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Transcription – Jeff Helfgott Show 205

Chantal:          Jeff, welcome along and thank you for joining us on the show today.

Jeff:                 It’s great to be here.

Chantal:          When I was doing a little bit of research around your background and your specialty, one of the things that came up was just how passionate you are about this area of developing future leaders. So, to start things off today, can you give us a bit of a definition of how you would identify a future leader?

Jeff:                 Yeah, this is a great segway because it’s definitely a place where I’ve skinned my knees a few times. This is something that gets harder as you scale. You know when you have a few employees I think a lot of leaders and owners have the opportunity to engage with their employees every single day, so they can see some of these traits first hand. And as you scale it gets more difficult because you have to rely on people whom you’ve hired and trained, and then the systems that you’ve developed to help identify.

Personally what I look for are really three things. You have, number one, the values. Number two, how interested people are in coaching and being coached themselves. And then the emotional and then relationship focus that they have. So to dig into each of them a little bit more, number one is the values. And as Randy from TRX covered a couple weeks ago on this show, integrity, accountability, authenticity, they’re all critical. For any leader that’s table steaks, if you don’t have those you don’t get to play in the game.

And then building on that is coaching and coachability. When I was in the army I was deployed in Iraq, and there was one night when we were on our forward operating base and I was doing an inspection around 3:00 a.m. just to see how the security detail was being performed. And I came up on a Sergeant with a Private on the perimeter. And the Sergeant was quizzing the Private how to call a nine line medevac request. And I remember thinking, here they are in a live combat situation where there could be bad guys coming up on the perimeter at any point in time. And the Sergeant stills find this as an opportunity to focus on some training. And I think about that all the time when I’m in a corporate role, thinking if he could find the time to focus on training then, then we can find the time to be focused on training with what we’re doing.

And then the other side of the coin is, are they coachable? You know, how well do they receive feedback? Not only from their supervisor, but also from their colleagues and their team members. It’s one thing to be able to get feedback yourself, it’s another thing to be able to incorporate that feedback into your own personal development. And the last side is on the emotional and then the relationship side. A lot of people focus on intellectual horse power, the IQ. And I’ve found for a leader you don’t want someone who’s the smartest person in the room, you want someone who makes other people feel like the smartest people in the room.

And so much of leadership is influencing the people with whom you have no authority over. This means building relationships, this means picking your battles. And I’d say, of these three traits that I’ve just been describing, this is the one that’s taken me the longest time to learn, but has returned the greatest return on my investment for [inaudible 00:03:16].

Chantal:          Jeff I love those points that you’ve just taken us through. And that story that you shared with us about a teaching opportunity, teaching moment, in particular what resonated with me there is actually thinking about how coachable someone is. Because I guess at the end of the day, not everyone wants to be a leader. So in your experience when you’ve kind of gone through that process of identifying who a future leader might be, are there any signs or signals to look out for, for someone who perhaps would showcase the difference between someone who is coachable and does want to step up to that role, versus someone who perhaps just doesn’t engage and isn’t that interested?

Jeff:                 One of my favourite things to do in our clubs, or in any organisation, is walk around and see who are your employees that are doing everything that you had asked them to do? And then go up and ask them who taught them that. And what I’ve found is the people who are getting great coaching are going to be so happy to share who is doing that coaching and how they got them there. And I’ve found that the people who focus on that are the people who find value in it, so they’re generally most open to it themselves. So it’s not 100% certain, but more often than not, that’s a great leader indicator, someone who’s willing to be learning themselves.

Chantal:          That is definitely a great indicator. What I’d like to do Jeff, is actually break this down into some steps so, can you maybe take us through what steps you would go through to mentor and to train a future leader?

Jeff:                 Yeah, I think again it comes down to three main steps. Number one, setting expectations with them. Two, beginning to help refine the mindsets and behaviours that drive their actions. And then three, role model that behaviour yourself. So from the top, setting your expectations and then also as importantly as leaders teaching them how to set expectations themselves. And this is everything from, what does right look like? Which is really, what are the actions that their team should be doing? What are the values that are important to your organisation? That’s really teaching them how to act. And then how to communicate. What is the expectation of you as a leader? What is the expectation of your organisation and your customers? Help them understand what that looks like.

You know, one of my favourite ones to train on with people with whom I’m in a mentor/mentoree relationship is the difference between truth and fact. These two get confused a lot, especially these days in our highly charged political environment. But the difference, as I see it is, a fact might be the project is on time and on budget. The truth might be, the project is on time because we cut back on testing resources and we don’t have great faith in the quality. It’s really important to me that the people with whom I’m working are speaking the truth as they see it.

Next up is the mindsets and behaviours. And my favourite analogy for this is the old iceberg principle. What you see every day with the people with whom you engage are their actions. But just like an iceberg, which a majority of it is under the waterline, what you don’t see are the mindsets and behaviours that are shaping those actions every single day. So, what I want to do with the teams that I’m growing, are understand what are the mindsets and behaviours that drive them? And how can we begin to influence them to be more aligned to driving better results with their teams, more aligned to our organisational needs, more aligned to getting them along further in their career?

And then the last one is role modelling the behaviour. And this is one that’s been really top of mind for me recently is, is I think I’ve actually failed in this one recently. In my role now in my career I’ve been working primarily with director to C-Suite level leadership, but I recently took on a mentee who was much less tenured. You know they came to me with a problem one day and I listened to the problem, and we worked through different ideas together and then we white board out a solution. And we crafted the material to help make it real, and then I followed up a couple weeks afterwards to see how it was going.

And I was thrilled to hear that the solution that we had crafted together seemed like a great fit for the problem. And this is where I dropped the ball. I stopped following up, I assumed that because we found that solution once, that mentee was still doing it every single week. And he got busy, and distracted and he stopped. And that was my fault because I failed to set the example and role model the behaviour by continuing to verify that task was being completed.

You know leadership work. To me this is a great reminder that even basic things that you’ve learned and done hundreds of times have no value if you’re not continuously reinvesting in that skill. It’s just like muscles, and these skills can atrophy if you’re not using them. And that was a really important lesson for me to relearn recently.

Chantal:          I just want to take a second to talk about the example that Jeff just shared, because I have seen the same thing happen in a personal training environment. And in that situation the PT manager had taught their personal trainer a specific system. In this case it was for that meet and greet conversation with a prospect. Now, at the time the PT listened, they learnt the language and what questions to use. And they used them with success for the first month or so, but after their managers stopped checking in on them, then the PT started to cut corners a little bit, change the questions up. And what happened was, the manager didn’t actually pick up that change until they both started noticing the conversion rates dropping.

So the reason I share that example with you all is because it never hurts to change back in with your team, and just make sure that the processes and the systems that you put in place set in their early days, just make sure that they are still taking place today.

Okay, we are jumping back to the interview now with Jeff where I’ve just asked him to explain if there are any qualitative or quantitative measures that he would use to determine someone’s suitability to a leadership role.

Jeff:                 I think it depends. A lot of it is, what’s the leadership role that you’re looking to fill, you know? Leading through rapid growth is different than leading through a belt tightening exercise, or a cost cutting measures. And I’ve met very few leaders who have been equally affective in all those circumstances. From my perspective, leaders need to be either able and willing to change their approach based off the circumstance or needs of that culture with whom they’re working. Or, willing to step aside when the team needs a different style of leadership. You know there’s that old expression, you need a different General for war than you do for peace.

And I think it’s been really difficult to pin down any quantitative measures in any of those circumstances. And if anyone has that formula, please let me know it’d make my life a lot easier. But I’ve found that the more advanced people try to get with building algorithms to be able to detect this, the less accurate it becomes. So the one quantitative measure that I really rely on is 360 feedback, you know sending out surveys to the colleagues with whom they engage every single day. Trying to get a perception of what’s it like to work with that person? And I don’t find as much value in the initial results as I do in running that exercise every six months with our team to see, are people trending in the right direction? Are they learning?

‘Cause I’m less interested in the skills that someone brings to the table. I’m more interested in how are they continuously growing and adapting from the teaching that we’re giving and the experiences they’re having every single day? And on the qualitative side, I think the best thing that you can do is, when you get the team together, ask a question and look around the table and see when you ask a group of people who work together every day something, who do they look to for guidance before they answer? And is that a question that their deferring to because of the person’s place in the organisational hierarchy? Or is it because they’re seen as the informal leader of that team, in either a positive or a negative force within your organisation?

And then to follow-up on that, I like to then test how those leaders are leading within the organisation by asking their team members what they’re working on and what the organization’s vision is. You know real leaders like to communicate that vision and keep their team focused on what’s really important. And if their team members are able to articulate that vision that was set out their leader, then I know the message is trickling down throughout the organisation.

Chantal:          Jeff you mentioned in there about doing a 360 degree review, and I think you actually said every six months. Now, anyone who’s been through a 360 knows that that’s quite a thorough process and quite a thorough feedback system to go through. Would you generally take your team through that, the actual 360 every six months? Or would you do a 360 once a year and go through a different type of feedback method? I’m just interested to know whether or not it is the 360 that you would do that frequently.

Jeff:                 Oh yeah, we do that every six months. And we do an abbreviated version of that-

Chantal:          Okay can you tell us about that?

Jeff:                 Yeah, we generally focus on 5-8 questions. And generally the questions are focused on how strong of a leader do you believe that individual is? What are the areas that you have seen them grow in the past six months? What are the areas in which you’d like to see them continue to grow? And then from time to time, depending on what that individual’s or the entire team’s needs are, we add a couple more questions in which we can dive a little bit deeper. But these don’t have to be major exercises.

What we’ve found is pumping these into Survey Monkey or Qualtrics and then getting that out to the team in a low-cost way for the people who are taking that survey. ‘Cause you’re asking a lot of time to share the feedback.

Chantal:          Yeah.

Jeff:                 And then making sure that you’re getting enough participation where the results are anonymous. You can get some really powerful directional feedback that helps you and the team members understand if they’re moving in the right direction.

Chantal:          That is great, thank you for explaining that to me, because I think it is important to understand anyone that, as I said, has gone through 360 knows what a big process that is. So I love that you’ve been able to come up with a simplified version that still gives you great feedback and great insights around your leadership and how the team dynamics are working.

Jeff I mentioned right at the start of our interview that you are on the advisory board for Motion Soft Technology Summit, and we got together in October of this year to talk about technology and the role of technology in the industry as a whole. What I’m interested to get your opinion on is, what role does technology actually play when it comes to the development of leaders with our industry?

Jeff:                 Yeah I think that’s a real wide space. And I hope to see more focus here within the next couple of years because I think organisations are really understanding the value that growing their internal leaders can bring. But I haven’t seen technology keep up with that. There are a lot of tools out there to help individuals in organisations better manage, especially tasks and people. But I haven’t seen as much focus on developing leaders. So what we look at is, how can the technology help us accomplish something that we’re already doing, or want to do, easier, faster or more consistently?

So, for collaboration, there are great tools like Google Hangouts, Asana, Slack, to help everyone maintain situational awareness of what the organization’s working on and how they contribute to that. On the leadership development side, I think an equal part is as you scale an organisation, it’s getting harder and harder for your team members to calibrate the performance as they’re measuring it. So someone in your organisation might rate someone a 5/5 on proficiency on a task, but unless you have very objective measures to evaluate someone’s performance, and that’s very unusual to have that. Someone else in another region might rate that same person as a 3/5.

So we look at tools such as the nine block exercise, which is a concept in organisational theory of looking at individual’s results versus their ability to coach people on a 3 X 3 matrix. And then we look at which are the people who are most proficient on both of those in the upper right quadrant. And then we think about how are we giving them more opportunities to grow within our organisation? How are we coaching them and keeping them excited to grow with the company? And for the people that fall in that bottom quadrant, who are not as strong at achieving results, and not as strong at driving people development, what are we doing to get them back on track? How can we get them back to that centre block?

And then the last tool is really education. This is one where because we’ve gotten a little bit bigger, we have access to tools that small organisations typically can’t afford. But you can replicate a lot of this without someone’s tool. We do automated workflows now for all of our training, from the moment someone gets onboarded, we’ve invested the time in our leadership development to say, here’s what we need them to know at this point in time. And then rather than relying on managers who are already drowning in the amount of work that they have today, we’ve educated our system on what we think right looks like, so it gives automated reminders of what training someone still needs to accomplish in order to meet our understanding of what a leader needs to know.

Chantal:          Jeff, that nine square that you just referred, my apologies, can you remind me what was that called? And is that a pre-existing tool? Or is that something that you’ve created specifically for your business?

Jeff:                 This is something that’s been used in some management and organisational strategy planning sessions in the past. I actually learned this at a company called USAA, and then applied this quite a bit when I was consulting with McKenzie. But you could put anything that’s important to your organisation on those axes. I like to use driving results and then driving people development. But if you’re looking at software engineers where that’s not as relevant on the people development side, you could look at technical proficiency. It’s really, what does your organisation value? And then it helps you have really targeted conversations about the people who are in that upper quadrant. What are we doing to get them ready for the next role?

You know, if they’re already top performing in their existing spot, how can we get them ready to step into the next one before we ask them to? So they can begin to learn those skills that are important today. And it’s a really great accountability piece for your leaders when you see people consistently falling in that bottom quadrant. One of my other favourite tricks is when I visit those leaders on the ground, ask them to pull out the coaching that they’ve had for those individuals over the past three months. And we actually review what’s the written documentation that they’ve invested in to have those conversations with those people to help get them on the right track?

If they haven’t invested the time to have those conversations with their team members who are falling behind, then it’s a great opportunity to remind them that as leaders that’s their main job is people development. You know actually I have some material on this I’d be happy to share. This exercise has been consistently one of the most valuable that we’ve found with our leadership teams. And I think this might really help some of your listeners as well.

Chantal:          Jeff we would be so grateful for that, so if you’re happy to send me something, then I will make sure that we add it to the show notes so that all the FBP family can jump over to and check out that material that you are referring to, so thank you for diving into that so deeply, ’cause I’m really excited to understand that a little bit more and see how that can be utilised within a business.

So I have saved my favourite ’til last today, it’s our fit inspiration and to finish off today, can you share the first three steps for club owners and managers to creating their own leadership development programme for their employees?

Jeff:                 Absolutely. This is my favourite part. So number one, assess where your team is weak. Number two, build a curriculum and then number three, integrate this into everything that you do. So to give a little bit more colour there, number one, assess where your team is. With the smaller teams you may already know their opportunities. With larger teams you may need some tools, like a survey to identify where the team’s needs are. When we talked about doing those 360 reviews, you may pick up on a theme of a couple things that are consistently cropping up that your team needs some opportunity to focus on. So once you have that assessment in hand, step two, building that curriculum.

And you have to start on the top here because if your leaders aren’t role modelling that behaviour, as we were saying before, every single day, then your frontline is never going to pick that up. And more importantly, your leaders are the ones who are hiring new people into your organisation, so by investing in that curriculum to get them aligned to the vision that you have for your team, then not only are they beginning to role model that behaviour, but then they’re also taking those insights when they’re out-boarding new people to your team.

And then the last one is integrate this in everything you do. You know, number one is budgets, if you’re serious about people invest in them. A lot of executives say that people and culture are their secret weapon, but then when you look at their budgets every year, how much are they actually investing in that? Versus, the normal advertising, other run the business types things that they would expect to be doing. And other things are compensation grants. What behaviour are you incenting them? A lot of times when you really dig into an organisation you’ll find that instead of promoting leaders and sharing of best practices, you have a lot of compensation plans that are focused on incenting people to be great individual contributors. And it’s really hard to take a great sales person and expect them to be then a great sales manager, if their incentives are driving them to still be an individual.

So I think those are the three steps to get your leadership development programme off the ground. And the last thing is, simple Gumby. Always flexible. It’s going to have to change and you’re going to have to change with it.

Chantal:          Well Jeff you know what, when I read that one of your areas of specialty was developing future leaders to reach their full potential, I now know why you are so passionate about this topic because you’re incredibly knowledgeable about this topic, it’s obviously an area that you’ve put a lot of focus into. And I want to thank you so much not only for sharing your knowledge with all of us here today, but obviously for everything that you do for our industry in regards to developing future leaders because those tips and the insights that you’ve shared with us today are things that I know so many of us will be able to take away from and really implement into our own businesses to develop our employees.

So thank you for taking the time to join us today, it was an absolute pleasure meeting you at the Motion Soft Technology Summit, 2018. I’m going to be putting all of your contact details in the show notes along with that material that you just mentioned earlier. So Jeff, thank you so much for joining us as a guest on the show today.

Jeff:                 It was my pleasure, thanks for having me.


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