The Newsletter of Redpoint Coaching
Volume 9, No. 7, December 2010
Ever wonder what your employees really want from you? How is running a business like trying to cross Antarctica? You'll find the answers (and more) below. We are proud to bring you the December issue of our ChangeAbility Newsletter. ChangeAbility provides you with hands-on tips and cool resources for growing your business and making you a better leader.
We welcome your responses, comments, and questions at email@example.com.
We would like to dedicate this newsletter to the memory of:
Peter Koenig "Pe"
18 June 1940 - 2 December 2010
Leader, Mentor, Father, Friend
We welcome your responses, comments, and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lauren and Urs
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IN THIS ISSUE:
- February's Featured Business
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by Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA
Personal note from Urs: Because of the passing of my father who has been my life role model and best friend I am spending time with my family in Switzerland this month. The following is an update of an article I wrote six years ago. I believe that the message is as relevant today as it was then.
I've reecently conducted several 360 degree surveys for my Redpoint clients. A
360 degree survey provides feedback in the form of an anonymous performance
assessment of a business owner by all the people (subordinates,
colleagues, managers, clients, suppliers) who surround that business
owner (hence "360 degree").
In the case of my clients, the owners and CEOs typically wanted to
receive feedback on their leadership skills from their staff. During the
process, we defined the criteria they wanted to be assessed by, and then I
drafted a questionnaire, surveyed the staff, and compiled and presented
Now, if you think this is an intimidating exercise, you are not alone.
Because of the anonymous nature of the exercise, staff are often brutally
honest and are not reluctant to reveal their views. In each case, my clients
have taken on the challenge bravely, though, knowing that this candid
assessment is a critical first step towards their own improvement.
Back came great feedback about their performances as "the boss". They
were perceived as being exceptional at interacting with clients, great at
getting business results and strong communicators.
The two critical areas of improvement I have continually observed are:
Lack of quality time spent with staff;
Lack of trust
You Need To Spend More Quality Time With Your Staff
Lots of owners of growing companies experience this: heavy workloads
prevent you from spending time with the very people you rely on to get
the job done, and who look to you for direction, mentorship and reward.
Your busy schedule therefore leads to "seagull" management: you stop in
quickly and drop a ton of information, directions and sometimes criticism
on your staff before you quickly take off again.
It came back loud and clear from my clients' feedback: you need to
spend the time to talk to people substantively and ask them how things
are really going. It is not necessarily the quantity, but quality of time and
interaction that counts.
Staff members who have been heard and feel that their feedback and
suggestions have been taken on board are always more engaged workers.
And engaged workers are almost always better performers.
Ask yourself for your business or organization: Over the last week: how
many people have I asked how things are going? How many people have
I thanked for a job well done? Remember: praise in public, criticize in
private. And, of course: when you are wrong (and you will be ;-),
We sometimes feel you do not trust us. It always has to go your
I am sure this sounds at least partly true for the vast majority of business
owners. After all: this is your baby, you have grown it and you know best
what it needs. Trusting someone else to take over and perform tasks you
have owned for so long is incredibly difficult for most business owners.
In fact, the reason why people start businesses in the first place is that
they believe they can perform a particular task better than anyone else (or
at least better than their current or past employer). This strong belief in
one's abilities is one of the great strengths of the entrepreneur. Yet we
know this strength can also become your biggest liability: the reality is
that if you want to build a company, you have to trust people to help run
it for you.
Trust itself sounds like a challenging concept to actively develop and
control, but Carl Robinson, a Seattle based psychologist and executive
coach, offers some helpful insights in his discussion of trust that appeared
in an article in the Journal of Managerial Psychology (2004):
Motive-Based Trust is what most people think about when they think of
trust. It is based on the belief that another's values, goals and beliefs are
closely aligned with yours. Motive-based trust is the basis for most
In a business relationship though, Competency-Based Trust, based on
your belief that your employees have the capabilities to get the job done,
is far more important. Why is that? Remember, you are hiring people not
because they are nice, but because they have the skills and the smarts to
get the job done.
So how then can we learn to develop these forms of trust?
How To Develop Competency-Based Trust
Assess Your Hiring: Do you have the right people in place to get the
job done? Do they either have the necessary capabilities or are they
willing and able to learn them? If yes, read on. If no, you need to consider
making some staff replacements.
Take time to observe your people in action. Give them goals and let
them come up with their own methodologies. Resist the huge temptation
to jump in with solutions and advice-giving. If, after a while, you do not
like what you see, go back to assessing your hiring practices or start
providing more training.
Look for outside support. Hire a coach or consultant and/or establish a
board you can lean on to help assess candidates. For more info on the
benefits and how-to's of establishing a board see:
How to Develop Motive-Based Trust
While developing competency-based trust is relatively straightforward,
motive-based trust tends to develop only once competency-based trust is
established; motive-based trust is, therefore, harder to assess.
Because this is a more intangible area, lots of entrepreneurs rely on their
instincts. Remember, though, that you have great tools to align motives:
- Remunerate staff based on their performance (e.g. a commission pay
structure for your sales staff or a profit sharing pay scheme)
- Provide key staff members with equity in your business.
Carl Robinson argues that in an imperfect world where trusting
relationships sometimes have to develop quickly, distributing equity is a
great way to establish tentative trust.
My experience with 360 degree surveys has shown me that spending quality
time with your staff and developing competency- and motive-based trust
makes all the difference between mediocre and great business owners.
by Lauren Owen, MBA
“Men wanted: Hazardous journey; small wages, bitter cold,
Long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful;
Honour and recognition in case of success.”
So read Ernest Shackleton’s job listing in the London papers for crew members for his quest to be the first to cross the continent of Antarctica via the southernmost tip of the earth. He eventually hired 26 (and took on one stowaway) from over 5,000 who answered the call. They set off on the ship Endurance but never reached Antarctica. Ten months later in frigid waters of the Weddell Sea, ice closed in around the ship, eventually crushing it. The crew boarded three life boats and landed on tiny Elephant Island. Shackleton and five crew members travelled on for another 800 miles to find help. Almost two years after setting out, all 27 of the crew members, along with Shackleton, were rescued.
The Endurance expedition has rightly earned a place in history for the crew’s triumph over grueling circumtances. How did they survive under conditions that would have caused many others to mutiny or simply give up and die? One answer lies in Shacketon’s leadership during the expedition, which has been studied extensively as a textbook example of how to keep team members motivated and working together in adverse conditions.
Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why,” believes another factor in the expedition members’ survival was that, from the start, Shackleton attracted crew members who were motivated by insurmountable odds and believed in what Shackleton believed in. In other words, Shackleton’s original ad led him to people who were a good “fit” for his organization.
According to Sinek, when hiring, unlike Shackleton, most organizations focus on the WHAT and not about the WHY. For example, a typical job posting might list the qualifications needed for the job. While this might produce applicants that have the right skills, how do we know who is the right fit for our company?
Companies that not only start out with a strong sense of WHY, but can also sustain it are much more likely to survive multi-generational transitions and tough times. How often do we hear about a company founded by an individual with a clear vision that sputters along and eventually dies after the founder passes? Or family businesses that are sold off when the second or third generation members decide to cash in? If we have a family owned company, how do we keep future generations focused and involved on the WHY?
- First, you have to be clear about your organization’s WHY
- Carry it through your organization’s daily decisions and actions
- Sustain your WHY by finding teams members who are a good fit; And if you are a family-owned company, be sure the family continues to be in sync with the WHY
Be Clear About the WHY
Do you know why your company does the things it does? Do your customers and employees know? Most companies, Sinek says, try to sell us on WHAT they do or HOW they do it. WHY goes deeper. His primary example of company that is clear about it’s WHY is Apple. Apple’s WHY is to challenge the status quo. A company that has a strong WHY, such as Apple, does everything to demonstrate their WHY, regardless of the products they make or the industry they are in.
Sinek’s point is that the reason a company with a clear and strong WHY resonates so much with customers is that the WHY triggers our emotional decision making process. That's why a strong WHY creates a powerful motivating force. People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it. In the same line, your employees are motivated by WHY you your company exists, not WHAT you make or do or HOW you do it.
Sustain Your WHY
You can codify your company’s HOW’s and WHAT’s in product descriptions and operation manuals. But while your WHY can be put into words in a mission statement, it only comes alive when the WHY is used as the basis for everything a company does or creates. A company’s WHY can only survive beyond the original founder if it attracts and retains employees (and future owners) with a similar passion for the WHY. These people will form the bridge from your company’s past to your company’s future.
Similarly, a family owned business that loses track of the WHY will eventually be faced with family members who are likely to want to cash out the business. The Eddy Family in the Pacific Northwest faced a similar situation several years ago. The family founded Port Blakely Company, a lumber and real estate development company, over 150 years ago. Over the years, ownership grew to over 100 geographically dispersed family members. Some of them wanted to sell off their portion of the company. Concerned that a sell off would weaken the company, several family members initiated annual family-wide retreats. During these retreats, family members spent a lot of time discussing the company’s values of environmental stewardship and sustainability. Younger Eddy family members attended environmental education programs. A family council was established to codify the family’s values into a vision and mission statement and provide governance for the business.
As a result, a potential split was averted, and the company (and family) is stronger than ever, all during a time of falling lumber and real estate prices. “I think there were plenty of people in the company who would say if it hadn’t been for the establishment of the family council, and lines of communication, understanding and alignment, this could have broken up the company,” said Rene Ancinas, a fourth-generation family member who has been president and CEO since July.
In essence, the Eddy family members were brought into the WHY of the family business.
Attract Good Fits to Your WHY
How do you go about attracting people who are a good fit for your company? You can start like Shackleton did with his expedition’s job description and put your company’s WHY into the job posting. When you interview, besides asking about someone’s qualifications, you need to pose questions that help give you insights into what makes them tick.
- Tell me about what you are passionate about.
- Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond to get a job done.
- What was a major obstacle you were able to overcome in the past year?
- What type of people do you like to work with?
- What type of environment do you do your best work in?
It seems almost too obvious to state but you also need to share your company’s WHY with each prospective employee and ask them how this fits with their own beliefs.
Once you’ve got people who are a good fit, how do you retain them? Don’t just leave your mission statement as a plaque on the wall. Remind them of WHY the company was founded and WHY it exists and what it believes. Create a company in which your employees feel the company cares about them and that the work they do makes a difference.
Sinek states, “The goal is not just to hire people who need a job, but to hire people who believe what you believe. If you hire just because they need a job, they’ll work for your money. If you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”
We believe they’ll also help ensure the future for your company.
To watch a video of Simon Sinek explaining the power of starting with WHY, click here.
To learn more about the Endurance expedition, read here.
Our new column is our effort to celebrate the simple joys of having fun. Remember fun? You know, “lively, joyous play or playfulness: amusement, sport, recreation, etc.?"
Urs -- The most fun I had this month was...
Surprising my wife Catherine and my two boys Luc and Liam for Thanksgiving in Washington, DC. Catherine made it possible for me to support my family through the last two months of my dad’s life in Zurich, Switzerland. During this time, she traveled with the boys from Seattle to Washington DC to spend Thanksgiving with her parents. I decided to surprise them by flying in from Zurich (just a short flight, you know, compared to what we are used to from Seattle). The look on her face when I walked into the kitchen from the back porch was priceless. It was almost as good as the hug and kiss later on J. My two boys running towards me and me lifting them up could have passed for a Hollywood scene: Picture perfect in every scene!
Lauren -- The most fun I’ve had this month was...
Thanksgiving Day. It’s always my favorite holiday. It’s not about gifts and it’s not really about food. For me, it’s about sharing time with the people you love. This year, we had a wonderful mix of friends and families: our dear friends, my two boys and my godson, along with my partner Simon’s sister, his son and fiance, all at our house. After dinner, the young folks eventually drifted into the next room, where we heard the sounds of shared stories and laughter drifting back to us. With blended families you always hope that, at the very least, they just get along. It’s great to see that they really enjoy each other’s company! Next up: New Year's nuptials!
There are a lot of things we really love about our job. Not the least of which is traveling to beautiful parts of the Northwest and meeting great people like the folks at the Auction Block in Homer, Alaska. Founder Kevin Hogan started the company in 1995 with on-line web auctions as a way to create more markets for local fishing families. The Auction Block buys and sells some of the freshest, tastiest fish you can imagine. Kevin and his partner Jessica Yeoman believe that eating the right kinds of foods directly relates to how a person feels, acts and consequently lives their life. Their seafood is carefully handled just a few feet away from the boats it arrives on, is reliably sourced from local fishing families and is full of heart healthy Omega 3s.
They just opened an on-line store so now you can have a little bit of beautiful Alaska shipped directly to your house.
Want a great recipe for halibut? Visit our Facebook page and go to the "notes" tab.
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Send an email to ChangeAbility@redpointcoaching.com. We welcome your feedback!
ChangeAbility is a publication of Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching, which is run by Lauren Owen, MBA and Urs Koenig PhD, MBA.
Copyright Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching, 2010. All rights reserved
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