April 4 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. His vision, leadership, wisdom and capacity to be a transformational leader who inspired change is captured in these ten quotes. In our noisy, fast-changing world, his wisdom is more needed than ever.
I imagine that if he were alive today he would want each of us as leaders to look in the mirror and ask ourselves “What is my dream for a better world?” I believe we each have an infinite capacity to be transformational leaders. When we connect with the dreams and purposes that inspire us, we call forth the courage and perseverance that makes a difference, big or small.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” As we stand in the middle of chaos and change, what is a stand you are inspired toward? What is your wish for a better future?
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” As transformational leaders, we are driven by a set of inner values that fuel the courage to stand up in the face of adversity and do the right thing. Our convictions, the emotional commitment we feel to something bigger than ourselves, moves and inspires others.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” Transformational leaders are motivated by creating a positive change in the lives of others. Who are the others you are most inspired to serve?
“If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” These prophetic words by MLK point us to discover our own deeper sense of purpose.
“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” MLK reminds us of the power we have as leaders to listen deeply and bring people together in discourse.
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” In a world today that is torn apart by polarized views, we must dig deeper to find the common humanity and aspirations each of us holds.
“There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.” Failure and disappointment are inevitable companions to any worthy effort. In this quote MLK invites us to expect disappointment, and despite this, to prevail and persevere in our efforts.
“Ten thousand fools proclaim themselves into obscurity, while one wise man forgets himself into immortality.” In our distracted, noisy world where many clamor for attention, MLK reminds us to focus on the quiet inner satisfaction of a small difference made, rather than the hunger of the ego wanting to stand above all others.
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.” Speaking truth to power in a way that is non-judgmental is at the core of bringing about change. What is a truth that is important for you to speak?
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” It is not the position of importance, but the painstaking effort to do well what uplifts others, that matters. Transformational leaders are found at every level in an organization. They are the people that find meaning and purpose and a higher calling in their daily endeavors.
As you let these words sink in, what needed change do they inspire in you? My dream for a better world is leaders who are inspired, authentic, moving purposefully toward missions that matter to create a better world for all.
A version of this post first appeared in my Forbes leadership blog.
Do you find yourself trying to get someone to change their behavior, and as hard as you’re trying, nothing seems to work? In my own executive coaching practice, when I find myself trying too hard with a coaching client, I know I’m doing something wrong. I stop and take a deep breath. When we’re trying hard, we’re often working against ourselves because we create unconscious resistance in the person we’re coaching. Emerging neuroscience explains why.
In a fascinating talk at The Conference Board’s 2018 Executive Coaching conference, Dr. Richard Boyatzis (a leading research professor in organizational behavior and cognitive science at Case Western University) explained how our brains see-saw between two opposing domains. We can either be in our analytic reasoning brain (focused on goals, measures, accountability) or in our empathic understanding brain (focused on dreams, aspirations). One brain state actually represses the other. Research suggests that when we are in our analytic brain we tend to be more resistant to change. Here’s how to connect with the brain that is more open to change.
Let’s think about your own work environment. Chances are that most of us spend most of our time at work in our analytic brains. So as leaders coaching our people for change, we need to proactively engage the empathic brain.
Neuroscience is teaching us about emotional contagion (i.e. our own brain state and emotions unconsciously impact the other person). This means that when we connect to our own sense of purpose, aspirations, and dreams, we bring that inspired state of being to our people. It also means that we work with others to discover where they derive purpose, meaning and satisfaction. This creates the optimum environment and relationship that promotes openness to growth and new learning. Of course, we need to set goals. But start with dreams and aspirations first. Here’s the difference:
Analytic Brain Question: What’s your goal for losing weight? How will you measure success?
Empathic Brain Question: Let’s imagine your healthiest self. What do you see? How are you feeling? What inspires you? What’s energizing and exciting about this vision?
As you engage with people in their empathic brain, it creates energy and momentum for change. Here are a set of questions that I use with my executive coaching clients that you may find useful to ask yourself as well as those you are coaching. I recommend you start with yourself because you are the catalyst for change.
What do you feel good about (or grateful for) right now?
What’s working well?
Imagine being 80 years old and looking back on a meaningful and fulfilling life. What would have made it so?
In three years you’ve been wildly successful. Describe what that feels like? What would be different?
What’s important to you in this situation? What does success look like?
Who are people that inspire you? What qualities do you see in them?
What have been some meaningful moments for you? What most resonated for you?
As we listen deeply to the answers we start uncovering aspirations and values important to ourselves and others. We also start changing our own state of being to one that is empathic, inspired, grateful and open. Once we help others discover what’s meaningful and aspirational for them, we can become co-creators in change.
A version of this post first appeared in my Forbes Leadership Blog.
“I am dreading this conversation!” Anna (an executive coaching client) had a tone of resignation in her voice. She was not looking forward to yet another conversation with Bob (her direct report) about how he was going to resolve his people issues.
Bob has an issue with micro-managing his people. Three people in his department have recently resigned. Anna had a conversation with Bob about how he was going to fix the issue two weeks ago, but nothing has changed. The rest of his people seem to be in a state of resignation.
Sort of like Anna. She’s resigned to having to go in and fix the problem herself. You see, Anna’s really good at fixing problems (finding root causes, thinking through solutions, getting results).
Clearly, Anna’s coaching with Bob is not getting results and it’s frustrating Anna. Most high-achievers like Anna are energized by fixing the problem.
How about you? Is your coaching getting results?
When coaching isn’t working, the question to ask is: “Am I coaching the person or fixing the problem?” . The coaching conversation is very different, depending upon whether your focus is on the person or the problem.
The questions you ask, and the tone of the conversation is different when you’re trying to fix the problem. In Anna’s case, she’s defining the problem as “We have several people who have resigned and morale is low. I need to fix this. I can’t count on Bob because nothing has changed in the last two weeks”.
Here’s the “Fix The Problem” scenario. Anna sets up a meeting with Bob. Here are the questions she asks:
Why is the morale issue not fixed?
What will it take to fix the issue?
How does Bob intend to manage the department with the vacancies he has?
What’s his timeline and plan of action?
In this instance, Anna’s focus is to jump in and fix the morale and vacancies issue.
It’s that time of the year. Most organizations are going through their talent review cycles and succession planning discussions. During these discussions leaders decide on their succession pipeline. Will you be promoted into the next opening? Will you hang out in the box that says “Ready in 1-2 Years”? Do you know which box you are in?
One of my executive coaching clients (let’s call him Mark) is a succession plan star. In a recent conversation we were in with his sponsor, the sponsor said (somewhat in disbelief): “The conversation on you has really shifted”. Mark has always been a high performer but he had been stuck in the “Ready 1-2 Years” box for the next big role for him. Then he did one simple thing that moved him from the purgatory box to the “Ready Now” box. He reached out and made personal connection with the key people he needed to influence.
A succession plan conversation can derail in one of two ways. A person’s name is brought up as a potential successor for a role by their sponsor. The sponsor may have enough power in the group to single-handedly get them promoted. Most often that is not the case. Often, the sponsor will look for broad support by the group making the decision. This is where the conversation can derail.
The first derailer is active dissent. Some of the other people in the room have perceptions of you (from their people, or from that one time they heard you present, or sat next to you at a work event). They bring up their “first impression” belief about you and you get put in the “Ready 1-2 Years” box with some vague follow-up on “needs to develop executive presence”. Your opportunity is lost.
The second derailer is silence. Many of the other people in the room don’t really know you. They may have heard your name, but without direct and positive experience, they are unwilling to throw their political power in your direction. Your opportunity is lost.
Here are six steps you can take now to be a succession plan star (and make your sponsor’s job easier).
One, get clarity on what next role you aspire to. Talk with your boss and boss’s boss. What position excites you where you can bring your talent, contribute, and also learn and grow?
Two, do an honest self-assessment of your own strengths as well as your growth areas in order for you to be able to perform well in that next role. Get feedback from others.
Three, reach out to your own sponsor and ask for their support. Your sponsor (it could be your boss, or your boss’s boss) plays a critical role in two ways. They understand your skills and advocate for you. They also know who are the people who matter in these succession plan conversations for that next role.
Four, working with your sponsor, find out who are the people you need to influence and get to know who will be part of the succession conversation for that next role. Understand what and who influences these leaders. Understand what they do well and what you can learn from them.
Five, set up time to connect authentically with these influential leaders. Mark did this pivotal step well. He went to these leaders and expressed his desire to be in the role. He shared his honest self-assessment of what he did well and where he is looking to grow. He asked for their feedback, ideas, help and support. In spending time with them, they got to know the real Mark – not others’ perceptions of him. He took the time to show-case his talents while connecting one-on-one. As people got to know him, he was put in the “Ready Now” box.
Six, make sure you take the time to thank the people who invested in you. You realize that you are part of a web of connections that serve each other and progress the goals and mission of your organization. Appreciate the people who are there for you and pay it forward. Be a sponsor and a source of support for others.
Here’s my challenge to you. Don’t let this succession planning cycle opportunity pass. Follow-through on these six steps so you can bring your talents and strengths to the opportunities that matter for you!
A version of this post first appeared in my Forbes.com blog.
The end of December and early January is a great time to step back to reflect on the year before the frenzy of a new year starts again. One of the activities I cherish the most (and recommend to my executive coaching clients) is to do a personal year-end review.
Smarter goals start with better self-reflection. This exercise can help you assess what’s truly important and authentic to you. It can help you tap into your motivators so when goals get tough you can persevere.
Here are seven questions I recommend we each ask ourselves:
What were moments of greatest joy and fulfillment? This is a great question to start with as it puts us in a positive and appreciative state of mind. It helps us reflect on what is good in our lives as well as gives us insight on what’s fulfilling to us. As we reflect on the people and activities that brought us this fulfillment we learn about what energizes us in both our personal and professional lives. We may find clues to our leadership purpose within what serves others while also energizing us. We remind ourselves about what we want more of in the coming year.
What was challenging? As we reflect on the challenges we faced, we can remind ourselves that life doesn’t always bring us what we desire. We also remind ourselves that we can be resilient in the face of challenge. Our taking time to acknowledge challenges can also help unlock difficult emotions which we may have avoided. As we process this emotion, we recognize that some of our best qualities of courage, perseverance, patience, selflessness, grace, and strength are borne out of challenge. Without those challenges we wouldn’t be who we are today. This question helps us notice and honor our qualities of character, celebrate who are becoming, and be more grounded in values that are important to us.
How did I do on my goals? As you assess how you did, pay attention to what your strengths are that helped you accomplish your goals. For goals you didn’t meet, what did you learn?
How satisfied am I with different aspects of my life? For most of us a full and balanced life includes the following: our health and well-being, relationships, professional or career growth, financial priorities, spiritual or personal growth, community service. As you examine each area that is important to you, look at what’s working well and what do you want more of?
Who are the people and relationships that matter? Sometimes in our pursuit of goals, we don’t pay attention to the people and relationships that matter. This question is to help us step back and be more intentional about the attention and presence we want to bring to the relationships that matter most. What are the practices and habits that we want to establish to nurture these relationships?
When am I my most inspired self? When do I feel disempowered? This question is about getting to know ourselves in our most inspired moments (What am I doing? Who am I being?). It’s also about bringing awareness to when we are our smallest selves. It’s about having compassion for ourselves when we are least empowered, so we can face important truths about our lives.
As I imagine myself as an 80-year old looking back at a life well-lived what do I see? This is a great question to examine our longer-term priorities, values, and goals. As I do this exercise every year, I find it fun to go back and see what’s changed and what’s remained constant in my vision of my best self.
As you look back through your answers, jot down what you’ve learned from this self-reflection. What’s important as you set goals for the upcoming year? What other questions have you found useful for your self-reflection?
Stay tuned for my personal 2017 self-reflection and how it’s helped me set smarter goals for 2018!
How do you express gratitude to the people you work with. Do you?
In my corporate career I would say “thank you” walking out of a meeting or during a performance review discussion. But I never took the time to write a thank you note. Recently I got one from an executive coaching client and it made my day. I realized how big a difference a small thank you note can make.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, I gave myself the challenge of writing three thank you notes this week.
Here’s what I discovered. They are easy to write (see below). They made me stop and notice what I value in others. The very act of pausing to ask myself what I appreciated in others helped me feel great.
And if these aren’t reasons enough, know that it will help you build more connection and engagement with any team member you work with. Two of Gallup’s 12 employee engagement survey questions are related to expressing appreciation: “In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?” and “Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?”. In his Harvard Business Review cover article former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, likens loneliness and weak social connections to the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day in terms of impact on lifespan.
Here’s my challenge to us for the Thanksgiving holidays. Pick three people at work to send heart-felt thank you notes to. Here’s how.
First, ask yourself who is someone you’re particularly grateful for at work. For a note that builds connection, you have to get yourself in a state of gratitude first.
Second, use the following set of questions to help you pause and notice what you appreciate:
What have I observed this person doing well?
What contributions has this person made to me, our team, or organization?
What is an interaction I had with this person that impressed or touched me?
What are some qualities of character that I appreciate about this person?
What have I learned from this person? How does this serve me?
Third, as you write your gratitude letter, be specific and make it personal. Describe a specific example, situation, or conversation.
As an example, here’s one of the three thank-you letters I wrote this week. This one is to an executive coaching client.
“Hi Ann –
I hope you’re having a wonderful Thanksgiving break with your daughters.
I am sitting back and reflecting about our conversations, and I want to share with you how grateful I am for our time spent together. Despite all that is going on for you (in your personal life with your husband’s surgery) and at work (with the complexity of Project X), you have shown up and been present. You are curious, and open to learning about yourself, and share yourself with vulnerability. This takes great courage. I enjoy the humor you bring to your challenges.
I also appreciate how you challenge and grow yourself. From someone who was apprehensive about getting 360-feedback, you have moved to a place of sharing this with your boss. This takes great courage and expanding trust in yourself and others. I hope you are noticing the progress you’re making in your ability to be more mindful and intentional about “who you want to be now” in your leadership, so you lead with greater self-awareness in each moment.
I am truly grateful for the moments of laughter and learning. Our work together helps me live into my own leadership purpose of connecting people with their own authenticity & potential.”
So, how about it? Will you take on this challenge? Will you share it with others in your workplace to create a more grateful, engaged, connected, and appreciative team? Will you take on the challenge of making this a weekly ritual? Imagine what could be possible in our workplaces if we call did that!
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Congratulations! You just got promoted. You landed a new stretch assignment. You got a new job!
Just this month I witnessed three competent, hard-working, well-intentioned leaders get fired from their roles within 12 months. Based on my own experience of challenges and failures in a new role and observing many smart and competent leaders derail, there is usually one main culprit.
It’s called your blind spot. You don’t know what you don’t know.
Blind spots are even more precarious in these VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) times we work in. As the world changes rapidly, we need to value asking good questions rather than knowing all the answers. Yet, this may be hard to do, especially in a new role when you may be trying to prove yourself and look good.
Leading effectively in VUCA workplaces calls for us to develop new capacities. New assignments are a great way to do that. They call for us to actively learn about our defaults, uncover blind spots, and proactively question our assumptions.
In that context here are five questions to ask as you take on a new role. As you jump in to a new role, create a deliberate learning plan by asking these questions.
What are the assumptions I am making about the team, organization, industry? In a new role, especially if we’re moving fast, we often bring old assumptions about success. This is a great question to step back and understand the context within which you’re operating. You may want to understand what’s important to the team and organization, not just goals and results but aspirations and fears. What is unsaid? What are you noticing in body language and how people relate to one another? What is the culture here? Who gets rewarded for what? What’s happening with competition and industry? Who are unlikely competitors? Who are possible collaborators? Create a deliberate learning plan for yourself.
What are the assumptions I am making about this role? You may be making assumptions about what success looks like in a role. You may be bringing your old assumptions about how work gets done (the organization’s decision-making process). You may be making assumptions about the organization’s appetite for change. You may be making assumptions about the level of power and authority in your role. Write down some of these assumptions and then pay attention to what’s happening around you to validate or invalidate these assumptions. This requires slowing down and paying attention.
Who are important stakeholders in this new role? What do I need to learn from each of them? Establishing trusted relationships within a new team or culture is critical to success. Many high-achievers dive quickly into the work that needs to be done and go about getting the work done. Yet, it is the relationships we invest in that will determine what our impact will be. Who are new stakeholders to consider? Who are truth tellers that I can reach out to? What is at stake for each of them? How can I learn from and influence them? What does success look like to them? What do they need from me? How do they see my role?
What new capacities will be critical for success in this role? What strengths can be potential derailers? We all have leadership defaults (our preferred way of leading). We assume what got us this role will help us be successful in the future. Yet, some of our biggest derailers are using our habitual strengths in situations that call for a different behavior. New roles are a great way to grow your leadership tool-kit and be more intentional in practicing new leadership behaviors.
What other questions should I be asking to stay in learning mode? As the environment constantly shifts, it’s important to stay in learning mode, get adept at asking good questions, and creating a safe space for others to do the same. A transformative way to approach an issue is to brainstorm questions about the issue, rather than just answers or solutions. It opens up a space for broader thinking and perspectives.
The next step is to develop a learning plan for yourself in a new role. Note critical questions and journal your observations. Stay with the questions and develop your capacity to be curious way beyond your first 90 days.
What are other questions that you have found useful in asking?
This article first appeared in my Forbes leadership blog.
Do you find yourself overwhelmed by the pace of change?
Here is what one of my clients very vulnerably shared with me:
“The big challenge I am facing is the uncertain world coming my way. My clients, suppliers, marketplace, technology. people, processes, financial targets, span of control, government politics are all now very complex. Due to the pace of change all over, it has created a new normal – an uncertain world. Constant change has become a part of our DNA especially at senior leadership levels. When I look at my training and experience (working across the matrix, applying lean six-sigma, industrial operations, financial skills, process management, people management) I see tools from two to three decades ago.
“I am leading in an era where not only I do not know the answers, I also am not sure if I am asking the right questions.
“In this era of ambiguity then, your approach of driving authentic leadership resonates with me. We as leaders need to be confident with not knowing all the answers, comfortable with who we are at our core, to ask for help, figure out questions as we go along in this tsunami of change. We need to trust more and question more. We need to do all this while ensuring we ourselves do not get burned out. We need to pass on energy, confidence, trust to our teams. How do I do that?”
The answer to my client’s question is to grow our capacity as human beings and leaders. The book Leadership Agility by Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs presents an excellent validated leadership model to do just that.
The model and assessment are based on the adult stages of development. The research indicates that only about 10% of managers have mastered the level of agility needed to be consistently effective and avoid burnout in today’s turbulent global workplace.
Three Levels Of Leadership Agility
The Leadership Agility model and research show that there are three levels of leadership agility most prevalent in today’s organizations: Expert (45% of leaders), Achiever (35% of leaders), and Catalyst (10% of leaders).
According to the research, the Expert level has a tactical, problem-solving orientation. They believe leaders are respected and followed by others because of their authority and expertise. The Achiever level has a strategic, outcome orientation. They believe that leaders motivate others by making it challenging and satisfying to contribute to larger objectives. The Catalyst level has a visionary, capacity-building orientation. Catalyst leaders articulate an innovative, inspiring vision and bring together the right people to make that happen. They empower others and actively facilitate their development.
Four Types Of Agility Competencies
Catalyst leaders consistently use the following four types of agility competencies in a way that they build on each other.
Context-setting Agility is the ability to scan the environment, anticipate what might change, and frame their context in a compelling way that influences others. It is the ability to step back and see connections beyond the boundaries of their specific initiative, function, company, or even industry. This allows for a longer-term focus and visionary thinking and impact.
Stakeholder Agility is the ability to identify, seek out, and engage key stakeholders. It’s the capacity to understand and empathize with the views of multiple stakeholders while also honoring one’s own view. Catalyst leaders seek input from stakeholders not just to get buy-in but are actually willing to be influenced by others’ views for better decision-making.
Creative Agility is the ability to explore multiple views when dealing with a complex problem and to step back to examine the assumptions being made. Catalyst leaders hold the tensions within paradox (short-terms vs. long-term, practical vs. idealistic) to lead teams who come up with unique solutions.
Self-Leadership Agility is the capacity to engage deeply in growing self-awareness and leading oneself first by envisioning the kind of leader they want to be. Catalyst leaders have an interest in aligning their behavior with values, and aspire to becoming more authentic leaders. They use personal growth to fuel professional development.
The move from an Expert to an Achiever (and eventually a Catalyst) leader involves proactively growing our agility in the above four areas and using our work as fuel for personal reflection, growth, and the leadership impact we’re inspired to make.
As Bill Joiner says “The pace of change and degree of interdependence in today’s global business environment demands that top tiers of management are capable of functioning at the Catalyst level. Organizations need to help many of their Achiever senior managers grow into the Catalyst level and many of their Expert middle managers develop to the Achiever level. This is a collective undertaking.”
Sally, an executive coaching client, was beaming. She had just done what had been hard for her in past. She had given her direct report feedback that was 80% focused on the positive, and only 20% on what needed to be improved. Sally can see improvement opportunities all around her, and that shows up in how she gives feedback. She had been working really hard to give balanced feedback that builds people up. She was buoyant from the conversation she had had. She genuinely felt great about helping her direct report feel good.
Until one week later.
She found out that the conversation had been very demotivating to her direct report.
So, how did Sally find out that the wins she had imagined left her direct report feeling like she had lost? We had been working together in a “Stakeholder-Centered Coaching” process created by executive coach Marshall Goldsmith that has had a 95% success rate. Sally had picked several behaviors as part of her development plan that she wanted to practice more of. She picked six stakeholders and asked them if they would be willing to observe her behavior and give her feeback on these behaviors once a month. As her coach, I conduct a quick electronic survey once a month that gives her feedback and she follows up with her stakeholder circle for additional suggestions. Through the rigor of this process and Sally’s own humility in asking for feedback, her direct report was able to be honest and share her perspective. She would have never done that in the past.
When Sally had the follow-up conversation with her direct report, she understood that even though Sally had spent what she thought was most of the time giving positive feedback, the direct report had heard mostly what could be improved. The tone of urgency and the list of actions that needed to be done made her direct report feel like she was not trusted. This was a difficult conversation for both, but Sally got important information about her impact on others and her listening helped her grow trust with her direct report.
Whether you are working with an executive coach or not, you can take the initiative to create a “Stakeholder Coaching Circle” at work. Here’s a step-by-step way to do that:
• Put your ego aside
• Get clear on why you want to grow (what’s at stake for you)
• Pick a growth area you want to focus on (e.g. be better at influencing others)
• Pick up to three behaviors (ideally, it’s less than three so you can really focus) that you will practice more of to help you in your growth area (e.g. practice active listening, being clear in making requests, helping others achieve their goals)
• Identify several colleagues (three to five) who you trust to observe you in action and give you honest feedback
• Enroll your colleagues to help you by giving you immediate and timely feedback and suggestions (you can also meet with them on a regular basis). Offer to reciprocate.
• Once you feel you have learned a behavior so it becomes second-nature, repeat the cycle from the top.
Your relationship with your boss is arguably the most important work relationship you have. Unfortunately for many people it is also one that is fraught with frustration, awkwardness, or simply lack of sufficient trust. In my executive coaching work, I find that 80% of the time the relationship with the boss can be improved significantly and is strengthened as part of the coaching process.
We often assume that the boss has significantly more power, and often this is the case. But, as a savvy leader, you can use the tool below to create a powerful partnership with your boss. This is not about who has more power in the relationship, but about how powerful the relationship is, and together what it can help you both accomplish. Here’s a great tool-kit to help you.
As an executive coach, I often work with the leader being coached and their boss to help them design a partnership that works for them. This partnership is critical for the success of the coaching engagement as executive coaching requires the person who is being coached to stretch and try new behaviors. A trusting partnership with a boss can create great safety for the leader to take risks and get honest feedback. This process significantly improves the engagement of both the leader and their manager, creating the conditions for greater courage, honest conversations, transparency, trust, and ultimately stronger business performance.
I know personally in my 20-year corporate career, as a boss it was of utmost importance for me to know what engaged and motivated each of my team members, and I didn’t have the tools to have these trust-building conversations. Likewise, I often didn’t feel comfortable initiating these conversations with my boss.
The below are a series of questions that you can each answer and discuss together that clarify needs and expectations in the partnership you have with your boss. If trust is not optimal or has been eroded, it is extremely powerful for each of you to acknowledge that and state your sincere intent to rebuild it. The below tool is also excellent when you have a new partnership that you are creating.
What’s already working well?
What do we each appreciate or value about the other?
What is at stake for each of us to make this a powerful relationship?
Share a story of a great boss-employee relationship you had. What made that great?
What does a great partnership between us look like? How would we know that we had that?
What is the culture we want to create in the partnership? How would we know we had that?
How would we want it to feel? (Empowering, supportive, spacious, open)
What values are important to each of us?
What ways of communicating are important to each of us?
How do we want to be and act when things get difficult, or when there is conflict?
What routines or agreements would help the partnership flourish?
What can your partnership count on from you?
What will each of us commit to one another?
How do we hold ourselves and each other accountable to our partnership agreement?
It is very helpful to take notes and then summarize them to create a partnership agreement and periodically review and add to this agreement as all relationships are dynamic. It may seem awkward at first to put this down on paper, but it will be definitely helpful to creating robust and trusting relationships.
And if you happen to be a boss, this is a great tool to use for establishing strong partnerships with those you lead. This tool can work great for peer relationships as well.
What other questions will be useful in this exercise for you? Will you take this tool and act on it?
This article first appeared on my Forbes leadership blog.
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