Why the leader has to fire herself from the day to day

Click on this link to see the full video (0:38) of the screenshot above showing how one can get into trouble by doing too many things at once.

In a February 2006 TED Talk, Sir Ken Robinson said the following…”Our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. And there’s a reason. Around the world, there were no public systems of education, really, before the 19th century. They all came into being to meet the needs of industrialism. So the hierarchy is rooted in two ideas. Number one, that the most useful subjects for work are at the top. So you were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? ‘Don’t do music, you’re not going to be a musician; don’t do art, you won’t be an artist’. Benign advice — now, profoundly mistaken. The whole world is engulfed in a revolution.

And the second is academic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence because the universities design the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance (to ultimately prepare us for some type of employment). And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that way.”

I agree and believe one of the great problems we have inherited as leaders is that our overarching business culture is rooted in this history. One that valued the mining of human beings to produce a particular commodity consequently dampening, or in some cases, eliminating creativity, critical thinking, and innovation. More so, valuing being right over learning and growing – a system rife with error. However, now, in America, we are primarily a service economy. That is, organizations made up of people whose primary job is to serve other people. 

We have transitioned from largely mechanistic systems to organic systems, Being so demands a nourishing environment to flourish – not a command and control environment. Mostly gone are the days of industrialism, rote systems, hierarchy, and hyper-efficiency. I believe strongly that the main job of leaders is to create atmosphere. An atmosphere of self-efficacy where our teams can flourish, grow, learn and thrive. Our job as leaders and coaches is to instill, inspire and make room for self-efficacy. When we do this, our teams will become more engaged, be fulfilled in and look forward to coming to work every day.  Every stakeholder benefits from this approach – shareholders to customers to team members. Simon Sinek tells a startling story about this phenomenon.

As Amy Edmondson advises, reframe your role as boss so you set direction instead of giving answers, invite input to clarify and improve instead of giving orders, create conditions for continued learning instead of assessing others’ performances.

The first step in going further, faster (the theme of my upcoming book) is to create a company that can run on a daily basis without you so you can spend your time on the few things that truly matter. For those that do, matter tremendously, and will make all the difference in your life and the lives of those you have chosen to take with you on this wonderful journey. 

When you make this part of the everyday, your business will go further and grow faster with less effort from you and the handful of key people you typically rely on every day, week, and month. Freeing up more and more time to focus on your real job as a leadership team which is to predict your future with a high level of accuracy. The first place I recommend you start is with your team. Have you surrounded yourself as effectively as possible with people who can perform their key functions(s) better than you can? A team whose input you value and incorporate to make the team and the company run a little bit better every day?A team that is well rounded to optimally perform its key function(s) to move the company further, faster?I will leave you with this from Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism:

Be Exceptional!

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.

Two Playbooks – Pre-Sales and Post-Sales

There may be a few excellent ways to sell and service your product or solution but there are definitely not 10, 20 and certainly not 50.

Monthy Python Silly Olympics – Race for People with No Sense of Direction

If you do not have a Sales Playbook, chances are that your sales reps are each figuring out their own “best way” to sell your product. The likelihood of them sharing this information is low as is the chance that each has found the optimal process for each of your key selling steps.  How do you get everyone on the same page?

One suggestion I have is to create a Sales Playbook with and for the team. Jack Daly has written a helpful book to this end – The Sales Playbook for Hyper Sales Growth if you would like to go into more depth than this high level step.

For those who want to dive right in, I have provided a template based on Daly’s guidance to get you started on the Resources page on my site.  Look for Execution #4 under Business Resources. It is not the ultimate and universal playbook so feel free to add to/subtract from it as is makes sense for your sales process. 

IMPORTANT: This Playbook should be designed to sell primarily to your core customer – not every customer – so consistency is useful and beneficial.

How to get started

  1. You can write a first draft and ask the team to clarify and improve it with their experience, or 
  2. You can assign parts to each sales person that you feel/know has the highest chance of providing the best possible information to start with.  

Either way, the goal is to get the first draft written, have each sales person use it and update it as a group to keep improving it.  Once it is to a point where it cannot be improved much further, you can incorporate it into your new sales rep training.

I have also created a similar playbook (Customer Advocate Playbook) for what to do after you earn the customer to help turn them into raving fans.  I leverage some content from Joey Coleman’s book Never Lose a Customer Again. as well as my own experience.

The same guidance applies but you will likely want to involve your customer success team as well as any “farmers” on the sales team.

You will find a link to this document in the same section as the Sales Playbook.

Please contact me should you have any questions or if you want to recommend some improvements to either document.

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.

Radical Candor is just plain wrong!  (Neuroscience backs me up)

Radical Candor is the wrong approach for proper feedback and growth

Although it is quite popular these days, unfortunately, cognitive and neuroscience do not back up the claim that supporters of so-called radical candor (sometimes known as “feedsmack”) make re: providing feedback to others.  While there are instances like Ray Dalio’s Principles from his stellar stewardship of Bridgewater Associates and Kim Scott’s personal anecdotes, what I have found through the literature on the subject is that these instances are outliers.  Most people do not want unsolicited feedback. What people do want is attention.  In most cases, in the short term, they are enjoying that you are paying attention to them at all but, in the long run, it is not helpful and may be counter to optimally growing you and your team.

Why do we do this?

According to research done by the NeuroLeadership Institute, there are three main reasons why our brain wants to give feedback.

  1. The brain loves to solve problems
  2. The ‘I told you so’ effect
  3. It is rewarding to think that you are helping others

These factors can fool us into thinking that giving feedback is the best way to go.

Helpful stats

In a 19 country study, with almost 20,000 people, the ADP Research Institute found the following:

‘ …most feedback is focused on what people are doing wrong. It is not focused on excellence.

  • Positive attention is 30X more effective than negative attention (focused on what the team member does wrong) and,
  • 1200X more effective than no attention’

“Excellence is not the opposite of failure: we can never create excellent performances by only fixing poor ones. Mistake fixing is just a tool to prevent failure.” – First, Break all the Rules

The Research

There are many areas in cognitive science and research that support this. I will cite three below:

  1. The work of David Rock and the NeuroLeadership Institute
  2. ADP research illustrated in the book by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall
  3. Cognitive and other psychologists represented here by the work of Art Markman – PhD , Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and Founding Director of the Program in the Human Dimensions of Organizations.

NeuroLeadership institute

  1. One study showed that feedback did nothing or made things worse 59% of the time and improved performance only 41% of the time.  Much of this negative outcome was correlated to the lack of training on how to give effective feedback.  Please see the research for more details.
  2. Rock’s SCARF model shows that the brain is constantly assessing – searching for rewards and avoiding threats.  Since the brain cannot distinguish well the difference between a social and physical threat, it initially misinterprets unsolicited “feedback” as a threat often triggering the fight, flight or freeze response.  This can mitigate or in some cases eliminate the positive impact of feedback.
  3. Rock and his team recommend that you create an environment where feedback is asked for versus given. This, combined with some preparatory work, dramatically increases the chance of feedback being successful. 

ADP Research – Marcus Buckingham

  1. In their latest book, Nine Lies about Work, Buckingham and Goodall demonstrate many misconceptions we have about employee engagement.  One of these is why feedback fails. Here is a short video from Buckingham explaining why.
  2. According to Buckingham, people cannot accurately rate other people. Why is this important?  You are NOT the expert on anyone else except you and what you love.  You ARE the expert on how you feel/your reaction to what someone does.  Please stop assuming that you know what is best for someone else.  Bottom line: If you cannot reliably rate someone else, then your feedback will often miss the mark. Stop giving it as your first inclination. Make it a last resort and then ALWAYS with expressed permission granted from the recipient.  Here is another video from Buckingham on this topic.

I highly recommend reading this remarkable book that breaks many management myths.

Art Markman

  1. In his podcast, Two Guys on your Head, Markman, and his partner Bob Duke shares insights and research on individual topics in 7-minute segments.  This one on Advice is instructive in my opinion.
  2. In his book, Smart Change, Markman goes deep into how to be an effective change agent.  Here is an article that summarizes much of the book.

To me, the bottom line from all of this research is to realize that the goal is not give the best type of feedback but to help others grow and improve to the benefit of themselves and the company (aka shepherding behavioral change). Please let me re-state this, I often hear/read on LinkedIn and other places, so-called feedback experts sharing the best method to give feedback. Care deeply. Challenge directly. Be vulnerable. Provide it in the moment. Build trust. These are excellent guides for providing better feedback but not to the building of a better team with better outcomes.

This is all well and good and none of it is wrong but all of it is focused on solving the wrong problem – how to give great feedback.  The goal of a team leader is to build a continuously-improving environment and cohesive team that takes the fullest advantage of the strengths of each member to have the entire team deliver the optimal output to the benefit of the company and the customer.

Based on this research and my own experience, I think that you should avoid giving corrective feedback except as a last resort and as infrequently as possible. Focus on catching people doing something right and help them build on that – a little better every day.

Suggestions of what to do 

Here are a couple of suggestions:

  1. Ask them to describe a day that flew by, What were they doing? This may help identify what they love doing. Help them do more of that. 
  2. Have them put together a Love It/Loathe it list. Please see this post for more detail. Help them do more of what they love. This, of course, must be balanced with what is best for the company and its customers. Here is a video of Buckingham again on how he recommends you do this and why.
  3. Stop them when they do something brilliant.  Ask them to interrogate themselves as to how they did that. Help them do more of that. Five-minute video from Marcus Buckingham talking more about this.
  4. Encourage a growth mindset.  Show and encourage how the brain has plasticity and with effort and practice can learn many new things.  Here is a link to great research, case studies and more on growth mindset.

This was one of my longer posts and has lots of stuff in it. I recommend you pick one thing that works for you and try that instead of trying to do everything in here.  Come back to other stuff later.

As always, please contact me for more details. I am happy to help.

Be Exceptional!

Bill  – Certified Growth Coach, NeuroLeadership Foundations Certificate and Predictive Index Partner

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.


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!

(catalystgrowthadvisors.com; bill@catalystgrowthadvisors.com)

If you found this post useful, please sign up at the top right of the page to receive my twice monthly blog posts.

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 – bill@catalystgrowthadvisors.com.  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.