Don: [00:00:00] Hi, I’m Don Rheem, CEO of E3 Solutions and author of the book, “Thrive By Design.” I speak across North America on the neuroscience of engagement at work. I’m passionate about helping leaders at every level to create engaging workplace environments where employees feel safe, recognized and validated. Employees who feel safe at work are happier, healthier and more productive. Each week, my team and I take on topics impacting managers and offer solutions to your biggest workplace challenges.
Kelly: [00:00:03] Welcome to Thrive By Design the podcast.
Kelly: [00:00:06] We created this show to give managers CEOs and leaders the tips strategies and tools you need to create an engaged culture at work. I’m Kelly Burns and I’m here with Don Rheem our CEO of E3 Solutions.
Kelly: [00:00:21] For the past several episodes we’ve discussed the importance of measuring engagement and what we find when we measure engagement, the leadership, the dimensions that influence engagement. We hope you found these episodes interesting and hope that they’ve inspired you to put measure engagement on your company to do list this year.
Kelly: [00:00:38] And speaking of to-do lists and maybe making some New Year’s goals, today’s episode is all about setting professional goals. What a better way to start off the New Year but with goals.
Kelly: [00:00:48] Good morning Don.
Don: [00:00:49] Good morning Kelly.
Kelly: [00:00:50] Happy 2019.
Don: [00:00:52] Happy 2019 to you. Happy New Year.
Kelly: [00:00:53] It’s going to take a while to get used to saying that.
Don: [00:00:55] It is.
Kelly: [00:00:56] So let’s start with the personal leadership goals setting. Why is it so important for leaders to set intentional goals for their year ahead?
Don: [00:01:13] Let’s start with daily goals. We know that when leaders as well as employees start the day with intentionality, that is to be intentional around getting something done that day, it’s much more likely to happen. So it is a great idea to set goals at the beginning of the year, at this sort of 30,000-foot level. And, the goal I would recommend for leaders this year because it delivers just the highest return for leaders is to be more relational.
Don: [00:01:39] A more relational leader to connect and engage with your team, your staff and your colleagues, at a deeper level and at a level that will have meaningful impact on their daily behaviors. So that’s great to set that at the beginning of the year but then we have to make sure that we’re actually following through with that. That is we need to get some traction around that goal and that’s something I’d like to talk about during this podcast: is once I’ve set that goal as a leader what do I want to be doing it at a quarterly level to check in? What are my milestones? And then again what might I be doing on a monthly level and weekly level?
Kelly: [00:02:16] So you just really briefly a minute ago mentioned this framework that I love that you use it’s the altitude framework and you just quickly reference that 30,000-foot view. Could you talk about when that altitude framework is and how that can apply the goal setting?
Don: [00:02:31] Well, when I think of 30000 feet we talk about this in our communication workshop and whenever someone is communicating we do an altitude analysis. We set three different altitudes 30,000 feet, 15,000 feet and then down at the ground level or in the weeds. And a quick easy way to think about these altitudes and why they’re significant down in the weeds would be the what that we’re communicating. Up at 30,000 feet, it’s the why, and then the 15,000 feet is around the how. How am I going to get that done? So I want to start at 30,000 feet. Why do I want to be this relational leader? And the why is because, there are innumerable whys, but probably the most important one is the fact that homosapiens are hardwired to be in groups to be in relationship with other people. And that’s not just a desire for proximity. This is a hard-wired need to be connected with others so that we can operate, we can perform, we can live in our highest capacity.
Kelly: [00:03:35] So, what does it look like to be a relational leader in 2019?
Don: [00:03:39] Well, you’re gonna have more personal contact with your team. What I mean by that is you’re going to know more about them and their lives and what goes on in their lives outside of work. One of the questions in our survey is, do I feel valued for more than the work I produce? Whenever a leader gets a low score on that I know that leader knows virtually nothing about that person outside of work. And for us as people, we want to be seen as a whole person, the whole individual not just the work individual. And when we know our leaders care about that, care about what I do not only at work but when I’m at home and away from work then it’s a deeper more authentic felt sense that they care about me.
Kelly: [00:04:25] So when people talk about New Year’s goals all the time it’s the running joke and has been for the beginning of time, potentially, that you set these goals and by the end of January or February you’re back to your same old habits. You’re back to who you were before. You’re not eating like you are going on you’re not going to the gym like you are going to. How do we take this one goal, this one: become a more relational leader in 2019 goal, and make it something that we don’t lose momentum on that we don’t lose steam on by the end of the month much less the end of the year?
Don: [00:04:58] You know I’ve really been impressed and intrigued by the research around lists and creating habits. And how do we create habits that is to make something habitual? And that’s what we’re talking about here not just to set a lofty goal and then march off self righteously but to set a goal at a high altitude knowing why it’s important and then turning it into a habit. So for example, that E3 Solutions we’ve created a what we call a, “Take 10 to Engage List,” and it’s something we give every manager in our employee engagement boot camp for managers. And it’s just a list what we want managers to do is to take 10 minutes on Monday morning look at this list we give them that demonstrates all of these different things that we can do to engage and connect with our employees. And they go through the list, you identify which employee you’re going to do which intervention with and then I would prefer that they would write down a target day that week that they’re going to get it done and then they can check it off when it is done. And then, of course, I love it when their senior leaders then ask them for a copy of their sheets so we know they’re actually doing it. So to create a habit I would start with a list and what some managers have told us, for example, Kelly, is when they set these goals they actually have to put it in their calendar. They actually schedule the time to go do it: Wednesday, 11:30 am, get up out of my seat and go connect with my team.
Kelly: [00:06:27] So what you’ve done here is take it from that 30,000 foot view, that one overarching goal of being a more relational leader and turning it into a day to day practice that they do something that overflows in their calendar, that overflows in their interactions with their employees on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly basis.
Kelly: [00:06:47] So let’s go back from that 30,000-foot view that overarching goal of being a more relational leader and let’s look at the 15,000-foot view. What does that look like on a quarterly basis? If a leader wants to achieve the goal by the end of this year to be more relational leader, what are three things they can do this quarter, next quarter, the following quarter to become a more relational leader? How do they bring that down?
Don: [00:07:10] Well there are a couple of ways to look at the quarterly frame. One way would be to say there is something I need to do at least once a quarter. So I’m going to take the four quarters of the year. And one thing we know that that rates or ranks the lowest when we look at our global numbers on our engagement survey is around recognition and celebration. That particular question I’m thinking of is this organization celebrates employee accomplishments regularly. And for many organizations, that’s one of their lowest scores. So as a manager, as a leader, I would say, okay once a quarter I need to identify some milestones that we can celebrate as a group. And it might be if you’re in manufacturing, for example, I was with a trucking company last week in the Midwest. How many miles driven? How many tons of material have been moved? But think of something that on a quarterly basis that you can celebrate with the team to signal that you know they’re working hard and you appreciate it. Now also what you can set for yourself to be a relational leader is, we recommend that managers meet with each of their direct reports for a confidential one on one conversation at least once a month. Every quarter I can see okay, how am I doing on this? Have I met with each of my employees three times? You know in the learning world they talk about, “chunked learning,” you learn in segments and modules, and it’s easier to retain and embed a smaller chunk than it is a big huge book for example. So, let’s let’s chunk this relationship, let’s say okay this quarter what am I going to do. Okay, I’m going to I’m going to make sure I meet with each one of my employees once a month to have this confidential one on one conversation. So to recap a little bit: What do I want to do at least four times a year? Like a celebration. One engineering firm we worked, the young engineers wanted to go do field trips. So once a quarter they identify a project that’s been completed and built and they go visit it. So, what can you do quarterly? And, then also for yourself what are your goals be inside each quarter?
Kelly: [00:09:23] So if you are thinking about inside each quarter that’s really taking us down to the 500-foot view?
Don: [00:09:37] Begin with the end in mind. What do I want to have achieved at the end of the year? Who do I want to be? What would I like my employees to say was a shift for the year? Drop down to 15,000 feet, that’s kind of the how. Now how am I going to do that? Well, I’m going to chunk the year into four quarters and I’m going to set goals and objectives for each quarter and I’m going to do something at least once a quarter. For example, celebrating. Or, taking my team out for lunch or I’m going to have a one on one lunch with each of my team members at least once a quarter.
Kelly: [00:10:07] So, then if you move it down to essentially either the daily, the weekly when you think about the granular level that very low altitude. How does it play out on a day to day basis or a week to week basis?
Don: [00:10:17] Yeah and I might have introduced the concept of the list a little bit early in this context but that’s an example of something that would be down in the weeds. What am I going to do this week? And, just how am I going to begin this day? I want to be intentional about my day, especially Mondays are key days for teams. It’s a time when they’re thinking about their week, they’re moving off the weekend and if we can be intentional about something on a Monday, for that week that would be fantastic. I love the idea of having huddles on a Monday morning. And this isn’t just go through a long litany of things on a work agenda. This is, how are we doing as a team? How did everybody do over the weekend? What do we need to get done this week? Does anybody need any particular help any heads up that we all need to be thinking about for the week? But be very intentional about your day and your week.
Kelly: [00:11:10] And, if you’re thinking about it in the context of being a more relational leader those huddles those daily interactions, do you need to go beyond what’s on the agenda for the day, do you need to go beyond the workspace mentality exclusively. Correct?
Don: [00:11:26] Yes. It also helps solve a problem we see a lot in our surveys. One of the open-ended questions we ask at the end of a survey is, what are one or two things we can do to improve the quality of the leadership of your team? What could your manager do to improve their performance? And, one of the most common themes is: being accessible, being available. And, so what the huddle allows it guarantees every employee that at least once a week in that huddle I’m allowed to ask a question of the leader. It’s not, you know, again a deep agenda but it’s about a concern an issue or something that I have. Some leaders are even going as far as you think back to our days in college when professors had office hours. As a leader to be more relational, are you accessible to your team? Are there times when it is safe for them to come and see you? And, by safe I mean, is it okay if they’re on the clock and they come to you with the question? Is there a certain time of day? Unfortunately, leaders today are probably busier and more time-pressed than they ever have been in history. And so this tends to reduce their accessibility. Another issue we’re finding is in this telework kind of environment it seems to get even worse or when a manager is responsible for multiple teams in multiple locations. It’s just getting harder and harder to get access to that manager. So can the manager identify a particular time, hour block in the week when they’re available?
Kelly: [00:12:58] So if a leader is spending some time processing what a personal leadership goal would look like for them and trying to transform their 2019 to better impact their team, there’s a good chance that their employees are also processing what do I want to do to be a better employee to provide more to my organization to my team to my job in 2019 as well. How can a leader bring an employee into those conversations, so that they walk alongside one another in their goal setting and who they’re becoming and how they’re committing to their year?
Don: [00:13:31] The beginning of the year is this wonderful opportunity. I was a journalist in a previous life and editors are always looking for news hooks. Like why would I do that story now why? What is it now that’s relevant to that story? The beginning of the year is probably the quintessential time, the most opportune time to talk about: hey, what do we want to do differently? And, the manager, the leader can put that in the context of the team. Hey, we’re starting a new year. We’ve got this fresh start in the new year. Let’s talk about how we want to relate and connect to each other. We have this exercise that we promote it E3 Solutions, it’s a KISS exercise. The, K, is for: What should we keep doing? The, I, is: What could we improve on? The first, S, is: What should we stop doing? And, then the second, S, is: What should we start doing? Good opportunity for a leader to do a KISS exercise at the beginning of the year because it makes sense.
Don: [00:14:25] It’s contextually, it’s well-timed, it fits.
Kelly: [00:14:29] And what an opportunity to do an exercise like that not just at the team level but also at the individual level so that each individual team member has a voice and a say: What do what do I want to keep doing? What do I want to improve on this year? It not only gives them buy-in for shifting behaviors or performance or goals for the upcoming year but it also helps the leader understand what that employee values. What do they really want to keep or what do they really want to stop doing? It doesn’t feel like it taps into their strains or it uses their skills the best way possible. Maybe it’s a difficult task for them or a team collaboration it’s not quite working for them. There’s ways a leader can learn the experience of their employee when they open up that conversation individually.
Don: [00:15:13] Yeah absolutely. And this is the perfect time of year to do it. In one workshop I gave an individual, a manager raised his hand in the back of the room and he said, “Don is it important that when you give this recognition and you’re trying to connect with the employees that this be authentic?”
Don: [00:15:29] And I said, “Well, yeah, absolutely it is.”
Don: [00:15:31] Then he said, “Oh, OK. Well, then I can’t do this because I have never done it before. It would be viewed as completely inauthentic.”
Don: [00:15:41] If you want to change direction, if you know, for example, the way you’ve led in the past is not the best you can be, but you’re worried about well how do I shift now, because it’s going to be hard to explain.
Don: [00:15:57] This is the time of year to do it. But what I would do is I would make the covert over. I would simply announce to the team hey it’s a new year and I want to embrace some new approaches to leadership. I’m not sure that the way I’ve led and manage the team in the past has been the best. And I want to try some new things working with each of you as individuals and working with the team. And this is just the perfect time of year to do that. It would make sense and fit for everyone.
Kelly: [00:16:26] That kind of openness transparency and vulnerability would likely make a very strong statement to the team reduce cynicism from those who think it can’t be done. But also it sets a standard for that leader to say this is who I’m going to be and they have made that public which means they need to uphold that standard as much as possible, as long as possible.
Don: [00:16:50] I want to come back to the authenticity issue. How do we get employees to see this new leader as being the authentic leader? And, the best I can say the only way out is through. You just need to do it and you need to do it again and again and again. And when a leader changes direction and at first employers are going to go whoa what happened to them. They must have gone to a leadership seminar they read they read a book over the holiday time. Yes exactly. So if you want to be seen authentically in this new role you just need to do it consistently and predictably. And over time when they see that this is happening again and again and they can count on it, that’s when they start to view it as being authentic and a new you.
Kelly: [00:17:33] And that’s when they can trust it and that’s when the limbic system starts to feel safe.
Don: [00:17:36] That’s when the limbic system starts to say, hey I can rely on this new leadership role, I don’t have to worry about being blindsided.
Kelly: [00:17:43] And when they fail?
Don: [00:17:44] Well, when leaders fail and we all do at some point the most appropriate thing to do again, coming back to the research, we find that there are always going to be arguments and in hard times between individuals and the difference between whether that’s a healthy relationship or an unhealthy relationship is the ability of those two people or the group to repair. So this is where a leader needs to be willing to repair if they’ve done something and repair at an emotional level. So for example, we do as you know, Kelly, we do a lot of work in the construction industry. We have a lot of construction clients and there are times on a job site where something is happening that is a clear safety violation and a leader, a manager, a supervisor rushes in and they’re typically pretty angry and they’re yelling at the person. Now that this is going to sound strange to some leaders, but how would you repair after you just literally rip someone’s head off verbally? So, the best way to do it, that I can find in the research, is you go in and you explain at an emotional level what happened for you. So I might come back to you, Kelly, and I might say listen I’m really sorry for yelling at you last Friday. I realize it’s inappropriate, but I think what was happening for me, is I saw you up on that ladder and you were about to connect that electrical conduit and I was terrified that you might get electrocuted. I was literally in fear of your life that something may happen. And the only thing I knew to do in the moment was to yell at you and I’m sorry for that. But as you know safety is just utmost here and we want everybody to go home at the end of the day with all of the facilities and capability that they started the day with. So that’s I think what was behind it. So you want to repair but let them know what the emotional experience is for you. And there are lots of advantages to that. None the least of which is that the most likely pivot point of a person’s behavior is going to be on how someone else feels. Not a rule, not a regulation but hey this had an impact on someone because we’re relational animals I’m most likely to respond in relationship to the other.
Kelly: [00:20:08] This is going to be a big leap for many leaders who have been operating in one way in the past and we’re proposing something that’s backed by science that we know works, that feels like a really big shift, especially if you think about the old model of leadership that said pull yourself up by your bootstraps command and control.
Don: [00:20:30] Command and control top-down punitive, that’s the old model. It’s a parental model actually. It’s how parents have corralled their kids and you do it in some part to maintain their safety. Children, for example, don’t have a well-developed prefrontal cortex is to make reason and to make the right decisions. And children are actually load-sharing that capacity to their parents. They’re looking to the parent to help think for them because they just they don’t have that full capacity. In this case what we’re saying is yes that was a that was a good model for parenting at least in some part but it’s not a good model for adults leading adults. And unfortunately when managers don’t have new skills on how to lead they fall back to those deeply embedded models that they spent 15, 16, 17, 18 now 26 years living with their with their parents.
Kelly: [00:21:25] And as you say the only way out is through.
Don: [00:21:29] Yes, we have to try and do it incrementally. You don’t have to jump in hog wild. But I think a relational leader, for example, one goal may be a quarterly goal coming back to that framework, would be, I need to be more emotionally expressive with my team to let them know what I’m worried about what I’m concerned about whether it’s and it can be about the work, the workload. It can be about them. It can be about I’m really worried about you and George and how you guys are interacting with each other. I’m worried about what it’s doing to you and how you feel when you come to work. And one of the advantages is, when I say, hey, I’m worried about X, Y and Z, you can’t come back and say no you’re not. You know people argue about facts and content, but it’s very hard for you to tell me I’m not worried. How would you know? This approach starts to get underneath the threat detection systems in the brain and moves us away from just a cognitive back and forth, factual conversation and gets us more to the relational parts.
Kelly: [00:22:34] So I think about people who are listening to the podcast really I don’t even know where to start with this if I’m going to be a more relational leader, what do I specifically need to do in order to make that happen where my falling short as a relational leader essentially? I know we spent the last handful of episodes talking about measuring engagement, so those that have the data about how they’re leading their teams and how engaged their teams are, are likely going to have some really great starting points and maybe can speak to that. But what about those that don’t have data points?
Don: [00:23:02] Yeah, it’s hard without data because you don’t know if you’re moving the needle, and that’s one of the big challenges is, as we say, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Give you two examples: I’m really excited about two questions in our survey we just added them two years ago. One is: I respect and trust my supervisor, and then we have the companion question: my supervisor trusts and respects me. Those are really important questions. And I like the scores to be as similar as possible, but it’s those kinds of data points. And, I did a debrief with the company just yesterday, and we were talking about a particular manager and both of these scores were very, very low as were that managers overall engagement scores.
Don: [00:23:48] Now how do you detect that if you don’t have data? You’re looking for proxies in the workplace, you’re looking for things like: how about drama and morale? People arguing. Are people hitting deadlines? When you see them in the hallway literally, do they smile? Do they look happy? These are all proxies for how it’s going.
Kelly: [00:24:09] Do they avoid you in the hallway and turn the other direction.
Don: [00:24:18] Now look you don’t have to have, for example, you don’t have to do as a set tool like ours. A manager could put together a simple survey and use a free platform like survey gizmo or survey monkey and put together a simple survey with some key questions and just run it. Another platform we love to use is Mentimeter. And this is a platform where you could pull the team together and you can ask a question and the team can answer the question on their phones or their laptops and it shows up on a screen anonymously and in real time. You can get these kinds of I don’t know micro data points or micro-measure points. It’s not as good as a tool that you’re using every year so that you can measure year over year on the same question but you can still gather data as a leader.
Kelly: [00:25:13] I think the most important thing is that you just start doing something even if it’s small you start doing something whether it be, you know there’s this one employee you’re not connecting with you that you need to pursue and build a stronger relationship. Or you know that you have dropped the ball on one-on-one meetings. Just start doing that one thing. Don’t bite off more than you can chew or you will be dropping this by the end of January or February. Start small to make a difference and that’s how you become a more relational leader in 2019.
Don: [00:25:43] And let me give you an idea of where to start small; smile more. A smile is a very powerful tool neurochemically. When you smile at me there are neurons in my brain called mirror neurons that tell me to smile back. But when I do smile back in response, mirroring what you do, I get a release of oxytocin and a little dopamine neurochemical that feels good. So a smile can be a very simple, granular in the weeds tool for becoming a more relational leader. And a neutral face is not good enough it’s got to be a smile.
Kelly: [00:26:21] That’s something everybody can do this year.
Don: [00:26:24] Be intentional with this year; I’m going to smile more all year long.
Kelly: [00:26:27] That’s great. Don thanks for a great conversation and cheers to 2019.
Don: [00:26:32] Thanks, Kelly.
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