I think we all want to ask good, if not great, questions in a job interview. This shows the interviewer what you are made of and also helps you figure out if you want to work there. There are plenty of websites and experts that give you advice on what to ask a potential employer. For instance, here are a few examples of questions to ask:

1. What skills and experiences would make an ideal candidate?

2. What is the single largest problem facing your staff and would I be in a position to help you solve this problem?

3. What have you enjoyed most about working here?

4. What constitutes success at this position and this firm or nonprofit?

While these are good, these types of questions have never been fully satisfying to me as the answer to any one question may not be representative of the reality you face when you start working there. An example to drive home this point is what I learned about how to interview prospects for Product/Market fit by asking great questions the right way. It is not only the question you ask but the way you ask that is critical.

For instance, if you ask someone what kind of movies s/he likes to go to, s/he may answer “Spotlight” or “Boyhood” or “12 Years a Slave”. However, if you ask what movies s/he went to in the past few months, s/he may be more likely say, “Warcraft” or “Central Intelligence” or “The Conjuring 2”. 

If we went with the aspirational first set, then we would think our friend had a certain type of taste in movies and likely get the wrong impression. The second set represents a different direction altogether. The needs are more likely ascertained by asking questions about what they do versus what they aspire to or what the answer they think will be acceptable to you. In lieu of actually observing behavior which is not always possible, asking questions of current or past behavior is the next best option.

It is in this spirit that I offer you a set of 10 questions to pick from that hopefully give you insight into the company to help you make your decision. I have compiled these after and over a 30-year career starting in inside sales up through being a GM, VP, WW Sales, CMO for a $120MM company and finally a trained business growth advisor and neuroscience geek.

I hope they are useful to you.

  1. What are the company’s core values? What are some of the ways you keep them alive within the organization?  Look to see if the senior team has created a set of rules to live by. This can give you a sense of whether they are top down in their thinking where a few people make all or most of the decisions or they are more likely to push authority closer to where the information and knowledge are so necessary decisions can be made quickly based upon pre-determined guidelines. Keeping them alive is key. Are there posters on the walls highlighting a person that embodies a particular Core Value, can they talk about the last time they rewarded someone for living a Core Value, etc.?
  2. Can you explain to me the process you go through when making critical decisions? Ask for an example.  This can have many answers. Look for the difference between a leader that believes s/he already knows the right answer and steers/persuades the team towards that versus one that knows the direction and/or destination they are headed and has created a process to find the optimal path or sets of paths to reach it. These managers will seek different perspectives and may even split the group up to research and defend certain possibilities and set up a devil’s advocate contingency to find the best answer. S/he may already have something in mind but is open to being persuaded by others versus the other way around. 
  3. Why did you start the company?  (Best asked of Founder but others may know) Look for core purpose here. The “why” of the business. The answer should line up with your ideals, values, and expectations. The answer should pull you toward wanting to be part of this company. Did s/he start this business to solve a problem, does s/he love the customer more than the current idea? This is especially key for startups. I believe that one of the main reasons why most startups fail is they fall in love with their idea and not with the customer whose problem(s) they are supposed to be solving. Another reason why many companies fail or falter is that they have forgotten the main reason they started the company in the first place. Please see previous blog post for more info here.
  4. What is the company’s strategy? If I were to ask a few others in the company, how consistent might the answers be? The second question is more useful than the first as most folks will give you some answer to the first question. You may also want to ask this of several folks to compare how closely they are related. Again, you are looking to see what type of organization you are looking to join. If they are good at communicating important items like strategy simply and coherently that anyone in the company can articulate then they are more likely to value their employees and are great at communicating in general.
  5. How do you bridge the gap between strategy and execution?  This will likely be a surprising question but it is interesting to see how it is handled. You will have to judge for yourself whether or not the answer is good enough for you as there is no perfect answer. If someone has a great answer to this or really any reasonable answer showing how he or she has thought this through, take that job! These are the kind of people you want to work with! There is a great book on the topic – Strategy that Works.
  6. Please describe your team to me.  Look for title and function versus capabilities/assets. If they go into a job description and title versus the value each member brings to the team/company they are more likely to see less value in the individual and care more about the bottom line or the individual role. This may reveal how they view others. This may reveal how they review “team”. Possibly how others are there to serve their needs or the needs of the company versus how they create an environment where everyone is valued. Where his or her job as a leader is to create a safe environment to facilitate input from everyone and to find ways to make everyone around them better.
  7. Describe to me a typical weekly management/team meeting.  Look for status updates versus problem-solving, discussion, debate, and resolutions. Do they make decisions during the meeting? Are they likely to call someone in to clarify a point to move things forward? Great management teams use this time together to get things done and do not end the meeting until they accomplish what they set out to accomplish at the beginning of the meeting. This meeting should be more like a spirited game of hockey versus a hushed game of golf.
  8. How do you leverage your core competencies to grow your business? Great companies leverage their distinct capabilities and are able to grow in unique but powerful ways. They typically value teams over departments and are less “siloed”. They scale and solve more problems for more customers because they leverage fundamental capabilities that apply across any customer base, division, etc. Having this “capabilities” approach allows these companies to find the next growth curve well before the existing one begins to tail off. Another blog post (~11,000 companies born each hour! …..) goes into more detail here based upon recent research.
  9. How often do you get feedback or request input from the team that is 2,3 or more layers below? Ask for an example how this feedback affected an important change or decision. Do they value employees that are closer to the customer and the market dynamics or are they more about making decisions on high with little to no input from others? You can also see if they are a flatter organization versus hierarchical.
  10. How would you describe your change/improvement management process? It is unlikely that the company has one but this shows how willing the leaders are to invite input from anyone and everyone. If the company does have one, then this would be a place to work for those who want to learn leadership skills and be valued as a contributor to the ultimate success of the company.

I hope this was useful. If you have other great questions that you ask, please put share them with me along with your rationale for asking them. I would love to learn other great questions.

Be Exceptional!


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Growth Roundtable participants see 3x growth in 3 years

“The 3HAG system easily integrated strategic purpose into our execution process, resulting in us achieving annual growth rate of 30%+ consistently. Having experimented with other systems, I found 3HAG’s multi-system design uniquely beneficial in it’s ability to weave in different initiatives simultaneously, all under the #1 corporate goal of growing top-line revenue and bottom-line profit. Personally, I found that investing in the methodology, and the accompanying Metronome software application, aligned an experienced leadership team to maximize their potential, freeing me to focus on my own self-actualization.”
Vivek Thomas
Ex-President Maximizer

Many of you are familiar with what I do with/for my clients and some of you have expressed interest but have yet to move forward.  Please find the following proven process that may be of interest to get you started (or a CEO you know) to confidently scaling your business with the help of a coach, premium-peer group, and your engaged leadership team.

Take the Guesswork out of Growth C-Suite Roundtables


Accelerating growth through peer-based shared learning and growth

  • Accelerate business growth by making a complex strategy clear, simple and memorable for all – Proven model where high performers have tripled business in three years!
  • Increase profitability and COH – Build a financial fortress
  • Decrease risk of making wrong turns – Coach and like-minded peer accountability
  • Increase team and individual accountability and development – Manager -> Leader -> Coach
  • Full team confidence and engagement – Unite the team around a common purpose and compelling outcome.

How it works (Sample One Year agenda below)

  • Monthly moderated CEO roundtable meetings (8/year)
  • Quarterly leadership team learning events (4/year)
  • One-on-one CEO monthly coaching calls (12/year)
  • Private online community access
  • Metronome Growth Systems software access
  • Other growth tools, books and assessments included
  • Non-competitive rule
  • Fun and Effective


Take the Guesswork out of Growth C-Suite Roundtable is a guided training program through a proven system to drive fast, predictable and profitable growth. This is for growth-oriented CEOs who are looking to confidently execute on a clear, compelling and differentiated strategy with a high-level, intrinsically-motivated team. You will participate with nine other non-competitive company CEOs that will hold you accountable and accelerate your learning. 

IMPORTANT: This is NOT for the faint of heart.  This is a fast-paced, mentally challenging program for those looking to confront the brutal facts, share the “kind truth”, make decisions and do the work.  Those who do not consistently attend or put in the work each month will not survive the first year.  CEOs that have already gone through many years of this program rave about how it has changed their lives and businesses.

“I’m getting tons of value from the CEO Roundtable and the Growth Strategy Program, and having my team trained at the same time has made all the difference. We’ve been able to implement and make real positive changes in our company.”

Michael Togyi, CEO, BasicGov Systems

“Over the past four years, Shannon* has been a terrific coach and friend to AML Oceanographic.  Her guidance has allowed us to rewrite both the culture and strategy of our 44-year-old company, resulting in 52% growth over the past one year.”

Robert Haddock, CEO, AML Oceanographic (CEO Roundtable member – ACETECH)

*Please note that I am a certified coach in Shannon’s organization. Metronome United.

Success Formula
– Aligned Team + Proven Growth Framework (3HAG) + CEO Peer Accountability => Predictable, Accelerated Scalability

– Differentiated, competitive, and profitable strategy combined with flawless execution driven by motivated team.  High performers have tripled top and bottom lines within three years.


$1500/month for qualifying companies through WorkForceTraining Fund Program – $3000/month otherwise.

Only 10 spots per roundtable available and there are no competitive companies on a roundtable.  First competitive company on this list gets the seat!  The first roundtable will be offered in the Greater Boston area (probably Waltham).

Please send me an email to indicate your interest and pre-reserve your seat –  Once I have enough committed, we will start the roundtable.

Be Exceptional!


P.S.  This CEO Roundtable is based on a system that sits on top of any business operating system – EOS, ScalingUp, GGOB, e-Myth, Four Disciplines of Execution or any of the other dozens that are out there.  What that means is that you can use the same language, tools etc. you are used to.  I have been helping to run companies and studying business for 30 years and this is, by far, the most complete system I have come across to take the guesswork out of growth and to give you more of your life back.

P.P.S.  This is different from Vistage, EO, YPO and other excellent peer advisory options.  I am a fan of those options as well as they focus more holistically than this program.  This is a classroom model teaching a proven-growth framework with your peers.

First year sample agenda^

Month  Growth Framework Component   AttendeesDuration
Kick off: Gut out a 3HAGLeadership Team*Full Day 
Key Foundations  CEO only Half Day 
Market Stakeholder Map                CEO only  Half Day 
Function Chart/KPFM               Leadership Team*Full Day 
Core Objectives/Vivid Vision reviewCEO only Half Day 
1HAG Targets/Planning              CEO only  Half Day 
Quarterly Targets/Planning         Leadership Team*Full Day 
Core Customer                             CEO only Half Day 
Attribution Map                              CEO only  Half Day 
10 Meeting Rhythms                  CEO only Half Day 
11 3HAG rolling forward/Team Alignment Leadership Team*Full Day 
12 Talent Assessment/Coaching           CEO onlyHalf Day

^Will adjust based on time of year and group
*Includes CEO

Why the Weekly 1:1 Check-in is a Game Changer

Ask two questions to be a great team leader 

In a recent 19 country research study, ADP Research Institute surveyed almost 20,000 people regarding teams. Here is what they found:

  • 83% of respondents stated that they are on a team
  • 64% of those folks said they are on more than one team
  • 75% of those folks say that the team they are on is not reflected in the org chart anywhere!  (That may be worth reading again.)

For example, Ashley Goodall, co-author with Marcus Buckingham, Nine Lies about Work states that Cisco has 17,000 different teams across the organization. Mind-boggling!

Two high-impact engagement factors are:

  1. Am I on a team? (If so, the average engagement factor increases two-fold)
  2. Does my team leader pay attention to me and do I trust my team leader?  That is, do I feel psychologically safe? (Employees who trusted their team leader were 12 times more likely to be fully engaged in their work)

Why is this critical?

Since most work is done by teams and many teams are not represented on the org chart, we must create great team leaders and by extension great teams.  If not, we are leading using a dimly lit candle from the center of a dark room and we are not sure how big the room is nor how many other rooms there are. (No wonder this is so hard!)

Here are three important behaviors to exhibit to be a great team leader:

  1. Be predictable – Action: Clarify your values and vision; Always tell the truth
  2. Help people to find meaning – Action: Share Core Purpose; Learn how to tell stories…tell them often.
  3. Pay attention to your team  (i.e., Gather intelligence; Offer course corrections when necessary) – Action: Check in every week

The Weekly 1:1 Check-in – High Impact Activity

Per #3 above, one way to be a great team leader is to have a weekly 1:1 check-in meeting with each of your team members. This is a 5-15 minute meeting that consists of two questions:

  1. What are your priorities this week?
  2. How can I help?

The power of positive attention from the Weekly 1:1 Check-in. ADP’s findings are:

  • Positive attention is 30X more effective than negative attention (focused on what the team member does wrong) and,
  • 1200X more effective than no attention. In creating a high performing team.

Why is this powerful?

  1. Attention is paid regularly. People crave and feed off attention.  Frequency trumps quality.
  2. Attention is on the team member, not on the team leader. This says, “You matter. I am here for you” – reinforcing value.
  3. Quarterly priorities risks are addressed early.
  4. Primary focus is on the positive versus the negative (see ADP’s findings above).
  5. If it makes sense to go course correct re: quarterly priorities, you can adjust sooner rather than later.
  6. You are passing on your wisdom, experience and likely some skills to each of your team members. This has two benefits, the overall team becomes stronger, and you spend more time on higher value items like helping to predict the future.

If you say, “Bill, this is all well and good, but I am so busy and have too many people on my team to do this”.  To that, I say,
“1. That is right, if you do not have time to do this, you definitely have too many team members on your team, and,
2. Food for thought – The lack of these check-ins done this way may be the main reason why you are too busy.”

If you lead a team, I recommend strongly that you try this for a month.  Do not ask any more than the two questions and see what impact it has on the team.  Let me know how it goes.

For more on the topic of the importance of teams, watch this video from Marcus Buckingham.  If you find that video compelling, check out the corresponding website about Nine Lies and join me in the Freethinking Leader’s Coalition.

Be exceptional!

P.S. If you want to survey your team re: engagement level, please see my previous post for a survey created by ADP and Buckingham. If you get low scores, please feel free to reach out. I will see what I can do to help.

Bill  – Multi-certified Growth Coach, Foundations in NeuroLeadership certified, Predictive Index Certified Partner
MA COMPANIES ONLY – Ask me how your state may help pay for my leadership coaching services.  For MA companies, click here to see if you qualify for 50% (or more) off my fees and this workshop.

Four Things Great Leaders Do

According to research provided by HBR, there are four things that stood out when comparing the successful leaders versus the rest.

Amazing facts in this video:

  • 50-60% of leaders fail within the first 18 months
  • 61% – of leaders were not prepared
  • 76% – of leaders said that the organization did little to nothing to prepare them for leadership

Ron Carucci shares that there are four things successful leaders master versus the also-rans

  1. Breadth
  2. Context
  3. Choice
  4. Connection

These four areas dovetail well into what I build with my clients to create a healthy and thriving organization illustrated by the framework illustrated below.

Enjoy the video!

If you are unable to see the video on HBR, try here.

For related research on this topic, please take a look at the following books from Morten Hansen (co-author Great by Choice):

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Multi-certified Growth Coach, Certified in NeuroLeadership, Predictive Index Certified Partner
MA COMPANIES ONLY – Ask me how your state may help pay for my leadership coaching services.  For MA companies, click here to see if you qualify for 50% (or more) off my fees and this workshop.

Performance is a team sport

First of all, I apologize to any Michigan fans out there. I am not favoring Ohio State.  It is a story I am familiar with. Please see story below. 

First, some facts

  • According to compilation research done by Moya Mason a number of years ago –  ~100 million businesses are started each year
  • The average age of an S&P 500 company is under 20 years, down from 60 years in the 1950s, according to Credit Suisse.
  • 440 firms that were listed in a Fortune 500 in 1955 have been replaced as of 2017.

Yet too many businesses owners continue to apply the same old rules to a new game and expect a positive result.  This parallels Einstein’s definition of insanity.

There has to be a better way.

Another fact

According to Gallup and Mayflower, more than half of our team members are disengaged, too many actively.

However, as Amy Edmondson says, “It turns out that no one wakes up in the morning, jumps out of bed and says, ‘I can’t wait to get to work today to look ignorant, incompetent, intrusive, or negative.’  On average we prefer to look smart, helpful and positive. The good news/bad news about all this is that it’s very easy to manage.  Don’t want to look ignorant, don’t ask questions.  Don’t want to look incompetent, don’t admit your weakness or mistake.  Don’t want to look intrusive, don’t offer ideas and if you don’t want to look negative, by all means, don’t criticize the status quo.”

Why do we do this? 

Because it works. 

We have been taught this from a very young age and by the time we become an adult we have perfected it. Simon Sinek calls this our second job at work.  It is the job of lying, hiding, and faking in order to feel “safe” at work.

This is killing productivity on many levels.

There has to be a better way. 

A way where your team truly acts like a team. Where everyone is willing to sacrifice individual needs for the greater good.  Where everyone trusts the others on the team to do their jobs and each has the others’ backs.  Confident that no one will directly or indirectly undermine them.

Top leaders cultivate this sense of teamwork.  Team performance almost always outweighs individual performance over the long term.  Jim Tressel did this with Ohio State at the turn of the century as its head football coach by getting his players to focus on the unit and the few things that make the team unit and its contribution great. 

Ohio Buckeyes turnaround

In the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s, the Buckeyes were a collegiate powerhouse. They were a dominant football team that won 6 national championships and numerous conference championships before a 32 year drought.  In the 1960s, they started a tradition that may have contributed heavily to their downfall. They awarded individual player performance after each game with stickers that were displayed on their helmets – the buckeye.  For many decades, they would give players who performed well a sticker if they met certain benchmarks for performance. For example, if the quarterback threw for a touchdown or if a defensive player caught an interception. After each game the coaches would hand out individual stickers to the best players on the team for that game.  But in the 1980s and 90s the team started becoming less and less successful. 

In 2000, Jim Tressel was hired as their new head coach.  He noticed a pervasive sense of individual performance and individual competition. He recognized that for the team to be successful, people needed to be willing to make sacrifices for the good of the team. They needed to step back and compromise some of their own individual success for the team as a whole to win.

He thought carefully about ways to motivate people to promote the success of the team over and above their individual performance.   He came up with an ingenious change to the existing reward structure.   After games, players were now awarded as units not as individuals.  He started giving buckeye helmet stickers to the team unit when they met certain benchmarks. For example, when the offensive unit scored touchdowns or the defensive unit recorded an interception or recorded a sack, everybody on that unit would get a sticker. The individual buckeye helmet stickers awards were replaced with team-based metrics.

Within two short years, Jim Tressel completely turned the team around and they won the national championship in 2002 and then again in 2014 under Urban Meyer who continued the team-based award system. Every year since Tressel took over, with one exception, they have been consistently among the top 5 to 10 teams in the country in one of the most competitive collegiate sports and conferences.

Football teams are very much like organizations.  They have a complex hierarchical structure.  There is a leader, a head coach, who is accountable to the athletic director and the fans.  There is a large team of assistant coaches and trainers and they’re involved in recruiting and building talent. Then, of course, there are the team members themselves. 

Top business leaders are trying to manage the same situation dynamics in modern organizations. They are tasked with thinking about how to organize and cultivate a sense of group identity and enhanced team performance – a culture of belonging and team to drive the highest level of performance.  

Performance, after all, is a team sport.

What are you doing to lead, reward and recognize true team “work”?

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Multi-certified Growth Coach

MA COMPANIES ONLY – Ask me how your state may help pay for my leadership coaching services.  For MA companies, click here to see if you qualify for 50% (or more) off my fees and this workshop.

Three most common unproductive meeting observations

In his book, Inner Game of Work, Timothy Gallwey, shares a startlingly simple technique he uses with clients to address what he hears as the three most common observations of why meetings are unproductive.  They are:

  1. “We don’t stick to the agenda.”
  2. “Meetings neither start nor end on time.”
  3. “A few of the people do most of the talking.”

If your team suffers from one or more of these, here is what Gallwey suggests you try for a week or two.  

  1. Ask one attendee to focus on “adherence to agenda.” – Ask him/her to simply raise his/her hand each time s/he observes the conversation wandering.
  2. Ask another attendee to observe the starting and ending time of the meeting and, if possible, to observe the amount of time allotted and spent on each agenda item.
  3. Finally, ask a third attendee to keep track of the frequency and total length of time each person speaks.

Do not make any corrections or recommendations for a few weeks. Do not share any of the data collected on these three areas. Just make sure the areas are tracked during the meeting and observe any changes in behavior over time.  Resist the need to DO!

You may find that, over the next few weeks, merely by virtue of the team’s heightened awareness of these variables, meetings will start and end on time, you will have fewer and fewer instances of wandering off the agenda, and participation will become more evenly distributed and speaking more succinct.

Let me know how it goes.


Running effective and efficient meetings is one of the key elements in the growth framework I help my clients craft and implement over time.   Please see graphical representation below:

Please feel free to contact me if you want to talk through the process in more detail.

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Certified Growth Coach
MA COMPANIES ONLY – Ask me how your state may help pay for my leadership coaching services.  For MA companies, click here to see if you qualify for 50% (or more) off my fees.

Great 3-4 minute read on how to run better meetings

Excellent article on how to design meeting that can be productive. Key takeaway – Ask three questions before every meeting:

  1. Who is going to be in the room and what are their needs? (Team)
  2. Who won’t be in the room but will nevertheless be affected by the meeting and what are their needs? (Ripples)
  3. In what broader culture and environment are you operating and what are some of the overarching challenges and opportunities? (Stakeholder impact –  Team, Environment, Partners, Customers, Suppliers, Competitors, Society)

Click here for to get access to Meetings with Purpose sample agendas (under Business Resources, Execution #3) as well as other business resources.


Running effective and efficient meetings is one of the key elements in the growth framework I help my clients craft and implement over time.   Please see graphical representation below:

Please feel free to contact me if you want to talk through the process in more detail.

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Certified Growth Coach
MA COMPANIES ONLY – Ask me how your state may help pay for my leadership coaching services.  For MA companies, click here to see if you qualify for 50% (or more) off my fees.

Nine Lies about Work – 8 question team engagement assessment

8 questions to assess engagement of your teamIn his most recent book, Nine Lies about Work, Marcus Buckingham shares what he has learned from the most effective teams and organizations.  As part of this research he interviewed team members that were the most highly engaged and productive as well as the least engaged and less productive.  From those interviews, he identified the key differences between the groups,  Those differences produced a list of engagement survey statements to identify the most engaged and likely most productive team members in the organization:

1. I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company.
2. At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.  
3. In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values. 
4. I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work.
5. My teammates have my back. 
6. I know I will be recognized for excellent work. 
7. I have great confidence in my company’s future.
8. In my work, I am always challenged to grow. 

I recommend that you take these 8 questions and conduct a survey of everyone in your organization to see how you are doing.  I am a big fan of scoring from 1 to 5 on questions like these.  To further help you interpret the results, Buckingham and his co-author Goodall broke these questions down by a few categories and subcategories:

Best of WE
– Team
– Company 
Best of ME
– Strongest Indicators of Engagement

Here is how they break out by category:


1. I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company.  (Company)
3. In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values. (Team)
5. My teammates have my back. (Team)
7. I have great confidence in my company’s future. (Company)

These deal with the elements of a person’s experience created in their back-and-forth interactions with others on the team—the communal experience of work, if you will. 


2. At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me. (Strong indicator of engagement)
4. I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work. (Strong indicator of engagement)
6. I know I will be recognized for excellent work. (Team)
8. In my work, I am always challenged to grow. (Team)

This Best of Me group deals instead with the individual experience of work. What is unique about me? What is valuable about me? Do I feel challenged to grow? This research lines up well with neuroscience research regarding the proper balance all human beings seek regarding group versus individual identity highlighted by the picture below.
I believe this picture illustrates beautifully the desire to be unique but also the need of belonging to a tribe and how this seemingly counterintuitive balance works.  We see this played out in many areas such as punk or EMO in music, sports, politics, and more recently tattoos.

Once you conduct the survey, feel free to reach out to talk about the results. I may have some exercises I can recommend to help you increase the engagement level.

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Multi-certified Growth Coach

MA COMPANIES ONLY – Ask me how your state may help pay for my leadership coaching services.  For MA companies, click here to see if you qualify for 50% (or more) off my fees and this workshop.

6 ways to help your team learn better

Learn better by focusing on process, not outcomes – Latest research

Growth is a word bandied about quite a bit these days.  However, I believe that not enough is shared about how to grow or how to help others grow. While no one would argue that growth is important, I find it rare that people know how to affect growth or recognize when progress is being made.  This post gives you an idea or two on how to take action in this area and recommends a book with lots of simple, practical and actionable tips. 

(Excerpt from the book – Learn Better – on how to study and learn better)

Some years ago, researcher Louis Deslauriers and some colleagues decided to roll out a simple intervention in an introductory college science class. If a student did poorly on the first exam, Deslauriers or one of his colleagues would meet with the student for around 20 minutes and provide some research-backed advice. We’ve already covered a lot of what the researchers told the students (regarding meaning reflecting, targeting, self-quizzing and verbally or textually summarizing) and they underscored the importance of mental doing. “Do not simply reread,” Deslauriers would explain. “Attempt to ‘do’ each learning goal by generating your own explanations.” As part of the meeting with each student, Deslauriers also talked about developing plans and goals, advising people to learn “in a targeted manner, to improve your ability with a specific learning goal.” Finally, Deslauriers would tell students to take various approaches to engaging an idea, to make sure that they could explain a concept in various ways. The effect of the advice was impressive. Most students saw their outcomes skyrocket, with tests scores jumping by more than 20 percentage points, or about two grade levels. What’s more, the students in Deslauriers’s class didn’t study any longer. The new approaches didn’t take any additional time. The students simply studied better.

In Learn Better, the author shares the research relating to six areas that help us to improve learning.  

  1. VALUE

Important: It is not step by step process as some areas may be used at times and not at others. However, I believe that Value is key at the outset to help provide learning motivation.

A deeper understanding of each area provided below:

Value – When learning anything, the process will be more effective if we can find meaning.  We improve our ability and likelihood of learning when we relate it to something valuable to us. 

An important aspect of learning for an individual is to ascertain meaning first. That is, if you want to help someone learn something faster and more deeply help them to find meaning in the topic for themselves as part of the process.  For instance, if you are showing someone how building a better business is about simplifying and create a systematic process based around four key decisions, ask them what building a healthy and thriving business that operates day to day without need for them to intervene means to them, or how they came to want to create their business.

Also, most importantly, have, use in hiring, growth and all aspects of your team experience, a Core Purpose – why your company exists, what impact it has on people.  Of all six areas in this book, I believe that this one is the most important and impactful to better learning and better productivity and fulfillment.

Key words – Find meaning

Target – Another key is to target learning to a narrower field such as learning how to run a marathon by focusing on how to master hills or when hitting a baseball to focus on seeing the seams or hitting a tennis ball by trying to read the writing on the ball as it approaches.  Or, instead of saying you want to lose twenty pounds, you decide to eat 1800 calories per day and walk 30 minutes each day.

It is important to set specific goals and develop plans to improve learning.

Key word – Narrowing

Develop –   In order to have the learning stick and improve it helps to focus practice on key areas.  Employing the concept of deliberate practice put forth by Anders Ericsson in his book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.

Key words – deliberate practice

Extend – look beyond basics and build upon what we already know.  It is key to have some level of knowledge first and to then find ways to build on that foundation. First learn to crawl, then to walk, then to run.

Key words – Prior knowledge 

Relate – Find how it all fits together.  We have to step back and see the bigger picture.  How what we are learning fits into a larger context.

For instance, when learning about People in ScalingUp, one should remember that it is one important piece in creating a healthy and thriving organization focused around four key decisions.

Key words – Bigger picture

Rethink – Practice more often the things you forget but also revisit everything over time.  It will be easier to recall.later.

For anyone who wants to learn anything, the takeaway is clear: Anything we can do to distribute our learning over time pays off, and people should space out the development of a skill. If you’re practicing the violin, don’t just rehearse a melody for a few hours; return to the melody periodically so that it stays burned in your memory.

Key words – Space out learning, reflect to learn

Overall, it is important to learn the effective process of learning.  We can do this by first ensuring that the topic has personal meaning to the learner (VALUE), that we thoughtfully narrow the focus of the topic (TARGET), focus our practice to key areas (DEVELOP), first gain fundamental knowledge before we then move to more sophisticated areas of the topic (EXTEND), take a step back once in a while to see how what we are learning relates to the bigger picture or context (RELATE) and lastly to space out our learning and reflect so we increase the chances of longer term recall. (RETHINK)

Other helpful words/concepts/techniques:

  • Self-Quizzing
  • Revisit concepts over time. Those you miss should be revisited more often.  Reflect to learn.
  • Summarize in your own words
  • Provide relevant feedback and encouragement
  • Group studying is helpful due to social aspect as well as teaching others.

Final thoughts (excerpt from the book)

Set expectations. There’s no getting around it: Learning is hard. Gaining expertise requires struggle. For parent, teachers, and managers, this means that learners need support and encouragement, and so you should offer lots of praise and social encouragement to the people learning something. Be sure, however, to focus on process, not outcomes, so people remain motivated. More specifically, stop using the word “smart.” People who are told they are “smart” often become complacent, performing under their ability, according to work by Carol Dweck. So praise methods, not performance: “Great job working so hard.” “This is going to be hard.” “Keep it up.” 

One thing to try – Next time you are sharing something new with a group, try the following:

  1. Give a high level view of the outcome of the share
  2. Ask each person to write down what it would mean to them if they were to achieve this outcome.
  3. Have each person read this out loud, or just a handful or so if the audience is over 10 or so.
  4. Ask, and allow others to ask, clarifying questions.
  5. Start the share from the beginning.

This should increase the engagement level of the audience as you have allowed them to think about and articulate out loud what they would get out of this information before you have started.  It can also increase the likelihood of action when you are finished among other benefits.

This was one of the better books I have read about how to create a more effective learning culture.  I recommend it highly.

Finally, as a related aside, in all the years of study I have done on learning, one thing comes up over and over again as the best way to learn something – teach it to someone else.  

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Certified Premium Scaling Up/Gravitas Impact Coach

For MA companies ONLY, as an approved Training and Development provider, Catalyst Growth Advisors can offer you 50% off program fees.  Click here to see if you qualify.

One Answer (Really Two) To Finding Great New Team Members (example provided)

“Our biggest challenge in the business is finding and hiring qualified candidates” – CEO

I often ask leaders what their biggest barrier to growth is.  The most frequent response by far these days is how hard it is to find qualified candidates to help with growth of the business.  Being the contrarian that I am, I ask them a few questions:

  1. Since highly engaged team members are 2+ times more productive than everyone else, how productive and engaged are your existing team members?   
  2. What are you and your leadership team doing to grow the existing set of folks you already have? 

I mostly hear silence or faint-hearted answers. I believe that we often tend to try to solve problems with “new” versus working with what we already have which can be an ineffective and expensive default.

How can we develop from within?

One key action is to examine your existing cultural system. 

  1. Are you fostering a team environment?
    • Are you hiring people who believe what you believe? That is, do you have a core purpose for the business and leverage it in the hiring process?
    • Do you share most, if not all, the same core values? How do you interview with these in mind?  Do you reinforce them daily?
    • Have you provided a clear and compelling North Star/BHAG/Just Cause to focus the entirety of the organization?

Here is a short video (5 mins)from ADP Research going into a bit more detail on how the feeling of “team” boosts employee engagement.

While figuring our these “soft” things seems like a waste of time, the effort can have tremendous bottom and top line results to the business.  Like Ron Lovett, founder of Source Security & Investigations, you may find that you have more than enough untapped resources hiding in plain sight.  He describes his journey in a great book called Outrageous Empowerment and this video (12 mins.) provides an example of trusting an existing employee that results in much higher levels of engagement.

If there is no other option but to look outside the company to help with growth, it is advantageous to make sure you craft a compelling story to attract the right people (and repel the wrong people).  Below is a real-life example.

Client Example to Find New Team Members

One of the best ways to increase engagement levels is to hire the right people in the first place.  Incorporating the essence of the three main questions above, you can market for the right folks from the outset.  Here is an example of a client of mine (Chiropractic Practice owner) that modified an employee want ad with tremendous results.

First ad

Here is the first ad that was out for about 10 months.  (D.C. = Doctor of Chiropractic (medicine))

A Waiting List Practice in Natick, MA (Metrowest Boston) is looking for an ambitious D.C. with the right skill set to join our multi-D.C. growing practice.    Applicant must be certified in Active Release Techniques®.  Proficiency in motion palpation and manipulation is desired.  This is an excellent opportunity for the right D.C. to join a leading-edge, health and wellness-focused practice.  We will train you for success! If you would like the opportunity to join XXXXXXXXXXX, please send your resume with a cover letter expressing your interest to: XXXXXXX
Results – 1 response in about 10 months. The candidate was ruled out over the phone.
He was clearly frustrated as he thought this was a compelling ad to attract the best possible candidates.  He rationalized that the reason he was not getting excellent candidates in was the fact that MA was a more challenging state for new chiropractors to start a practice and kept running the ad with poor results.  His frustration increased as we determined through our work together that, more than any other action he could take, this one hire could make a huge impact to his business that he wants to triple in size in the next few years.. 

My client and I then talked more deeply about what a great candidate would look like, (e.g., what minimum skills would they need, what would make them a good fit with the staff and patients and, once up to speed, what expectations should each party have assuming a successful and achievable outcome?).  After this conversation, we crafted the following ad.  Please note that both ads were placed on the same job boards.

Second ad

We are a successful practice in Natick, MA (Metrowest Boston) which operates with integrity and passion to help active people get out of pain, perform better and live healthy lives.  We are looking for an associate chiropractor that is certified in Active Release Techniques®, and proficient in Motion Palpation, and is interested in earning $200 – 300K (yearly) helping 35-55 patients daily to help us expand our practice.  Interested doctors are invited to send a resume with cover letter to: XXXXXXXXX
Results – 4 responses in the 1st week! 

One candidate was hired shortly thereafter and started a few months ago.  He has since received additional responses from interested chiropractic students who have not graduated yet as well as an increasing amount of other options.  This creates a “bench” to help him expand when ready.


By taking ~30 minutes to think deeply about the vital few aspects of the role from the company’s and the candidate’s perspective, we were able to describe exactly what a great candidate would find most attractive. The time saved in screening and interviewing mediocre candidates was far greater than the 30 minutes (10 months versus 10 days) taken up front to think not only what you want but what the right candidate would value.


Resist the knee jerk temptation to look outside the company when hiring.  If, after due consideration of all internal options, you come to the conclusion that bringing on an outsider to the company is the best course of action, focus on the vital few areas you want to highlight that are best for the company and the incoming team member to attract the best possible candidate pool. 

Weak companies hire the right experience to do the job. Strong companies hire the right person to join their team. – Simon Sinek

Homework (Two options)

  1. For a role where there is no one in your organization who has the minimum skills and abilities to fill the role similar to my client above, pick one upcoming key hire and apply this process (assuming you have answers to the three main questions above).  Then craft a compelling ad to attract those with the right mindset and minimum skill level.
  2. For those looking to find some “diamonds in the rough” internally, read this book (Nine Lies about Work) to help you on the road to creating a team-fostering environment.

These are key elements in the growth framework I help my clients craft and implement over time.   Please see graphical representation below:

Please feel free to contact me if you want to talk through the process in more detail.

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Certified Growth Coach
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