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

Open and Honest

This is a mantra of EOS. At every session we encourage team members to be open and honest with each other. As implementers, we continually share best practices about helping the team do that. There are two sides to the coin. The first is communicating outwardly. Giving feedback in the moment. Delivering bad news sooner than later. Not mincing words. Having the courage to confront. And the old classic “constructive feedback.” You see this everywhere in management books. The other side of the coin gets less attention, but is equally important. It’s much more personal, and emotionally charged. It’s being open to receiving feedback. This goes beyond listening well (management books are also full of those tips). Authentic leadership requires  we actually hear what others are saying, that we’re not defensive, and we’re willing to change. When team members are truly open to honest input, it speeds up conversations, reduces tension in the room, uncovers root causes more quickly, and most importantly, builds trust in the team. Thanks for the Feedback, by Heen and Stone, is a new book about this other side of the coin. “Refreshing original content” is the most cited reason to read. I agree. Here’s... read more

It Won’t Go Away

It’s human nature to avoid unpleasant situations. We avoid confrontation We delay difficult conversations We hope issues will go away if we wait long enough A classic example: hoping that toxic employees will change their behavior. The reality is that they won’t. One of the benefits of EOS is it encourages action sooner than later. Don’t waste time and other resources making things perfect. Take action, assess, adapt. Wash, rinse, repeat. Again! This is especially important for the ugly, messy stuff. Do it now. Mark Twain said, “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, the rest of your day will be wonderful.” Do the hardest thing first. Here are three tips to help you “get it over with”: Just Say It. In a meeting, if you’re thinking it, chances are good that others are as well. Get the issue out on the table. There is no such thing as dumb question. Start with one trusted person. Say it out loud. You’ll identify the issues with more clarity and a whole lot faster. Remember, wishful thinking doesn’t count as a leadership... read more

What’s Your Point?

In EOS, clarity is a hallmark – some would say the essence of the process. EOS uses a number of tools that focus on clarity: IDS Clarity breaks Rocks Five quiet minutes Who, who, what Accountability chart And many others The challenge for leaders is to channel that clarity in how they present ideas and thoughts—simply put, to be articulate. Leaders lose credibility when they are not articulate. Undisciplined, they burn up valuable time by rambling and not being crystal clear right when they open their mouths. It’s especially evident in meetings. People start talking before knowing exactly what they want to say. In essence, they’re thinking out loud – or meandering through random thoughts. Eventually, they may get to their point. But it doesn’t matter. They’ve lost their listeners. Or, bored them to tears! Here’s a simple challenge: Before you speak, pause for three seconds to formulate your idea, then state it simply and clearly. It’s not a long time, but it’s time well spent. Try it. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes. Three other tips Finish your sentences Use an example to support a point, not to make it When getting input from a group, have them write first, then share. It forces them to be more articulate and will improve the quality of what they’re... read more

Five Not Six

 It’s no secret — to grow your business, you have to delegate. In EOS, we say, Delegate and Elevate™. What’s the highest and best use of your time and talents? Delegation is challenging for a lot of reasons, even threatening. What if the end result isn’t good enough? Or chaos erupts? Or worse, what will others think if the delegated results are better? A natural tendency is to control the process. Here’s a simple rule of Five Not Six. Be clear about: What you want When you want it Who, and which other resources are available (you yourself are probably the most important one) Why it’s needed and any constraints Where should the results be delivered Then stop. Don’t go to the “how.” Resist the temptation to say, for example, “Here’s what I’d suggest you do.” Let them figure out the “how.” It conveys confidence in them, it sparks their creativity, it increases ownership in the results, and it might lead to an entirely better outcome than you’ve had all these years. Wouldn’t that be a... read more

10 Reminders of Why You Should Always Lead by Values

In EOS, a core principle is leading by values. That’s easier said than done, especially for leaders diligently doing what they think is right. It’s hard to stay the course when you’re tempted by short term gains. How often do you think: It’s faster to do it yourself. Is it worth it to persevere? People disappoint you so why invest in them? There are always reasons to deviate from what you know you should do. Harvey Mackay recently published Kent Keith’s 10 reminders to “Do It Anyway.” These will make you stop and think. Click here if you’re up to... read more

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