seeds are planted long before they take... read more

Sloppy Habits

Discipline in how we speak and write impacts our effectiveness. My friend and colleague Laura Walton shared a website with concise suggestions to minimize our ineffective habits. Here’s one example to whet your appetite: Omit redundant pairs: e.g., “final result,” “past history, and” basic fundamentals.” Check out the website for much more. Here’s one of my own: Eliminate the word “just.” It minimizes what you are saying (and therefore your own value) Rarely adds value Is often no more than a nervous habit. Compare the difference between these examples: “I’d just like half an hour of your time vs. “I’d like half an hour of your time.” “I’d just like to express my opinion” vs. “I’d like to express my opinion.” Discipline is a hallmark of EOS. When you’re disciplined about your communication, you’re a more effective... read more

They’re Your People Deep Down, You Really Know

In casual conversation at a reception last week, a CEO shared his relief when a senior manager announced he was leaving the company because his wife got a big promotion that involved moving to another State. Why relief? “Because deep down, we knew he wasn’t the right person for the company.”   What does that tell you? Very simply, they are avoiding difficult people decisions and thereby eroding the culture. In EOS®, we say Right People Right Seat™.  Every employee needs to embody the company’s core values and have the understanding, desire and capacity to do the job. Pure and simple. Unfortunately, not easy to do. Some of our biggest challenges come from employees who are Wrong Person Right Seat. He/she has the smarts, desire, and ability to do the job, but falls short on the values. Our first instinct is to say, “We can’t lose Susie; she’s the most productive engineer we have.” Or, “If Henry left, he’d take two of our biggest customers.” That may or may not be true. Regardless, those employees are making life miserable for other employees and sapping valuable energy from the company. So how do you know if you’re avoiding a tough decision? A simple question to ask yourself, “If this person left of his/her own volition, how would I feel?” Your answer will point you in the right direction very quickly. Once you know, then it’s a matter of being smart about finding the right path (timing, contingency plans, back-filling, etc.). The first step is the decision to start. My experience says the sooner, the... read more

Blame vs Accountability

Accountability is a basic tenet of EOS. It’s essential to clarify who is responsible for what, top to bottom. One of the challenges when creating a culture of accountability is to coach managers not to mistake blame for accountability. They are not the same. The easy response to sub-par performance is to find someone to blame. We find the culprit, deliver a scathing rebuke — often in the presence of others so they also know “we’re serious about results.” We congratulate ourselves for holding someone accountable. Unfortunately, the effect of blame is to create a “gotcha” culture driven by fear, conflict avoidance, and withholding new ideas. Innovation disappears because people are afraid to speak up. Here’s the secret: shift from a blame frame to simple inquiry about what happened. Focus only on the core issue at hand —  use the IDS process (Identify, Discuss and Solve). Dig deep to uncover the real issue(s). Discuss what went wrong, and determine the best action(s) to move forward. Remember, it’s not about whose fault it is. It’s about fixing the problem. You need the engagement of the people who made the mistakes in order to identify and fix what actually went wrong. True accountability is straightforward, energizing, and keeps the focus on a better future, not a shameful... read more

Nothing But the Truth

Fellow EOS Implementer Dan Wallace recently shared a quote from a speech by Suzy Welch: “Tell the truth. IN the meeting. Not in the meeting BEFORE the meeting. Or in the meeting AFTER the meeting. IN the meeting.” Imagine the impact on your team if you were at a point in your development where this was a reality, when everyone around the table were open and honest. Think of just the time alone you’d save, not to mention the positive impact on conflict resolution, problem solving, personnel decisions, and the granddaddy of them all: trust. Open and honest. It’s a goal with far reaching... read more

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